Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Catskills 2008 - First Trip

High-sticking an attractor-dropper combo. Should have been crouching but my back was sore.

This past weekend I made my first foray of the year to my home waters - the Esopus Creek in Ulster County, N.Y. (and its tributaries).

Conditions were excellent. So good, in fact, that I wonder if we're in for a lot of high and dry-ness later on.

The Esopus is big water. And unlike a lot of Catskill rivers, it is not easy to fish the dry fly here. Too fast, too deep, not enough defined riffle-pool-riffle setups.

Lots of pocket water, though, and a great place for the high-sticking wet fly or nymph man.

The spot where I began, however, has a stretch along the southern bank that is relatively flat and placid - and is shaded by mid-morning. A perfect place, in fact, to prospect with a dry fly, either roll-casting from the bank or fishing straight ahead from the stream.

I am a fan of the larger fly. Dinky flies don't interest me, probably because I can't see them.

So I tied on my favorite "Hey, Get a Load of Me!" pattern - a Royal caddis, size 14 - and started flicking it here and there.

Sure enough, a nice rainbow rose up and grabbed it on the fourth or fifth cast. Nothing spectacular, a 12 or 13-inch wild rainbow.

But the Esopus has something like 60,000 of them at any given time in an 11-mile stretch from the Portal in Allaben to the Ashokan reservoir.

That's a lot of fish.

That ended the actual fish-catching portion of the day, however.

Be sure to stand out where the fish can see you, and splash around a lot

I did watch a fellow on the opposite bank put on a clinic on How Not To Fish. Here's the gist of it:

  • Start on the wrong side of the river for a right-hander, and the side that will be in the sun until, well, sundown.
  • Stand on every prominent boulder and false cast a lot. A teenage girl might mistake you for Brad Pitt.
  • Splash your way downstream. That way the trout not scared off by the sight of you waving your rod around from the prominent boulders will run away lest you step on them.
  • Be sure at all times to have at least twice as much line in your hands or floating around your legs as you have in the air. This will amuse the other fishermen, even if they aren't doing so hot themselves.
I also spent a little time on some semi-private water. I belong to a loose confederation of fly rodders who pony up each year to stock a section of an Esopus tributary with brown trout. Cooperative landowners allow access for fly fishing only.

I am always curious to see if there are any holdovers. Last year I caught an extremely long, skinny and hungry specimen on a miserable day in April. He gave me a really nasty look, too. "You mamma-tamma - my first square meal in months, and it's a fake!"

No browns this time, but I did get a couple of the ubiquitous wild rainbows - little guys on their first time around the track.

As is my usual practice, I released everybody, hoping the combination of sore jaws and long memories makes for good outings in the future.


Fishing style - The Well-Dressed Angler is wearing cotton/wool blend Viyella shirts this early season. Here is a Lands End model bought secondhand, which blends nicely with the puke-green waders from Cabelas. Polarized clip-ons from Cocoons allow the WDA to use his bifocals, without which he can no longer tie on a fly.

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