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.
Hurricane Irene: On the eve of August 27th, 2011 Hurricane Irene began raining down hell on the region altering the landscape forever.  River flows recorded at the USGS Coldbrook Gaging Station reached historic portions of 75,850 cfs; over a foot of rain fell during a single twenty-four hour period.  The 1895 Nissen Bridge at Coldbrook was carried off its abutments; the Trestle upstream of the Chimney Hole was also demolished.  Homes were destroyed, roads washed out, bridges carted away.  This storm felt its mark upon the region, almost crushing its spirit.

Below are two paintings that were donated to the Ashokan-Pepacton Watershed Chapter of Trout Unlimited for their 2011 and 2012 annual fund raisers to help solicit monies in support of regional stream conservation.  These landscapes were forevermore changed by Hurricane Irene.

The Trestle, Esopus Creek, 11x14 (DtC):

Croldbrook Bridge, Esopus Creek, 11x14 (DtC):

The 1895 steel bridge above, that once crossed the Esopus Creek at Coldbrook, was also known as the Nissen Bridge

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Charmed Circle watersheds:  Cecil E. Heacox dubbed a portion of the Catskills the “Charmed Circle” in the March and April 1969 issues of Outdoor Life.  Heacox’s two part classic article was titled “Charmed Circle of The Catskills”, a phrase that has stuck to this region like super glue.  In the March issue Heacox wrote, “I call this region charmed because its fine fishing in the wild, forested settings has survived even though it is with a day’s drive of one-sixth of the total population of the United States and Canada.  The Charmed Circle has not only survived in the face of outdoor-hungry hordes, … but it also offers a whole new generation of fishermen a taste of angling as it used to be.”

Heacox worked in fisheries for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) and rose to the position of Deputy Commissioner before his career was finished.  His articles took readers on a journey along some legendary Catskill Rivers, perhaps just like the landscapes below might.

Roaring Kill spring, Schoharie Creek, 18x24:

This is a small tributary to Art Flick’s Schoharie Creek, lost in the Indian Head Wilderness area.  However, it’s not so lost that Peter Barrett couldn't include a chapter about it--- Old Friends and the Joys of the Worm--- in his book, In Search of Trout.  Conversely Cecil Heacox wrote the following about the Schoharie, "Oddly enough, I remember the Schoharie for what I didn't catch there."  And so it is for many anglers who visit this picturesque watershed.

Burroughs Rondout, above the Blue Hole, 18x24:

If Catskill naturalist John Burroughs ever favored a single stream, it would certainly be the Rondout Creek.  Read Burroughs 1910 essay, “A Bed of Boughs” and you might quickly reach this conclusion also.  And, Heacox wrote “I caught my first trout” where the Merriman Dam stands in his noted articles above.  Even renowned Catskill flyfisher Edward R. Hewitt wrote about frustrating fishing days at the Blue Hole, which is perhaps the most famous pool on the upper Rondout.  However, there are other crystalline pools above the Blue Hole.

Forest plunge pool, 16x20:

wilderness section of the Esopus, not far from its source on the Winnisook Club.  The angling member/photographer of this Catskillwatersart consortium loses himself here every autumn, and this is where he wishes his ashes be spread after his last breath has been taken.

Maltby Hollow Brook, 16x20:

A tributary to a tributary; enough said.

Herdman Road, Esopus Creek 18x24:

Heacox wrote “The Esopus, because it was more accessible, became the first trout capital of the Charmed Circle” not far from here.

Budapest Lodge, Esopus Creek, 16x20 (SOLD):

Esopus Creek waters upstream of the Portal.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Ashokan Reservoir:  The Ashokan Reservoir is New York City’s oldest Catskill water supply.  Construction was completed in 1915 after damming the Esopus Creek and it was essentially built as two separate impoundments--- an East and West Basin--- separated by a Dividing Weir.  The West, or upper basin, serves as a settling bowl to allow the sometimes turbid inflows from the Esopus and Schoharie Reservoir to settle.

At full capacity the Ashokan holds 122.9 billion gallons of water, which based upon volume makes this the second largest NYC reservoir.  It is twelve miles long and one mile across at its widest point, with a max depth of 190 feet.  Both NY 28 and NY 28A parallel the Ashokan; NY 28 on the front or northern shore, NY 28A on its back side. The best views along the Ashokan, and the Catskill Mountains, are found off a NYC Department of Environmental Protection service road now closed to all but foot traffic.

On May 31st, 1913 Theodore Gordon, who many anglers consider to be the father of dry-fly fishing in America, wrote the following about the Ashokan Reservoir and Esopus Creek: "By the way, the new Shokan dam, in the Catskills, will afford the finest trout fishing in America, if properly treated, and not spoiled by the introduction of other predatory fish. It will be stocked naturally from the Esopus with the rainbow and European trout of good size and quality."

His prediction was spot on. In 1923 T.E. Spencer caught a 19 pound, 14 ounce brown trout in Chimney Hole, which is "technically" the beginning of the Ashokan and end of the Esopus Creek upstream of NYC's reservoir.  That brown trout was a New York State record for some thirty years.

East Basin, Ashokan Reservoir, 11x14 (DtC):

Clouds over the Ashokan, 11x14 (DtC):

Reflections on the West Basin, 11x14:

Catskills/Dividing Weir, Ashokan Reservoir, 12x24:

Chimney Hole fall, 11x14:

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Yellowstone:  As the winter of 2013-14 just hangs on, refusing to quit, thoughts wander towards summer and westward to Yellowstone National Park where Ed spent a week during August 2012.  He and his buddies explored and fished the noted rivers of YNP including: the Gallatin, Gardner, Lamar, Slough Creek, Soda Butte, and Yellowstone.  While in Yellowstone they stayed at the Roosevelt Lodge Cabins near Tower Falls close to a campsite once used by President Theodore Roosevelt.  Every morning they would rise at first light and wander down to the rocking chairs on the front porch to sip coffee, watching the sun rise.

The landscape below was done from a photo of a morning sunrise seen from the front porch of Roosevelt Lodge, and given to Bill Nicol whom Ed shared his YNP cabin.  Bill's reflections about those early morns from the front porch follow: "You would think my fondest memory of Yellowstone would be one on the stream, but it’s those mellow mornings full of promise, but also wonder, for what we would see that day."

Yellowstone sunrise, 11x14 (NFS): 

Yellowstone on fire, 11x14(SOLD):

A commissioned piece of art.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Keene Valley red barn:  Located at the intersection of NY 73 and NY 9N in Keene Valley, home of the Adirondack High Peaks, is a red barn that has been shaped by North Country weather.  The barn is a well-known landmark which has clearly seen better days.

For more background on this barn, click on “Red barns” under "Labels" on the right-hand side of the blog.

Keene Valley red barn, 11x14 (DtC):