Hit the East Branch Croton last week and the Titicus Outlet this weekend. Despite the high temperatures, the valleys of both rivers were quite cool and pleasant. The East Branch is a tailwater and perhaps the most famous of Westchester rivers, designated a Special Trout Fishing area with strict catch-and-release rules. It is stocked but has a rewarding wild brown trout population. EBR has some pretty famous holes, “the Bathtub” and “Trestle Pool,” which are quite unique, as you’re surrounded by manmade works and engineering, but standing in a river hundreds of years old. Its an excellent river to challenge yourself as the trout are incredibly smart, many having been caught before and under a fair bit of regular pressure. EBR has long been an angler’s favorite.
At the “Trestle Pool” named for the railroad trestle high above it, I spotted several trout rising steadily to something in the film. There was a two-pounder with them but they were out of reach of 75% of casts due to a large overhanging tree. Determined, I walked up and down the bank for thirty minutes. My friend and fellow Gowanus Noodler joined me, but couldn’t see a way to cast in, as he munched on his sandwich. Finally, I knew what to do. I knew the pool was deep, but maybe I could go upstream and slowly wade downstream just enough to dead-drift a fly right down the lane? I eased into the water up to my knees, then hips, then chest and inched along. A large sunken boulder made a good place to rest and I eased the line out. No strikes, no takes. I tied on several more flies. By now, I was pretty sure I had spooked them off, but no, there was another rise, and another immediately to the right of me. I had been in the freezing cold water so quietly for so long that the trout had moved up closer to me. Finally, I remembered the simple and best lesson on Westchester streams, smaller is better. I tied on the smallest fly, a 22 black midge. It floated in the film, and had immediate rises, a couple refusals from the nearest fish. They were on to me. Yet…maybe there was a trout still hanging back under that tree? I let the line out, and out, and out until I felt the slightest, tiniest “pressure” touch down on the line, and then came the tell-tale swirl. I set the hook and landed a nice 1-pound brown that fought me all the way to the net. I went to pull out my camera phone to snap a pic and realized it was under water in my chest pack. Yep, dead as a doornail. Fortunately, I had got a pic of an earlier brown up in the “bathtub” that I had taken on a muddler minnow.
Titicus Outlet is also a tailwater (a short meadow stream flowing from the Titicus Dam) and has perfectly cool non-turbid water for trout. Titicus is blessed with little pressure, and beautiful groves of hardwoods, Norway Spruces and Hemlocks. The meadown reminds me of the pacific northwest a bit. While not a “special area,” this river gets big trout who swim up from the Muscoot Reservoir to spawn and +20″ have been caught close to the dam in the deepest pools. My trip this weekend to Titicus with another Gowanus Noodler was very relaxing but unfortunately familiar. We’d fished many times together with him almost always getting skunked. This time he had two trout on while nymphing, but couldn’t bring them to the net, he’s getting so close! And no doubt will land a big’un for his perseverance. I squeaked out a nice ‘bow on a green “flashback” caddis nymph near a fallen branch on the water. Bow’s love trees!
I’ve taken great pleasure in learning about the Westchester rivers first-hand and perhaps at the worst possible time (in the height of summer, but you have to start somewhere). There is a vibrant and wide-ranging group of fly fishers who can be tight-lipped about the rivers, and understandably so. We nod and chit chat, but details are spare. You have to earn a longer conversation…and they know fishing is tough in Westchester whether you’re a veteran or a beginner like me. An interesting resource I’ve come across lately though has proved useful. Google has archived Field & Stream magazine and articles about several of Westchester’s rivers show up in a simple search. Fred McKinley’s article, “the Cool Trout of August” is excellent reading. McKinley was a frequent contributor to F&S in the 70s and fly fished the Westchester rivers extensively.