Last weekend was the 10th annual Orvis Game Fair at Sandannona in Millbrook, NY. Orvis Sandonona Shooting Grounds is the oldest permitted shooting preserve in the United States. These grounds have a lot of history on them and it is a special treat to visit every year. The last two years have witnessed warm beginnings to the autumn, as you would expect this delay of cool weather and rain adversely impacts the fall Trout fishing season.
This year a group of us grabbed a few campsites at the Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park off of the Taconic State Parkway. The park is over fourteen thousand acres and features two bodies of water, Canopus Lake and Pelton Pond. The location was perfectly situated between the West Branch of the Croton and Dutchess County rivers. Our logic was that we needed to focus on the tail waters of the Croton watershed due to the low level drought.
The West Branch of the Croton below Boyd’s Corner was fishable, however mostly warm water species were hitting and flows were low. Mark had a swing and a miss out of the reservoir by a Brown Trout. The freestone streams of Dutchess County were all the lowest I have seen them over the past five years. They are still fishable for Smallmouth Bass when they are very low. I even managed to find a few Trout in one deep and cool pool.
If you live in the New York metro area, Trout fishing in the Catskills is a traditional rite of spring. Specifically, many of us head up to “Trout Town USA” or Roscoe, NY on most modern maps. Roscoe has been famous for Trout fishing since the 1800’s when the Ontario and Western Railroad brought people up here to Fly Fish. The first dry fly fishing in America happened on fabled streams in the area. I had been to Roscoe on opening day in order to attend several events including the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum’s, “Catskill Legends Dinner” along with their first cast event. The following day I attended the “Two Headed Trout Dinner,” hosted by the Roscoe Chamber of Commerce. At that event I was the winning bid on a silent auction for a weekend at a guesthouse in Roscoe. All of these events are a fine time and I recommend checking them out next year.
The West Branch
This fine stream, starting out in Stamford, NY and running all the way to where it meets the East Branch at Junction Pool in Hancock, NY is one of the best wild Trout fisheries in the State of New York. The river was dammed in the 1960s to create the Cannonsville Reservoir, storing additional water supply for New York City. Though it cost Trout anglers many miles of stream the dam created a steady cold-water release on the Delaware. The East Branch is also dammed to create the Pepacton Reservoir however; the releases from this branch are less consistent because the clean water is more highly valued for drinking purposes.
Mark and I secured guide Ray Ottulich through The Beaverkill Angler Fly Shop in Roscoe, NY. We met around 11AM at the shop and motored on up the 17 Quickway to a boat put in on the West Branch. This was the first time I floated an eastern river since my trip with dad up to the Andro in Maine a few falls back. I peaked with excitement at the prospect of floating the West Branch for Trout instead of plying the Main Stem for Smallmouth from shore. Fly Fishing from a drift boat is a superior method of fishing as far as I am concerned.
Seeking the Hatch
The Catskills are renowned for their Dry Fly Fishing; this does not mean that deploying the dry fly is the only way to prospect for Trout. This may sound sacrilege however, I remind you the reader; I convinced Mark a spin fishing only man to hang up the ole bait pole and give Fly Fishing a chance. He did, point of the story, sometimes you need to be open minded about fishing. Prime hatches occur on cloudy days or in the morning and evening, this forces us to go down deep with nymphs or fish streamers in rising water when there is no hatch.
The fishing reports all indicated March Browns and some Blue Wing Olives at dawn or dusk. Setting out a noon is standard procedure in these parts to ensure that you secure the productive water at dusk when the hatches do go off. I started plying the deepwater edges with a streamer to no avail. Then we all switched over to pheasant tail nymphs in the shallow fast water, where the Rainbow Trout stage to eat the Blue Wing Olives nymphs. Mark managed to hook one repeatedly working a stretch of fast water. This period of time did allow us all to hone in our casting for when the actual bugs started coming off of the water.
Pods of Fish
The sun began to cast long shadows and the noses of Trout touching the top of the water brightened our smiles. Sporadically at first, you could detect feeding Trout by a feint splash or a glint in the water. Tying on the March Brown and an emerger enticed strikes from wary Trout. A few more missed hook ups and we pulled the boat next to a trailer park, boom Mark hooks his first fish on the Dry, a 15-inch Brown Trout! While Mark was busy fighting his Trout I was busy not landing Trout. For some reason I had a major mental block to actually set a dry fly…very frustrating.
We continued our leisurely float down the West Branch, picking up speed through some rapids; unfortunately the bug activity was much lighter than expected. This season has been a strange one, very warm in March followed by a snowstorm on opening weekend that has kept the water very cool and delayed the season. As our boat rounded the Hancock 191 Bridge we again were treated to intermittent rises. Again Mark hooks a 17-inch Brown Trout on the dry fly! Lets talk about beginner’s luck…
The Beaverkill along with the Willowemoc are two of the only undammed major Catskill streams. All of the other’s have had some sort of influence by man, negative (the Esopus) or positive (the West Branch tail water). The Beaverkill northeast of Roscoe to its source is a pristine valley, is less populated and less industrialized than it was one hundred years ago. The public water is limited, sometimes forcing you to wait your turn, however even on a busy fishing weekend in prime season, glorious lonesome water was found.
Saturday was a cloudy day with a bit of humidity and intermittent sprinkles. Perfect weather for a Blue Wing Olive hatch and we were treated to one. Arriving at a secluded though popular pool in the upper Beaverkil we were treated to an empty parking area. I quickly tied on some Blue Wing Olives I had purchases twenty minutes before and the fish were keyed on. Again, I had a lot of action but they fish kept getting a clean release.
Things to Do
Combined the towns of Roscoe and Rockland have plenty of entertainment for anglers when they are not on the river. Rockland has three great establishments we stopped in the Trout Town Brewery, the Rockland House and the Courtyard Tavern. Roscoe has a the popular diner aptly named the Roscoe Diner along with a bistro and a Pizza place. There are five fishing outfitters (fly or spin) in this town and some nice cabins for rent throughout. We are looking forward to the next summer adventure up this way, which will likely be a camping trip.
Last week, I turned 30; it is a point in life that I never believed would occur, especially looking back to the college years when I was eagerly awaiting my 21st birthday. These days, 30 years is indicative of actual adulthood. Much like boiling a frog, the number creeps up slowly and all of the sudden its there.
Be that as it may, up to this point I have had a great run and I am going to hammer down for an even better decade to follow it up. In the last ten years, I learned to fly fish, went pheasant hunting for the first time, bought a piece of land, graduated from Business School, landed a job I enjoy, won my first municipal election, travelled around the USA, met countless new friends and shared quality time with my family.
Anyway, my brother, father and the crew assembled in Park City, Utah to celebrate this milestone with me. Park City is one of my favorite places in the world: great skiing, fly-fishing, good bars and friendly people. There is no better way to spend your birthday than with family, friends and doing the sports you love.
30th Birthday Party
The actual date was Thursday, January 23rd. Like the adult that I now am, I worked and attended a township budget meeting. Another indicator of turning 30 is that you don’t need to go out on your birthday. We saved all the energy for the Friday evening plane ride out to Salt Lake and the bars in Park City. Adding fuel to the fire, we arrived just prior to the last night of the Sundance Film Festival. This was to be a multi-night event of whiskey-fueled entertainment.
Saturday we skied the Canyons. It was Nicole’s official first time skiing. Due to the previous evening’s festivities, it took the crew a while to get moving. Once up and about, I gave skiing a whirl, something I have not done since my college days. To my excitement, skiing is much like riding a bike; it is not something that is easily forgotten. After ten runs, Nicole and Mark had had enough and Brandon had a pitcher of hoppy goodness waiting at the warming station. I would have preferred to ski more but I was out voted. We went home, made delicious baked Ziti and headed out to Main Street for the last day of the film festival.
Sunday we switched up and skied Park City Mountain Resort. It was another clear, warm January day. I set Nicole up on some nice groomers off of King Con lift and gave some quick pointers. As Brenton said, “What’s the difference between a ski instructor and a student; one day.” After finishing up at Park City, Brenton drove us out to Dutch John for the second part of the festivities.
Green River Float
Brenton presented me with a guided fishing trip with Doug Robert’s Old Moe Guide Service as a gift for the big three zero. On Sunday evening, we packed up the Yukon XLT, hitched up to the Clacka, and proceeded to drive the three plus hours out to Dutch John. Due to the change of management at Spring Creek Guest Ranch, we were unable to stay at our normal location. Instead we camped out at the Shire Lite Units at Flaming Gorge Recreation Services (The old Conoco at the corner of UT 191 and South Boulevard).
For breakfast we met up with Rachel, AJ and their family at the breakfast counter. You may recall Rachel, AJ and family from our summer adventures at Spring Creek Guest Ranch. We have been out to Dutch John so many times now, you develop a core group of people you drop in and say hello to.
Doug arrived at the agreed time, 9AM, to get out on the water, however, we were not yet finished with breakfast. A “large” crowd during the offseason is unexpected in this remote part of the USA, so we weren’t too worried about a later start time. We finally finished eating around 10AM and drove over to the Flaming Gorge Dam boat launch. Father and I hopped in the boat with Doug; Brenton piloted the Clacka for Mark and Tall Boy (Matt). Doug’s boat launched first, followed by Brenton and AJ’s Hyde boat pulled up the rear.
Tale of Two Boats
Immediately upon getting the boat in the water, I cast out the egg pattern with thingamabobber rigged up. Doug was readying a nymph rig for father; suddenly my indicator was sucked under the water. I pulled back and set the hook, line tore off of the reel until I regained control. The fight was on! The fish flashed its broad side to us; a crisp red line crossed it laterally, indicating it was a Rainbow. As I coerced the bow to come toward the boat, its size became apparent. As all things in life, the moment was ephemeral. As fast as this fish hit, as hard as it fought, it unbuttoned from the hook as Doug was reaching for the net. I remain unable to break the 20-inch Trout mark on Utah’s Green River.
After this boat ramp excitement, we pushed off, amped for a day of fishing, notwithstanding the cold and slight snowfall. The takes were subtle and required an eagle eye on the indicator even going as far as to follow your egg pattern in the water by eye. The hungry Trout rose slowly to the egg pattern if you placed the indicator a tad out of the fast water. Becoming familiar with the slow takes and action required to set the hook resulted in consistent Trout to the boat.
The fishing tapered off around the lunch hour and we pulled aside for some delicious chicken sandwiches. A thing to keep in mind while winter drift boat fishing, there is no such thing as too many clothes. The wind kicks up hard, especially in the bottom of the A section.
Pushing down the Green about half an hour behind us was the second part of the group. Every now and again we glanced back and viewed the Clacka about a hole behind us. This was Mark’s maiden voyage on a drift boat; he has been regaled with tales of Utah’s Green river but never fished it himself. Reports of moderate success flowed from the boat though not fishing the egg pattern worked as a handicap.
As anticipated, while the day wound down, the wind intensity picked up. Even so, at the bottom of the A section, it always pays to keep your hook in the water. Big fish reside in these parts and as they say, “Can’t catch a fish if your hook is not in the water.” Sure enough, as we drifted Catwalk Shoals, the action heated up. Father put his largest German Brown and Rainbow on the board for the day!
Bluebird Final Day
The last full day is always the most fun, after getting all the rust off my winter sports skill set; I only had one day left! The team had partied, skied, fished, partied some more and now the epic time was drawing to a close. Mark, Brandon and Nicole opted to take the Yukon out to Antelope Island. This freed Brenton, father and myself to spend the whole day snowboarding on the mountain!
We hit most of the groomers at Park City that I like and even got into some trees. The snow conditions remained the same as previous week so the only available coverage was a bit icy in the shade and all right in the sun. Dad was able to do a few mogul runs. Thus far this year Utah’s snow cover was at 60% +/- of normal (they have since received snow). Anyway, for the sake of better fishing this summer, I hope they get some substantial snowfall in February.
We concluded the sporting lifestyle birthday with dinner and beers at Red Rocks Brewery in New Park by our condo. The next day we boarded the plane and flew uneventfully, and unwillingly, back to New Jersey.
This past summer I was fortunate enough to get a drift boat. If you have never fished from one before, it’s a whole new addiction. Just seeing the river standing on a boat is incredible. Rowing the boat down the river and putting your friends into fish is just as good as hooking into the fish yourself. These are the highlights of my summer in photographs.
The world is a wonderful place and this is some kind of life.
The mid Hudson Valley has become a popular destination for urban dwellers from New York City to spend their weekends. The region is relatively close to New York and accessible via the Metro North railway. Its character consists of forests, farmland, small streams, medium sized cities and towns, the same scenery common to northwest New Jersey. This all seems very appealing for a mini adventure under two hours away.
Originating as a trickle through private farmland in Dutchess County, this stream works its way through forests and fields until meeting up with the cities of Poughkeepsie and Wappinger Falls until joining the Hudson River. While not offering as much public assess as is available in the nearby Esopus Creek, Wappinger Creek offers a quintessential Hudson Valley Fly Fishing experience.
Spending the summers in Wurtsboro, NY and currently residing in Warren County, New Jersey this is the type of fishery I have become accustomed to. As opposed to my vacation on the Green River, not ever inch of water holds a Trout here on the East Coast. To locate fish you find road bridges, deep undercut banks, deep runs and rock structure. The wide open fields and Gin clear water leave Trout exposed to the threat of predation by a Eagle, Hawk or Great Blue Heron (#GBH).
Mark and I had a limited time window to conduct our initial exploration of Wappinger Creek, the plan was to locate Orvis Sandanona and meet Kris and Claire on sight for the Country Sporting Weekend. Mark quickly occupied the pool under a bridge and hit it with his spinner. I tied on my Black Slumpbuster and flicked it upstream under the bridge. With this pattern I like to cast up stream, dead drift down and retrieve in two-inch strips when it nears the end of the run. You need to pay careful attention and look for a strike; the Trout will attack when you least expect it and the Slumpbuster will still be upstream of your position.
Orvis Game Fair and Country Sporting Weekend
MKFF attended this event and show last year; we decided it was worthwhile to spend a few hours at the event again. The Orvis Fair is quite the high-end event, $30K+ custom shotguns are not rare here and antique firearms are for sale everywhere. The fair also features popular favorites of mine such as Scotch Tasting, Wine Tasting and a Cigar bar. The Land Rover driving school is a highlight; it is always interesting when a $100K automobile is balanced on two wheels.
The purpose of the event is to showcase the country field sports that we all enjoy including Fly Fishing and Wingshooting. There are over 70 high-end sporting vendors showing their wares along with countless demonstrations of field sport skills. Compared to some of the Fly Fishing events and demonstrations on the western part of America; this event, located near New England, is influenced by Scottish and English field sport culture.
The oldest section of the reservoir system that feeds ever-thirsty New York City is also a tail water suburban fishery. Construction on this multi part reservoir began in 1837 with an aqueduct north of the mouth of the Croton River. Not only was the main stem of the Croton dammed, the tributaries to the Croton were dammed as well. This conflagration of dams, aqueducts and rerouted watercourses now suffers from the impact of suburbanization combined with aging infrastructure. That being said, the watershed has some high quality Trout fishing opportunities.
We selected the East Branch Special Regulation Area to wet our lines. The reservoir area is a fine example of public works architecture at a time when the Government had less debt and more imagination. The East Branch tail water begins at a huge fountain referred to as “The Bubble.” A large jet of cool aerated water descends down a rock-lined sleuth past the reservoir’s overflow. The special regulation area begins after the reservoir overflow, though I did not see any signs, apparently fishing is prohibited up the sleuth beyond the overflow.
The previous night we had camped through over one inch of rain, a stellar fishing day was not on the menu. Approaching the reservoir, the smell of fresh rain and detritus was overwhelming. The river was cloudy, despite its status as tail water. I suspect the build up of phosphates in the East Branch Reservoir degrades the quality.
A well-worn trail off of Sodom Road provides access to the East Branch, like many suburban woods there is litter all over from disrespectful residents and the local migrant laborers who leverage the stream as a meat fishery. Placing the negatives aside, the stream is similar to other freestone fisheries in the area and conditions improve once a diversionary water sleuth feeds the East Branch.
“Fly Fishing the Croton Watershed,” created by Trout Unlimited provides every detail you need to prospect the Croton Watershed. The tail water is clearly a nymph and streamer section of water. The aforementioned book indicated that a red or brown bugger would be productive due to the prevalence of crawfish in the stream. Combining this tidbit of information along with my early success yesterday, I tied on a Brown Slumpbuster and used the same dead drift and retrieve tactic.
Fishing was nonexistent until we hiked down past the first bend. Once the water cleared, courtesy to the Bog Brook feeder sleuth, out came a lively Rainbow Trout. The pool held a few picky Trout. Walking down the long pool further and I reeled in a Perch!
As the Sunday afternoon wore on and the fishing not exactly hot we decided to call it for the day. Just wanted to throw in a shout out for Portofino’s Pizza where we watched the Giants get shut out and had delicious Calzones. All told we had a great time in the Hudson Valley Fly Fishing, exploring, and hanging out at the Orvis Fair.
As you travel this great big country of ours, you start to locate noteworthy places with the power to draw you back. Eventually, as you have visited enough destinations, you will return to the awesome places you have been to before. Utah’s Green River and the surrounding area is one such location. The Trout fishing is great, the people are amazing and the scenery is unparalleled.
Dry Fly Fishing
The Green River is the only drift boat floatable river in the state of Utah; it is also one of the best dry fly fishing rivers in America. Catching a Trout on the dry fly an exhilarating experience. The best analogy I can give for rippin’ lips on the dry from a boat is, “video game fishing.” There is great pressure and excitement as the oarsman guides the angler into a fine drift. At that point the stress is on the angler, throw the presentation out with enough force to defy the wind but lay it down gently enough to prevent the fly from drowning. Add in a proper mend and you will have a serviceable drift. This drift it is likely to trigger a hungry Trout’s instincts, s/he will emerge from the deep to inspect the tempting offer. The angler will retain a vivid memory of every strike. The wide-open mouth emerging from the deep as you wait to set the hook just right.
On the Green River, certain terrestrial patterns just work. For example, the hopper, an ant, a cicada or the Mormon Cricket are all tried and true, success is always dependent on the time of the year. In addition to these patterns, we were finding strong Midge and Caddis hatches during our five wonderful days.
Brenton recently became the proud owner of the Clacka Eddy, and amazing, light and comfortable drift boat. He was kind enough to let Matt and I take the boat down the A section, when mom/ dad and Brenton/ Jourdan were with their guides.
The first time the family headed out to the Green River, four years ago, we made the mistake of not using a guide and attempting to walk the river. Floating the Green is the best way to fish and explore the river. You will catch fish from the shore though it is nowhere near as effectively as from the drift boat.
Three years ago, through Trout Creek Flies, we stumbled upon Gene Gautieri, we have used him every year since. The next year he introduced us to Nick Jackson a new guide who has worked in both Alaska and Argentina. Nick and Gene both are infinitely patient with the less gifted of us Fly Fishing enthusiasts, while willing and able to set you up for difficult drifts and challenging casts when you get your rhythm together.
In the past year, Utah received a relatively normal snowfall as opposed to the previous year that witnessed a drought. When we first started Fly Fishing the Green River we lived through some high water years that even did damage to the walking trail along the river. During the summer the flow and temperature of the Green River are tightly controlled through the Flaming Gorge Dam. This regulation is what makes the Green a superb tail water fishery.
The floatable sections are broken into the A, B and C. Here at MKFF we have cataloged several float trips down the river. This trip we concentrated on the A section due to sporadic evening thunderstorms that washed out Red Creek. The B below Red Creek and the entire C section was cloudy throughout the entire trip.
I had always associated the A section with fishing weighted nymph rigs using an indicator. Nick worked with Brenton and I to transfer some serious knowledge about fishing the A section with a dry fly. In the four days of guided Fly Fishing adventure Gene was able to impart some of his vast knowledge of the Green River on us!
It’s in the hole!
The fourth Green River Expedition coincided with father’s 57th birthday and as anticipated there were some good family moments. This includes, though not limited to, the finishing of a bottle of Patron with our friends at Spring Creek Guest Ranch, the entire family having a fish on in two separate drift boats and father shouting, “Its in the hole!” for every fish he hooked.
Spring Creek Ranch
There are both places and people that stay familiar even when you leave for a time; one of those unique destinations is the Spring Creek Ranch. Rachael and AJ manage the place with Grandmother Pat and their three children. We have come back for the fourth year in a row, each time we depart it is sad but when we return, it is as if we never left.
Go West Young Man
The call of the American West is strong, every time I go out there it becomes more difficult to leave. I catch more fish and meet more great people, living and loving life in a way that has been lost to mainstream America. The Trout are large, the land is vast and the rivers are clean and cool.