Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Brook trout and the NYS Conservationist:  Ever so often a photograph we take while hiking or fishing these Catskills is used by some agency, whether it is NYS DEC, USGS, Soil & Water, a local town, or someone else; and we are flattered, happy to be of help.  Recently the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation used one such photo, in their website announcing the 2016 trout season and also on the rear cover of the April issue of NYS Conservationist magazine.  That brook trout was caught, and released, on the upper reaches of the East Branch of the Neversink on September 3rd, 2015 using a #16 Sofa Pillow dry fly--- a western classic--- and an A.J. Thramer F.E. Thomas Fairy 3 weight cane rod, a sweet piece of bamboo for late summer brook trout fishing.

Not the typical landscape, but an underwater finny creature with scales and a fly stuck in its mouth.

But first, the April NYS Conservationist:

Brook trout and the Sofa Pillow, 11x14:

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Plein air, summer of 2015:  Plein air, landscape artwork with a French twist.  The term means “open or in full air” and denotes painting outdoors.  During the summer of 2015 Lois attended a Woodstock School of Art workshop taught by Kate McGloughlin.  Participants painted various landscapes in grassy fields on both sides of the Hudson River, in Woodstock and Barrytown--- at Rokeby Estate of Astor family lineage.  Below are several of the miniature artworks that were fabricated.

Pa151-- Rokeby, 10x8:

Pa152-- Rokeby, 5x7:

Pa153-- Rokeby, 5x7:

Pa154-- Woodstock, 5x7:

Pa155-- Woodstock, 8x10:

Pa156-- Woodstock, 8x10:

Pa157-- Woodstock, 8x10:

Monday, March 21, 2016

Legendary Esopus Creek pools:  Below are landscapes of three legendary Esopus Creek pools: the Trestle, Jennings Pool, and Mother’s Pool, plus stories of big trout.

The historic railroad trestle over the Esopus, downstream of Boiceville, dates back to the very early 1900s--- the Ulster and Delaware Railroad Company, a rail line known as “The Only All-Rail Route to the Catskill Mountains.”  At its pinnacle the U&D ran from Kingston on the Hudson through four Catskill counties before terminating in Oneonta.

In 1932 U&D became the Catskill Mountain Branch of New York Central, which later merged with Pennsylvania Railroad in 1968 to form Penn Central only to eventually go bankrupt in 1970.  In 1976 Conrail--- Consolidated Rail Corporation--- was created by the U.S. government and assumed ownership of the rail line.  However, the last Conrail freight train departed Kingston on September 28th, 1976 headed to Stamford before returning to Kingston on October 2nd

In 1979 Ulster County purchased the 38.6 mile section of rail from Kingston to the county line at Highmount.  Then in 1982 the rail line was leased to the Catskill Mountain Railroad--- CMRR.  At that time the Trestle officially became CMRR Bridge C30, the last name change from its original U&D C30 designation.

Before the Trestle was destroyed by Hurricane Irene in 2011, it served as a wooden footpath for many anglers travelling to and from the Chimney Hole at the mouth of the Ashokan Reservoir downstream.  However, trout fishermen weren’t the only users of this lost deck plate girder bridge.  On several late June afternoons local Onteora High School students could be seen jumping from the structure into the deep sections of the cool Esopus Creek below.

Perhaps the fondest personal memory of the Trestle occurred on April 13th, 2010 when in the shadows of the dilapidated railroad bridge, one lucky flyfisher caught a silvery twenty-two inch Ashokan Reservoir run brown trout, the first trout he ever landed on his Black Beauty Heddon cane rod.

Trestle, U&D C30, 11x14 (DtC):

Jennings Pool in Mount Tremper bears the name of noted fly tyer and fisher Preston J. Jennings.  Jennings was a sales engineer who lived in Brooklyn, NY, but often fished the Catskill while doing research for his book, first published by Derrydale Press in 1935, A Book of Trout Flies.

The late Ernest Schwiebert, also a noted trout fisher, wrote the following about Jennings and this book, “The work of Jennings set the standard of excellence that has measured all subsequent work on fly-fishing entomology.”

Among other trout streams, Jennings extensively studied aquatic insect life on the Esopus Creek for his manuscript.  He often stayed in Woodstock while fishing the Esopus, but also visited and tied flies for guests staying at Kahil’s Rainbow Lodge on UC 212 in Mount Tremper.  There he befriended Arnold Gingrich who would later write glowingly about the author.  Among the regulars at Rainbow Lodge, Jennings Isonychia Nymph came to be known as the “Esopus Nymph”.

Preston Jennings tying a fly:

Jennings often fished the pool couched between the NY 28 bridge and the old red steel bridge at Mount Pleasant Road.  Years ago this was another structure that young local hooligans could be seen jumping from into the Esopus Creek below.

Jennings Pool, 11x14:

Once again, personal fond memories of Jennings Pool involve mammoth brown trout hooked and lost here; the latest occurrence the morning after the NY Mets lost the 2015 World Series, just piling up miseries of what could have been.

Mother’s Pool is located off Plank Road--- Old Route 28, just downstream of the hamlet of Phoenicia, tubing capital of the Catskills.  Local angling lore tells how this pool was named after the mother of Esopus Creek guide and Dean of the stream, Ray Smith.  Ray’s mother--- Agnes Moon Smith--- trout fished also, and according to local legend when she was nowhere to be found around the house, the answer to the question of “Where is she?” was “Mother’s Pool.”

This pool was also the former home of Old Bess, a 9½ pound brown caught here by Larry Decker on April 29th, 1955.  Decker seduced the massive brown trout, measuring 30¾ inches long, while fishing minnows on his Payne fly rod!

Larry Decker and Old Bess coming off Mother’s Pool:

Mother’s Pool, soft light 11x14:

UC 212 Catskill barn:  As you traverse UC 212 between Woodstock and Saugerties, upon careful inspection you might observe a Catskill barn and associated woodshed across the grassy fields in the shadows of Overlook Mountain.

Catskill 212 barn, 8x10:

Catskill 212 woodshed, 8x10:

Monday, February 15, 2016

A special place:  Native Americans, namely the Esopus Tribe of Lenape Indians, first roamed the Big Indian-Oliverea Valley, headwaters of a famous trout stream.  In fact the word “Shandaken” is a Native American derivative that means “rapid waters”.  Also local legend--- as recalled in Richard Lionel De Lisser's Picturesque Ulster--- has it that a young Indian girl “of rare beauty named Tawasenta”, meaning Blossoms of Spring, fell to her death from a falls that still bears her name--- Blossom Falls, not far from this place.

In his 1918 classic, The Catskills, T. Morris Longstreth wrote the following about this valley, “Big Injin is the birth-dale of the Esopus, which conjures to my mind pictures equal in charm to those brought back by the mention of the Rondout, the Neversink, and the Schoharie.  Always there was some glimpse of the creek hurrying around the corner.  Instead of the Mountains of the Sky, the Indians might have called the country the Land of Little Rivers, for down each glen sprang some brook to join the bright Esopus. … I could not help exclaiming about their beauty, so intangible, so unpicturable.”

The setting on the upper reaches of the Esopus Creek remains home to wild brook trout, Salvelinus fontinalis.  This place is still special, and someday my ashes will be spread here to be among the wild brook trout and spirit of Tawasenta.

A Special Place, 11x14 (NFS):

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The fiftieth state:  Sunrise on a Hawaiian beach.

Lanikai Beach, Hawaii 12x16 (SOLD):

Turning back time on the Neversink:  There’s at least one Catskill stream where time stands still, if not goes backwards as you wander it, perhaps in pursuit of wild brook trout.  It’s the upper Neversink, actually both branches of this legendary trout water.

One still might be able to find footprints of John Burroughs along the West Branch.  In his essay A Bed of Boughs Burroughs wrote, “It was nearly noon when we struck the West Branch, and the sun was scalding hot.  … The scene was primitive, and carried one back to the days of his grandfather…”

Burroughs Neversink, depicted below can be found somewhere upstream of Frost Valley but downstream of the shadows of Slide Mountain.

Burroughs, West Branch Neversink 11x14:

Burroughs was no stranger to the East Branch either.  He wrote this about the twin sister, “The prospect for trout was so good in the stream hereabouts, and the scene so peaceful and inviting, shone upon by the dreamy August sun, that we concluded to tarry here until the next day.  It was a page of pioneer history opened to quite unexpectedly.”  From personal experience, not much has changed here all these decades later.

Tison waters, East Branch Neversink, 11x14: