April At Last… and the snow falls

Catskill Spring: An April Morning 2020

A restful Sunday morning has brought time to reflect upon a busy spring preview. Snow is falling steadily as I write, another chapter in the whimsically unsettled weather we enjoy as spring arrives in these mountains.

Activities began Thursday evening, as I attended my first Angler’s Reunion Dinner at the Rockland House in Trout Town itself: Roscoe, New York. I made an afternoon of the event, visiting with JA at his cabin and talking fishing and flies, fly tying, and our hopes for the season. It had been a while since we had the chance to kick back and share the glories of the sporting life. It was good to see the smiles of friends old and new at the Rockland, and the sumptuous dinner they so graciously served was wonderful! Soup, salad, salmon and their famous prime rib left us smiling even more broadly, topped off with a creamy, delicious chocolate cake and superb coffee.

On Friday I returned to the eastern Catskills, visiting the Dette shop for a special Wheatley fly box, then on to the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum. I dropped off a few books, finding Tom and Martha Mason, Dave Catizone and others talking informally, a conversation I was happy to join while my small donation was logged in. There is always something interesting to learn from these Catskill scholars! Afterwards I enjoyed a slow, quiet walk through the museum, taking the time to enjoy many details of new and freshened exhibits, including the new Edward Ringwood Hewitt display of personal fishing tackle. The sight of his vintage Garrison 206 fly rod brought joy and surprise, as I expected the old master to have carried one of the longer models of his day. My own Jim Downes made tribute 206 is a light, fluid and surprisingly versatile wand at seven and one-half feet, and I nodded to myself approvingly, imagining old Hewitt deftly playing some brute below one of his check dams on “his” Neversink!

Thanks to the skills of Central Pennsylvania rod maker Jim Downes, I enjoy the fluidity of Everett Garrison’s classic model 206, equally adept with a number three or four fly line. The little rod flexes deeply, yet surprises with its accuracy and smooth, subtly powerful delivery. The lovely wild brownie above required that my CDC Isonychia Dun all but touch the bankside vegetation, with the river at twelve hundred CFS and rising from a summer morning downpour!

Saturday dawned with a bit of sunlight, though it would be hours before the temperature edged above the freezing mark. Nine AM found me helping Mike Canazon, Mike Canonico and his grandson Noah assemble rod racks in the Roscoe gymnasium for the 2022 Catskill Cane Revival. I had attended in 2019, my first Catskill spring after retirement, and enjoyed the opportunity to cast dozens of rods crafted by professional and amateur rod makers.

This year’s event was worth the wait, with some special surprises. My friend Dennis Menscer has been hard at the bench these past months, crafting his wonderful hollow built flyrods. He brought forth a truly remarkable little Payne he extensively restored. Inquiries have convinced Dennis this rod had to have been custom made by the legendary Jim Payne. Lithe and delicate, it casts a three-weight line as if unrolled by a gentle breeze. Several of us who enjoyed casting it believe a number two double tapered line would be an even more impressive complement. As always, Menscer’s restoration work was magnificent!

My friend Tom Mason kindly allowed a group of reverential enthusiasts to cast his stunning Payne 200, giving us another chance to favor Dennis’ refinishing work. The eight-foot classic performed gloriously with a Wullf Bamboo Special in line weight WF4F. In my hands the rod seemed a perfect model of a true progressive taper. It rolled out beautiful loops across the floor to the limits of the gymnasium wall, and I envisioned how perfectly it would fish fine and far off to a bankside riser on a picturesque Catskill summer day!

I was particularly surprised when Per Brandin walked in with a bundle of rod and reel bags! Per and his lovely wife Jean-Marie Gobillot have been giving considerable time to the Catskill Museum this winter, and it was a treat to cast some of his remarkable rods and to talk with them. I was truly moved by a stealthy olive toned rod Per strung up for our casting pleasure. The rod was eight feet, and designed for a light number three fly line, and I fell hard for its astounding combination of smoothness and accuracy from a few feet on out to the wall. Clearly the walls were the only limitation to its ability to present a dry fly delicately at distance!

Per was kind enough to relate the story behind this remarkable little rod, inked “The Green Hornet”. He told me of a shop rod his late friend and mentor Sam Carlson kept, wrapped with green silks, a rod Carlson dubbed The Green Hornet. Per had learned of green toned rods made by Leonard and others generations ago, with an eye toward stealth on our Catskill mountain streams, and that history along with the Carlson connection had inspired him to build his Green Hornet, the bamboo and reel seat spacer dyed green prior to finishing. The story was as charming as it was interesting, and I will fondly recall my enthusiastic casting impressions of the Brandin Green Hornet, as I stalk late summer browns upon the rivers of my heart.

My afternoon was spent at the Museum where, after a cup of Agnes Van Put’s justly famous soup, I sat while a revolving group of friends chatted and watched Tom Mason tying sparse and beautiful North Country spiders. Per and Jean-Marie joined us, as well as Catskill Guild President Joe Ceballos, as happy tales and reminiscences of fishing and flies filled the atmosphere. The hours passed too quickly, even given the extra hour we lingered past the scheduled conclusion of the day’s programs.

I caught up with a handful of friends I had not seen since last season, learning that one, Kevan Best was continuing his successful pursuit of Grangers, a path I have some familiarity with. Kevan had been a vanishing angler once last summer’s parade of high water began to limit wading opportunities, last seen at the Summerfest gathering. I learned he has busied himself tying salmon flies and planning a trip north to the Maritimes to angle for the King of Fish. I think wistfully of such environs, slipping back to the memories of the Golden Age so beautifully gifted in the writings of Dana Lamb. One day perhaps…

Much of the morning has passed in reverie, and the snow continues, a soft blanket upon the lawn. Might the rivers bear me and my boat this week, or will they continue to rise and discolor? No doubt I’ll be watching water temperatures, for though I don’t expect to encounter a rise on my season opening float, it is good to at least have a bit of hope tucked into my tackle bag!

First Float – April 8th, 2020: alone on the river.

One thought on “April At Last… and the snow falls

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s