Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Deep in the very heart of the Charmed Circle, lost in a dead-end valley along Denning Road surrounded by the Catskill Divide--- Red Hill, Woodhull, Van Wyck, and Table Mountains--- plus Wildcat lays a place lost in time, known as Shangri-La.  Days slowly fall off the Gregorian calendar like autumn leafs tumble from Catskill hardwoods; time stands still.  Hemlock and birch line the banks of the East Branch of the Neversink and the sky is uncluttered except for the occasional red-tailed hawk that patrols the airwaves.  Whitetail deer, red fox, and black bear saunter through the forest as your only angling partners.  This headwater stream is cold and clear, with highly polished cobble underfoot, and so transparent that dry flies cast upon it appear to be floating on thin air.  Wild brook trout with bluish-olive wormlike vermiculation on their backs, sagging melon-color bellies, and fins edged in chalky white--- natives of the Catskills--- still abound.

The landscape below was done from a pre-Irene photography; sadly the setting of the Abutments’ Pool has changed.  However, wild trout still prosper here in the East Branch of the Neversink, as do young swimmers from Frost Valley’s YMCA summer camp staying at the farm.

Abutments’ Pool, Shangri-La, 11x14:

Friday, July 4, 2014

Budapest Hotel:

Portrayed below are purple lythrum along the upper Esopus Creek at the site of the old Budapest Hotel waters, still home to wild trout.

Many a trout fisher erroneously referred to this location as the “Budapest Lodge”, but a review of historical records indicates such was never the case.  The grounds and building--- currently known as the Baptist Camp--- are now owned by the Missions Board and operated as a summer camp.  However, this old hotel has an interesting and rich history; it was once a premier Big Indian guesthouse

Originally built in 1872 by the Donahue family it was first called the Forest Home.  Then in 1921 it was sold to Eugene Grossman who operated it as Grossman’s Forest House until repossessed by a bank.   Eventually other owners reopened the old landmark hotel.

The June 5th, 1949 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle ran a full page add sponsored by the Big Indian Valley Business Men’s Association highlighting lodging in the immediate area.  At the time Louis Green was the proprietor of Hotel Budapest which featured Hungarian cuisine and gypsy music.  Andrew Rohaly, another owner, would call the building and grounds Rohaly’s Budapest Rest.  The guesthouse had at least one other owner, Mr. Feynes, but apparently was never known as the Budapest Lodge.

The particular scene below also once housed a bridge over the Esopus that the Town of Shandaken closed to traffic in 1967.  This angler remembers tangling his leader on that bridge with errant casts over feeding trout during the early 1970s.  And, today if the astute angler looks carefully, he/she will still see the stone remains of old bridge abutments as well as the old historic hotel.

Budapest Hotel waters and purple lythrum, 11x14:

This landscape was originally painted on a 16x20 canvas and called, Budapest Lodge, Esopus Creek (sold):

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Woodland Valley:

There was a time when Woodland Valley was known as Snyder Hollow, named after Colonel H. D. Snyder who owned large parcels of land and a tannery in this Catskill hollow during the early 1800s.  Later John Burroughs’ essay, The Heart of the Southern Catskill, which appeared in his 1910 book In The Catskills, fondly recalled pleasant memories of Woodland Valley.  Nowadays many a warm summer afternoon tubers are seen floating down the Esopus Creek from the Woodland Valley Bridge, the gateway to Snyder Hollow.  And normally on the first June weekend of every year whitewater slalom gates for kayakers occupy Railroad Rapids just below that bridge. 

This old Catskill hollow has a little bit of something for everyone, especially flyfishers who actively pursue the wild trout that occupy nearby waters.  The landscape below was painted from a photo taken one such evening as trout rose in the Esopus Creek while the sun disappeared over Garfield Mountain.

Sunset over Snyder Hollow, 14x11:

For an interesting read on historical aspects of Woodland Valley, refer to the Winter 2013 issue (Volume 28, Number 4) of Kaatskill Life pages 10 to 18.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Cascade Brook:

Cascade Brook is a Catskill Mountain stream known by three different names.

Some maps, as well as the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, refer to this Esopus Creek tributary as the Giant Ledge Stream, perhaps since it’s not far from DEC’s Giant Ledge Trailhead.  Yet the United States Geological Survey (USGS) once maintained a gaging station here.  Station number 01362192 was online from 2001 through 2009 and referred to this brook as the Panther Mountain Tributary.  However, Ulster County may have the proper name of all three.

Following the historic Hurricane Irene, the county built a new bridge over this often minuscule trickle after angry stream flows washed out UC 47 creating a chasm some seventy-five feet across and fifty feet deep.  On that bridge Ulster County placed a memorial plaque referring to this stream as Cascade Brook and this name has historical significance.  The plaque is in memory of Steve F. Fischer, an Ulster County native and employee of the county Department of Public Works.

Richard Lionel De Lisser, in his turn-of-the-century book Picturesque Ulster, included photos of an Esopus Creek tributary he called Cascade Brook, but specific details of its location were lacking.  Essentially the black and white photos depict various waterfalls.  One such waterfall, perhaps Blossom Falls, is located immediately below UC 47.  Another falls, the one pictured in the painting below is located some two-to-three-hundred yards upstream of UC 47.  So perchance this stream is appropriately named after all.

As if three different steam names aren’t enough, some Oliverea locals also refer to this general locale as Crazy Nels.

Cascade Brook, second falls, 14x11:

Brook trout and bamboo (2):

For the full story behind this landscape, and why it’s called Brook trout and bamboo (2), refer to this link:

Brook trout and bamboo (2) 11x14 (NFS):

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Blue Mountains:  Native Americans referred to the Catskills as Onteora--- Land in the Sky, while the first European settlers along the Hudson River knew them as the Blue Mountains.  In his epic work, The Catskills: From Wilderness to Woodstock, the late Alf Evers wrote, "They are commonly known by the name of the Blue Mountains, on account of a blueness or haze which they present to the eye when seen from a distance."  It wasn't until the nineteenth century that these mountains, and the region, became known as the Catskills, a representation Evers credits to the tales of Washington Irving and the legendary Catskill Mountain House.

Over time the mountains would inspire a group of landscape artists loosely known as the Hudson River School with Thomas Cole among them.  In Picturesque Ulster R. Lionel De Lisser quoted Cole as saying,  "Must I tell you that neither the Alps, nor the Apenines (sic), no nor Etna itself, have dimmed in my eyes the beauty of our own Catskills."  As recent as the year 2000 the late Thomas Locker published a slender book of Catskill landscapes appropriately titled, In Blue Mountains: An Artist’s Return to American’s First Wilderness.

Yes, much has been recorded about these mountains and this region--- America’s first wilderness, known for its rich history, woody summits, chaste rivers, cherished forests, outdoor recreation, and treasured art.  On occasion these mountains towering over New York City’s Ashokan Reservoir still appear “blue” as seen in the landscape below, perhaps just the way early settlers observed them from afar.

Blue mountains autumn, 11x14:

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Solitude and John Gierach:  “It’s not likely for a solitary trip to end in a great epiphany or anything.  It’s just that I think the way you fish when you’re alone is the way you really fish: your own personal style, uninfluenced by crowds, guides or friends, and it’s interesting to plug back into that now and again.  Solitude is educational and it can be satisfying.” authored John Gierach in Another Lousy Day in Paradise.

Well the photographer behind this blog lives for solitude while flyfishing, often at the expense of nervous anticipation of the artist; but, that’s just us.

Headwater red rock, 11x14:

Stairway to Cross Mountain, 11x14:

Birch Creek spring, 11x14:

These secluded, remote brooks seem to possess one common denominator other than solitude, and that is they are often home to small wild trout.  “Whatever they are and however they got there, they’re the kind of trout that fate put in the stream, they’re only as big as they’re supposed to be, and by now, generations of fish later, many of them have gone ragged-ass wild and are part of the landscape.  If they lack any romance at all, it’s our fault, not theirs.” so wrote John Gierach in At the Grave of the Unknown Fisherman.