Cannonsville Reservoir, August 2018: Water up in the trees and spilling.

I am beginning to believe in time travel, for I think that I have returned to 2018. It was the year I retired, and a year in which I did far less fishing than just about any previous year going back three decades. I was running back and forth between Chambersburg, PA and Hancock, NY looking for a house where we could live out our retirement years close to bright water and the undeniable beauty and magic of the Catskills, and it was a long, hard search. It was late in July when I finally settled on a little house here and took up temporary residence.

There were projects to do: rebuilding the porch, painting and replacing the flooring in the kitchen, and setting up my fly tying room that would become the center of my world. I took a couple of afternoons to fish the summer sulfur hatch on the West Branch, and then it began to rain, daily. That was a water year to end all water years. The heat and humidity stayed high, and the rains kept coming, filling the reservoirs of the Delaware River watershed, then spilling out and flooding the rivers downstream. My fly fishing came to a very abrupt end, leaving me plenty of time to work on those projects.

When autumn arrived, I took to the Catskill Mountains to enjoy some grouse hunting, finding still more water. It ran down every slope in the mountains, not just in the brooks and ravines, everywhere! The abandoned apple trees bore no fruit, so I found no grouse where I hoped to, though it was a rather miraculous experience simply hiking and watching all of the water fall. It was as if every mountainside was one great spring seep.

The past week and a half has convinced me that the clock has turned back.

I fished daily during the first week of July, enjoying a fairly typical summer, if there is such a thing. Then the storms arrived, one after another, day after day, and the rivers grew high and muddy and stayed that way. Finally, on July 15th, I was able to get out for an afternoon on the upper West Branch. The single tributary had finished it’s runoff phase and the river was clear and wadable above the village of Deposit. As of July 16th, the watershed for the New York City reservoirs had received 6.79 inches of rainfall for the first half of the month; the historical average rainfall for the entire month of July is two inches. Last evening and on into the night the storms kept coming, bringing another inch and a quarter to Hancock. The rivers, already high from increased reservoir releases as well as daily runoff, are higher still this morning, and no doubt muddy again. Hello 2018!

I am fortunate that I have a drift boat at my disposal this summer, something I did not have for the first 2018. Of course the rivers still have to have a chance to clear again before there will be a chance to float them and search for a little dry fly fishing. Time will tell…

Back in June we all prayed for rain, for the rivers were low and their temperatures too warm for wild trout in many cases. The East Branch and Beaverkill waters soared into the eighties and remained there for too long a period. The Beaverkill, trickling along at a measly 120 cfs to begin July, crested near 7,000 cfs after yesterday’s storms.

The cold water is good for the trout of the Delaware system, particularly those in the mainstem of the river. Hopefully, the City will sustain the elevated releases from both Delaware branches once the runoff passes downstream, and hopefully, the storms will give us a break. The rivers should fish well with a good head of clear cold water. No one here would mind seeing a sustained period of perfect Catskill summer weather either, with daily highs in the mid-seventies and some gentle evening showers once or twice a week.

As for today, well, the forecast is for rain showers, a big improvement over violent storms with heavy downpours. It looks like a good day to tie some more flies, watch the ballgame, and just relax!

Photo courtesy Michael Saylor

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