October 24th, 2005

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Hallowed Ground
Photos and Text by Gerald Wolfe (RW)

My gang normally closes out the trout season with a traditional steelhead trip to upstate New York. To be more precise, Pulaski, New York and the Salmon River, the northeast's premiere hotspot for King Salmon and steelhead. Mud, sleet, your basic cold weather and enough fishermen to fill a New York subway at rush hour are also part of that picture. Two words can sum it up...Combat Fishing! I'm getting old. It was time for a change.

The Roscoe, fall mini-fish-in had fallen through. With some folks it was job and family obligations. With others it was the fear of floods and blown out streams that were threatening the region and could go full blown any day.

I, however, was not going to be deterred. This was Roscoe, NY, "Trout Town USA", "Cradle of American Fly Fishing", hallowed ground to northeasterners for more than a century. It was early October, Columbus Day weekend. Fall colors were at their peak in the mountains. The streams were waiting, the fish were waiting and I was ready.

I called my two sons, Mike and Steve, and suggested the Catskills as our end of season trip. They were all for it. Then I made a quick call to my brother Jeff and his son. They were good to go. We had five.

The Beaverkill and Willowemoc would offer more relaxed fall fishing, fewer fishermen to contend with, and just maybe, the rain would hold off. Next, the boys called their best friends Greg and Joe Torres in New York City. Could they get off work? We were resurrecting a fish-in. Yes, they'd be there. Now we were seven. Does that sound like a pun?

Lifelong friends from left: My sons Mike and Steve Wolfe, and Greg and Joe Torres. We all concentrated on the Covered Bridge Pool the first day and had good success.

I made one last phone call to two of my oldest fishing buddies, Frank Ficarro and Jerry Hullfish. Would they like to come up from Jersey and join us? They spin fish a lot, fly fish a little. Do I care? They're my best friends. What do you think? The only special regulations on the river are artificial-lures-only and no-kill zones. First words out of Frankie's mouth were "Can I spin fish?" Dang! I'll convert the old buzzard yet. I told him yes, he could spin fish. They said yes, they'd come. Now we were nine. And just like that, the mini-fall-fish-in was up and running again. Since I was the only FAOL'r I renamed it the "Family and Friends Fall Fish-in And Other Loves (FFFFAOL). The other loves, it turned out, were two rounds of golf by the younger guys, plus a dart and pool tournament, play-off baseball and Monday Night Football in the evenings, and some of the best dinners in the region, ala Rockland House.

That's my oldest fishing buddy, Frank Ficarro, in the fast water above where it enters the C.B. Pool.

On the holiday Monday, Tommy, the owner of Rockland House, where we stayed, hosted a four-band, charity rock-and-roll festival that went on from noon until midnight; all the beer and snacks you could drink and eat for ten bucks. I think half of Delaware County and all of Sullivan County were there. At six-foot-three, 285-pounds, Joey was all over it.

My brother Jeff and a good view of the covered bridge (C.B) and the downstream section of the pool. Below the bridge and just above the tailout if where FAOL's Bob Montouri (monty), took 26 browns during a spectacular evening caddis hatch in a recent FAOL Roscoe Fish-In.

Above all, though, we fished. The rain held off for three days. The rivers, from an earlier round of storms, dropped two feet on Sunday night and cleared on Monday as freestone streams have a habit of doing. It gave us some of the best fishing and stream conditions I've ever experienced in the Catskills.

Hazel Bridge Pool, the most heavily fished, heavily stocked and best producing pool on the Willowemoc. This was the state of New York's first public water section on the Willow, purchased in the 1920's. That's, from left: Steve, Greg and Joey fishing, and Mike taking a break. To get an idea of how much rain fell the previous week, the river was up over all the grass you can see in the picture and had fallen back and cleared within three days; a great characteristic of free-stoners.

My brother Jeff under Hazel Bridge with one of four 14-to 16-inch browns he took on the trip.

Small, tan caddis hatches appeared sporadically along the river in late afternoon. In some sections of the upper Willow, stone fly nymphs could be counted by the hundreds attached to streamside rocks in the crystal-clear shallows.

A fat 16-inch brook trout from Hazel Bridge Pool on Tuesday. You can see how much the water had cleared on the Willow.

I never saw a fish rise the entire trip, even though stream temps were optimum at 58 degrees. Most of the 4 dozen trout we caught were taken deep with wet flies, buggers and streamers, including a half-dozen browns in the 15-inch class. Frankie and my brother tried spin fishing tiny, white and gray rooster tails in the deep, fast water sections and were equally rewarded. We had both rivers to ourselves the whole three days. In fact, we never even saw another fisherman.

Best fish of the trip, a 22-inch, 3 1/2-pound tiger trout caught by my son Mike on a dark Cahill wet fly fished deep in the Covered Bridge Pool. The fly was tied by yours truly. What? (Hey! I've gotta get credit for something here). Whether stocked or wild it was the prettiest tiger I've ever seen. It made Mike's trip.

Frankie again in the sweet spot fishing the seam and deep water along the far bank just above the covered bridge. In the spring I've seen 50 browns in splashing rises along this section.

On Tuesday, Mike caught the fish of the week, above, a handsome 22-inch, 3 1/2-pound tiger trout from the famed Covered Bridge Pool on the upper Beaverkill. The big fish took my favorite go-to fly, a dark Cahill wet. I don't know if the New York State hatchery system is into cross-breeding hybrids, or if it was the product of a brief and peculiar stream-romance between a cavalier male brown and a cute female brookie. They are both fall spawners. No fins were clipped so it could very well have been a wild, stream bred trout. Anyway it was a beautiful fish and it made Mike's trip. All the fish we caught were carefully released.

Jerry Hulfish at the tailout of the C. B. Pool framed in a spectacular blaze of tall color. You can see the pool clearing nicely after heavy rains two days earlier.

The Covered Bridge is one of the most famous pools on the Beaverkill. RW is standing by the memorial plaque dedicated by the Theodore Gordon Flyfishers, Here is where Gordon created and fished some of the first truly American dry flies over 100 years ago.

I'm not in the pictures, except the one above with the covered bridge sign. Someone had to take them. But in a strange sense I feel that I am in all of them. I was there. On Monday, our little caravan turned on to Cat Hollow Road off Route 206 north of Roscoe and headed the six miles north to the Covered Bridge Pool. I watched the river roll by and thought about all the fishing I'd done with the boys, how lucky I was that we were still at it. The only real difference now is they drive me.

In the car behind us were Greg and Joey. My wife calls Greg our third son. I watched both those boys grow up too. Behind Greg was my brother Jeff and his son and of course we grew up fishing together. In the car behind them was Frankie, my oldest and closest fishing buddy of 35 years, and trust me, I could write a book about our fishing trip escapades, some famous and some infamous.

Mike taking a picture of Joey with the first trout he ever caught in his life. He'll be back next year for sure. He said he had so much "fun" on this trip that when he got back to the city he was going right out and get outfitted with a nice fly rod, reel and gear. Note the key word here is fun.

It had turned into a great fish-in with family and friends, as much comradarie and reminiscing as there was fishing. Are we going again next year? You bet! And the year after that, good lord willing.

Oh! One last thing. Just as we finished packing up on Wednesday and were all pulling out of the Hallowed Ground Rockland House parking lot to head home, it started to rain.....hard! I guess somebody up there does like us...ya think? ~ RW

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