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Judy Van Put
Posted 8/8/23

The first weekend in August brought perfect summer weather, cool mornings with warm sunny days, blue skies and just the right amount of cooling breezes, with rivers and streams still at   very …

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The first weekend in August brought perfect summer weather, cool mornings with warm sunny days, blue skies and just the right amount of cooling breezes, with rivers and streams still at  very fishable above-average flows; however, despite the weather and great fishing conditions, it seemed that most fly fishers were not out for trout on their favorite stretches of river or stream but rather headed over to the Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum, Livingston Manor, to celebrate their 40th Annual Summerfest celebration. 

What has been dubbed as “the Biggest Fly Fishing Weekend of the Summer…anywhere in the world of fly fishing” lived up to its name – as scores of anglers, fly fishers and trout enthusiasts made their way across the Willowemoc Creek over the arched iron bridge and were greeted by Executive Director Ali Abate and Office Manager Éilis Cahill to access the Catskill Fly Fishing Center’s Pavilion and lower field for two days chock-full of festivities. 

Due to Friday afternoon’s thunderstorms, many vendors waited until early Saturday morning to set up. This year there were a record number of vendors manning 43 stations – an Angler’s market supreme – offering rods, reels, flies, tackle, books, artwork, crafts and artisan goods and many one-of-a-kind offerings not to be found elsewhere. Anglers partook of the opportunity to buy, sell and swap fishing-related items and spend time chatting with friends old and new.

All weekend long, visitors enjoyed the Angling & Vendor Market, with fly-tying demonstrations by the Catskill Fly Tyers Guild, trying out rods and casting in the field. The Museum was open free of charge with tours available, as well as the CFFCM Gift Shop. Tasty foods were provided by the Livingston Manor Central School grill, along with Asian and Vegan offerings by the Health On Wheels Food Truck; with dessert provided by Happy Trails Ice Cream, beer from West Kill Brewing, and freshly squeezed lemonade made by the CFFCM’s youngest members.

There were plenty of activities for children: on Saturday morning CFFCM Programming and Events coordinator Todd Spire provided an exciting opportunity for children to go streamside, along the shore of the Willowemoc, and turn over rocks, looking for aquatic insects and bottom-living creatures to collect, and explaining how they are an important food supply for the fish that live in the stream. 

Later that afternoon the children were able to learn how to tie flies, as well as how to cast a flyrod. An entertaining casting game was set up in the field and was manned by Lindsay Agness through the Mid-Hudson Chapter of Trout Unlimited, and children were delighted to have a casting lesson and catch one of the many colorful ‘trout’ positioned on the grass.

On Saturday, the much-anticipated Hardy Cup competition was held, a bamboo rod casting contest that each year attracts fly casters from near and far, with this year’s winner traveling all the way from Japan. 

The free event was open to all and consisted of competitive casts for accuracy as well as distance. Participants could take as many practice casts as they wanted, and once they were ready, four casts were made: one toward each of the two targets, and two for distance. 

The Hardy Cup is a beautiful silver cup that was presented to Masaki Takemoto.  In addition, prizes awarded to the top three lucky winners included a beautiful Hardy rod and reel outfit of the winner’s choice, for the second prize winner a Hardy Reel and for the third prize winner a Hardy Rod.

On Saturday afternoon live music was provided by The Cameraman Band, and visitors stayed well after the projected close time of 5 pm.

Sunday brought more fishing enthusiasts and well-wishers to Summerfest. Jesse Vadala, of Trout Unlimited, and CFFCM’s Todd Spire hosted a “Conservation Talk” and video in the Wulff Gallery in the morning and mid-day, with a good number of participants who discussed various issues and topics related to preserving the environment, rivers and trout. 

A “bamboo brunch” followed in the early afternoon, topped off afterwards with a gala celebration of long-time CFFC Hostess Agnes Van Put’s 107th birthday, complete with a beautiful birthday cake. 

A wonderful time was had by all, with the prospect of good fishing later in the afternoon thanks to recent rains and cool evenings.

The Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum is dedicated to preserving the heritage of fly fishing, while enhancing the present experience and protecting its future.  

The center maintains a museum, gallery and workshops on its 53-acre property on the banks of Willowemoc Creek, the birthplace of American dry fly fishing. Located between Livingston Manor and Roscoe, facilities also include a gift shop, library, picnic area, nature trails and pond. 

For more information on museum hours and other programs, call 845-439-4810 or visit www.cffcm.com and/or www.facebook.com/cffcm.


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