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High water and Eagles

Judy Van Put
Posted 8/3/21

Most of the last week in July brought picture-perfect weather –– with blue skies, cool breezes, warm summer sun –– a perfect antidote to the heat, humidity, heavy rains and …

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High water and Eagles


Most of the last week in July brought picture-perfect weather –– with blue skies, cool breezes, warm summer sun –– a perfect antidote to the heat, humidity, heavy rains and thunderstorms we experienced for much of the beginning of the month.

Fly hatches for the beginning of August are similar to those that were hatching last week, and still include Light Cahills, Sulphurs, and Blue Winged Olives, along with Isonychias in the afternoons. August is typically the time of year we fish with terrestrials – so do include some ants, beetles, or grasshopper imitations in your flybox.

We decided to fish the main Delaware one day last week – as water temperatures ranged from the high 50s to the mid-60s, very favorable, and so we looked forward to an evening’s fishing on the big river. Our plans were changed unexpectedly and we needed to postpone; and although we had a commitment that next evening, we wound up traveling to the Delaware in the afternoon – despite knowing that fishing conditions would probably not be as good as in the evening. Once we arrived, we found the water to be pretty high for confident wading, it was quite windy, and no flies or rises were seen even after several minutes of observation. We decided to try a different river and save the Delaware for another day.

Many of the smaller streams and tributaries we passed along the way were not overly high; nor was the Beaverkill and Willowemoc (the Beaverkill at Cooks Falls was flowing at a very fishable level of 311 cubic feet per second, a bit above the (mean) average flow of 251 cfs over 108 years of record-keeping.)

As we headed to the Beaverkill, we noticed an out-of-state car parked on the side of the road and a woman standing on the stream bank, focusing intently on the trees lining the opposite side of the Beaverkill.

We looked and sure enough, there perched on a branch overlooking the river was a bald eagle – a thrill for out-of-towners, many of whom have never been fortunate to see a bald eagle in the wild, and also for us. And although we have spotted many of the majestic birds along our rivers and streams throughout the years, watching them display their haughty expression and regal presence never fails to provide an awe-inspiring experience.

Despite being declared the National Bird of the United States of America by our Founding Fathers, bald eagles faced such a serious decline during the first two-thirds of the 20th Century, primarily due to the effects of persistent pesticides, DDT, and shooting, that they were practically extinct; and appeared on the U.S. government’s list of Endangered Species for decades. However, following the banning of DDT in the 1970s, numbers have been steadily increasing, so much that the Bald Eagle was removed first from the Endangered Species list in 1995, then from the Threatened Species list on June 28, 2007.

Those who regularly fish the Beaverkill and Willowemoc and other area rivers and streams are often delighted by a bald eagle sighting; in fact, there is a well-established eagle’s nest on the lower Beaverkill, and favorite ‘viewing trees’ along the Willowemoc. And on a canoe trip down the East Branch of the Delaware River a few years back we saw more than a dozen of the magnificent birds, including some immature eagles, at times three and four soaring overhead together!

After we arrived home, I checked the NYC Department of Environmental Protection’s website to monitor the Catskill reservoir levels – as obviously they have been spilling and adding extra water to the Delaware River. For anyone who doubted that the month of July has been a very wet, rainy month, one only has to look at the amount of rainfall that’s been recorded on the NYC DEP reservoir site: The total storage of all Catskill reservoirs is currently at 98.4 percent capacity, up from their “normal” storage capacity of 90.15 percent.

During the month of July, a whopping 9.02 inches of precipitation was recorded on the 30th of July, more than twice the “Historical” flow in July of 4.16 inches. This year will no doubt be recorded as a “good water year” for the trout, and we should see some excellent trout growth by the end of the autumn months.


Judy Van Put is a long-time member of the NYS Outdoor Writers Association, and is the recipient of the New York State Council of Trout Unlimited’s Professional Communications Award.


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