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Memorial Day, memorable fishing


Judy Van Put
Posted 6/4/24

Trout fishing continues to be productive; area trout streams have just dropped below the average flow as of Sunday afternoon. The Beaverkill at Cooks Falls registered 322 cubic feet per second, which …

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Memorial Day, memorable fishing



Trout fishing continues to be productive; area trout streams have just dropped below the average flow as of Sunday afternoon. The Beaverkill at Cooks Falls registered 322 cubic feet per second, which is below the median average of 373 cfs over 110 years of record-keeping. Thankfully the weather forecast for this week calls for rain from the middle of the week into the weekend with temperatures in the 60s and 70s, which will help to keep rivers and streams at a favorable level and temperature for the trout.

Hatches continue to be Grey Foxes, Isonychias and small Blue-Winged Olives as well as various caddis flies, but now is the time of year we’ve all been anticipating - the arrival of the Green Drakes. These are the largest of the mayflies to hatch, sizes #8 - #10, and the resulting spinners that fall in the evenings are referred to as Coffin Flies, which are also very large and are much beloved by fly-fishers. Word travels quickly when Green Drakes are hatching!

In fact, years ago, Green Drakes were looked forward to so much that regular Beaverkill fishermen would ask Catskill fly-tiers, such as Harry and Elsie Darbee and Walt and Winnie Dette, to let them know when the green drake hatch was on; the Darbees and Dettes would contact some of their customers by telephone or telegraph to inform them, many of whom would “close shop” and take a few days off just to travel up to the Beaverkill to fish this hatch!

Last week I heard from a fellow fly-fishing friend, John, that Green Drakes were hatching on the upper Beaverkill, and asked him for a fishing report and a photo. I wasn’t expecting the response he sent, but asked permission to share it with the readers of this column so that they may enjoy it as much as I did. Here’s what he had to say:

“Memorial Day means many things to many people. In our family we attempt to acknowledge the debt and demonstrate our gratitude for those who served our country and made the ultimate sacrifice. We also try to attend the first church service of the year at the little white church along the Beaverkill. For those who haven’t had the chance, it is a must. The Beaverkill Community church provides non-denominational services each Sunday at 10, from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

“This year our annual pilgrimage to ‘gather by the river’ coincided with the appearance of the almost ‘mythical beast’ of a mayfly known as the Green Drake.

“I popped my head into a local fly shop and heard someone drop the name to wide eyed Memorial Day visitors. I wouldn’t need to purchase flies of this sort. There were plenty at home from years when my date simply didn’t show. Instead I grabbed a mix of #12 March Browns and #14 Grey Fox patterns.

When I arrived on the upper Beaverkill, green drakes, the color of new tennis balls, were taking flight here and there. Apparently doing so without alerting the trout who regularly haunt this stretch of the river. This was new to me. The few times I have had the pleasure of actually watching them hatch, the trout had quickly keyed into the situation. This time it was the red wing blackbirds that came to feast on the T-bone sized mayflies.

“I checked again later in the afternoon, maybe four-ish, and noticed trout beginning to rise sporadically across our ‘Home Pool.’ I set out with an array of flies on a new pack I had received as a present the previous year. Without consistent risers to target, I blind casted two different drake patterns across the pool unsuccessfully. I then chose to ‘watch from a distance,’ tied on a March Brown and hiked to the riff up above. I was happy to find that both rainbows and browns were receptive to a well placed cast.

“That being said, my mother was in town and we had not eaten much, so we ran into Roscoe for a burger, hoping that things would pick up at dusk. While driving I told her the life story of a drake...the nymph, the green and the coffin fly. We returned to the river just before sunset only to find hundreds, if not thousands, of the spent wing variety falling to the water and each being devoured by a hungry fish. I scrambled to tie on an imitation, pinched the barb twice and hooked fish for the next half hour or until it was simply too dark to do so effectively.

“The following day my mom sang in the choir. It was a lovely service, but I must admit that on a couple of occasions my eyes drifted out the window, across the flag-filled yard and to the sky above… thinking about the events of the previous day, and of the generations of Americans who protected not only our shores but this very special place..”

Thank you, John, for sharing this with us.


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