Catskill Lingering

A Beaver Kill morning from two decades past, watching an unknown angler probing the head of Hendrickson’s Pool.

Tucked inside my tyer’s den it is easy to drift back in memory… There were days I waded rivers on younger legs, and many when the anticipation spilled over as I turned at last from NY 17 toward the Hale Eddy bridge!

Springtime in the Catskills, it always brings memories of endless days and nights at West Branch Angler. Stepping from the warmth of the cabin to find my wading brogues frozen upon it’s porch; tasting the sweetness of fresh Belgian waffles and strawberries at breakfast and the sherry oak smoothness of a Macallan hoisted high at the Troutskellar, once darkness has overtaken the river at last.

Many times, I arose early to tie flies at the table in the White House Lodge’s kitchen, and more than likely one of those flies would be the magic spark that made the day sublime.

A handsome West Branch brown that took a fly-of-the-day tied just that morning.

I remember Mike Saylor and I standing in front of the Lodge and watching a young black bear scuttle from the pines and down the riverbank for a drink, just after we drove past. When we headed back that way for our evening fishing, he had left us a gift piled right in the middle of the road. We still laugh about that sighting, wondering where that bear gets his drink now that there are cabins where the pines once stood.

There was a wet and stormy morning when I took Jim Downes’ little 7 1/2 foot Garrison clone down to the steadily rising river. As the current in the run increased, I waded closer to the bank to keep my footing, casting a big isonychia cripple far ahead and tight against the grass. That was where the trout hunkered that morning, and the tactic brought three fine brownies to hand!

The little Garrison clone and the biggest of those bank-hugging high water browns.

I look back fondly at more than two decades of visits to my second home, and sometimes miss the chance to awaken at the Lodge and tie some flies for breakfast. I still feel a touch of the old thrill when I pass the Hale Eddy turnoff.

The West Branch draws anglers by the hundreds once spring has awakened the mayflies and the trout, and my friends at West Branch Angler still greet them all with a smile. I keep my visits to the quieter times these days, content to browse the fly shop for essentials while catching up with Ben and Jake and Matt. Each time I gaze toward the water I recall special moments in time, and trout that thrilled and exasperated over so many wonderful seasons.


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