Monday, June 15, 2015

A weekend with NYC Trout Unlimited in the Catskills Day 2

Soon after leaving the Neversink I felt like I had driven through a portal to another universe... clearly I had chosen well (with the help of the weather maps) where to fish on this day. I drove through a band of storms and then arrived to cloudy skies (and no rain) at the Willowemoc. 

We were staying at the bunkhouses at the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum. I set my tent up outside due to a previous warning related to snoring. I figured I'd rather hear the sound of rain drops than the snoring. 

It rained a bit during the night but the sun was out when I awoke. Strawberries were already ripening in patches around my tent.

We ate breakfast together, made plans to fish at the Beaverkill, then suited up. I actually put on my waders for the first time since April. I have to admit it felt good. 

The air was cool and the sky was sunny and I was ready for it. I should have taken some photos for scale, but the Beaverkill is a large river, especially to this small stream fisherman. I spent an hour with the group, missed 2 hits and watched the others catching nothing, and then decided to hightail it to the nearest small stream.

The road to the stream is narrow and took me up and along a ridge line.

Luckily I knew of just the place, I had fished there earlier in the season. A beautiful cold mountain stream that holds many brookies for the persistent small-stream angler. I walked to the river and had a fish to net almost immediately.

And another that really photographed well.

This one was comically fat!

When fishing this area last time, I had missed a real fighter in this pool. Unfortunately, I had the same results on this visit. Maybe third time is the charm? 

I did however land a smaller fish in that pool.

Since the water levels were a bit low, it was important to focus on riffle-runs and pockets where the fish seemed to be hanging out.

Even if you think its too shallow, there might still be fish there. 

These pockets certainly held fish.

And in this little section, another little beauty was brought to hand.

The stream was alive and well on this day with very cold water temperature that made me happy I had decided to leave my wool socks on beneath the wet wading sock and gaiter.

In this pool I had also lost an epic brookie last time. Not so on this occasion, as this fish put a good bend in the rod... and thank goodness after the loss at the previous deep pool.

The tails on many of the fish I was catching certainly were large... the old "square tail" nickname really started to make a lot of sense to me. I've never caught a brookie larger than about 12" and I cannot wait to experience the fight.

Like last time, I fished the waterfall and caught some nice ones.

I will always have this rock formation ingrained in my mind from this spot... the rocks are really fascinating in this area.

The stream tumbles and winds around a few bends.

There are a few nice holding spots and I land a few more brookies here.

I'm now above the highest point I've been previously and can't wait to find what's next as I move up stream.

This is a pool dreams are made of.

It is deep. Much deeper than those below. As if a bigger waterfall once carved a path but then wore away the rock above. It was that deep glacial blue color that you so rarely see up here in these "greener" waters. I knew it held large trout. But they were smart. I saw one dart away and refuse my fly and it was a whopper to say the least.

Time was up and I had to be back in time for a highly anticipated Chili Dinner with the group. There would be wine and beer to be consumed, and fish stories to exchange. I was hungry. This illegal campsite and the hand-made culvert above were signs that the trail was close, and I walked up and out to the road from here.

After dinner some guys drove back to the beaverkill. Choosing to preserve precious light, I walked with a few guys just up the Willowemoc and we were soon into some action. Rising trout on the far bank gave the western anglers with reels an advantage. One of the guys was into 4 fish and I had barely gotten one missed rise. 

However, I persevered, wading slightly beyond my comfort zone in the river and fully extending my rod to 3.9 meters - landing a smaller brown trout on one of Kiwi's flies called "the bark eater." 

This photo is borrowed from the website - the fly is tied by Kiwi and was a limited edition offering from Tenkarabum and likely photographed by one of them. It surely is a beautiful fly.
This kind of fishing is rather different than small stream fishing, and required casting to the same fish over and over until the presentation was just right and the fish was ready to take the fly. Luck? Who knows.

One of the more experienced guys brought back a live coffin fly from the beaverkill - which I understood to be a green drake on its final legs. It was large, delicate, and a pleasure to get a chance to see first-hand. At one point, some kind of fishing instinct kicked in and I wanted to spear it with a hook and fish it like a dry. Is that even considered Keiryu?

The top fly is my version of a Rich Garfield creation. I call it the mini "Ausable Ugly," which tied at home with a size 14 hook and an oversized bead head. The bottom fly is the same fly, after taking at least 20 toothy trout in a day. I think I'll create a Tenkara Version with similar materials. I can't figure out if this fly is so successful because it looks like those large caddis stick-homes or because they look like little crayfish. Either way, they work. 

The road home is as wild as the road I took in and the drive leaves me with this longing feeling - the thought of coming home to an old farmhouse on a hill and the smell of charcoal...  the idea of family, of smiling faces and laughter. But instead I have a long drive that ends with traffic, hot pavement and the smell of pee. Until next time, nature...

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