As fly fishers, we all have favorite rivers. Sometimes, one or more of those rivers plays a significant role in our lives, a role that isn’t evident in the first years. For me, that river was Amawalk Outlet.
The Amawalk Outlet leaves Awawalk Reservoir before flowing 2.5 miles where it enters Muscoot Reservoir. The river and both reservoirs are part of the NY City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Croton Watershed in Westchester County.
A long time ago while in high school, I met a young man, who, when he learned I loved to fish, invited me to go trout fishing with him and his dad. I had fantasized about trout fishing for a long time, so it was with great anticipation that I awaited that Sunday. I don’t remember much about the day, other then we went to Amawalk Outlet, accessing the river by an old two track, off Wood Street. At the river, we crossed and waded upstream, making our way to a pool with a beautiful waterfall. There I watched my friend’s father land two 14-inch brown trout! Being the sportsman he was, both fish were cleaned and given to me. To say I was ecstatic would be a serious understatement. The seed that had lay dormant sprouted at the waterfall that morning
After that first trip, and as I became a more accomplished angler, the Amawalk became my go-to river. It was close, had a pretty good population of brown trout and was annually stocked. I fished it through high school, until college called me off to the University of Montana.
Upon graduation, I returned East, and it was back to Amawalk. In my absence, the river had been placed under special regulations by the conservation department, to develop its wild brown trout fishery. That was in the mid-1960s. In 1967, I went to work for that very same conservation department as a fisheries biologist, and, in my second summer, was assigned to survey and manage the Amawalk.
Until 1972, I conducted biological surveys of the river, after which, I made adjustments to size and bag limits. It was during that first survey that I met Clem Fullerton. At that time, Clem and his wife Barbara lived in Bedford Hills, and routinely fished the Amawalk. We are friends to this day. Some of you will recall that Clem’s column “The Complete Tangler” appeared in these pages long before mine.
Despite the fact that the river is part of New York City’s vast water supply complex, all is not well with the Amawalk. The village of Yorktown discharges its sewage treatment waste water into Hallocks Mill Brook, a main tributary. Over the years, oil spills and residual chlorine have impacted and continue to impact the river. There have been fish kills associated with that discharge; insect populations have also certainly suffered. While working at the conservation department, I asked the water quality unit to resolve the sewage discharge issue. That never happened. So, even to this day, this beautiful little river suffers from the abuses of man.
After a long winter, all fly fishers begin to think about the coming trout season. I know I do. It is at this time I recall my early years on the Amawalk: those first two trout at the waterfall; an 18-inch brown that came to my Quill Gordon one afternoon; my friends Clem and Barb; the privilege I had to manage the river. All are fond memories, memories of a river that helped shape a young man’s life.