It ain’t hillbilly hand fishin’: A day at the fly-fishing museum

LIVINGSTON MANOR, NY — Don’t talk about hillbilly hand fishin’ to a real honest-to-goodness, died-in-the-wool and feather, match-the-catch-to-the-hatch fly fisherman.

Mike Canazon (left) of Livingston Manor, a well-known fly fisherman and local guide, began his life-long love affair with the sport as a youngster, fishing in ponds and streams with his brother, using the time-honored country boy way of catching fish called noddling.

“It’s like when you’ll creep up along the edge of a creek, and spot a trout feeding,” he explained at the Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum’s (CFFCM’s) Arts for the Angler event Saturday, November 10. “You get a pebble—you don’t want to get a big one because they cause too many ripples… you toss in a tiny one, and watch… the fish will scoot away, generally under a rock or tree root, and then you pull them right out with your hands.”

Canazon likes to keep that a well kept secret, at least until now, as after a few decades in the game of luring trout and other species to a hand-tied fly, he is in the position to talk about what lures anglers to the tradition of fly fishing in the pristine, sparkling waters of the Catskills.

“There’s something about standing in the river, just being part of the world around you... You’re one small piece of that,” he said. “Catching fish put me in the water, but now the water’s in me.”

For roughly the last 18 years, Canazon has guided other fisherpersons in their quest to explore the local waters in search of wily denizens of our local waterways. He has a reserved respect for artists of the craft—those who tie flies.

Dave Brandt, along with noted fly tyers of reknown Mike Rowanowski, Shawn Britton and the ‘cowboy tyer’ Bill Newcomb, were also at the museum Saturday to demonstrate their art in the Wulff Gallery, adjacent to the museum.

To enter the state-of-the-art museum is like a journey back in time. Through its doors, you return to the beginning of fly-fishing in the region and beyond, as you enter an homage to the culture and time-honored craft of fly-fishing. The Art of the Angler event was an opportunity to witness some incredible works of art rendered in colored materials and fashioned in intricate styles to lure fish to the hook, and to marvel at fastidiously machined reels and displays of the art of bamboo rod making at its finest. Add a lot of camaraderie within the closely-knit fly fishing community—most of the flyfishers are fervent disciples of catch-and-release—and it was an event to remember.

Joan Wulff, known as the First Lady of Fly Fishing, was on hand, along with her husband Theodore “Ted” Rogowski.

Rogowski, a long-time advocate for clean water, helped draft the Clean Water Act of 1972 while at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is a co-founder of the Theodore Gordon Flyfishers.

As a noted environmental attorney, cinematographer fly tyer and avid flyfisherman, in 2017 he was inducted into the CFFCM’s prestigious Fly Fishing Hall of Fame.

Taking a moment from perusing a classic book on the sport, Rogowski reflected on what fly fishing has meant to him for 80-some years.

“It’s being out with nature and clean water… the birds, bees and flowers,” he said.

Afterward, while sitting in the museum watching several of the heavy hitters in the world of fly tying demonstrate their art to visitors, Canazon expounded on the craft of fashioning dry flies from a wide variety of materials.

“The way they take the materials, work it with their hands before they put it on a hook is amazing to see, all the while telling a story,” he said.

Taking a clandestine sip of Newcastle Brown Ale, he added of Brandt, president of the Catskill Fly Tyers Guild, “Dave is one of our local historians, an outstanding fly tyer, one of the main keepers of the Catskill style of fly tying… his connections go back to Lee Wulff.”

And of Brandt’s “passion to find” the reddish-brown ale originally brewed in Newcastle upon Tyne and introduced in 1927, Canazon said, “I don’t ever drink beer, but when he’s around, I have to, it’s required.”

Hillbilly hand fishin’ it wasn’t, but it certainly was a memorable event at the Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum along the banks of the famed Willowemoc. 

Read more about the Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum here.



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