Another summer evening, high water, and a ghost in the fog

I set my unofficial rain gage (okay, my carwash bucket) in my driveway at 11:05 AM yesterday. It had been raining lightly but steadily since five, and I was curious to capture the results of the big event that was on our doorstep. By the time the rain subsided around 4:30 PM, I measured about 3.75 inches of rain water in the bucket. With easily another quarter inch falling in the morning, I deduced that Hancock had received around four inches of rain from the fast moving tropical storm system.

The West Branch Delaware rose quickly and crested at about 1,750 cfs between seven or eight in the evening. The eastern side of the Delaware watershed was in the forecast path for heavier rainfall. The Beaverkill was bubbling along over its cobbles at a little more than 100 cfs yesterday morning, rising dramatically to a crest around 11,700 cfs shortly after 7:30 PM. The river crested roughly seven tenths of a foot above flood stage, measured at 10.0 feet at the Cooks Falls gage. All the rivers are dropping quickly, the Beaverkill running at a flow of 3,540 cfs at 5:45 AM.

Despite noodling around on weather sites this morning, I have not found any tallies for the region, but I expect the central and eastern portions of the Catskills may have received the five inches that was forecast, perhaps a bit more. That’s a substantial amount of rainfall over the course of about twelve hours, but only time will tell if it was enough to resurrect our summer fishing.

We were fortunate here in Hancock, as the heavy rain lasted for about two hours, and it wasn’t the type of monsoon downpour we often see in thunderstorms. I think a great deal of the rain we received had a chance to soak into the ground and do the region a lot of good, as opposed to falling in a quick burst that has little choice than to runoff rapidly and produce extreme flash flooding.

I haven’t looked at the West Branch yet today, but the 886 cfs flow I noted at 6:15 this morning is a very wadeable flow. I expect there is still a fair amount of color in the water now, but it might well be clear by evening.

The cooler weather looks like it will last until the weekend, when daily highs will get back into the eighties. If the overnight lows would get down into the fifties consistently, the receding freestone rivers could get back to fishable temperatures. The Beaverkill dropped from seventy-six degrees to sixty-two along with that rush of runoff, but it started to warm back up by early morning. Eighty degree sunshine will unfortunately get it back into the seventies before long. Where’s that May snowfall when you need it?

The NYC website hasn’t updated the reservoir levels to reflect the storm. It will be interesting to see if the capacities show a significant increase. Inflow from the mainstem rivers spiked from the rain, as did the various tributary streams, exceeding the release flows, so storage certainly increased, though I doubt the city will increase reservoir releases to improve tailwater conditions. That would take a lot more rainfall, a pattern of recurring cooler, wetter weather, and even then we cannot rely upon NYC to give our rivers their fair share.

More days like this…
…and a lot less like this!

I’m tempted to wipe the dust and cobwebs from my drift boat this morning and drop it in the West Branch, but I expect there will be an increase in traffic that would rob me of the exhilaration a float would provide. The river is still dropping too, and a day of floating could easily become an afternoon of dragging.

There is clear, blue sky outside my window as I write this, and that freshness in the air that rain and wind provides: storm washed. Perhaps I’ll simply enjoy it a bit, tie a few flies, poke around in the yard. I do need an archery backstop, a project I have been daydreaming about for the past two summers.

I was a dedicated bowhunter for more than forty years. My friend John keeps telling me about the whitetail bucks that have been frequenting his property this summer; and the new tree stands he has placed. I keep reminding him of my track record as the unluckiest deer hunter alive. I love the change of pace and the exercise I get from walking the Catskill mountains with my bird gun. I get a lot more out of that than I could sitting in a tree. You do learn a few things after forty years.

Grouse season and bow season both open on October first, and the afternoon fishing can be particularly fine at that time of year. I spent a lot of days last October hunting birds in mid-morning and stalking trout in the afternoons. Can’t say I would mind repeating that pattern.

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