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Water, water everywhere!

Judy Van Put
Posted 7/13/21

What a difference a week makes! At last writing, the end of June, our rivers and streams were quite low and warm, and fishing was limited-to-non-existent in the free-flowing waters. Then July came …

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Water, water everywhere!


What a difference a week makes! At last writing, the end of June, our rivers and streams were quite low and warm, and fishing was limited-to-non-existent in the free-flowing waters. Then July came with rain, rain, rain and our waters are now back in good shape, with above average flows and cooler temperatures than we often see in mid-July.

Checking in with the USGS website on Monday morning, the Beaverkill at Cooks Falls was flowing at 1220 cubic feet per second, which is above the (median) average level for July 12 of 159 cfs over 106 years of record-keeping. Monday’s reading is quite a contrast to the minimum flows that were recorded in 1991, when just 48 cubic feet per second trickled past the gauge. The Beaverkill had crested last Friday at about 3,300 cfs but began to recede over the weekend. Now with several days of rain predicted, levels are rising again quickly. Water temperatures will remain cool; from a low of just 61degrees Fahrenheit last Tuesday to a high of 70 on Thursday, a good contrast from last week’s reporting when the Beaverkill at Cooks Falls had reached the mid-80s.

Recently I was asked a question with regard to the fact that “with the weather forecast predicting rain and showers every day for this coming week, how much rain in a given time frame is needed to cause real problems along the waterways?”

A wealth of information can be found on the United States Geological Survey website. You can find information for all the rivers and streams that are monitored in the State of New York by visiting http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ny/nwis/rt and viewing the map of New York State. There are colored spots that identify where the gauging stations are located throughout the state.

If you hover over a colored spot, it will identify the station on each river or stream. Click on the area/river you desire. For each station you visit, information is provided on water levels (gauge height), current stream flow, which is measured in cubic feet per second (cfs), and on some sites, water temperature, portrayed in a grid format.

Most stations also provide other interesting information, such as how many years that particular station has been operating, what the drainage area is, the latitude and longitude location, and what height (measured in feet) is classified as flood stage.

When streams register at or above flood stage, there will be a red line across the grid that indicates flood level. For example, the Beaverkill at Cooks Falls reaches flood stage when the water level is 10 feet in height. Chestnut Creek, in Grahamsville, where the question arose, has a flood stage height of 6 feet.

Records on the Chestnut Creek have been kept since 1938; on the Beaverkill at Cooks Falls records have been kept for 106 years. Although the Beaverkill’s 106 years of record-keeping seems like a long time especially in relation to our own lifetimes, in the realm of scientific data it’s just “the blink of an eye.” It’s interesting to monitor these records with some consistency over the years; I’ve learned a lot about our Catskill waters as I watch for trends and remember certain events - and if you begin to monitor your favorite streams, you will, as well.

Fly hatches for this middle-of-July period include tiny Blue-Winged Olives, as well as larger Light Cahills and the darker Isonychias in the afternoons. Small yellow Sulphurs may also be seen. However, if you are fishing when the water is high and turbid (old-timers often say that a rising river will produce fish) your best bet is to use a streamer, ideally one that is visible to the trout in the muddy water. Popular streamers include the Black Leech, Mickey Finn, and my favorite, a Black Ghost.

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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