Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Catskill Weekend

By the time I arrived at the cabin in Roscoe after a longer than usual drive up from New Jersey, the sun was below the mountains leaving only a pinkish glow on the horizon.  When I walked in, Douglas was already back from fishing, having left the river a short time earlier, making a compound leader complete with a sighter for nymphing the clear, skinny water the following day.  A year before we had come to these hallowed waters so Doug could compete in the Troutoberfest fly fishing competition.  This year the comp was canceled due to low water, and the resultant lack of interest from the competition guys.  Even so, we decided to give it shot since we had nothing to lose and everything to gain, because we had the time and had not fished together for a few months.  A few of Doug's friends where supposed to go as well, but for various reasons they canceled.

After staying up late Friday night discussing leader design, dry/dropper set-ups, fly design, and just catching up, we got on the water late Saturday morning.   The air was still, the sky cloudy, and the cool air was quite damp, as though rain was imminent.   The mountainsides were colored in a tapestry of golds, yellows, umber and shades of red only nature can produce.  The Beaverkill River was as low as I have seen it in almost 40 years of fishing it, and clear as a Kettle One martini with an onion. We had a difficult time finding water that had some depth and flow, settling on sections of pocket water where we could pick and choose the pockets and slots that had adequate holding water.

(Click on photos to enlarge)
After working hard without results, we decided to head to the West Branch of the Delaware, and check that out since the flows were good.  Bad choice; the flows were too high for safe wading, so after giving it a half-hearted try at the first location, and then at one other spot I often fish, we decided to head back to the Beaverkill and make the most of it.  We first went to a spot that has always had depth and a decent current along with plenty of fish.  Like most of the Beaverkill, this spot is well-known to many anglers, and on Saturday it had more anglers lined up along its banks than is really practical.  Not to be discouraged, Doug asked about the pocket water upstream of Grand Central Station, and suggested that the deeper pockets may hold fish and that we may as well give them a shot.  So we did, and shortly after he positioned himself along a decent sized run, Doug was hooked up to a rainbow.  I waded higher up river to a table top a hundred feet above him, and within a few minutes hooked and landed a beautiful small rainbow trout.

I should tell you that we were both fishing the comp system, two nymph leader set-up, Doug uses most of the time he fishes nymphs.  That morning, he had set me up with one of his reels and the line/leader system he uses so I could try it on my 10 foot, 3 weight rod.  I was using my own flies, and once I had the right combination with respect to fly weight/size to match the river conditions, I managed to get my flies bouncing along bottom drag-free at the speed of the current.  It really is satisfying and enjoyable once you get it right, and when you do, confidence comes as result.  Some folks say this is not fly fishing, but from my perspective, it requires more skill and concentration than fishing nymphs with a strike indicator (bobber).  Not that there is anything wrong with that.......

After we hooked 9 fish between us, we ran out of decent pocket water and headed up river to another spot in Cooks Falls that has plenty of pocket water.   Doug waded out to a nice run while I walked up river to a couple of decent sized flats where I saw a couple of rises. There were late season Stenos and Blue-winged Olives in the air, as well as quite a few tan caddis.  While I changed flies and set up to fish dries, I watched Doug to see how he was doing, and just as I looked up he hooked what appeared to be a decent fish.  The ran him down stream a bit and after a short battle, he netted the fish.  I quickly worked my way down to him and in the net he held a beautiful 17 inch wild rainbow.

Check out the pectoral fin on this beauty.

After Doug released the fish, I walked back up to the runs where two fish were still rising steadily. I First tossed a Blue-winged Olive imitation to the working fish, and they rose to the fly, stopping short just as their nose got within an inch of the fly.  They were interested, but something wasn't right. They kept rising and I just watched for a bit, noticing the mayflies passed over their heads unmolested, while any caddis that drifted within a foot or two was slurped up without caution.  So I tied on a size 16 Missing Link Caddis, crept into position, and after checking my fly and drift with a test cast away from my target, made my first cast to the nearest rising fish.  The fly drifted about two feet before it was sipped in just like a natural, and I set the hook.  The fish was heavy on my 3 weight, shaking its head and dogging it toward the bottom a few times before I turned it and brought it to net.  A healthy, butter bellied, pre-spawn fall brown trout.

We fished for another half hour or so before the dusk eased the light from this beautiful day on the water.  We worked hard for our fish, harder than usual thanks to the water levels, but it was worth every second.  We took only two browns, among a bunch of rainbows, which is becoming more usual for this river that has been known as a brown trout fishery for many decades.

Sunday was bright and the fish less cooperative, with many more anglers on the water.  Most of the stretches that held decent flows and depth had fishermen working them, but we did find spots to wet a line.  It was tough going, but Doug did manage to pull a nice rainbow from the run above.  After lunch Doug fished the water below the cabin, while I hung out on the patio and watched him from above, just enjoying the day.

I was, without a doubt, the best weekend I have had in months.

Sharpen your hooks.


Brk Trt said...

Nice report on what turned out to be a sweet trip.
It's always good to have a backup to a backup.

Mr. Q said...

sweet...nice weekend...

jaybird said...

Sounds Fun , yea lots of rainbows , or I should say more than I remember being there 20yrs ago. I've saw good ones caught as high as Barnhardts

Hacklebarney Jimmy said...

I was up with Hacklebarney TU two weeks ago and founds the same conditions. I worked the East Branch in a few spots and did very well.
You have to be willing to walk, but the rewards are there.
It was SO low that a wading fisherman could walk right across the Jaws without a wading stick, where in a normal flow, you would be in danger for your life.