Thursday, May 25, 2017

We are Still the Rain... Neversink 2017

Before heading up to the Catskills, Rob and I stopped at my favorite local trout stream to land a few browns. Conditions were tough, with high and cold water, but we each got a few fish.

Exploring another stream, we found some more trout, some wildflowers...

...and surprisingly, a few morels. You don't find these things in Westchester County, NY all that often. Exciting!

Ramps were also out in force, and of course we grabbed a few for later.

Off to the Neversink River zone with a forecast for... you guessed it... MORE RAIN, we were in high spirits. We had a day and a half of sun to enjoy before it would rain non-stop for 36 hours, and additionally, on-and-off for another couple of days. Oye. 

So we did the most logical thing we could and went for a nice Brookie tributary on the way. We met up with Adam R and fished our way up this beautiful stream, catching mostly smaller brookies.

This stream is about as picturesque as it gets, cascading down through a small gorge on the side of a mountain.

After getting a few brookies, we called it a day and made the remaining drive to the campsite quickly.

Given the late time after setting up camp and drinking a few beers, we fished the river along the campsite for the first evening and did quite well. Rob grabbed a 20 incher on the first cast in the first pool, and lost it at his feet. An exciting start to the weekend...

I headed down river to a spot I knew to hold larger fish and grabbed a decent 17-18 incher myself. 

Heading back to the site, it was time for dinner. We grilled some ramps, steaks, and other odds and ends and dug into some cold New England IPA.

The next morning after a hearty breakfast and as a full crew, we headed into the Gorge.

Spring flowers were in full bloom and it was hard to ignore them.

The river was running high but clear. While the increased amount of water created some additional challenges for wading, the early spring conditions had scoured the rocks of most of the silt and slime that had us slipping around so much last fall.

My first fish of the day was much smaller than the previous day, but one of the larger brookies I've caught here, almost 10 inches.

I always love fishing here because there is so much excellent holding water. Some days the river delivers insane hatches and sight fishing for big trout. Other days its tougher with less magic in the air. 

Even on the slightly tougher days, there are always plenty of places to take some time for a slow drift.  

Sometimes you have to slow down, let the fly sink, and then swing... and then BAM! There it is.

It was hard fishing most of the day, with lots of concentration required... and that's hard when you're taking so much time to soak in the surroundings.

When it got to the end of the day there was a bit of comedy as Rob crossed the river with a "paddle" of a wading stick.

The walk in and out of the Gorge can give a great perspective as to its size... which impresses me every single time.

Back at the campsite I dug into my new favorite beer, a sour Gose from Finback brewery in NYC.

That night we feasted well and prepared for the rain... which lasted a good 24 hours straight at least. The next day we said goodbye to our friends and headed out to a new campsite and up into the Catskills proper.

I wanted to take Rob to one of my favorite small streams in the area, and there happened to be a few campsites nearby. We set up camp and then headed out to the stream.
Walking down an old dirt road along the stream, we chose to drop down into this beautiful tumbling section, below. Not 5 minutes later, however, the thunder started and we knew exactly what to expect...

Rob was prepared with a beer and a strange method of drinking it while sheltered under his poncho. I was huddled under an old GoLite expedition umbrella against a natural ridge in the forest, beneath a small hemlock tree. Its funny but sometimes a good expedition umbrella does a better job than a rain jacket on a warm and humid day.

We waited out the storm as the thunder got louder, hovered over us, and then became quiet again. The rain continued to fall after the storm moved past, worrying me for  moment, but the worry wasn't necessary and the sun popped out again not long after.

Taking a moment to dry our stuff in the first legitimately warm afternoon in NY so far, we remarked at how quickly moods change in relation to sun and rain.

However, even if we were in better spirits with the appearance of the sun, the fish were still being picky and playing hard to catch.

This stream holds wild brookies and some browns, and we got a few of each even with the difficult fishing.

Stopping at the waterfall, we took some light-hearted photos, and then climbed above to the second set of falls.

Walking up the dirt road back towards the campsite, we remarked about the beauty of the area and the continued turbulence of the weather and fishing. Luckily, all the makings of an incredible yet simple hot meal were waiting for us in camp...

And we weathered another evening of cold and rain and went to sleep.

The next day we headed out to do some backpacking and to fish a few more thin blue lines on the map. More to come as wifi allows :)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Off the Road and onto the Trail in New York

Rob had to go to a graduation so I took a quick break from the road back in New York. It was nice to return to daily hot showers and running water, but I wanted to keep on sleeping in my hammock. It really is that comfortable.

Rob took the train back to NY and we fished a local stream for a bit, but the action wasn't that amazing... it was still extremely cold with very high water levels. The next day we hiked Breakneck Ridge, one of my favorite hikes along the Hudson. 

The hike is basically a scramble the whole way, starting with a killer set of 4-5 rock faces and then a nice leisurely ridge traverse section before descending back to the road.

There are incredible views the whole way, and I was psyched for Rob to get to see it on such a perfect day. His photos are mixed with mine in this post since I did a bad job of documenting the day, mostly due to overly focusing on the scrambling.

We had ideal hiking weather... cool, sunny, breezy, with a few clouds to throw shadows on the river.

Along the ridge we found a vernal pool with a seemingly endless number of tadpoles in it.

Even though the hike is a real challenge, its more than worth it for those with no fear of heights and the will to put in the effort.

The following day we packed up and headed up to the Catskills for a campout along the Neversink with friends. Full report to follow in the next post. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

We are the Rain

The last few weeks have been all about the rain. Many of the photos I've posted have given no clue to the reality that Rob and I have been living... its been raining most of the trip so far. (I don't take my camera out in the heavy rain too often.) When one lives outside in the rain for this long, one must become the rain.

Even though the skies have been unloading, we have slept dry in our hammocks and a cheap sil-nylon tarp has kept us sheltered for cooking and downtime. And just because we didn't love the rain doesn't mean the trout didn't... they definitely did!

Water was high after a few days of repetitive wet weather, but not high enough to deter us or the fish. In fact, while the fishing slowed a bit in the main stem, the tributaries just exploded with life, and it was a welcome discovery.

Luckily for us, the rain was coming in spurts most days, instead of steady rain all day long we at least had some moments of clear skies - once in a while the sun would peak out from a sucker hole to make us feel better.

The forest clearly loved all this rain - spring wild flowers were blooming abundantly, and I've never seen as much Trillium anywhere as I saw here.

We spent some time driving down dirt roads leading to small tributaries, walking between the wet branches and dodging the early poison ivy shoots, which were now making their new presence known on the forest floor.

Sometimes we were joyful in the rain, other times less so...  but each break in the rain brought smiles and some new photos.

During one of these breaks, Rob's friend Tim landed two fish in a row that would have each been fish of a lifetime for anyone in a stream like this. The fact that he got both of those fish in one run was pretty mind-boggling. I have to admit I was a tiny bit jealous... but I was also really happy to see Tim land those fish. He surely deserved them.

The fish above was legitimately 12". The fish below was about 14". That is not a mini-net, its a standard fly fishing net... and check out the tail!! The photos prove it... these large mid-Appalachian brookies are  the real deal. It was relatively simple to find 8-10 inch fish, but this was another level. Amazing.

We ate well during the week, keeping a few stocked rainbows to eat, but leaving all the brookies alone. Tim had brought some amazing steaks and some mushrooms, to which we added some greens. Prepared over the fire on an iron skillet, this surely was one of the best meals of the trip so far.

In the mornings the rain would usually return, but it always brought some form of beauty along with it.

We saw spider web cups in the fields, wet with morning dew and fresh misty rain. The jack in the pulpits came up after the Trillium.

The rain also brought us plenty of beautiful wild brook trout...

... red efts and other salamanders...

....pheasant back mushrooms...

... and of course, what we've all been waiting for... MORELS!

We knew that we were in the right area to hunt, and had spent some time the first few days looking under the appropriate trees, but it took a few extra days of rain, and then the first warm/sunny interruption in the rain to help them pop.

And pop they did...

...again and again again. Woohooo!

Focusing on the right trees with the right exposure of light at the right times of the day we were able to find quite a large haul our first day, and then more in the day following.

We had to toss many of the "rules" of morel hunting out the window as those rules had been holding us back from finding the mushrooms. Once we had our own system down of when, where and how to look, the success rate was almost unbelievable. It must be a bumper year for them right now.

The excitement was, at times, hard to contain.

I also came across a much rarer and more unique fungus along the way... one which invades arthropods/insects and evokes thoughts of the "Alien" movies... which must have based the idea of the alien infection and "birth" on this family of fungi.

The mycelium takes root in the insect and begins to turn the innards into sugars/food for the fungus - at which point the fungus takes over the insect's brain, encourages it to walk out on a limb in the open where it can release its spores; and then sprouts the visible mushroom/fungus, killing the host and turning it into a statue of sorts. I am not sure if its Cordyceps, Gibellula, or another related "alien" fungus... more research is necessary... it was extremely cool to find. If you know more about this, please feel free to write a comment about it, below!

And right below that log on the river I picked up a nice trout, too!

 I have so much more to post, but for now, that's all the time I have. More to follow soon.