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