Fly Fishing the Catskill Mountains

Gregory J. Kiaer

As another trout fishing season has concluded for most of us in EDTU, I am sure everyone has had a memorable fishing trip this season to last until the next memorable trip, or even longer. I thought it would be a wonderful idea to contribute an article on a trip that was most memorable for me this year.

In June, I ventured to New York City to attend a family event. While the family circle is important, I have to admit I was anxious to get on with the next leg of my trip and head up to the Catskill Mountains for three days of fishing in the “Land of Little Rivers.” This would be my first trip to the Catskills, and I could not wait to fish the waters where our sport of fly-fishing essentially began in this country, and where such legendary fly fisherman as Theodore Gordon, George LaBranche, Art Flick, Lee Wulff, and A.J. McClane among others had fished before me. For a person who never ventured outside of the City and always thought upstate was in Harlem, upstate New York is truly beautiful country, as everyone knows.

I had the privilege to stay in the Delaware River Club, which is a resort that caters to fly fisherman and is located on the bank of the West Branch of the Delaware River in Hancock, NY (it’s actually located across the state line in Pennsylvania). The Delaware River Club is owned and operated by Al Caucci. Al is best known for his etymology research with Bob Nastasi, who together wrote the book Hatches. The resort is first class with complete fly shop and has an excellent resident Italian chef with the name Fabio.

In the three days I had, I fished the West Branch of the Delaware, Beaverkill, and the Willowemoc Rivers. These rivers are picturesque classic Catskill freestone waters with the exception of the West Branch of the Delaware River, which is a tailwater of the NYC water impoundment system. The area is heavily fished with fly fisherman who come from all over for the same reason that I have did … to fish where it all began.

This area is known for multiple hatches that occur at the same time, which is an understatement. I have never seen such prolific hatches. At times there would be caddis, stoneflies, brown drakes, and surprisingly what seemed like hexes coming off at the same time, which made it difficult to determine what the fish were keying in on. The Catskills have always been known as classic dry fly water, and it has not changed. I had good success using dun patterns that imitated stoneflies and drakes. I did a lot of scouting and soaking in the scenery, and in between I fished hard and fast to cover the amount of water I intended and managed to land 10 to 12 browns in the 12 to 16 inch range.

On the third day, I took a couple of hours out of the afternoon when the fishing was slow and visited the Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum. The museum is located on the banks of the Willowemoc Creek near Livingston Manor, and is a must see for anyone who is in the area. The museum chronicles the complete history of the Catskills. As a fly tier myself, I was particularly fascinated with the lives of Harry and Elsie Darbee as long time residents in the Roscoe area where they made their living tying flies. The Lee Wulff exhibit was something to behold as well.

I would highly recommend to anyone a chance to fish the New York Catskill Mountains if you have not done so already. It is truly a fly fishing mecca. It is hard to beat the combination of good fishing, beautiful scenery, and nostalgia.

Greg Kiaer is an EDTU member.