Beer and Brookies, Catskill Style

It was a fine August day at the Catskill Flyfishing Center and Museum’s “Summerfest.”

DSCN6969 Leighanne and I arrived there in the morning and quickly met our friends Leigh Smith, a blogger at FinFollower, and Tim Didas, a fellow fisherman from my own neck of the forest.

It was here among the tents and vendors of the annual Summerfest along the famed Willowemoc that we bumped into the young bamboo rod craftsman, Brian Kleinchester. Brian’s the guy who built my latest fly rod, and we all enjoyed a bit of conversation on the ups and downs of living the way we do.

DSCN6956Each of us separated for a while and window-shopped the flea market and its vast array of fly-fishing articles– old and new rods and reels, fly-tying materials, tools, books, magazines, antiques, and points of interest regarding many of the renowned fishermen in European and American history. I pride myself on my restraint when it comes to shopping, but this is the event each year where I am at my weakest.

This is where the wall breaks down and I sometimes find it necessary to buy a thing or two to beef up the arsenal in my tackle closet (not to mention supporting some worthy causes).DSCN6972

This year I found a small pontoon boat, almost new, and bought it for a song that (luckily) I didn’t have to sing. You’ll hear more about that “mudpuppy” when I’m ready to hit Canadice Lake once more. I also found a fairly cheap but durable fly reel, a Hardy Lightweight, that I couldn’t pass by.

My god, we saw it all (or a goodly portion). Some of the day’s highlights included watching the Hardy Cup Bamboo Rod Casting Competition, standing in the aura of priceless rods built by Everett Garrison and other bamboo gods (as well as seeing their rod-making tools and benches), and participating in the T. U. Womens’ Brook Trout Program in the Joan Wulff Gallery of the big museum.

DSCN6973The program featured a talk on brook trout by salmonid expert, Fran Verdolini. It was kind of cool sitting in the gallery audience while tasting local craft beers with such eminent personalities as Joan Wulff, herself, and the spirit of Lee Wulff looking down from the photos on the wall.DSCN6963

My fishing buddy, Tim, received a wonderful gift for his on-going rod-building project from Hoagy Carmicheal. Mr. Carmichael is the well-known son of the famous singer/actor/composer/and bandleader. Hoagy, inspired by the rodbuilding work of his friend, Everett Garrison, wrote “A Master’s Guide to Building a Bamboo Fly Rod,” a book considered to be a bible of the business today.DSCN6964

After Tim had finished speaking with Mr. Carmicheal and was given a small gift from the workshop of a master, I said to him, “Wow, that was special, wasn’t it?” He didn’t have to say much. Sometimes a nod and a smile can answer in spades.DSCN6966

Unfortunately there wasn’t any fishing on the nearby Beaverkill. The low stream levels and a recent heatwave had pushed the water temperature into a nearly lethal range for trout. My water reading at the famous Cairns Pool registered 75 degrees. Not good.

DSCN6960We decided to move on to the West Branch Delaware, a tailwater with colder temperatures about a half hour west of Roscoe. Tim chose, wisely, to fish the Hancock area where the river temperature was in the 50s. Leigh and I moved up closer to the dam where the river temp was colder than expected… 43 degrees! And the West Branch moved with a 1500 cfs urgency produced by great releases from the Cannonsville Reservoir.

There were Sulphurs hatching in this icy flow, believe it not, and a few fish seemed to be taking an emerger just below the surface, but the mayflies weren’t enough to warm our frozen feet and legs. As usual, I had leaky waders, and Leigh wasn’t faring much better with his bare legs underneath protective gear.DSCN6968

It was still summer in the northern hemisphere, but let me tell you, wading for an hour in the evening here can bring old winter to your bones.

It was a good place to pack things up and to say farewell and then begin the homeward drive. It was a good place to start reflecting on those warmer hours of a fine day in the Catskills.OLYMPUS 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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25 Responses to Beer and Brookies, Catskill Style

  1. Looks like a beautiful area. Love those stained glass pieces!

  2. leigh says:


    A great post for a great day. I look forward to the adventures of the mudpuppy.

  3. plaidcamper says:

    Beautiful final photo there!
    It’s not shopping, but something far more essential…
    Great post!

    • Yeah I think that photo puts it all into the “bigger picture,” so to speak. And yes. Not shopping. How could I have even suggested that it was? Plaid, I appreciate that “slap in the face,” and really like the way you set it right. Thanks.

  4. Doug Paugh says:

    Wow! Now I’m homesick hahaha. This looked like a day of near-perfection. I miss my Catskills. I just submitted a piece of photography to Blueline Literary Journal’s Arts Submissions. The piece I submitted was from the Arctic State Forest, titled, Arctic Dream. 3000 acres of wooded bliss with ponds I loved fishing a few years back splattered out among the back roads. You just brought back a bunch of beautiful memories for me brother. I love the blog and the photos are always something my eyes love clutching onto. Awesome job Walt. And that’s putting it mildly.

    • Doug,
      Don’t want to make you feel homesick, just remind you that the Catskills are not to be forgotten, as if they could be. That area is imprinted in the consciousness of so many outdoor people and especially in those like yourself who have opened up the soul to it. Arctic State Forest? Just the name sounds terrific. Hadn’t heard of that one, or has it been poeticized a bit? Anyway, BLUELINE is a fine publication (I’ve had several poems published there years back) and I wish you luck there with the photo piece. Thanks, again, for the support and encouragement!

  5. Brent says:

    I’ll echo plaidcamper and say that the last picture looks like summer perfection–almost as though the water’s warmer than 43! Sounds like a fun and educational day.

    • It was nice, Brent. And yeah the river pic looks inviting (deceptively so). There had been a problem with the dam, now fixed, that forced out a lot of water. Although good for downstream fishing, it was rough there above Deposit. Thanks!

  6. Anonymous says:

    That looks like an amazing experience all around. That’s amazing, as Brent noted, that the water temps were 43… probably felt good to experience that during the heat we have had of late in the north east!

    • Thanks for the comment, Anonymous. Yeah the river felt as good as it looked, at first. But after about 20 minutes or so, the natural chill of the evening began to mix in with that cold river temperature, and the fishing took on the element of work, especially since the force of the water and its depth were working against us, too. All in all, it was good to break the heat wave we were in.

  7. Les Kish says:

    Ah, the Catskills, birthplace of American fly fishing. A neat place to spend a day, and a few “necessary” purchases too. Bring on the “mudpuppy!”

  8. Mark W says:

    Walt – 43 on a hot summer will still chill those toes! After a few hours standing in a cold tailwater I usually hit the nearest coffee shop and turn the heat on!

  9. loydtruss says:

    I can always find something I just couldn’t live without at one of these events. What’s the story behind all the stain glass images, really impressed with the trout glass. I’m looking forward to hearing more about the future pontoon trip. Thanks for sharing

    • I know how it goes, Bill. I’m not sure what the story is about the glass images. It’s a craft or art form that somebody’s developed neatly for the purpose of decorating the Joan Wulff Gallery of the fly-tying museum. Visually striking work. As for the “pontoon voyage,” don’t hold your breath. Just something modest I want to try this fall on the Finger Lakes while looking around for “lakers.” Should make for a humorous outing. Thanks, and I’ll keep you posted.

  10. I always celebrate the new year at the fly fishing show so I certainly know how you feel at an event such as this. It was also good of you to post that little tidbit about Hoagy Carmichael. I remember him from when I was a kid and knew that his son was active in the rod building business. Great post Walt.

  11. Thanks Howard, and I appreciate your picking up of the Carmicheal thread. Hoagy, the son, was one of those guys sitting around and soaking up the atmosphere unannounced, no name tag or name dropping here, but available for talking if you knew how to ask some questions. Very generous and friendly.

  12. Alan says:

    Walt I attended that gathering some years ago. Met a fellow named Richard Bradley, and saw some of his outstanding works. His shop and his knowledge of Fir Brook.
    I purchased a wonderful small trout net, crafted by someone, can’t remember who though.

    • Alan, I think Richard Bradley is the fellow who makes great fly reels in his shop nearby. I’ve seen him before and also looked at some of his beautiful reels while at this Summerfest. Glad that you’ve experienced the place, as well. As for the net, I’m wondering if you bought it from a guy named Bob Geisman who made hand nets marked “Black Bear Creations.” I purchased one of his nets in 2003, a small Battaviakill model that I still use today.

      • Alan says:

        Walt, I believe Richard Bradley passed away awhile back. Don’t know if the shop is still open.
        I think that’s the name of maker. Does he still offer them?

  13. Alan, Now that you mention it, I think I remember reading that Bradley is gone. His reels live on. As for the net maker, I have tried to locate him online but have had no luck. I was hoping to get mine repaired. Too bad, because those nets were very nice.

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