Long Catskills Weekend

I’ve long-wanted to fish the Catskills, so when our friends invited us up to their Palenville summer house for a long weekend, I couldn’t resist. We planned to fish the Esopus Creek, North South and Colgate lakes. Three days of fishing were punctuated by delicious meals of fresh-from-the garden vegetables and local produce, as well as a fine meal at Miss Lucy’s Kitchen in Saugerties. Icy beverages included Pimm’s Cups and my friends perfect Mint Juleps with chocolate mint from his own garden.

Click on the pictures below to see more at my Tumblr blog, a deadbait.

On Day One we were up early on the river near Five Arches bridge. The water level was a wadeable height, but we had a bluebird sky which made the fishing a bit tough. A weight-forward or sinking line would have done me good. My friend caught very sizable Smallies on a Mepps and Pather Martins, spin fishing to bass waiting behind rocks to ambush prey. There wasn’t much hope for dry flies and close-in imitation nymphs were ignored in the slightly chalky pocket water. Spotted a bald eagle. Later, at the riffle above Chimney Hole, I was to discover that the browns were deep and looking for flash. Beadhead nymphs were quickly rewarded on the tail-outs of big chutes, finally! The entire day we spotted only three other anglers, it was delightfully peaceful and exhilarating to be on such big water after months of small stream fishing in the Croton Watershed.

Day Two took us back out for a half-day stretch just below Phoenicia behind the Emerson Hotel. With plenty of laydowns on the cut-bank side I hooked into a brown on a bugger and later a brookie on the flats. We spotted two enormous eagles with trout in their claws. One trout was clearly a lunker. You can’t beat mother nature at her own game right? A nymph in Rainbow Run got me a… rainbow…but alas he popped off before I could net him. My friend landed two more smallies at the bottom of Rainbow Run in the wash, but having lost so many spinners, we decided to call it a day. After lunch in Woodstock (satisfying burgers and beer), we returned home for an afternoon siesta. We made a delicious meal that evening: cast-iron seared scallops, grilled tilapia, snowpea and almond salad, washed down with a great Hawke’s Bay sauvignon blanc called The Supernatural. Later, s’mores over the fire in the evening and whisky on the rocks lead us to deep sleep.

Day Three took us to North South lake where we rented a rowboat and edged along the weedline hunting for bass. The weeds were up high and the bass were slow to bite, but managed one decent one and my friend, a pickerel, while the girls laid-out on the beach. After a lazy slow dinner, we hit the road home late.

Its incredible that such remoteness can be found only two and a half short hours away from New York. On the trip, I found Jim Capossela’s book  “Good Fishing in the Catskills” invaluable for info on the Esopus. If you get to the Catskills this summer, be sure to pick up some local smoked trout–you won’t regret it on a bit of toast with cream cheese or over a fresh salad.

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