Honoring Legends of Catskill Fly-Fishing

LIVINGSTON MANOR, NY – It all started in Elise Darbee’s kitchen.

On Saturday, April 7, the Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum (CFFCM) held its fifth annual Catskills Legends ceremony and recognition dinner at The Arnold House.

According to the evening’s program, the honorary event recognizes “The fly fishing pioneers who discovered and appreciated the richness of the rivers and streams of the Catskills. They are the champions of our waters, and protected every inch that flowed. They are fishermen, authors and historians who shared the romance of the Catskill experience, and they are those who have kept the Catskills alive for future generations to enjoy."

Back in the 1970s, the kitchen of Harry and Elise Darbee was the birthplace ofwhat would eventually become the CFFCM, an internationally know museum for the display of fly-fishing artifacts and memorabilia, in addition to wide-ranging cultural and educational presentations.

In 1984, former President Jimmy Carter added his office to the cause with a visit to the Manor, a grassroots (can we really say a presidential visit is homespun) effort to jumpstart a capital fundraising drive.

But in Carter’s case, I think we can, as he is an avid fisherman.

Elise was elected as the organization’s first president, and in those days it was called the Catskill Museum of Fly Fishing, later changing its moniker to the Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum.

The Darbees are recognized around the globe for their contributions to fly fishing and fly tying, development of dry-fly dun hackles, and “their devotion to the fish, flies, and the waters of the area… the Catskill tradition lives on today."

Today, the CFFCM, “dedicated to preserving fly fishing heritage,” is located on the site of a 35-acre farm along the banks of the famed Willowemoc Creek, and is home to the Wulff Gallery (named in honor of fly-fishing legends Lee and Joan Wulff) and numerous prestigious collections dedicated to the art and craft of fly-fishing.

 

But it takes more than a museum to preserve the heritage of a sport. It takes passionate people.

 

This year, the CFFCM recognized the contributions of three people, luminaries in their own right to carry of the passion of the sport of fly-fishing and the art of fly tying: Kris Lee, Ed Ostapczuk and Jack Yelle.

 

In honor of the 2018 Catskill Legends, board of trustees president Kelly Buchta penned a few words about Lee and Ostapczuk, while board member Bill Van Gieson recalled Yelle.

  • Kris Lee. "Kris had a love of the outdoors and had a photogenic eye to share the natural world with others. She was the one behind the lens for many angling articles written by her husband. Together they traveled the world and Kris documented their angling adventures… The beauty of the Catskills and other areas that were well documented in the many feature photographs in Fly Fisherman and other magazines were taken by Kris… Aside from her passion in photography, Kris was involve in preserving the heritage of the angling world... her attention to detail and capturing many angling moments is what makes Kris Lee a Catskill Legend."
  • Ed Ostapczuk. “Esopus Ed, or Eddie O. has been fishing the fabled Catskill waters for over half a century. The time spent on these waters has helped Ed develop not only his angling and fly-tying skills, but has led him to have intuitive knowledge of the area that is resounding. His passion for angling and conservation are ingrained in his spirit and he can often be found writing and speaking on these topics…. A great angler who mixes the past with some contemporary methods, Ed is known to share his knowledge and thoughts… always concerned about the health of Catskill waters, he is an advocate for the river…. Ed is a Catskill Legend.”
  • Jack Yelle. “…was an amazing man and a gifted artist… he could find beauty anywhere and often said ‘there is never a wrong sky’… Fascinated by water, his early artwork focused on shore scenes, waterscapes and boats… An accomplished fly fisherman, it was here Jack discovered the steams, meadows, waterfalls, canoes, trees and barns that would dominate hisart for the rest of his life…. Jack’s subjects included most of the fabled pools of the Beaverkill and Willowemoc, as well as the beauty of the mountains around him… Jack Yelle was a shining example of what makes the people of the Catskills great. Most particularly, though, for his contributions to the preservation of the history, beauty and vibrancy of the Catskill spirit, we are honored to call Jack Yelle, a Catskill Legend.”

Previous Catskill Legends: 2014 (Phil Chase, Austin “Mac” Francis, Floyd Franke), 2015 (Francis Davis, A.E. Hendrickson and Sam Hendrickson, Frank Kuttner; (2016) Stan Cooper, Jr., Tom Satterthwaite, Ray Smith; (2017) Dave Brandt, Ralph Graves, Sue Post.

 

For more information or to join the CFFCM, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the heritage of fly-fishing, teaching the next generation of anglers and ensuring the future of fly-fishing, located at 1031 Old Route 17, Livingston Manor, NY, 12758, call 845-439-4810, email c/o office@cffcm.com, or visit https://www.cffcm.com.

 

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