I don’t know exactly when I met Bert Darrow, other than to say it had to be sometime in the very late 1960s or very early ‘70s.
I don’t know exactly when I met Bert Darrow, other than to say it had to be sometime in the very late 1960s or very early ‘70s. At that time I was a fisheries biologist, working out of the DEC’s regional office in New Paltz. Our first contact probably came as the result of a telephone call. I believe at the time Bert was the president of the Catskill Mountains Chapter of Trout Unlimited (CMCTU), and I’m guessing that he called to discuss a fisheries management issue, or the erratic flows/low water releases associated with the Esopus Creek and upper Delaware River system.
Over the years, I attended several CMCTU meetings, where I provided updates about the regional fisheries unit’s programs that were of interest to the chapter. At the time, the chapter was concerned with DEC’s work on the Esopus Creek and the progress being made with the water-release issues associated with all the New York City DEP and Catskill reservoirs.
As time passed, the CMCTU, under Bert’s leadership, became deeply involved with the water-release issues, and became a party of interest to the proceedings. Bert provided guidance to the chapter during the five years period it took for the water-releases legislation to be passed and regulations promulgated and implemented.
A few years later and as a result of Bert’s input, the CMCTU played a key role in the decision by the Federal Regulatory Commission to deny a license to the Power Authority of the State of New York (PASNY) to build a pump-storage, electric-generating facility on the Schoharie Reservoir. Construction and operation of that facility would have led to constant turbidity in the reservoir and the Esopus Creek, which receives water from the reservoir via the Shandaken Tunnel.
In the early 2000s, Bert began the effort that led to the successful prosecution of the New York City DEP in federal court for exceeding the turbidity standards in the Esopus Creek, as set forth in the Clean Water Act. The DEP paid a $5 million fine as a result of the outcome of that proceeding.
Several years later, Bert became president of the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum. Most recently he served as president of Theodore Gordon Fly Fishers.
Because of his work with the various organizations, Bert established a stellar record as a leader on fisheries-related environmental issues in the Catskill region. In addition, Bert was a very well-renowned fly fishing instructor and guide. Beginning many years ago, he coordinated the fly fishing schools and casting instruction run by the CMCTU. Casting instruction was held in the field house at Ulster Community College.
In the early 1990s, Bert established a fly fishing school that he called Fly Fishing With Bert. During the many years that he ran that school, he provided all aspects of fly fishing instruction to clients from all walks of life and all parts of the country. He also guided interested anglers on the Esopus Creek, Beaver Kill and Farmington Rivers.
When it came to fly fishing, Bert had few peers. He was particularly good at catching trout from the Esopus Creek, during the Isonychia mayfly hatch. He used a large, dun-colored dry fly (dun variant) that he fished across and downstream, which caused drag, resulting in vicious strikes. That method worked so well that he caught hundreds of rainbow trout fishing his flies in that manner.
During the late summer of 2001, Bert invited me on a fishing trip to West Yellowstone, MT. Since I hadn’t been back to the Big Sky for over 30 years, I gladly and eagerly accepted. We planned to fish the Madison, Yellowstone, and Henry’s Fork rivers. On Tuesday September 11, at 8:15 in the morning; that tragic and fateful day, Bert and I boarded a Northwest Airlines flight at Westchester County Airport in White Plains. We were bound for Minneapolis, would change planes there, and then fly on to Bozeman. About a half-hour out of the Twin Cities, the captain came on the intercom to advise that our flight was being directed to Traverse City, MI. Minneapolis Airport had been closed to all air traffic.
Once our flight landed, we learned of the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers, and Pentagon. Northwest was kind enough to put us up in a condo and hotel for two nights, before we found a rental car and drove on to Bozeman and West Yellowstone.
After that rather sad and dramatic series of events, we spent our shortened trip fishing the Madison, Henry’s Fork and Yellowstone Rivers, where we had some decent fishing.
I returned to West Yellowstone again the following year with Bert and another friend, this time without all the trauma associated with 2001. That was my last trip to Montana.
Then on April 11, I received a note from a friend indicating that Bert had passed away. Sadly, on that day, another well known Catskill fly fisherman, environmentalist and instructor left us way too soon. Bert was a long-time friend, fellow instructor and a very kind and generous person. He will be missed by all those that knew him and whom he guided and mentored over the years.
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