From Mossy Creek to Beaverkill

In a crazy whirlwind of activity, I fished Virginia’s famous Mossy Creek then drove OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA homeward to western New York. My daughter, Alyssa, and her boyfriend, Adam, stayed with us overnight, but next day needed to return to New York City, so Leighanne and I drove them to the Catskills where they caught a bus at Liberty. Undaunted, I took the opportunity to drop in on the Beaverkill at Roscoe for a couple of hours. This is what I found…

Fishing the Virginia spring creek and the Catskill river in the span of a single day made a nice transition northward for me, even though the stream conditions weren’t the best for catching trout. I couldn’t wade Mossy Creek because it’s like an English chalk stream and should not be waded. I couldn’t much wade the larger Beaverkill because of early spring conditions down below Roscoe. Both streams saw  my “Founders’ rod” in action, but other than that, there was little to compare on these disparate waters.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI fished Mossy Creek for two lovely hours while the others left me for a tour of Natural Chimneys in Mt. Solon. Fishing this “Trophy Waters” stream really puts the pasture back into the word “pastoral.” This limestone creek (with special regulations and fishing permit required) flows through quiet farmlands where, unfortunately, cattle still loll about the edges like vacationers in Cancun. I’m not sure how big wild brown trout coexist with such stream bank degradation, but they do, as witnessed by incredible angler catches every year.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe stream was muddy from recent rains, but fishable. Mossy is renowned for its dry fly fishing with tiny imitations, but because of water conditions I decided to fish with streamers, despite the weeds and moss that often catch the hook. I caught no fish on this visit to Mossy, although I saw one brown attack (and miss) my streamer. Other than that, I enjoyed the wonderful scenery (even with dumb beast cattle everywhere) and the birdsong contributed by cardinal, mockingbird, titmouse, Carolina wren, eastern bluebird, in addition to the sight of great blue heron, turkey vulture, and belted kingfisher.

I wasn’t used to fishing this kind of landscape. Some of the upstream water seemedOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA highly unlikely for trout, especially when considering that hefty browns lurked on the beds of silt and sinuous weeds. In some ways the stream reminded me of the Rio Penasco in southern New Mexico, except where the Penasco flows through desert, Mossy flows through open farmland.

In comparison, the Beaverkill seemed huge. Is there a more recognized river in American trout fishing consciousness than the Beaverkill? I doubt it, but I hadn’t walked its banks in at least a year or two, so I felt a little disconnected. The sky was overcast and the air was chill and colorless, and hardly anyone was on the water, for reasons soon to be discovered.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe famous Cairns Pool was oddly vacated by anglers, and I could see why. Although the water was basically clear, it was cold at 45 degrees F., and intimidating with its depth and difficult wading conditions. Leighanne dropped me off at the Junction Pool, where the waters of the Willowemoc and Beaverkill intermix, and where I suited up and was able to do some basic wading and maneuvering. A few spin anglers were at the site, and I felt a tad freakish with a bamboo rod in hand, but it was good to be a part of the historic trout fraternity associated with this river.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“High-sticking” with a tandem nymph rig (beaded Stonefly and Hare’s Ear patterns), I was able to avoid a skunk by landing a standard hatchery trout before calling it a day. Leighanne soon arrived to pick me up, and we headed out for a quick meal. Sampling the micro-brews, chomping on a custom burger, testing the littleneck clam linguini (I just had to say that), we were almost home.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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12 Responses to From Mossy Creek to Beaverkill

  1. Mike says:

    Wow, now that’s an interesting road/fly trip! We drove through Roscoe on our way back home from Cooperstown this past Saturday and I just had to show the family some of those hallowed waters. Roscoe Beer is darn good too!! Well done!

  2. Good to hear from you, Mike. Missed you in Roscoe by a day, but glad you had a chance to point out some of the hallowed waters and (by the sounds of it) to have sampled some of the soon to be hallowed local brew!

  3. LQN says:

    Nice Walt, you were able to fish some famous rivers. The Catskills have been tough as of late but I think soon we’ll see an incredible hatch. Now for the waiting!

    • Thanks Long. Yeah, the Catskills and probably most of upstate NY have been tough because of the high water and cold conditions. The feeder streams are doing much better than the main stems. Soon the mayflies will start in earnest. Hendricksons were only fair last year. If we’re lucky, we’ll encounter them soon and see the place come alive.

  4. I love the sign. That’s where I need to try my hand at fly fishing — somewhere the fish are as confused as I am.

  5. Oh, that’s great, Jim! Confusion reigns in a place like that, but it’s fun trying to get it straightened out.

  6. Bob Stanton says:

    Happy Earth Day! I’m glad to see the Franklin Fly Fishing Tour ’14 rollin’ on and that you have the Founder’s Rod in hand!

  7. Puget Keith says:

    When I read this the first time I was overcome deja vu. I seem to think I read something about limestone creeks before. I thought and thought and then I clicked the keyword link and discovered that you fished Mossy Creek last April too! It’s great that you were able to return. Although I am not into fishing the more I read your posts it seems that fly fishing is a lot like golf. No matter how many times you play (or fish) the same hole it never is quite like the last time.

  8. Hi Keith,
    You got it, and I appreciate you bringing it into light. Yeah I fished Mossy last April for the first time and this April for the second time ever. I get to VA only once or twice a year. When I get introduced to a stream that I like, I want to know more about it and hope to visit it again. A trout stream is like a human life in that you never get to know a good one fully; there’s always more to learn and to experience there. So yes, each visit is different, yet the same. Like golf (although there I have zip experience). Thanks for clicking on that link, and for reflecting on it, too.

  9. Alan says:

    I’ll make my annual trip up there in May. If I never caught a fish there I would still make the trip.
    There’s just something about fishing such historic waters.

  10. I feel the same way, Alan. And good luck when you do make the visit.

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