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.
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.