Sunday, April 28, 2013

Photo finish weekend on the great Catskill Streams

I'd love to be able to put into words the fly fishing weekend that I just experienced with my brother-in-law but I don't think I'd do it any kind of justice.  It was comprised of two die-hards, fishing sun up to sun down and beating a path to and from probably a dozen locations on three Catskill Streams.  There was good food and great beer.  There was not enough sleep and leaky waders.  There were personal best trout caught on the fly and...didn't I just type that I can't put it into words??  I'll shut up now.

Off we go.  Friday. Post work and on the road!!

First stop was Catskill Flies on Stewart Ave in Roscoe for some timely advice from Walt and Dennis.

Creekside Cabins.  These folks run a great setup.  Beautiful stretch of the Willowemoc right outside our back door.  We wasted no time and my partner hooked up and netted a nice Brown quickly.  Check out the talon markings.  This was one tough fish!

I'd have to wait to connect early the next morning but these Amber Ales from Roscoe Beer Company hit the spot at dusk on the Willow.  This is a new brewer and I've been looking forward to these suds for over a year.  Well worth the wait.  This was the beverage of choice along our journeys this weekend.  I even found a big bottle cap!!  If you get the chance, I highly recommend this tasty brew.

This feisty little speckled Trout broke the ice for me at 5:25 on Saturday morning while swinging a streamer. Speaking of ice, it would riddle our guides and freeze up our reels for the better part of Saturday morning!  It was time for some hot coffee and bacon at the Famous Roscoe Diner!  What a great tradition.

We fished a few of the famous pools on the Beaverkill on Saturday with a good deal of success but Barnhart's Pool was magic for me.  This 18" Rainbow is my personal best and was taken on a size 14 Pheasant Tail.  I was fishing a double nymph rig with the PT on top and a Hare's Ear (go figure) dropped off on 6X tippet.  The fish fought like hell and my right leg was actually shaking!  I was hoping he wasn't on the 6X and, thankfully, he wasn't.  I was fishing far from my cohort so this is the only pic I could snap before a safe release.  I couldn't believe I had taken such a slab.  It was a great feeling of accomplishment for me as I have really been doing my homework this winter and hoping for results like these.                                            

My brother in law has also been a fine student of the fly this winter.  His work paid him off in even larger dividends on the East Branch of the Delaware River later that afternoon.  We got no official measurement on this slab but we didn't need one.  This was a hell of a fish!! 

Catching these fish was just a bonus to the weekend.  There were so many other things to take note of.  Simple beauty was easy to find everywhere you looked. 

My Dad used to say that all the time.  "Catching fish is just a bonus."  What a great lesson he taught me.  I made it a point to pass by the old Hansel and Gretel Cabins, long shut down, that started this fishing journey for me more than 25 years ago.  You can see that there are only a couple of cabins remaining and a couple of concrete slabs where others once stood.  The trees are cut down to stumps and there are "No Trespassing" signs all up and down the driveway.  I'm not sure what they are doing here but that water behind those cabins, no doubt, holds ghosts from the past.  I am glad I got to see this sight, different as it is, because it seems it won't be there much longer.

All said and done we had what both of us considered to be the greatest fishing experience we've had to this point.  Looking forward to the next one.  In the meantime, "THANKS FOR VISITING".

Lastly, even though we always want to fish some more, at some point, we have to take the bear's advice:

Saturday, April 20, 2013


There is something special about seven.  Something that cues up eternal curiosity to match the soundtrack of boyhood independence.

"Go ahead Daddy, I'll stay here, I wanna dig up this root!", he said as I fished just a bit further downstream of him, just beyond the reach of his eyes.  I had carried him through a small run of water and onto an island of white washed river rock that couldn't have been larger than my son's bed.  It didn't need to be any larger. He was the King of this island and it's only inhabitant and these adventurous dreams were real.

I'd handed him the fly rod about a half hour before and he practiced flipping nymphs for maybe five minutes. There was more excitement over the sound of the "ker-plunk" that large stones make as they hit the drink.

"I'll throw them in up here, Dad.  I'll spook the fish so they swim down to you, so you fish down there."  he instructed me where to go.  It was not a bad plan.

"Can you lift up this tree that fell, lean it against this one?  I wanna make a shelter!"

There were many of these moments in our short window of time on the stream together.  None of which I'll soon forget.

The sun was starting to recede behind the tree line.  The unusual warmth of the day which had us in short sleeves was waning.  I'd really like to hook a trout for this kid.  Oooh, so close.  I missed him the first time but I had found the trout's lie.

I hooked him again and my son bounded down the banks.   I handed him the rod.  He would be the third generation to take a trout on this antique of an instrument.  That was something right there.  He played and landed a nice hatchery Brown Trout.  It didn't fight particularly loudly.  It might have known that this would be the boy's first.  After reeling in the wrong direction, my son calmed and the fish agreed to come to net.

My son holding his first ever trout on a fly rod.

We soon went home, all smiles.  My son ahead of me, skipping and running back up the dusty trail to the car, the faded navy blue cotton of the Derek Jeter Tee-shirt, size small, swimming on his scrawny frame.  Surely he wasn't thinking of the fish, the fly rod, the lie, the seam, what have you.  

Seven doesn't think about the past or the future.  It just lives in the moment, matching curiosity with independence and skips and runs and splashes and does what it darn well pleases.

We could all use a little bit of that.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Making More Money!

Well let's just say that I am a man of a certain age who hangs around, once in a while, with men of a certain age. It seems to me that money, and how to make more of it and/or keep more of it, comes up these days time and time again. And again. And again. Don't get me wrong, I certainly have an interest in this matter as clearly it behooves me to do so.

It is funny though how it seems to be the topic of conversation more and more with each passing year. 

Funnier still is how this subject never comes up on the rocky banks of a stream or during the pre-dawn launch of a Jon boat on the cool, clear water.

What does often comes up in these situations is how to make and/or keep something a little bit different. A little bit more elusive than even the Almighty Dollar...


Tight lines everyone. I hope you find a way to make more time to do what it is that you love and to do it with the people that matter the most.

A picture of my son, Dean, with a nice Smallmouth he caught on a Lightning McQueen push button rod.  This was 4 years ago and I just can't believe how fast it's all going...

Monday, April 8, 2013


 LOST: 18 inch Brown Trout on the East Branch of the Croton Reservoir.  Thick slab of a back.  Golden hue with large dark spots.  Enjoys eating flashy black and green nymphs and dancing around for five minutes on 6x tippet.  Goes by the name of "Heartbreaker".  If found please return this fish back to the hole that she came out of.  I think she's still got my ego as well.

Oof.  That one hurt.

Did manage a couple of small Browns and a small Bow and had two of the best fishing partners on the banks beside me.  It was a Sunday to remember early in the season.  Hope you all had a great weekend out there.

Tight lines.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Openings...and Elder Statesmen

I pulled up to the banks of the Amawalk at about 4 p.m. on this cloudy Opener of an afternoon.  I was in a hurried state having dashed from work and pushed the limits on the winding road of Rt. 35 in my small maroon Nissan Matchbox car. After all, it had been opening day ALL day and I needed to get down to it! As I began to put on my waders (the ones I finally patched in three places last night) the Yankees play by play of an eventual Opening Day loss to the Red Sox blared out of the speaker on the open door of my stream side car.  I wondered if I would find any victory this day on a stream that I'm all but unfamiliar with.

"What's the score?", the older gentleman in the dusty-shoulder-of the road spot in front of me asked as his pipe smoke loomed in the breeze.  A "harumph" from him as I tell him of the Yankees woes.

"Any luck?", I ask.  I am unsure if he is coming or going.

"Nah, just came to check it out.  You nymphing?"

"Yeah.", I reply.

"Well, that's good.  Look at them all," he says as three guys stride down the road. "spin fisherman."

I am quiet about it as I don't want to get into any theological debate.  "You're not fishing at all?", I politely but  hurriedly ask.  I am half interested and thinking more about the daylight burning.

As it turns out, he is a dry fly fisherman.  It is the first of April and there will be no rising trout.  Not that it matters.  He is mostly incapable of wading these days.  He's just come to watch.  Check in.  A veteran, or rather, an elder statesman of these waters.  We agree, and I mean it, that he looks great for 77.  He is Andy and when all is said and done I remember that this is what it is all about.  I remind myself to slow down and chat, stream side, before a fly hits the water.

"My wife gave me the afternoon.", I say.

"Mine too.", he replies.  "Just drove all the way up from my daughter's house in south Jersey.  We got home, I told my wife I'm going out.  She says 'You're going to the stream, aren't you?'  I tell her 'yeah.'  She says, 'That's fine. Then I'm going out.' Hahaha."

It's a quick story but I can appreciate it.  I smile inside because here is Andy, just about forty years my senior, and he loves this place.  He loves it for reasons beyond catching trout.  He loves it for reasons that I love it, for reasons I can't put into words.  He's having the same awkward conversations with his wife about "fishing time" as I have with mine, forty years later in life, and he is not even wetting a line.

With this in mind I slow down.  I take my time and really "look" at this water.  This is a stretch I've never seen before.  Does it hold trout?  Where does it hold them today?  Will it look the same when I am 77?  Will I still be able to wade the rivers and fish the streams?  How fast will the years go?

Slow down, Mike, slow down.

I did catch a few small trout.  One smaller than the next.  Small victories that the Yankees didn't find today.

I also found that only two of the three patched leaks seemed to hold.  You win some, you lose some I guess.

There was, of course, one shining victory.  And I found it in a conversation with an old fisherman...on Opening Day.

Happy "Opening Day", Andy. And many more.  Hope to meet again.