I have often visited the Schoharie in print. The late Art Flick was a giant among Catskill anglers, a bright light from the Golden Age, and a champion of conservation. Many times I have dreamed of a walk back in time and drinks at the Westkill Tavern, and of course an afternoon on the stream with it’s proprietor. I have an audio recording of Flick reading from his Streamside Guide, and I have played it while my hands fashioned his pink bodied Hendricksons and Red Quills at my vise, imagining I am there in the bar just as Schwiebert described it, listening to the tales and pronouncements of how best to approach the hatch.
Fleeing the dangerously high waters of my own western Catskills, I made the long drive northeast as clouds gathered to soften the morning sunshine. Winding along the Pepacton I smiled at the greening of the landscape and glimpses of bright water right up to the boughs of the overhanging evergreens. Our rivers will run high for some time.
My route took me through Big Indian and I stopped to spy on the Esopus, finding it indeed “tan” as the river’s sage had promised. It was he who remarked that the Schoharie had looked “beautiful” up in Hunter the day before. I had hoped to fish the smaller West Kill, it’s reputation for wild trout drawing me as much as Flick’s reverence for his home water. Alas near the village the river ran chalky with silt, from the evident bridge work I thought at first, until my glance found clouded water coming down from upstream. My introduction to the West Kill would have to wait for another day.
In Lexington the Schoharie finally came into view, clouded itself, so I turned upstream to make for Hunter. Around Jewett a sign directed me to a short loop road and a parking area overlooking the stream. It’s river bed seemed a mixture of the angular rock I find in the West Branch Delaware and Pennsylvania, though with edges rounded by the fast flows as the little river seeks the Hudson. There was a slight stain here, and no visible pools of holding water, so I drove on to the bridge in Hunter. I like the name.
The access map showed perhaps half a mile there with PFR’s, and I found a pulloff just over the iron bridge. With an eye toward the smaller West Kill, I had chosen Tom Smithwick’s very capable seven footer for a five, and the short, crisp taper would prove a proper choice as a steady downstream wind greeted me as soon as I waded in near the bottom of the reach.
The Schoharie appeared tan here too, though its water was quite clear, the color coming from the rock and stones of it’s bottom. There being neither flies nor rises in evidence, I knotted an Atherton Number 5 to my tippet and began probing the deeper areas behind a few scattered rocks. I had been concerned about high flows, but the river ran at a very comfortable level through the flats below the iron bridge. I found no trout in that flat, but smiled as the first Hendrickson dun lifted off and posed midair for my inspection.
The Red Fox pelt hanging beside my tying bench has none of Art Flick’s urine burned fur from a Red Fox vixen as specified for his iconic version of the Hendrickson dry fly. To fashion the pinkinsh imitations he championed, I have to resort to blending my fox fur with a bit of fluorescent pink Antron. I called the blend Pink Enhanced Hendrickson when I conceived it, and it has proven itself on my home rivers. I hoped it would suffice for these waters, tied in an otherwise standard Catskill style.
Wading close to the bridge, I noticed a few more duns bouncing down the thread of current closest to the left bank, though no rises appeared. I waited as the flies continued, then resigned myself to continue upstream into faster water. There had been one bulge in the current, half seen out of the corner of my eye while I’d waited, and I sent a few casts downstream over that spot, one of them interrupted by a strong pull.
The trout gave a good account of himself, using the bright current to resist the pull of the bamboo, and coaxing a flourish or two from the ancient Hardy to accompany the music of the water. Eventually I brought him round with light but steady pressure and slipped him into the net. I noted his color immediately, a tannish gold overwash reminiscent of the unique hue of the Schoharie’s bottom. I hope Art was satisfied that I’d landed “one of the good ones a foot long” that he spoke about in that audio recording.
I would fish all of that lovely, rock strewn, broken water in the photo with no further glimpses of trout. The sparsely hatching Hendricksons seemed confined to the moderate riffle just above the iron bridge, and I fished that water well a second time when I walked back downstream.
I bowed my head in thanks to the memory of the legend. At last I had waded his Schoharie, found a hatch of Hendricksons, and taken a trout on a pink Catskill style fly, enough to pay my respects. Home lay two hours distant, and heavy clouds were gathering. I bid the Hudson River Catskills adieu, and enjoyed the pleasant scenery as I retraced my morning drive.