Fly-Fishing: Catskills remain the spring place to be for trout
The Catskill Mountains haven’t been the center of American fly-fishing for decades, but the “Land of Little Rivers,” to borrow the title of Austin McK. Francis’ book on the region, is still the place to be for the start of trout season.
It’s not that the fishing will be all that great. The Beaverkill will be nearly as cold as the Ausable, more than 200 miles to the north, and its fish just as sluggish.
But the Catskills do have the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum, which is erecting an addition that will make it the “largest and most complete fly-fishing center in the world,” according to executive director Jim Krul.
And as it does every year, the CFFCM has organized a first-cast ceremony at the pull-off along the Willowemoc Creek, just upstream of the center’s driveway, scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Saturday.
The legendary Joan Wulff will be there. So will TV talk show host Sally Jesse Raphael, who isn’t quite legendary, but is pretty well-known, and Donald Trump Jr., who certainly has a well-known name. (This event is not to be confused with the Roscoe Chamber of Commerce’s own first-cast gathering at 7 a.m. downstream at Junction Pool, where the Willowemoc absorbs the Beaverkill River, but surrenders its name).
No entity has done more to shape trout fishing in the Catskills than New York City, which has relied on the region’s clean streams for its drinking water for more than a century.
Downstream of New York City’s dams, Catskills rivers run clear and cold, home to fat trout that gorge on spectacular mayfly hatches. But the city also owns vast tracts of forest in the Catskills, so as to prevent development and pollution of the water, and through those lands flow sublime but little-known creeks where a small-stream angler would be in his or her glory.
This year, the city’s Department of Environmental Protection has listed some of them, along with access points, in Greene, Delaware and Sullivan counties. (One stream doesn’t even have a name). Visit www.nyc.gov/dep to see the list and get directions — they’re a little vague, but that just adds to the adventure.
The Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum is already a really cool place, and when its $500,000, 5,200-square-foot addition is completed, it will be even cooler.
The first floor of the addition will be a bamboo rod-maker’s shop, set up for demonstrations and classes in this exquisite form of woodworking. The second floor will have new exhibits on Wulff and her late husband, Lee Wulff, as well as room for art exhibits.
The center is shooting for a soft opening May 4 and a formal opening May 25. The CFFCM, as currently configured, will be open Saturday so anglers who brave the chill trying to get on the scoreboard for 2013 will have a place to thaw their hands and have a cup of Agnes Van Put’s soup.
Stream conditions? Cold, of course, and low for this time of year. Just about all the snow has melted and the trees will soon be leafing out, sucking water from the ground and reducing the groundwater contribution to the streams.
Some rain on a regular basis will be necessary to keep the streams healthy and cool into the summer.
But for now, they’re low enough to make fishing relatively easy. Catching may be another story. As always in early April, conventional wisdom says to use nymphs and streamers, fished slowly and deep.