Friday, January 9, 2009

Fly Fishing "Beginnings"

Because January, February, and parts of March are traditionally difficult months to fly fish, I have turned my attention to writing longer pieces about the sport. Periodically I will update the blog with segments from these essays. Here is Part I of a piece entitled "Beginnings." (Please forgive the unedited, rough quality of these drafts!)

"Beginnings" Part I

I drove my rusted 1992 Chevy Blazer, a vehicle I not-so-lovingly refer to as “the beast,” nearly three hours to the Upper Delaware River system on a ninety degree day in June of 2008. My body ignored the heat – the beast, of course, does not possess a stellar air conditioning unit – as my mind filled up with images of stunning waters, soaring bald eagles and rising West Branch wild browns. However, reality would not equal my daydreams: the water was overrun with nasty green algae that coated all my underwater flies, the eagles were flying elsewhere, and the typically fickle Delaware browns refused every dry fly I threw their way. My emotions that day included anger, exhaustion, anger, disappointment, and anger. Yet, as I drove home sunburnt and mud-encrusted, I realized that fishing failures, at least for me, often illuminate profound experiences usually masked by the glamor and excitement of a successful day on the water.

Despite the journey’s route through some of northern New Jersey’s post-industrial badlands, the ride from the center of the Garden State to the small New York town of Hancock is not entirely unpleasant. As the ride progresses, the bucolic farms of central Jersey – lined at that time of year with adolescent shin-high sweet corn – disappear into the depressing, yet eerily beautiful, industrial decay of cities like Newark and Elizabeth. Eventually, the broken windows of former textile factories and the stench of oil refineries gives way to the trees and cleaner air of New York’s Catskill region. The final leg of the trip winds through various mountains and passes through the Catskill locales of Middletown, Monticello, and Roscoe – three potential stops where a forgetful angler may purchase any necessary last minute equipment.

Once I exited onto New York Route 17, I rolled down my windows to let in the cool moving air. The scent of rural life filled the beast and easily supplanted the smell of musty waders and muddy boots. My mood and optimism rose as I crossed the well-known Neversink River, the underrated Willowemac Creek, the historically productive Beaverkill River, and the green waters of the Delaware’s East Branch. As any avid eastern fly fisherman could - and probably would – tell you, these Catskill streams are where American fly fishing was transformed from a localized pastime into the multi-million dollar industry we recognize today.

1 comment:

jlc said...

Just wanted you to know my husband is obsessed with your blog.