Schoolhouse Brook

Posted 3/23/23

Every year as winter begins to wane, and the snowdrops bloom, my thoughts turn to fishing and for some reason, seasons past.

In my formative years, when trout fishing became a weekly pastime, …

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Schoolhouse Brook


Every year as winter begins to wane, and the snowdrops bloom, my thoughts turn to fishing and for some reason, seasons past.

In my formative years, when trout fishing became a weekly pastime, our seasons began by plying the nearby small streams for brook trout. At the time, there were about half-a-dozen tributaries to the New York City reservoirs in Westchester and Putnam counties. We fished those waterways in April, and they held decent populations of that species. Keep in mind that I’m referring to little streams within 30 miles of New York City.

While all of these tributaries supported good, seasonal fisheries, Schoolhouse Brook was our favorite, because it was the best. Schoolhouse flowed along a county road before turning inland and flowing into Croton Falls Reservoir. The reservoir itself had a very good brown trout fishery at the time.

How Schoolhouse Brook got its name remains a mystery. I followed the brook on a county map to see if there was a school in the area, and found no reference. Nevertheless, that was what we called the brook.

My friend’s father would drop us off well upstream of Croton Falls Reservoir, where Schoolhouse flowed alongside the road. He would then drive back to the reservoir, where he would cast live shiners for the brown trout that lived there. He used two Pflueger Supreme bait-casting real and glass rods for fishing in this manner. He would fish in the lake until we made our way back downstream to meet him before heading home. It took us several hours to fish the length of Schoolhouse Brook.

There was a good cover of large deciduous trees along the road, adjacent to Schoolhouse Brook, so the water temperature remained cool even during the summer. While there was decent fishing in the road section, the best trout were found in the reach that flowed into the forest. We would fish that section, by leapfrogging one another, which meant that while one fished a pool, the other would walk around to the next pool.

In those days, we used garden worms for bait. So we each had a bait can with a lid; it attached to our belt. We also had a creel to carry any trout that we caught. We used either short fly rods or ultra-light spinning rods to fish with.

Stealth was important, so we always fished by dead drifting our worms downstream into the next pool. That way, we did not scare the trout by getting too close to where they waited for food in the deeper pools.

As we did with all rivers and streams, we had our favorite pools. I hoped I would be the first to reach mine. That did not always happen, because of the way we leapfrogged one another.

My favorite pool was a short section of stream that ran between two short walls. At one time, the walls could have been the support base for a little bridge. This section of stream was well covered with a canopy of large trees, so it was well sheltered from the sun. My pool was narrow, but fairly deep. And because of its location, depth and proximity to the reservoir, it always contained a decent trout.

I don’t know how many trout I caught from that pool, but there were quite a few. The pool not only held brook trout, but browns that would migrate upstream from the reservoir to live and feed there, too.

I always fished this pool slightly upstream, allowing my bait to drift along the bottom into the deepest section. Invariably the line would stop, I’d lift the rod tip, and feel the “tap-tap” of a trout mouthing my worm. After a few seconds, the hook was set and a nice trout landed. Compared to the trout I fish for these days, Schoolhouse fish were small. But they were plump, wild and excellent eating.

One day while fishing the road section, I drifted a size 12 Royal Coachman wet fly into a likely pool with an overhanging branch, and hooked a 10-inch wild brown. It was my first trout on a fly. So Schoolhouse Brook has always held a special place in my heart of favorite fishing places.

I don’t recall the last time I fished this little jewel of a brook, other than that it was a very long time ago. So one day a few years ago, I took a ride, just to check the road section. I didn’t plan to fish. Sadly I was greeted with a wide-open stream channel close to the road, where all the large shade trees had been removed.

Sitting there, looking out the car window, I pondered whether the folks that approved this carnage had any knowledge that this section of Schoolhouse Brook once held an excellent wild fishery for brook trout. Based on what I saw, I’m guessing that it no longer did. Just one more example, of the careless and insensitive hand of man, when it comes to some of our highly sensitive fishery resources.

As I write these words, I wonder if it might have been better not to go back and look for what we knew as young men, only to find that image shattered forever.

fishing, Schoolhouse Brook, trout


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