Ramblings of a Catskill Fly Fisher

A favorite pool

Posted 7/25/23

If you fish a river long enough you’ll learn some of her secrets—but not all. And if you’re like me, sooner or later you’ll find a favorite pool.

Many years ago, my good …

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Ramblings of a Catskill Fly Fisher

A favorite pool


If you fish a river long enough you’ll learn some of her secrets—but not all. And if you’re like me, sooner or later you’ll find a favorite pool.

Many years ago, my good friend David Brandt took me to a pool on a well-known Catskill river that exhibited all the attributes of a fine place to fish.

The river splits here, with one shallow channel flowing along the left bank; the other a rifle with a deep run following the right bank.

The water on the right bank is deep and flows under an overhanging tree: the perfect holding and feeding area for big trout to lurk.

More importantly, once the flow slows, the river spreads out into a very long, deep pool—a sanctuary for trout to rest between feeding sprees.

This particular spot was not easy to access. It involved a climb down a very steep bank, then we crossed the river to the area we intended to fish.

The first time we fished this pool, we found several trout rising midstream. Since there were no mayflies or caddis flies on the water, we had not a clue what these trout were feeding on.

I eventually caught one, a nice rainbow, more by accident than skill—and found it full of Japanese beetles.

So that night at home, I tied up half a dozen or so, just in case. Since that time, I never found Japanese beetles on a river again.

Because access was so difficult, I located the landowner who owned the property on the opposite side of the river, and asked if I could park and fish from that side. He agreed, with the caveat that I contact his maintenance man to let him know when I intended to fish there.

While access was easier from this side, it was still not that easy. It involved a trek along a side channel, then a slog through very heavy vegetation before I reached the river.

At this point, it was necessary to cross a shallow area to reach the best fishing spot. Fortunately, there was no steep hill to descend or ascend at the end of the day, most likely in the dark.

Once I started to fish this piece of water on an annual basis, I quickly learned where the big fish fed. Regardless of the day, I always found two or three trout rising under the overhanging tree on the right side of the river.

It appeared that fish moved up to this area from the lower pool, hugged the bank and fed regularly on whatever was on the water.

This part of the pool provides cover, along with a steady supply of food, due to the way the current meanders along the bank. It also holds a number of large trout that, although feeding steadily, are difficult to catch. That is especially true once the Hendrickson hatch is over.

Several years ago, I took my friend Roger to this pool, where we accessed the river from the landowner’s side. The Hendrickson hatch had begun and we caught a good emergence of duns at about 2 p.m. I put Roger at the head of the pool, while I waded into position, within casting range of the overhanging tree. There was a continuous supply of hatching flies, with a good number of trout feeding at the surface.

I don’t think we had been fishing more than 20 minutes when Roger shouted, “I’ve got a good one.” I looked upstream, to see Roger’s Orvis Battenkill fly rod with a stout bend, line peeling from his Hardy fly reel. I stopped my own fishing to watch the fray, before wading toward the action, getting ready to net the fish when the time came. I could tell from the bend in the rod and the amount of line out that Roger was into a very fine trout.

After about 15 minutes, the fish floundered at the surface. I saw it was a huge brown, well in excess of 20 inches!

Roger finally got the trout’s head up, then I slid the net under this very large trout.

Roger was grinning from ear to ear, and immediately said: “This one’s going home!”

A few minutes later, we put a tape on the fish and it measured 23 inches. It was the largest trout either of us ever saw taken from a Catskill river.

A week later, the two of us returned to the same pool. This time it was my turn. There were still a few Hendricksons around, with a few trout “sticking their noses out,” as Roger would say. I waded into position across from the tree, watched the water, saw a rise next to the bank, and began to cast. On the third float, I rose a very large brown, which took almost all my fly line, on the first run. It jumped and took at least 15 minutes to land.

When the fish tired, Roger slid the fish into the net, while I watched, amazed at its size. That trout measured 24 inches—the largest brown trout by far that I ever had the privilege to land.

Despite the potential to hook very large trout in this pool, I seldom fish it more than once or twice a year. It is a very special place, difficult to access, and very easy to overfish. 

Catskills, fly-fishing


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