Welcome to Tom’s Fishing Stories

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New YouTube hits

1400+ views!

Posted three months ago this YouTube of a zoom presentation on fly fishing in the Catskills has passed the 1400 view mark. If you haven’t seen it here is the link:

Exploring Catskill Fly Fishing - 1 hr. 2 min.

Website table of contents

(Sorry, these are not hyperlinks)

Book Reviews

Tom’s YouTubes

Podcast with Wetflyswings.com

How to Fly Fish for Trout reviews

Letters to Mack 1

Letters to Mack 2

Letters to Mack 3

How to tie a Black Nose Dace

How to Improve Your Fly Fishing & Catching

Trout Fishing on Long Island’s Spring Creeks by LITU

How to tie a Joe-Stack

Podcast with Flyfishinginsider.com

How to tie an Iris Caddis

Clouser Minnow for Striped Bass

Royal Wulff

August on the Salt

Poem - Ah Ara Wack

Tom’s Books

Fish Tales - A year’s fishing in 12 stories

Fly Fishing and Spirituality

Poem - Life

Essay - Past His Prime

About the author

Fishing NY this summer?

Get this book!  Amazing survey of the opportunities all over the state with a great section on the Catskills, Adirondacks, Long Island and more.  My buddy Joe and I explored the Upper West Branch of the Delaware in May with this on the dashboard.

This one was a surprise

So much more than a fishing book - in fact the author’s journey to becoming a fisher of trout is almost an aside to his observations, explorations and insights into our world - our universe. Look it up on Amazon or wherever you buy your books - or ask for it at your library.

Most enjoyable book I have read in a long while. The unique format, the succinct writing, the intros to each entry by PK - all of it. Do yourself a favor and read it slowly, over time, savor it.

Yellowstone Meadows

YouTube Channel

YouTube Channel link

New Video!

Exploring Catskill Fly Fishing - 1 hr. 2 min.

An introduction to all there is to see and fly fish in the Catskills.  

The most popular video links:

Exploring the Upper East Branch of the Delaware - 6:04

Comprehensive Tour of the Connetquot River - 1hr 14 min - Note - Check with the Park for current regulations and fishing days and times.

Sulfurs on the West Branch of the Delaware - 3:49

Small River, Big Fish - 2:47

Blue Fishing with Capt. Dave Flanagan - 3:44

And there are more - check out my channel

Podcast: Fly Fishing Long Island and more

Dave Stewart of www.wetflyswing.com, a podcast site with over 700 anglers from across the spectrum of fly fishing invited Tom to talk about his background, books and fishing along with his guest host Michael Barger of Art Flick TU. Listen to it at www.wetflyswing.com - Episode 275.

Question: Why another book on how to fly fish for trout? 

Answer: Because all of the books out there offer too much information for a beginner. This is all you need to know to get started.

If you are a guy or gal who just wants to try this sport and enjoy the little time you have to go fishing, this book will get you on the stream and catching fish sooner than the others.

Besides, once you understand and, more importantly, experience what is offered here, all the other books will make much more sense.

Tom McCoy

Sample Reviews


5.0 out of 5 stars

An absolute Gem!

Reviewed in the United States on May 18, 2020

I actually read this book second. I was unaware, as I am new to the world of fly fishing and all of the wonderful literature that accompanies it and read some of Mr. McCoy's later works first and he recommended this book in those. Once again, a wonderful read full of incite and introspection! I cannot wait to journey further into this man's catalogue!


5.0 out of 5 stars

Great Book for a Beginner

Reviewed in the United States on March 22, 2020

Verified Purchase

This is a beautifully written book with valuable and simple to understand basic instruction and very nice stories that illustrate the fishing lessons. It is one of the only fly-fishing books I picked up that did not make my head spin with complexities. Moreover, the stories are beautiful and of a literary quality. The author has obviously worked quite hard at his writing. For me, I live in Long Island (where the author lives) and he gives tips about where to fish in and around my area. I highly recommend the book.


5.0 out of 5 stars

Superb book

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 23, 2014

Verified Purchase

Really enjoyed this. I was really keen to find a good book that gave me a grounded introduction to fly fishing and I've found it. Thought the authors enthusiasm was really apparent and it went into just the right amount of detail.

Over 5000 Sold!

For more information

Click here

Family and Fishing

Sue with her first Bonefish off Key Largo

Letters to Mack, Book One  

Correspondence on a Fishing Life

Check out Letters to Mack, Book One by clicking:

A day on the San Juan

An excerpt from Letters to Mack One, Correspondence on a Fishing Life

I try to turn his head. 6x has a breaking strength of about 2.9 pounds. Not much for a fish like this, especially as he darts around some rocks. He yields temporarily to the resistance of the drag and my coaxing, then runs more line off the reel. He heads out into the main flow and upstream putting a rock between us with the line wrapped around it – and he is off. I collapse in exhilaration and defeat. I sink to my knees and am reminded of the water temperature.

I walk back to the bank where I started and realize that he took my fly, the fly. The guide is out of sight at this point. I walk back to the boat which is anchored just behind me in the main flow. I go through my vest and find a 22 Adams. Just one. If I drop it, I’ll never be able to find it, so I sit in the boat to tie it on. I see Barry and Jerry out in mid-current working a nice fish. They wave and indicate they saw the episode with a thumbs-up.

I reposition myself and again spend some time just observing and again the stream unfolds its secrets. More fish. Walking upstream, I cast and catch a modest rainbow and release him the easy way. I dry the fly, redress it with flotant and check my leader when, out of the corner of my eye, just downstream and close into the bank, he reappears. Can it be the same one? Why is he so persistent in coming back to this spot when there is a whole river? Maybe it’s another, just happens to be the same size.

He is coming up, sipping and moving side to side. I don’t dare move. I watch. He stays in about the same place. No attempt to regain the mid-stream position where he started, if this is indeed him. The fly I have on is bigger. Will it be as attractive? Will I be able to see it as it is a traditional Adams, not a parachute tied for visibility?

I pull some line off the reel and flip it into the water avoiding any extra motion. I wiggle the tip to send more line out and avoid drag. The line is slack and if he does take it, setting the hook will be difficult. I raise the tip to minimize the loose line on the water. It goes by him to the right. He looks, turns, takes and is obviously upset that he has once again been fooled. The reel sings.

He goes straight downstream without heading out to the main flow. I run (figuratively) after him trying to limit the line he has to play with. The bank I am on is really clumps of river grass and I stumble and regain my balance. The bank ends at the point where the two bodies of water meet and he is in the seam, fighting my trying to turn his head. This time I seem to have the advantage. I regain some line and keep the tip high and off the rock he would like to employ. He gives in to the strain and comes upstream, along the bank on the far side, the main flow side. The boat is there, anchored, bobbing in the current. He comes between the boat and the bank, and I am in the water with him, face to face.

He is beautiful and big. I reach behind me instinctively for my net. It’s not there. It’s on my vest, in the boat. I can’t chance trying to get it. The thought comes to beach him. I look around to see if I can pull him up on the shoreline, but it is not there.

The bank is a foot or so high and no way can I lift him on this line. I bring him as close to me and the bank as I can, go down on my knees and put my hand around him, dropping my rod to scoop him up with the other. He scurries and I follow on my knees. Water splashing in my face, he is turning and wriggling and pointed downstream. I make a last lunge and grab the leader. He bolts and is off. I lay there for a minute with the biggest smile on my face. Can you picture this - a grown man, on his knees, wrestling with a trout? I look up to catch Jerry and Barry, hysterical.

More on this trip and many others in Letters to Mack One.  

Click “Learn More” above.

Montauk during a blitz

Letters to Mack 2 – Correspondence from Montana to Montauk

The view from Hopkins - ADK Photo

Hiking and Fishing in the Adirondacks

Excerpt from Letters to Mack 2

I selected Hopkins as my climb of the day. A good size hill but not too challenging, and it was close by. A little over 3 miles up, some of it along the East Branch and Mossy Cascade Brook. I went in just east of the bridge. There is an alternate route, walking up a dirt road just to the west, but I’d recommend this one which puts you in the woodsy state of mind quicker. After a short while, I came to the road with the red house on the left. There were people about and a barking dog. I made my turn to the right leaving the river and following the brook, a small one with many miniature falls. The guidebook advised taking a side trip to see what they call “The Falls” but with the limited August flow I decided to just press on.

The woods were serene with little wind. The babble of the brook combined with the cadence of my steps lulled me into a trance. I walked myself right off the trail and into someone’s yard. I back tracked and found a wooden bridge across the brook, but this was not in the ADK guidebook. There were some yellow paint marks but no official trail badges. I crossed and passed an outhouse and what I think was a well, when I decided to turn around. 

As I headed downstream, (or down-brook), a noisy bunch was hopping across the water on well-placed rocks and zipping up the trail. I grumbled to myself, preferring the quiet and not caring for the competition triggered in my addled brain by someone ahead or behind me. I sat for a while and watched the water gurgle over the rocks, moving to get different perspectives of the same flow.

Back on the trail, the pitch increased and at one point those yellow paint marks intersected with the trail, perhaps being some local’s (or more likely a seasonal resident’s) short cut.  I passed a portly lady who was walking down. She smiled and said she only walked to the first outlook since she was hiking alone and didn’t want to go all the way to the top. I admired her effort and wished her good day.

The first view came at a rock outcropping. I sat to cool off and have a drink. Since crossing the brook, I had been pacing myself carefully. I was taking my pulse periodically trying to keep it under 130. This called for a rest every 100 yards or so, given this vertical section, making this a slow climb to be sure.

The noisy troop passed me on the way down, still zipping along; a bunch of young people in sneakers caring more for their conversation than their footing. Alone again.

What should be 4.5 hour round trip took me 3 hours one way, but I didn’t feel badly about it. There were two women and a few kids at what looked like the peak, so I sat among the blueberries and gazed at the view, planning to move over when they left, which they did shortly. My new boots had served me well in supporting my ankles, but my toes were feeling a little off. I took a look and there were no blisters, just an uncomfortable sensation. I chalked it up to breaking them in.

The guidebook talks of the blueberries as if you could bake a pie with them or survive on them if you were stranded. At this altitude and in this climate, with no sustainable water to nurture them, they are dwarf both in the size of bush and berries, so if you go, don’t bother to bring your picking basket.

The trip down took an hour and a half, matching the roundtrip expectations set. My feet were uncomfortable, and I was looking forward to slipping into my boat shoes. As I neared the East Branch, I stopped to watch the water for fish. I thought I saw a rise and marked the spot for later.

After some chicken and biscuits at the Noonmark Diner, I decided to take it easy and fish the East Branch rather than driving 30 miles to the West. It was warm so I left my vest in the car carrying a few implements and one box of flies: Adams, Usual and Ausable Wulff’s along with a few nymphs and streamers.  When I got in the river, I noticed that the red house, the one with the barking dog, was positioned directly in front of me about a half mile away on a high overlook where the river takes a sharp left turn. What a great location. Far enough into the woods to be peaceful yet near the highway for access and on the stream. I envision them sitting in the different seasons watching as the river transforms from torrent to trickle, seeing the trout rise and the identifying the mayflies in the spider webs on their porch lamps. I could do that.

I started downstream of the bridge, working all the runs and pools patiently. Some were so slow moving that I could have placed my rod on a rock and taken a nap while my fly worked its way through.  I plucked at the pockets and ran the runs as I moved up, in no particular hurry. Nothing was showing. 7:30 came and went and 8:30 was approaching, as was the dark. I turned and reworked the likely spots. There was a large boulder in mid-stream (well, mid-stream when there is water in it, mid-stream bed at this time of year). It had a pool behind it with some depth. A trout had to be in there. I sat and watched for a while and then flipped in the Wulff. It sat in the eddy swirling, given the long leader I had on, and then sank. I repeated a few times selecting a different point to begin each time. On the 4th or 5th attempt, just before I was ready to move on, a brown came up and smacked it.  A nice 10-inch specimen, I thanked him for making my evening and walked out with the smile.

I climbed 4 peaks this trip. Read about the others in Letters to Mack 2.

Click “Learn More” above.

Family and Fishing

Sarah Grace’s Porgy which she released.

Letters to Mack 3

Correspondence from Islamorada to Pulaski

Excerpt from Letters to Mack 3 -

First Tarpon on a Fly

Previously published in Florida Fly Fishing Magazine

I had tried before, several times, three, maybe five times, to catch a tarpon. First was off Marco Island on a charter with bait back in the late 80’s. The wind and tide were wrong and the sky cloudy making it impossible to see so we moved back into the mangrove and caught sea trout which we lunched on dock side.

The next time was while bone fishing off Ocean Reef on Key Largo as they cruised by, but the wrong gear, wrong fly and lack of concentration led to no hookups although both Sue and I took some nice bones. I think there was another time with a guide named Dick out of the Moorings on Islamorada in the 90’s. Two days - no tarpon.

Then about 3 years ago I spent two days on the water off Cheeca Lodge focused on the big silvers and worked hard to present flies with line piled around my ankles on the fore deck of a 16-foot flats boat (once owned by Flip Pallot) with a rolling surf and good wind working us over. We saw them, lots of them, maybe 100 or more. All day, at least as long as the light held high. I flailed away trying to launch a 60-foot cast from that deck in that wind and more often than not failed to reach the target. The few times I did it was behind them or, a couple of times, right where it should be only to be ignored. I recall about 2 fish that day taking the time to look toward my fly, but none had the courtesy to bite.

So, I have put in some time. They say tarpon on a fly is tough and up until this point I was living proof.

Wednesday morning, I met Brett at the La Siesta Marina just across from the resort of the same name where we were staying, enjoying the warm sun, cool breeze and soaking in the pool in between grouper sandwiches and dolphin shows. Around mile marker 81 or so, as the Keys are marked.  The wind was what they call freshening, straightening out the flags on the ocean side of the Key. I sensed another day of failed casts to fast moving targets was upon me but fought off such negativity in the hope that a positive attitude would make whatever was to happen a great experience.

We motored out the back side and were soon on a drift aided by the long pole just south and west of the marina. Brett discussed the mechanics of the strategy:  You want to put it in front of him, maybe 10-15 feet and slow smooth strip unless I say strip-strip-strip which of course means strip faster. When he bites (so positive was Brett that I agreed and nodded my head, okay, when he bites…) strip strike him. That is, point the rod tip at the fish and pull with your stripping hand. Don’t use the rod tip to lift into a strike as with trout. It won’t penetrate the boney jaw - the flex of the tip will not provide enough power.  Okay, got that. Now, he says, once he bites and you strike, start reeling in the line, and get him on the reel. Okay, makes sense. Next, he will run and let the drag do the work. Okay. Once he is running, he is going to jump and when he does, he will throw the fly. In order to prevent that you need to bow to him, give him the line and the rod. Just thrust it all toward him as you anticipate the jump. Okay, but how will I know when he is going to jump? You’ll know. Once all that happens, we settle in for a 30 – 45 minute fight of more runs, jumps and pumps. Got it? Sure, I think so. Maybe. Okay. 

Fish on the right, 2 o’clock. Get up there. (Did I mention the little platform on the front of this tiny boat? It is about a 2-foot square although it is not 2 foot and not square. It is about 12 inches higher than the deck. It helps in the sighting of the fish and launching of the cast.  There is also a tall can into which you place your line which you have taken off the reel in preparation for the cast – so I no longer had to deal with wrapping line around my ankles.) Get up there. I hop up, somewhat unsteady. I normally have strong sea legs from years rocking on the Grady at home, but age and a long winter have conspired to weaken those muscles that have served me so well for so long. But up I go. I see the fish. At least I see his tail. It is huge. He is huge. Brett says he’s sleeping. We pole into position, and I launch my cast. Honestly, I don’t recall how good or bad it was, but I got a second one and woke him up. He glided away to quieter waters. Wow – not an hour out and a shot at a monster. I was feeling good, if untested.

What happened next?  

Pick up a copy, digital or print, on Amazon by clicking “Learn More” above.

The Black Nose Dace

The Black Nose Dace (BND) is probably the first fly I tied, acquiring the materials from Fireside Angler in Melville in the ‘70s. It has remained my favorite for streamer fishing all these years and especially on Long Island.

I tie it weightless and fish it on a long leader, letting it play in the current and trying to let it naturally sink to the bottom in calmer areas. Pulsing it and adding some short strips, then letting it drift back and repeat.

Black Nose Dace - My version:

• Hook – I usually tie it on a #12 streamer hook like a Gamakatsu S11s-4L2H – but suggest tying them on a variety of hook sizes both smaller and larger.

• Dressing – The key here is to go light – use half of what you think you should use:

• Thread: Black (It is called a black nose dace as it has a black thread nose)

• Tag: A red wool tag – Maybe ¼ inch or less at the top of the bend

• Body: It traditionally is wrapped in silver tinsel, sometimes with an oval silver rib, but I switched to a silver Bill’s Body Braid a few years ago and find it easier to work with and the fly spins less in fast water.

• Wing(s): There are three layers –

1. White Bucktail –Tied so the tips are not perfectly aligned and extend just beyond the Tag. I try to use hair from the middle of the tail.

2. Black Bear Hair – Just a few strands to cover the white bucktail and form a stripe on the side of the fly

3. Tan/Brown Bucktail tied such that it doesn’t hide the Bear Hair – again not too much or too aligned extending about a hook shank beyond the bend (progressively longer than the underwing layers.) I vary this, sometimes making the wing shorter on larger hooks. The splay of the tips gives it some motion when in the water and pulsing.

• Head: Black thread wrapped to secure the wing and end in a tapered nose.

• Whip finish and coat with head cement.

(This is from the Long Island Flyrodders booklet on member’s favorite flies compiled by Bill Smith.)

30 Tips - just enough so you can remember them!

This is the second edition of the book and has been updated and printed in color.

I am not an expert, just a person who likes to fly fish and has been doing so for a while. Over that time, I have discovered and rediscovered so many things that make my fishing more enjoyable. These tips are meant to make yours more enjoyable as well.

For more information click:

I hope you enjoy it – and your fly fishing!

Friends and Fishing

Peter Dubno, co-author of Trout Fishing on Long Island’s Spring Creeks, on the Madison’s Moon Scape

Fishing Long Island Spring Creeks

Want to know where to fly fish for trout on Long Island?

This booklet, created by LITU, is a guide to the major trout fishing on long Island.







For a copy of this guide click “Learn More” which will bring you to the LITU website. All proceeds from the book benefit trout conservation.

Photo by Bob Lindquist - Iris’s on the Carmans

How to tie a Joe Stack

Page from America’s Favorite Flies by John Bryan and Rob Carter.  Click on “Learn More” for Jim Misiura’s YouTube on how to tie it.

Joe Odierna (of Joe Stack Fame) in the Neversink Gorge

Podcast: Tom’s Greatest Tip

Podcast interview with Christian Bacasa at Fly Fishing Insider

Listen to a chat on what drew Tom to fly fishing and why he stayed, a bit about the books and some of his tips on catching more trout including, at the end, his Greatest Tip!

Podcast #164 on the Fly Fishing Insider Podcast

Iris Caddis

In many of my stories I promote the virtues of the Iris Caddis.  It is a fish getter that lays in the film and fishes like a dry but is also very effective when sunk at the end of a drift – and maybe given a little tug or twitch. Or even a swing. Give it a try.

First bought at Blue Ribbon Flies in West Yellowstone MT around 2005 or so. Very effective and simple fly I thought to be invented by Craig Matthews, owner of Blue Ribbon.  On an Orvis webinar with Tom Rosenbauer and Tim Flagler, it was revealed that the inventor was John Juracek who worked with Craig. John’s website is www.john.juracek.com.

My tying method – the simpler the better

Hook 18 - 16 – 14 emerger or dry fly style

Thread to match dubbing

Short shuck-like tail of brown/tan/amber at the bend

Body of Hare’s Ear dubbing tied messy – other colors can be inter-changed

Wing is a loop of Zelon, or other like material, tied on one side of hook and brought around to the other so it lays flat on top of body, helicopter-style, with the loop just at the bend

Head can be just thread or more dubbing.  I tend to just use thread - Simple

Favorite Fly for Stripers!

Clouser Minnow

Simple to tie and durable, I like it in a Chartreuse and White combination. I have found this to be a fly I can put on in May and take off in November and fish it with a sinking or sinking tip line. Bass can’t resist it when it’s on or near the bottom (in-shore) so be sure to let it have enough time to get down there. Cast and point the tip down and towards the fly – count to 5 or ten, whatever it takes to get it down then strip it, in jerks, stops and starts, as well as long darts. Don’t take it out too soon at boat (or beach). Make sure to strip set when they bite.

Good luck!

Family and Fishing

Hunter had and released 4 bass in the triangle off Eatons Neck!

Some things just make me smile.

Another fly I favor

This was probably the first dry fly I tied and used.  A Royal Wulff. Over time I used it less and less although I always had one in my box.  Today it is my secret weapon when on the Beaverkill at dark.

Family and Fishing

Shane’s first Connetquot Trout which he released!

Family and Fishing

Jason’s Big Blue with Dave Flanagan - For Northshore Long Island fishing at its best

contact Dave:   http://northislandfly.com

August on the Salt

Close to home, fishing the beach with poppers after sunset. Joy in just being here watching the moon rise with friends Walt and Dennis. A fish of unknown species provides my first action, ran a bit of line out, tugged and turned soon freeing himself as I shouted “fish on” with glee.

Made my day!

Family and Fishing

Tom with a keeper-size Fluke that he released.

Friends and Fishing

Tom LoProto on the West Branch

Cross Current Guide Service

Fishing and Friends

Chuck Neuner presenting me with my new 7’ 5 wt. bamboo he made.  

Carmans River Rod Company

Fishing and Friends

Manny on the Willowemoc

Friends and Fishing

Luke Baranov’s False Albacore on a fly off Eatons Neck

Ah Ara Wack

Quiet. On the beach. No wind so the cold doesn’t penetrate. Sun.

Tide’s low exposing the beach with the rocks and pebbles that he detested when first introduced, brought up on the fine sands of the south shore. Now they welcome him with more color and texture than the south could offer. And treasures. Beach glass, shells, flotsam, and once in a while a fishing lure.

He hears a clammer’s rake banging against the side of his Garvey, the first sorting of what goes back and what to market. The box will be next, and he hears the clattering of the hard shells on the sorting pipes. Turns to look and the boat is easily a mile away, yet the sound carries, the Sound so still.

The winter ducks. Ah-Ara-Wack, Ah-Ara-Wack is their tune, if you can call it a tune. He is not sure of the proper name of this visitor, but they have been here a few weeks. Their song mixes with the seagulls who are dropping shells on the parking lot, screaming at their competitors to stay away from the opened mollusk.

They walk to the point without much thought to the weather or the time of year, him and his dog. Just a nice day to be outside, on the beach. He looks up from time to time to see if any other visitors are about. Sometimes a harbor seal, sometimes a snowy owl. Whales have been sighted. None show themselves today. Not yet.

Watching the last of the water draining from the sand, the tide reaching its turning point. The bright sun reveals the sparking water moving, running. A ritual that repeats itself daily, twice a day. Forever. Always. Rearranging tiny pieces of the earth, moving them along its continuum. Moving to where she wants them to go.

The town will bring sand in the spring and the bulldozer will spread it, trying to give beach goers who prefer the finer grit some to sit on, for a while. Nature will do the sorting. The moving. Always. Forever.

Ah-Ara-Wack – the birds muster and swirl in the water, some chasing, others diving. Ah-Ara-Wack. One pod forces another from its roost. Ah-Ara-Wack. They seem restless as many of us must seem to them.

Not him. Restless that is. He is at peace now, enjoying this time of retire. He has time before nature takes over and starts moving him to where she wants him to go.


Tom’s Books

Tom’s Books

Tom authored his first book, How to Fly Fish for Trout, the first book to read, when a friend wanted to learn how to fly fish for trout and was overwhelmed by the available instruction manuals. Too much information for a beginner was the problem. It has since sold over 5000 copies.

Letters to Mack, Book One: Correspondence on a Fishing Life. Tom shares his fishing and hiking adventures with a lifelong friend named Mack. This is the first of a 3-part fishing biography with some life stuff thrown in. Join Tom in the Catskills, Adirondacks, on the salt and points west.

Letters to Mack 2: Correspondence from Montana to Montauk continues the series with western trout and Long Island striped bass, blues and albies.

Letters to Mack3: Correspondence from Islamorada to Pulaski includes tarpon and steelhead adventures.

How to Improve Your Fly Fishing & Catching has 30 brief and easy to read tips to remind an angler of those little things we all so often forget.

All on Amazon in Print and Digital

Fish Tales

A year’s fishing in 12 stories

1 - Opening Day

2 - How to fish Beat 7, Caleb Smith

3 - Bugs on the Beaverkill

4 - An evening on the Carmans

5 - Exploring the Eastern Catskills

6 - June in the Catskills

7 - What are friends for?

8 - Labor Day with PHW at Connetquot

9 - Womens fishing day at the park

10 - A fishing friend from afar

11 - On fishing and catching

12 - Two days In October

Fish Tale #1

April 3 – Closest I could get to opening day…

not that there is an opening day anymore. This generation wants what they want, when they want it, so year-round open season for trout has been in place for a few years. April 1 – October 15 is a better solution - for the trout’s sake and the rivers, not to mention the fish eggs being stomped on before they have a chance to hatch - but I am just an old fart who doesn’t like change. I fished in most months of the year so my grump is a bit hypocritical, but it is the way I feel about it, my actions aside.

Went to Connetquot with the Project Healing Waters group. No new folks showed up, so my volunteer guiding was not needed. Had the day to fish myself. I had decided to wear waders today before I arrived which worked out as they had a project underway on the upper river. I rigged the GLoomis 9-foot 4 wt. which I truly enjoy. Ted Bany pulled in next to me. Good to see him out and fishing. He is in the middle of a medical treatment but looks good. Dave, Dan, Bill, Ed and others were there, a good group.

I walked down-river first fishing upper #12 which rewarded me and my Black Nose Dace with a strong fish who must have been hiding among the recent stockies. Gave me a ride and ended up freeing himself. Next was an even tougher fish – at least I thought so – but I had snagged his fin. Was able to release him without the net.

I wanted to fish dry and headed downstream to #11 with a size 20 black midge with white wing, the proper fly name unknown to me. No one cared. At the top of #9 I put on a size 18 CDC winged BWO and got a nice splash but no hook up. Then a second hit but no hook up. I stayed with it too long as it seemed to attract them. Took a break and ate half of my PBJ. (Did you know that today is National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day?)

The river is full of visible fish laying on the bottom, mid-stream, as the osprey shadows pass over. A mop fly would mop them up but that is not my game. I went through my box and took out a size 18 Renegade – that is a Bi-visible with a peacock hurl middle and a gold tag. Again, an immediate big splash making me think it will work but it didn’t. Moved up and back twice before I put on the reliable Iris Caddis in a size 16 – probably too big but another splash. I guess those that do choose to rise are hold overs who know what a real fly looks like.

Well, I gave in and put on what I always put on when nothing else is working – A Joe Stack. This one was well worn but I straightened out the hair and greased it. It is tied in a Sparkle Dun style, but I thought the tail (shuck) too long so trimmed it. There was a fish rising at the bottom of #10 near the right bank, under the bushes. I had put the Caddis in there with no reaction. I side armed the Joe Stack in and on the third attempt got it close to the bank. Bam! A spunky fish took it in and out of the bushes and then around the log I found when I went up to see if I could find the fly he broke off.

No fly to be found, must be in his lip. I only had one Joe Stack left in the box. This one was even more beat up with the dubbing frayed and the hair splayed in every direction. Did what I could to dress it up and hooked a mid-stream fish and then a tree as he released it under pressure.

Time to move down below the sluice which I consider a sure thing, but it wasn’t. They have cleaned up the river from top to bottom and took the brush pile that held my fish. With no response to the Joe Stack, I put on a Dace and fiddled with it, but my heart wasn’t in it. The other half of the PBJ helped once the sugar kicked in. My alarm went off meaning 30 minutes left and I am 15 minutes from the car. With the Joe Stack once again attached, I walked up to find Bill on lower #15. We chatted. I told him I had lost the original Sully’s Darter he gave me to a bad knot. It’s a great fly and have 6 more but that was the original and I felt bad about it.

At #16A Dave was untangling his line. Bill headed out and I took a few drifts on lower #16A with no response. Time to go. I thanked Dave and headed out.

It was a beautiful day with daffodils, geese and mallards, swans and deer, all crossing my path as well as a muskrat or two. One swan got very territorial chasing two geese all the way downstream before stopping to groom himself. Most encouraging were all the bait fish (or were they young of the year stream-bred rainbows?) that were schooling around my feet as I dangled them off the dock on #9, hundreds of them. More were to be found as I moved up and down. I had not noticed any of these miracles on the other beats. I recall back in the day there were muddlers all over the bottom on every beat. They are few and far between now. Nice to see these little fellows.

I had enough fish on the hook and more than adequate opportunities, making me smile while reminding myself not to get too intense on days like this. Opening Days, that is.

Fish Tale #2

April 6 – Caleb Smith Beat 7

I signed up when at the LITU casting clinic at Caleb 2 weeks ago. Lisa was nice enough to encourage me to grab a spot and I did – Beat 7 was not a default, but my first choice. There are so many memories on beats 6 and 7 – with Clark in the 1970s, with Jerry, Joe and of course with me, solo. Last year Sue came with me, adding to those memories.

It was forecasted to rain all day, showers at least and temperatures in the low 50’s. I dressed to avoid getting a chill but once again the weatherman was wrong. I was way over dressed. Left my fleece vest in the car but wore my rain jacket over my wool shirt and Patagonia long johns. Too much, especially because it wasn’t raining – it was sunny. I took off the jacket but still was too warm.

There was a guy on 6 as I walked in and he hailed me to say hello. “Are you Tom?” he said. “The Tom with the Blog?” That’s me I replied. He complemented the stories and said his name is Jay. I thanked him and continued on my way to the top of 7. They have rebuilt the board walk and the water seems to have infiltrated the whole area where I once thought there was bank. I guess when they cut back the brush it exposed what was there all along. At the end there is a step down and then the stream.

Following my own advice, I fished the water before stepping into it but no hits. I took my time working the top section although I seldom if ever get hits here. Always possible to learn something new. There were flies emerging, small black stone flies, but no fish on them.

It took about an hour to go the short distance to the bushes on the right just above the weir. There was a rise some time ago making me extra quiet on my approach. I had on a Dace upstream but switched to an Iris Caddis using the 6.5’ cane rod Chuck made me. It’s a 4 weight and casts well. I had streamlined my leader connections a month ago so the long leader could be taken into the tiptop without risk of breaking the tip when a fish surges. Turned out not to be such a smooth transition. Back to the work bench tomorrow.

I drifted the fly in front of the bush, let it swing across the face and then fall back underneath eventually sinking. Same technique I used a year ago. It works if you’re patient and don’t mind getting snagged once in a while. It took some time and several attempts but a nice Brookie ‘took the bait’, as they say. I walked him over to the weir and released him over the falls. My own way of stocking the lower river.

I asked why they don’t stock below the weir. They tried but the fish didn’t hold. They feed these fish pellets as there is barely enough food in this stream to support more than a few of them. Usually, they throw a handful and the fish go crazy like piranhas on a pig. When they threw pellets in the lower river, there was no reaction. They tried it more than once. Could be they headed downstream to the pond and White’s Falls but that doesn’t seem likely. Perhaps poachers got them or otters or osprey…hard to figure as they always held before. Suggested they try Browns, but they are limited to what Connetquot can offer and that’s Brookies and Rainbows. Anyway, they don’t bother to stock 8 and 9 although there is every reason to believe some stream bred Brookies as well as fish from below could be residing there.

I took a rest, waiting for the hole to settle down, then repeated the process. This time it took longer and snagged a few sticks having to reset a few times. I was thinking I may have spooked whatever was left in the hole, if anything was there at all. I let the fly drift longer and deeper and eventually had a nice rainbow on the line.

Again, I walked her over to the weir but when I went to take out the fly it was deep in the throat. I cut the line and flipped her into the lower river. There goes my Iris Caddis. I searched the pouch to look for another and found one hiding under a Joe Stack. It was pretty worn but that isn’t always a bad thing. As I walked back up, a big fish spooked that was in the far corner of the dam on the upstream side. Went back to the bench to rest the hole a while and was wondering if there could be a third fish in there. Maybe the one I spooked moved in. I repeated the process and again, it took a while. Lots of patience and faith but was rewarded with what was a fish as big as the one I spooked. He slashed back and forth trying to free himself but I got him out into the stream. Thought I was handling him well when the line went limp. Checked the fly – he had opened the hook.

I chatted with a fellow who was doing water testing and was suddenly aware of the spinners with egg sacks hovering over the water down from the weir. Lots of them. They were working their way to the smooth water above and dropping the eggs. Spinners on the Nissequogue! I don’t think I have seen this in all the years. I assumed they did their procreation at night when we were not here. This was going on in broad day light. I stood in the water with my hat in hand trying to capture one for a photo so I could ID it. Caught one and folded the hat to avoid an escape. Got the camera out. As soon as I opened the hat it took off. Continued the hunt and got another with a quick but not very clear photo. They look like Quill Gordons but may be a Dark Hendrickson; seemed too large to be Blue Duns. I put on a fly that might pass for a spinner and went downstream. No one was interested. I needed to go down further to give the flies a chance to die and splay their wings. I worked all of lower 7.

When on 7, I almost always wander down to 8 and 9 since nobody ever reserves them. I started but was just too hot. I didn’t want the sweating that would accompany the long walk back. Out of the river, I walked to the weir. Tried the bush one more time and then decided to call it a day. Actually, I was thinking if no one was on 6 I would give it a try, but there was a guy working it. I let him know that I was leaving, and he could go down to 7 if he wanted. He thanked me and immediately reeled in and started down. I waited a few minutes, looking at the water, and almost got in but thought better of it. I went up to Vail Pond and watched for a bit. No rises or anything else that made me think there were any active fish but cast anyway. Here and there. Let it sit, gave it a twitch, pulled it a little. Nothing.

I headed to the car carrying my rain jacket and wanting to take off my wool shirt. Damn that weatherman.

Fish Tale #3

April 20-22 – Bugs on the Beaverkill

I heard the Hendricksons were hatching, and the weather was going to be nice, so I jumped in the car Thursday. When I got there the water temperatures were below 50 degrees, low 40s upstream. I stopped in at Trouttown Flies (aka Catskill Flies) and Joe was very helpful giving me an overview of the hatches when and where. There are some mid-day, as expected, but others later, after 5 until dark. Can surprise you given our crazy weather patterns! They also just finished stocking the lower river with rainbows, but he was looking for holdover browns. Me too.

I planned on upstream fishing but having learned to follow the advice I ask for I headed to the big Beaverkill. Drove old 17 checking the pools. The river is low, especially for this time of year. Piano Rock is well out of the water which doesn’t bode well for the coming season. We need some rain. At Cairns two guys are sitting on the tailgate of a car from NJ waiting for something to happen.

I stop at one of my favorite pools and am leisurely suiting up with a fellow fisher on each side of me. The one on the right came over and said he was looking for a particular pool and I assured him that this was it. He said thanks and drove on.

I made my way to the top and started searching the edge of the eddy and then the rushing riffle above, just to get started. After a short while a rise, a good one, just downstream. I watch and he comes again. I shuffle down 20 feet and get ready while checking for my box of spring flies - but it is not there. I select something from my day pack that might work. A fly comes off, then another. The fish get active. Next a heavy hatch develops, between 2-4 o’clock (Water temperature near 50).

Lots of rises...I could go get my Spring fly box in car but didn’t want to give up my spot at top of pool. There are three guys eyeballing the action in front of me. Tried a number of flies and varied presentations and finally got one on a pair of wets. (Afterwards I made sure to put my Hendricksons in my pocket.) As it quieted down, I headed further downstream, for warmer water and, hopefully, more active fish - but it was over. Had one small brown on. Back to the motel for a shower and dinner at Raimundos which is still Raimundos.

Hockey playoffs on the dish TV and I was good for the night.

Saturday, I knew the fishing would be later, so I had some Roscoe Diner breakfast as all the other places were empty and I hate eating from a cold grill in an empty room. Mid-April which is usually cold with high water doesn’t usually draw crowds. Next, I toured the shops – Trout Town was first to report my findings to Joe Rist and thank him for the tips. Next Dettes, and then Fur Fin and Feather. Sue Post has retired, and a fellow named Ryan now owns it. All new signs on the highway and entrance. It is back to selling used hunting rifles as well as flies and tackle.

I drove up to De Bruce to check my favorite spots and stopped in at the newly re-opened Davidson’s General Store. Originally opened in the 1940s, you can get all kinds of stuff there including farm fresh eggs. There is also a small display honoring the original owner -fly tyer Mahlon Davidson – one of the good old boys you may not have heard about. The Rose Cottage is next door and next to it the shell of the original DeBruce Club of George LaBranche fame. He was said to be the first to float a dry fly, the Pink Lady, in the Willow where the Mongaup comes in.

Time to go fishing.

I went to the Beaverkill Campsite for ole time’s sake knowing the colder water will have delayed the hatches I left down river. I fished the downstream water, crossing over and walking to the bend. Easy cross by the way. Lots of midges and BWO’s but no fish on them. I could count the number of Hendricksons and other large May flies on one hand, but I have it to myself and it is just beautiful.

On the way out I fished upstream of the covered bridge to significant rises. These fish tease you and are difficult to fool but I hooked a monster - that broke me off. Had to be a wind knot as my casting had gotten a little sloppy, it being the end of the day, although I had just checked the tippet. Hmmm? – maybe it was one of those sharp-edged rock shelves that keep the big fish there that cut it. The act of fooling one of those trout with PhDs in Covered Bridge Pool made the whole trip worthwhile, even if he did get off.

My buddy Mack calls Roscoe one of those charming towns with all you need when upstate fishing and he is right –almost. It has managed to avoid the gentrification some other upstate villages have gone through, especially with all the NYC folks moving up there during the pandemic. It still has a bit of a sad demeanor despite the hard work of the Chamber of Commerce, mostly due to The Little Store, which I loved. They went out of business years ago yet it sits there like a dead corpse. The motels still have that 1950s charm and all that goes with it. New owners are working on the Roscoe Motel bit by bit. It’s Roscoe. It has it’s highlights like the new breweries, upgraded camping (glamping?), Creek-Side Cabins and, of course, fly shops with friendly people to guide you.

Rough sleeping due to all the water I drank, as well as the Rockland House prime rib I couldn’t even finish and the room heater which went on and off all night with the temperatures falling. Anyway, I awoke at 6. Had some in-room coffee that was good and packed the car breaking down the rod. Weather went from high 70s yesterday to 40s, rain and wind this morning so I just got going.

Next trip is to the east side of the Catskills. Stay tuned.

Fish Tales #4

An evening on the Carmans with friends

May 11 – Fishing the evening hatch with Joe and Scott on the Carmans.  I got there about 4:00 and bought a season pass for $38.  I doubt I will come enough times for it to cover the cost - at $4 a day I need 10 days on the river to break-even, but it relieves the guilt of not paying for evenings as well as eliminates the hassle of going to the office on each trip.

The Carmans is like fishing a real river, although it is stocked.  Unlike the state parks, the fish are of modest size and number, with some hold overs and natural brookies to fish to. What attracted us today is the opportunity to experience a March Brown or Slate Drake blizzard hatch.  When they occur the river is filled with rising fish beyond what you can imagine – but it doesn’t happen often.  The only way to catch it is to show up in May, in the evening, and stay until dark.

Joe and Scott arrive shortly after me, parking the cars at Gate A.  We walk up to B, with me shooting video and taking photos to build my Carmans River catalog. There were some folks on C Dam spinning and catching so we worked B before going above the Dam to fish the west side where we are treated to rising fish that are pretty picky.  Scott has 2 sunnies on black caddis, twitching it seems to draw their attention. Joe let him know that they won’t count toward his being the high man for the day.

I went through a variety of flies with hits on the Iris Caddis but none in the net. About 7:00 we headed back to A to set up for the potential hatch.  All was quiet.  Heron cruise gracefully overhead, and a turkey is calling from the woods. No deer in sight although we know they are here. Swallows begin reconnaissance, looking for the same flies we are hoping for – large May Flies be they Hendricksons, March Browns or Drakes. 

I see some small sulfurs, some large spinners dropping eggs, and a few emergers.  I put on a March Brown parachute which draws a good splash but no hook up.  Rises were few and far between but patiently, quietly, waiting for them increases the opportunity to connect. 

A mid-stream riser took my March Brown emerger; a nice brookie of 8 or 10 inches makes my night.  Scott has one on a blind cast and Joe keeps changing flies. At dark the river went quiet – no blizzard tonight.

Maybe next time.

Fish Tale #5

May 18-21 Eastern Catskills with Joe Odierna

East side of the Catskills is less popular than the west with its Delaware drainage.  Both sides have famous streams with histories we all read about and have benefitted from but those in the east have suffered from man and storms more than those in the west.  So why go?  Because they are there and have mysteries of their own to be unfolded for those who look for them.

Joe and I planned this trip last winter and knew what we were signing up for.  We stayed in East Durham where I caught my first trout on Catskill Creek around 1955. It has a special place in my heart but as a memory rather than as a destination trout stream.

We started on the Esopus at the Boiceville Rail Trail Park and had rising fish greet us as soon as we walked into the river. (Bring your NYC Water Shed Permit). We didn’t run into another fisher until up toward Five Arches Bridge.  I guess we had one or more each but nothing to write home about. This is always interesting water and can hold some amazing fish, just not all the time.

At mid-afternoon we moved to a new DEC pull off upstream which is a wide section of shallow water with a troth along each bank. Upstream the water gets deep and below it trails off into a wide riffle.  Enjoyed searching the “new” water and bagging a fall fish. It was easily wadable, but the Esopus flow is moderate with the Portal closed. It’s hard to tell how good the fishing (and wading) would be with more water or during some bug activity as it was quiet at this time.

Returning the next day, we followed the Schoharie upstream to Prattsville where there is a low dam to keep the bass from the trout water.  This is also where the Batavia Kill enters the river. There are a number of good fishing spots between here and the Art Flick Monument. We followed the river all the way to Hunter where the access is on the other side (so cross over and follow the river). Certainly lots of fish holding water but you are looking up at the backside of the town buildings.

Back at Prattsville we did the same with the Batavia Kill.  Interesting river with some dramatic spots down steep banks but much of it is low gradient silted water.  At Jewett we found a long stretch of accessible water with multiple pools, but the silt gets a chance to drop out and coat the bottom.

We searched in earnest for a spot that called us into the water on both rivers, but none did.  As with most places if you spend the time, you will find the fish.  We just didn’t have enough time this trip.

A short trip over the mountain and we worked some productive water where Joe had a fat 18-inch Brown, and I had a jumping Rainbow – three times, at least 2 feet out of the water. Wow!

On the way back we investigated the West Kill driving to the terminus of the road where a short walk treats you to a waterfall.  Pretty water at the top and interesting throughout but small. It deepens a bit as it approaches the junction with the Schoharie in Lexington where we stood debating its potential.

Next day was to be the Catskill Creek and Joe suggested a walk across a farmer’s field and to the stream – about a mile in waders through tick invested un-cut hay.  I need to be honest – it is where I caught my first trout and I want to see it but not at that cost. We drove the river instead and ended up at the headwaters where we found ourselves not too far from that 18-inch brown – so we returned to have rising fish all afternoon.  They ate the March Browns and Gray Caddis.

A local with an Ugly Stick caught an unbelievable sucker – had to go 10 pounds – which he was ecstatic about and carefully released. Nice fellow.

Day 4 was clean up, pack and head for home.

It was good to see the West Kill of Art Flick fame all the way to Diamond Notch parking at its end, as well as the Schoharie and the Batavia Kill.  As everyone knows, they are industrialized and stripped by storms over the years (Hurricane Irene). It has made them less of a destination in spite of the history. Esopus was the way to go in the eastern Catskills and even it has been affected by too many storms and engineers. BUT - If you want some uncrowded fishing and don’t mind working for your fish these streams each offer plenty of water for you to explore.

Fish Tale # 6

June in the Catskills

June 7 – 11

One of the benefits of belonging to and participating in a Trout Unlimited Chapter is the friends you make and the places they take you.

Joe Odierna and I went up together, Mike came alone, and Stu and the other Mike came in his truck. Our plan was to fish the Neversink Wednesday and Thursday, travel to the Roscoe/Horton area on Friday and fish it until Sunday when we would head home after some morning time on the water.

Stayed at the Best Western in Monticello (best in town) the first two nights which has an Italian restaurant and a diner next door making it very convenient. It is about 25 minutes from our favorite pools which we fished the first day.  Stayed on the water late, checked in and went to dinner, no fishing afterwards. 

The lower Neversink was Thursday, fishing until 3. We had rising fish all day with only one being hooked by Joe.  My fly line cracked, and the hinge made it impossible to cast – not making excuses but that’s how it was. To facilitate some evening fishing, we went back for a nap and early dinner. Had a good night on the water above Rt. 17. Fish at each spot but not all that easy to hook.

The smoke from the Quebec forest fires is thick in the air, like a dense fog, gagging us and making the air dangerous to breath.  It did, however, make for a most amazing late afternoon and evening sky – orange to red to rose with our sun but a ball of light swimming in it.

Friday, we head to the Willowemoc at DeBruce.  The boys went down, and I went up.  The river is so different from when Jerry and I fished it.  I walk up to his favorite spot, and it still has good pockets and holding water, even in this low water year. I spooked a big fish and that was it for me.  There has been no rain and there was no snowpack.  The rivers were low in April and are lower now but still cool and fishable, although the fish are pretty picky given the limited cover. August may be deadly if we don’t get significant rain.

Joe and I went to Roscoe around 3 as the others continued to catch fish downstream, Stu a couple of big ones. I bought a new AirFlo fly line for my 4-wt. from Joe Rist at Trouttown Flies. The old line was really old. The new line is colorful and casts a mile.

The BBQ at Riverside begins the LITU outing. It is great to see everyone – 28 in all. Rick came, the first time in 5 years. Sal Pal is here, the first president of LITU (1972) and former president Chris stopped by on his way to the farm in Margaretville. All the usual suspects except Boyd, TLo and Sean, who had obligations, are here. Mr. Pepe came with Luke although he had a disagreement with TU over their not putting Columbus Day on the Calendar.  I understand his feelings and write TU a letter on his behalf.  Add it to the calendar next year or I won’t be donating for it either. Good that he is back. It is a community, a family.  We are fortunate to have each other.  This was the 26th year of the outing (not counting 2 years during Covid). 

That night we fished Cemetery Pool which has become a tradition for Joe and I when on the LITU trip.  It did not disappoint.

Early Saturday morning, as is my way, I walk to Sunoco for coffee and then down to watch the river and whoever is fishing it.  A beautiful way to start my day. Breakfast is scrambled eggs and French toast.

Joe and I went to the Beaverkill Campsite as Stu, Mike and Mike went to Staler Street and walked to the 206 bridge – a tough walk! Lots of fish for them and enough for us including my best fish of the trip:

We started under the covered bridge to warm up.  I like to fish the pocket water that runs in a fast drop from the Bridge pool on down to the long stretch leading to the big bend. There are kids fishing above us on some kind of an outing and having a good time, including throwing a cast net and walking in the cold water. One late teen was fishing the run from the other side having taken his shoes off, wading across with his spinning rod.  We chatted. He said he brought the wrong tackle, a Texas rig, but he found a spinner in a tree and switched to it.  This was his first time fishing a stream.  I gave him a few tips on where there is deeper water and made my first cast with the Hares Ear Parachute Joe tied for me. Bang! A 16-inch brown on.  The boy’s eyes open wide - he is more excited than I am, which is pretty excited. I know they are here and have caught them before but first cast? He asked if he could come over and see it but as he comes the fish launches himself out of the net. We talk more and I suggest he give fly fishing a try, that he can get an inexpensive used rod and begin the adventure. I wish I had a book to give him, but I left them home this trip. I did give him my website address. He asks if it is okay if he just watches me for a while.  I make a few more casts with no takers and then say goodbye and good luck as I head down stream.  Nice way to start the day, especially at the same place I was a kid with a spinning rod wondering what to do.

There were people downstream but Joe and I find a spot by the Hemlocks.  No action in the skinny water.  I move down and out of sight. After a while Joe turns the corner. This run is one of the more beautiful places in a beautiful place. I have a few refusals and let Joe know what and where, as I move down a bit. He ends up with a large brown and more followed, not a lot in the net but enough rises, hook ups, and/or refusals to keep it interesting. Next, he goes up to the big bend hole and has 4 on and off. What a day.

Always finding new places up here. On the way back to Roscoe we take a wrong turn and drive through some nice country which ends up on Rt. 30 at the head of the Pepacton Reservoir.  Massive amount of water for a thirsty City. We meet Mike and Mike at the 206 Bridge and chat, comparing notes. Stu is still fishing.

Dinner at Riverside was fun and delicious, not to mention very filling.  The Belmont Stakes is always run on the Saturday of this trip and while Stu and Joe go fishing, Mike, Mike and I watch the race with Mr. Pepe telling us of his time as an investigator of the racing industry.  I kept my racing business stories for another time. When picking the horses, I tell them the 2 to 1 favorite was not going to win.  That Sue told me, and she knows.  He came in 2nd.

Afterwards, Pepe wants to fish a little, near-by.  I go with him to Barrel Pool just to watch (and to be there in case he falls as we are all more likely to do these days at 70+) but he didn’t.  He has a nice fish, one of only 2 that are caught by the 8 or so guys lining the bank and constantly banging the water. Joe has the good sense to take it easy.  Rest the water and make long, drag free drifts.  Joe and Stu did well at Painters Bend along with a new guy named James. Most everyone on the trip had rising fish wherever they went.

Nice thing about this group is how we all pitch in to make people feel comfortable and help them catch fish.  There are a few who play the “secret spot” game, but we are not among them:

In the 1990’s, Jerry and I met Roger whose farm borders the East Branch and from whom we bought maple syrup he made (a Letters to Mack story). He told us of the spot at the end of his road in the state forest.  There were three places to park and no signs. We had it to ourselves.  A few years later, maybe 10, we arrived to find 3 guys suiting up.  Still pretty empty most of the time.  I brought Joe there and he caught the most amazing brown trout – there is a YouTube video on my channel. I brought others there, not swearing them to secrecy but expecting that they would be circumspect about who they shared it with. Years later we went and found someone was making an improved parking lot and had put up a signpost with no sign.  The next time we came it was a DEC fishing access, still not known too many.

Coming out from dinner Saturday night a fellow who is coming to eat with his wife asks how the fishing is.  As we chat, he tells me of this great place on the East Branch… in a forest. I thanked him for the information.

I am not sorry for passing the place on to my friends who got to fish it before the crowds.

Sunday morning was pancakes which, as Michael of Art Flick TU knows, are my favorite. We say our good-byes and head to Painters Bend with a second stop planned for Rhododendron Pool, my traditional exit-fishing when on this side of the Catskills. There are others fishing the water, both fly fishers on our side and spin casters on the other.  Plenty of water for everybody.  Rising fish all morning and maddening refusals as we worked through our fly boxes.  They respond to light colored flies but refuse to take mine.  Joe has a few on the line, then off.  The bright sun may have played a role in their detecting the metal inside the hair and feathers. I have to admit that it is just as fun watching these magnificent creatures come up with mouth open only turn and go back down as it is catching. It is a sight to behold, and we are fortunate to be in a place where we can witness it.

I tell Joe this is my last fly, but then try two more before we head out.

On the way, we pass two young fellows, one of which just caught a nice brown on a Grey Fox.  He is holding it on the beach and tells us it is for dinner as he takes out his knife.  I recall my early days with creel and knife. We wish him luck.  Hopefully he will move though the stages of a fisherperson and come to the realization that these fish are too valuable to eat for dinner, stocked or otherwise, when in a wild stream.  I wonder out loud if all the discussion of the high mortality rate of released fish has colored the attitude of new fishers and enabled them to rationalize killing the very thing that gives us so much pleasure.

We are tired, more like exhausted, from a great trip and skip part two of our plan for home.

If you haven’t already joined TU please do, and if you have the time and inclination, give the chapter meetings a try.  It just may enrich your fishing life beyond what you can imagine.

Next trip – the Delaware in the fall with maybe some Adirondack bass fishing during the summer. Stay tuned!

Below is Stu at Rock Pool

Fish Tale #7

What friends are for!

August 19 - I walk each day or at least as often as I can.  It is pleasant with some rolling hills of the neighborhood leading to the water, the Long Island Sound and assorted bays. Generally, about a mile but with enough uphill tracking that my cardio gets fit - or fit enough. A walk also clears my head, solves problems or at least minimizes them.  

I made my turn on the beach heading south and then eventually back north where I see my friend Dennis casting to some feeding fish in the “Bend”.  A few of us meet here often and cast and chat, sometimes hitting fish and often not.  We are not a competitive group.  I don’t enjoy competitive fishing, never have. Dennis hands me his rod knowing I’d love to take a cast. No words need to be spoken.  

A few casts and I hook a peanut bunker - by catch. I leave it on the lure and toss it out.  It swims a bit and then not.  I begin my retrieve tugging and darting the well sunken lure unencumbered by bait and then that pull, subtle at first and then in earnest - soon line zipping off the reel and a significant fish on board.  Tightening the drag on the Diawa and hoping the knot from braid to mono will hold, I take in what line I can.  

He gets to a point where he decides to sulk - a stale mate.  I walk up the beach effectively moving him toward shore and Dennis guides my efforts to avoid any structure that would allow him to release himself.  He is in the wash and on the sand.  

37 inches of striped bass as fat as a cow before market.  We shout and laugh as he hands me the pliers.  The single hook comes out easily.  He says “dinner!” and I remind him of my dedication to release - plus the fish is larger than the slot limit of 28 to 31 inches - designed to keep breeding stock in the water. He nods as we take a quick photo each and launch this beautiful fish back to be caught another day.  

It was a team effort - and that is what friends are for!

Dennis with our fish.

Fish Tale - 8

September 4 - Labor Day

PHW at Connetquot River State Park

First time at the park since…July? Water is low but cool at 60– 62 degrees.  Not over stocked, you have to look for them.  I was to guide a new fellow, but he didn’t show so I fished with the others - Bill, Jerry, Jim, Chris, Ted, Dan, Dave and more, a good group - and happy to do so.  Started on 17 (waiting for our new friend) and used an Ant with no hook to test the waters.  Had two or three rise to it, then headed downstream. 

Tried the Ant then switched to a Joe Stack at 16A where nothing was going on.  Then to a Woolly Bugger and nothing.  Walked to 16 but the low water has diminished this hole so tried 15 and again had to wait a while to see fish. When I did, they were not interested. Back to the Joe Stack but nope. 

Passed Bill Smith at 14 with a nice brookie in the net.  I went in at lower 14 and had one the first cast to the other side. He released himself.  Worked the rest of it before moving to 13.  At the dock there were big bruisers coasting so walked back up to fish down to them.  Again, first cast, to the root of a tree, and bam! – a big fellow in the net. Worked it some and had another on the hook.

Upper 12 provides lots of room to cast and had one or two, moving down as I fished.  Before the dock came into sight, there were three fish roaming the pool on the other side.  They ignored the Joe Stack. Went to an Iris Caddis which they also ignored.  I put on an Ant with a white indicator – nope.  Next a small float-less black Ant, knowing I would not be able to see it.  I’d have to watch the fish’s reaction to know if they took it. Fourth drift a big guy chased, and I struck.  Dumb Luck! He didn’t fit in the net.  Wow. 

Lots of spunk in these fish even with the air temp at 89. Bill came down as I was moving up, so he got in at the dock.  We fished side by side for a while, enjoying each other’s luck. Then a flotilla of swans came by, in a rush, squawking at each other and not seeming to appreciate my being in their river.  I got out to let them by and decided to go downstream rather than deal with them again.

At beat 11 I plan to fish below the dock toward 10, after a break for water and a nut bar. As I sit, I hear big splashes above me and consider changing my plan.  When I look it is a mallard teaching the kids how to eat weeds. Luckily there is a rise below me.  I clean up the Joe Stack and drift it slowly (the low water moves much slower than the normal river) down to them.  Takes a lot of patience to allow it to complete its drift before quietly retrieving and casting again. I give the fly a slight, very slight, tug now and then and let it continue. More times than not this elicits a rise after a bit of drag-less drifting.  I have three on that way and am smiling from ear to ear.  What a beautiful setting to spend a day in. Gratitude is oozing out of me.

It is now after 1:00 and although they said we could stay the day I had had enough.  I climb out and head back to 16A; still no one is interested. At the parking lot I am the last car, the heat getting to the others I suppose.

A good day.  A very good day.  

If you are a veteran who would like to fly fish, contact Dave at: dave.turner@projecthealingwaters.org

(Below is lower beat 11)

Fish Tale - 9

NYSDEC’s Women’s Fishing Day

at Connetquot

Saturday, September 16th

Volunteers were called for and I stepped up but there was no agenda or tips on what we would be doing, what we should bring or how it was to be organized. Who was in charge? I like order and preparation is part of my being.  I decide to just go with it and showed up with my fishing pack and a long-handled net.

When I arrive, they tell me at the gate I have to park in the horse trailer area (near the entrance) and walk to the Hatchery (a mile plus).  I explain I could not do that. I drive to the parking and am hustled into a parking space and told to get in the park Jeep, they would drive me. I awkwardly scramble to get my gear together and put it in a bag. I did get to meet the new park manager, who was my driver. Things workout – almost.  When I get to the river, I realize I don’t have my sunglasses and can’t see the fish without the polarized lenses.  I thought of getting a ride back but then let it go.  I was supposed to be a table sitter anyway. 

DEC was there and had a number of tables.  LIFR had one, LITU, Friends of Connetquot, Art Flick TU and others including RiverBay Outfitters. It was a bit chaotic for those of us who didn’t know what was planned but it all worked out.  Tables got set up, rods were strung, casting instruction area set up, hatchery tours planned, and 4 fishing sites equipped with long-handled nets to accommodate the 40 women who attended.  They set up rotations and later allowed some expansion of the areas. Some caught fish but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

I walk and talk and am enjoying myself.  AnnMarie Cosgrove asks if I would accompany her when she gets assigned a fisher so I can do the netting and help out.   I agreed and waited.  Then Julie McCain hails me.  She has a young gal in tow named Melissa and asks me to guide nearby. AnnMarie is still waiting so I agreed, in the meanwhile, as long as Julie stayed with us. 

We tried above and below Rainbow Bridge which has already been beaten to death by eager fishers.  People on top of people and no one really caring. All having fun.  At one point a pair walked up to beat 21 and spooked a school of new stockies down toward us.  Plenty of fish stocked.

Julie suggested we look at the other sites and then 16A came up.  Down river, away from the event.  I said OK. Michael Barger is already there with another pair waiting their turn.  I took our team down to 15 which, thank goodness, was untrammeled.

Melissa is a decent caster and familiar with the sport.  She knows what needs to be done in placement, mending and drag, even if not well practiced in the techniques. And she is lighthearted and fun while seriously wanting to catch a fish.

We went through some flies but at beat 15 the Green Woolly Bugger came out.  She tied on all the flies, by the way, after Julie showed her how to do it once. From the dock we review how to manage the fly in this hole.  Naturally there was a fish sitting immediately next to us in the back wash of the eddy looking downstream which was tempting, but better odds lay in the deep cut of the sluice.

She learns quickly to bring it forward and let it drift back while sinking, and then tugging it a few times to elicit a strike and has a fish rise on an early attempt which gets us all excited.  After some time, a fish rises upstream of us, under the tree.  The distraction has its usual effect – “Let’s try over there.” We stuck with the bugger in the sluice and soon have a sizable brookie in the net.  She is smiling. 

“Want to try for the one under the tree?”  Her answer was in the affirmative, so we switch to a dry fly - a Joe Stack. She makes a few casts. Highly technical place to cast with overhanging tree branches and from a dock where you are elevated well above water level.  I say I’ll put it out there and hand her the rod.  I don’t do so well, catching the tree, falling short and going wide - sloppy.  I am never good with an audience.  Finally, it goes where it should, and the fish hit as I was passing her the rod.  On for a flash but enough.

Back to the sluice - the fish are tired of the Green Bugger, so we go Black.  As she gets back into the streamer fishing rhythm a respectable brookie comes up and smashes it. 2nd fish in the net and a good photo op.  Melissa did well and let us know that she could do this all day but wants to get back to the party.

(When we got back to the main event AnnMarie was doing well with her fisher, so I stayed back and watched.)

Memorable day, I hope, for Melissa.  I know it was for me.

Fish Tale - 10

A fishing friend from afar

September 19

Aki was in from Japan and fellow rod maker Chuck Neuner was hosting.  They went up to the Catskills earlier.  He is a highly regarded maker of bamboo rods and the Catskill Museum has exhibited them in the past.  Aki fishes the Henry’s Fork annually and enjoys both the Catskills and Long Island.

Yesterday they were at a park in Islip demonstrating his rods for some locals. I was busy but Chuck called to say they would be at Connetquot this morning. I met them at 8 and we initially fished 20 – 21.  Aki just wanted one good fish before returning home.  The fish surprised us by being very spooky and not all that interested in a dry fly – or any other.

I watched as he worked up the bank as stealth-fully as anyone could, executing fine casts and gentle drifts but no luck. Chuck took him down to the lake as Phil and I walked upstream.  Phil went as far as 30 and I stopped at 25 where we met once again. Big fish were there but few and far between. Very sensitive to any movement or casting.

The phone rings and its Chuck.  Aki wants to try down river and is putting his waders on.  I am in low boots so Phil trots down to guide him as he knows the area well. I eventually follow and meet them on 16 where he is working a big girl who is apparently eating. Phil’s encouraging his efforts, providing feedback on his casts from above. I am impressed by Aki’s ability to present the fly in this clear water on a sunny day.  I went to 15 which had rising fish just upstream of the dock as a backup if the fish on 16 didn’t work out.  He is a dry fly guy. We are in the last hour of our session.

Once Aki hit, he hit big. Real big. 22-24 inches big.  And his smile was as wide as can be.  His rod, of course, handled the large Rainbow well and soon Phil had her in the net. Photos were taken and when he released the fish we asked if he wanted another. He said that one was plenty.

A nice day for all of us and it is good to be together again.  I brought Aki a copy of Mike Valla’s new book on Fly Fishing Guide to New York State – lots of photos, maps and flies in full color so I thought he would enjoy it on that long plane ride back to Japan.

Click “Learn More” for Aki’s website.

Fish Tale - 11

On Fishing and Catching

(Update on Caleb Smith)

September 21

I have been yearning to get to the Nissequogue at Caleb Smith State Park.  I vividly recall my early days in the 70’s when this park was such an adventure for me and Clark. I called for a reservation and only beats 4 and 5 were taken.  This is usually the case since they stock the fish at 4 and catching odds are greatly increased for those who want to catch fish. I would rather fish in the sense that it takes knowledge, technique and experience to coax a trout out of the nooks and crannies of this river down below or up above the stocking point.

The challenge and joy of the sport, for me, is overcoming the odds that an unstocked section presents.  Once a fish is located and perhaps caught, it is still a fish that was once stocked but had the instinct to move away from the crowd and learn to survive by sharpening their awareness of the dangers of the river where we are not the prime predator. It is fly fishing as a sport rather than “mopping” up the pool of stockies and being excited to tell of catching multiple fish: 5 – 10 – 15?

I took beat 7. The registration gal said she told someone that she has a regular that always takes beat 7 (me) and the person just could not understand why.  That made me smile more while feeling bad that so many fishers are still counting fish rather than experiences.  Rather than pride in gaining skills and overcoming odds. Sure, everyone wants to catch fish, but it is so much sweeter when you have to work for them. 

I walk in at 6 and slowly work the water with a Black Nose Dace and then an Ant when the weeds proved too challenging for a subsurface presentation. I take my time - I hear a rise. It was a loud gulp. Just one. Under the bush.  I try to move my Ant over there, which is tricky with the weeds, over-hanging branches and the current, when another gulp comes to my right, on the opposite bank. I move the Ant again. No takers.  I sit on the bench and fiddle with my tackle while scratching my head. Gulp. Gulp. Gulp. They are here and are feeding but on what? I had a few new Joe Stacks tied a bit tighter and tie one on.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?  It is nice to see the fly I am fishing as the Ant is invisible, but they are not interested. Gulp.

I start looking in the water in earnest to see what’s going on.  First a small Cahill like dun went by.  Could be the source, but loud gulps? I put the one I had on but no reaction. I move down toward 7 and see something I have seen before – a caterpillar or worm. Only an inch long and dark colored, squirming in the film. Would that bring a gulp? Naturally I had just cleaned out my fly boxes and limited the number – nothing that would look like this little guy is among them. I will tie some tonight.

I move to my most productive spot with slow, soft steps, get under the tree for cover and again try the Dace, letting it drift by and then sink back.  It was a little weighted and quickly caught a root and was lost. Another, smaller one with no weight did better – but didn’t complete the mission.  He hit it and was on for a brief moment and then not. Whew!

I took out a Sully’s Darter tied by Bill Smith and after a respectable wait, put it in the hole. Resting the water is critical down here. He liked it but managed to slip the hook as well, it being difficult to keep a tight line when dropping it back. Another with some weight was lost to the roots and then the Iris Caddis came out. Now in the past this was the fly. Especially here.  Dry or sunk it can be deadly, but I have already over worked the hole. I left to try 6 again after a brief time below which did not reward the effort although I always think it might. There are fish below the weir.

I sat on the bench at 6 and they are still gulping although not all that often. I didn’t see any more worms, but I am bringing some next time for sure.

Time was up and I headed out having had a great day of fishing at this extraordinarily beautiful park. Last day to fish it this year is October 15 so come on down! If you need to catch, try to get beats 4 or 5.

Fish Tale # 12

Two Days in October

Dennis has the northern most parking slot near the white house we call the Hickey house because that was the name on the mailbox although Hickey left a few decades ago.

The evening of the 23rd, it is Dennis, Walter and I at about 4:30 with the tide reaching its peak at 7 or 8. Breezy. Dennis had been down this morning and had over 20 fish including some huge blues, so we are all hopeful although we realize what happened even an hour ago might not be happening now. Optimists for sure. 

We are not disappointed. Walt is on the jetty and me by the osprey nest with Dennis in-between, a couple of hundred yards of beach being worked.  Walt hit first and phoned me.  He asks me walk up to tell Dennis since cell phones and Dennis don’t get along well.  We move north, still separated by 50 or more yards.  I hit and hit again, nice spunky stripers. (The lure has two treble hooks, and it is always a mess when trying to get one out as the other gets snagged somewhere else. I remove the front one.  The next three casts, fish hit, and I miss - bass tend to bite the heads.)

Dennis’ casting range has been limited lately while he waits for a part for the Van Staal so he’s working the inshore opportunities with a short rod. Walt has more and is calling for us with his arms to come closer.  Dennis goes, makes a few casts and retreats to his own spot.  I climb over the jetty to the small beach which is fast disappearing with the tide coming. Birds were working here a few minutes ago. Lots of weed is collecting in the nook of the rock diversion but moving further north the water clears. I have a hit, but the action moves outside.  

A local was there with his grandson and came to say hello - to see how we were doing.  His grandson, a pre-teen I suppose, had just arrived from Israel. The reason not shared but with the situation over there I hope he stays for a long visit.

The fish are slowing a bit and not too many birds are working, we keep fishing.  It is getting dark and cold.  Dennis goes to warm up the car.  I put on the Yo-zuri peanut bunker from Cow Harbor Bait and Tackle which has been magical lately and have another bass.  Recast and as the lure hit the water it was smashed. Line zipping off my already tight drag.  Running south and then east, line going out.  I turn the drag some more and start to pump and reel.  He still runs. 

Tighten it again and then, guessing I have achieved the limit of the line, go back to pump and reel, using my belt buckle like a gimble on a fighting chair, and moving my non-cranking hand up the rod as much as I dare.  Put my weight into the pumps. This fish is strong.  When I get him nearshore, he runs parallel to it, and I move towards the dunes to get him closer to the wash. 

Tide high, he has plenty of water to work, even when in clear sight.  Took a while more before I could get him on his side and on the sand. 30 inches or more and fat. 

Funny thing about blues on the sand.  They seem to give in and just lay there.  On a boat deck they thrash and belch up whatever bait they were devouring.

 Looking into his big eye and wondering if he is planning to attack, I approach.  My pliers are out but they suddenly seem all too short.  I ask him if it’s okay for me to get the hook out, bargaining with him – “Stay still and both of us will be okay soon.”  He flips over and then again.  I take a deep breath, check my grip on the tool while moving the rod tip away to tighten the line straightening the lure.  It is a treble, but the barbs are down.  Shouldn’t be too hard - but two of the three are in the jaw. Nuts!

I grab the one that is clear and lift, forgetting that this is a big fish. I almost drop the pliers.  Grab them again, lifting his head, and not much else, twist the lure free. Done, he immediately flips and rolls toward the surf. My boot under him, I lift thinking he might turn on me - but he doesn’t.  He gets his bearings and swims away - with attitude.  I motion to the guys who are cheering.

What a fish.

That was Monday.

Dennis asks what time tomorrow and we agree on 8:30. First light is better but at our age we have seen many early mornings and have come to appreciate the joy of sleeping a little later. We cruise down to our beach first to see if they are up and active but only the cormorants are working. At our destination Dennis sits in the car to finish his coffee. I head to the beach and will call him if the fish are on. It is 43 degrees, but the wind is calm. 

A yellow pencil popper on, I hit a nice bass on the 3rd or 4th cast.  Dennis’ phone rings and rings before I remember what Walt told me about Dennis and cellphones.  I am walking back to the car to get him when he comes over the dune.

It’s like last night but better, if you can believe that.  Most of the action is out of range but there is a lot of it, and they are moving fast, back and forth, in and out.  We cast knowing our chances will improve when they turn our way. Dennis hooks up, I hook up.  Good schoolies.  I move to the Jetty and set up on the southside, fish and birds and bait all over the place, most out of range.  It is quite a sight and I consider taking some video but there are too many fish.

Thinking some of the outside action might be Albies, especially with the speed they are coming and going, I switch to a Deadly Dick for a few casts. Knowing the bass love peanuts, I went back to the Yo-zuri figuring I can just reel it in fast if Albies show themselves.  Glad I did. 

A couple of kayakers peddle into the area and have fish on.  Good for them. It’s a long ride from the ramp. We have plenty of action and a few more fish.  I cast toward the boulders which tend to hold bass. The lure hits the water, I reel in the slack and pop it once. Wham! Dennis says, “That’s a big one!” And it is. 

Different fight than the blue.  Again, line is pulling off the reel, the drag tight and then a little tighter.  I like the 15-pound test braid but when the fish can be 20 – 30 pounds, you have to finesse it.

The determination is there, but not the urgency or strength of the blue.  Bass seem to use their weight more than their muscle. Keeping pressure on him with no barbs, I think about how I really don’t want to lose this one, at least not until I see him (or her). Walking away from the Jetty to eliminate a boulder break-off moves him nearer shore. It is still deep enough to fight right up to the end when his head is in the wash and then on the sand.  I try to pull the rest of him up, but he is too heavy.  I reeled in and…

I forgot to tell you that when I caught my first fish, I discovered I forgot my pliers. I carry a de-hooker in my bag, but it works best with single hooks. With some innovative twists and turns, I got the treble out (swearing I am switching to single hooks on all my lures when I get home). I nudge him toward the surf, and he seems to know what to do, squiggling like a salmon going through a shallow riffle. One gulp of the salt and he cruises away none the worse for our time together. 

I did snap a photo, but I seldom touch the fish I catch, using a tool to get the lure and my foot to guide them back home.  Good for them and Sue doesn’t complain about how I smell when I get home.

Works out for everyone.

A few more regular bass and the water goes quiet.  The birds head else where and the de-hooker is not needed. 

Love this water and sharing it with good friends and a few good fish.  Gratitude.

Fly Fishing and Spirituality

There are books written on the subject like Jerry Kustich’s At the Rivers Edge, The Fly Fisherman’s Guide to the Meaning of Life by Peter Kaminsky and Fly-Fishing - The Sacred Art by Eisenkramer and Attas. I have not addressed it directly in my fishing writing although I believe it is apparent throughout.  I have compiled a book that helps me stay focused in all aspects of my life, including fishing. If you are seeking a more peaceful life, you may find it helpful as well.

On Amazon.


I have followed this path before

And know to where it leads.

Friends try to intervene,

Life continuing to recede.

The time of life, our future fate,

Is not to be denied.

Though if we embrace this very day,

We can all enjoy the ride.

Past His Prime

We made it to Roscoe in time for breakfast, then headed for the fly shop. Dennis was on the quarried stone stoop having a smoke and greeted us with “Uh oh, look who’s here.”

“What’s happening?” says Jerry.

“Not much. The rivers are high.”

“Any action?”

“A little yesterday, more the day before, hard to tell with this water.”

Action means flies and sometimes you hit them and sometimes you don’t. It doesn’t alter the joy of being here, at least not much. We come every year and every year it is different. Moving inside, Dennis takes his place at the tying bench where he greets all, whether buying or not. Jerry watches as sulfur emergers fill a cup next to the vise.

He tells Dennis what he has been torturing me with for the last few weeks. “First time since 1952 I missed the Hendrickson hatch.” It is already June. Drakes, Isos and Sulfurs, maybe a left over March Brown. June. “1952. Damn.” Dennis admires his tenure. “You must know every rock in this stream by now.” I countered, glancing over my shoulder, “He’s past his prime.”

It blurted out. I didn’t mean it harshly, just jousting with him as we often do, but the words struck me as unintentionally cutting, probably because there was truth in them. This man who taught me so much, my mentor and friend, has lost his edge. He can’t see the drag of the fly, his tremulous hands keep him from tying a blood knot, and tying on even a size 12 is difficult.

He doesn’t react to my words. We buy some weighted stoneflies for the high water and say our good-byes. As we are leaving I ask “Where should we start?” We both know the answer.

Earlier this year Jerry was in the ICU bedridden, attached to more machines for monitoring, elimination and nutrition than I care to think about. Nothing was working. He looked me in the eye and said “I don’t think I’m going to walk again.” A plain statement. No real emotion or search for sympathy. Just his professional assessment of the situation, being the clinician that he was. I stumbled for words. “You need to think of a place you want to walk to, get the image and hold on to it.” He looked at me as his wife listened to the plan. One word came out of our mouths at the same time, “Barnhart’s.”

Sometimes people go suddenly, unexpectedly. That is more difficult as you are left with this wretched void, totally unprepared. Watching someone go through the later stages of life, the decline, is difficult in a different way. It is better than the alternative but you find yourself marking how close the nearest medical facility is and thinking about how you would get him there. He gave up river crossings some time ago. I knot on a fly or add some tippet, give him the first shot at a rise. All of us who fish with him quietly do whatever we can to make it easier without being obvious about it – but he knows.

We play out the roles.

Just last spring the two of us worked Barnhart’s from the riffle at the head, down past the portal, all the way to the big bend toward Horse Brook Run. He quit when we hit Hendrickson’s and made it on his hands and knees up the steep bank. No small feat. Leaning on the guard rail, watching, he cheered the catches and misses as I fished the other side. That was just a year ago.

Later that summer, on Slough Creek, he got upset with himself like never before, frustrated and cursing at hanging a fly in a tree on the first cast after struggling to tie it on. I turned and made like I didn’t see. That image haunts me.

Barnhart’s is where we went after leaving Dennis and he walked in with no assistance. It is something we have done a hundred times over our 30-year partnership but this time it was a big deal, his walk in, manifesting the image he had conjured. He cast his last fly on the Beaverkill the fall of that year and caught his last Catskill trout, falling as he swooped it into the net on Sunoco Pool.

Once home he drove himself to the Nissequogue where we usually close out the season together. He called that evening making it clear that regardless of what he was about to tell me, I need to know that he thoroughly enjoyed the day. He had walked to the lower beats, the path not in sight of the river, and got turned around. “Stumbling through the woods, I broke the tip of the Granger, suffered a few significant scratches from the underbrush, and once I found the river couldn’t even fish.” Sure, he enjoyed it. He was in his element.

That was over a decade ago.

Last year a buddy used a walker to cross the West Branch at Stilesville. Another lost his balance at Ferdon’s and feared he might drown, not being able to get up. Manny didn’t remember the wild Delaware rainbow that broke him off a few hours before, he too is gone now. My legs don’t feel like they used to. Stamina no longer allows for more than a few hours on the stream. The hike into the Neversink Gorge is out of the question. Rock hopping, once a natural act, is suicidal.

We know when we pass our prime. It is obvious. What is difficult is knowing when to hang up the boots. Like the cowboys of old, most of us hope to go out with our boots on. Friend and short story writer Richard Dokey and I were planning a trip to Silver Creek when his son called. They found him in his waders. He had just published his final work – Fly Fishing the River Styx.

So keep those boots on as long as you can, even if only to be in your element, like Jerry on the Nissequogue. After all, being in one’s prime is not the point, being there is.

Tom McCoy is a lifelong fisherman

He caught his first trout before he was 10 in Catskill Creek. He camped at the Beaverkill as a boy, fishing with bait and lures before attaching a fly reel to his spinning rod and flailing away hoping against hope to hook a trout.

In the 1970’s he attended a Trout Unlimited casting clinic and bought a $15 rod and $20 reel, beginning his pursuit of this sport in earnest.

Since then he has fished mountain streams north, east, south and west. He also loves the saltwater and has fished it from his home base on the Long Island Sound to the Florida Keys and beyond. Thanks to a travelling career, he has been fortunate to fish in 21 states and 5 countries – so far.

He recently was co-editor for a team responsible for updating Trout Fishing on Long Island’s Spring Creeks, a Long Island TU publication, and has been included in the beautiful book America’s Favorite Flies, as well as TU’s Trout Tips, Florida Fly Fishing Magazine, the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum’s An Anthology of Angling Experiences and contributed to Mike Valla’s new book Fly Fishing Guide to New York State along with other regional publications. In addition, he has written five books, 2 “How to” and 3 which comprise a trilogy fishing memoir.

A lifetime member of TU, he also supports Theodore Gordon Fly Fishers, The American Museum of Fly Fishing, The Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum, The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK), The Peconic Land Trust and other conservation-oriented organizations. He is a member of the Long Island Flyrodders and Friends of Connetquot River State Park.

He is fortunate to be surrounded by his family and many friends.

Family and Fishing

This is the man who took me fishing. Thanks Dad.

On Lake St. Catherine in Wells, VT - circa 1950’s

Hope to see you on the river!

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