What a difference a week makes! From last Sunday's Beaverkill levels slightly below average to high water all week ending in Friday's peak of more than 7000 cubic feet per second - there is high …
What a difference a week makes! From last Sunday's Beaverkill levels slightly below average to high water all week ending in Friday's peak of more than 7000 cubic feet per second - there is high water to be sure. But then the sun came out and delighted us with the best weekend of the year!
We went out to fish a few times last week only to find cars and trout fishers (many out-of-staters) occupying all the places we had hoped to find respite. It was surprising to see so many - despite the signs posted by the DEC along the Beaverkill and Willowemoc on Social Distancing that warned “Fish Local - Stay close to home. Keep your fishing trip short. Avoid high-traffic destinations” and more.
As our fishing-in-solitude excursion was thwarted, we found ourselves driving along the river looking for a place to turn around, and wound up on the small, rough road above the Beaverkill leading up to the Riverview Cemetery. Riverview had been aptly named, as it overlooks (or at least overlooked, in the early years, before the Route 17 highway was constructed) the Beaverkill, at the junction.
Today the neatly planted trees lining the steep and winding access road are overgrown, making views of the river difficult. The cemetery is graced by tall pines and evergreens providing shade over the headstones, some ancient, marking the resting place of the earliest settlers to the region. Ed remarked that many years ago he had once looked for and found the grave of Pop Robbins, and I suggested that we do the same.
Richard D. Robbins, or “Pop” as he was fondly referred to in his elder years, was a much-beloved Beaverkill angler of old. Born during the Civil War, in 1863, Richard Robbins was said to have left New York City's Wall Street and the banker's world for the wilds of the Beaverkill, so that he could fish his beloved river for the rest of his days.
Old-timers remember when he would patiently wait for someone to come along and tie on a fly for him, as he suffered crippling arthritis that made even a simple task nearly impossible. According to the late Catskill Fly Tier, Harry Darbee, Pop's last wishes were to be buried in the steep little cemetery that overlooked Junction Pool “so I can look up the Willowemoc, down the big Beaverkill and across to the Little River (the upper Beaverkill).”
He passed in 1937 and, for many years, his grave was relatively unmarked. Then, in 1956, almost two decades later, a group of Beaverkill devotees who had been meeting each year at the Antrim Lodge during the 1950s, decided to place a wreath on Robbins's grave.
This group, who had worked tirelessly to prevent the Beaverkill and Willowemoc from being dammed and becoming part of New York City's Catskill reservoirs water supply, started an annual Angler's Reunion that was held each year in mid-winter at the Antrim Lodge in Roscoe.
Led by Ray Church and John Trainor of New York, and Frank Foster of Wyoming, PA, the group (which included those from as far away as North and South Carolina, Colorado and Texas) had grown to number more than 80 (including a dozen wives) by 1956. At the reunion that cold January day, it was decided to place a wreath on the grave of Richard Robbins. Frank Foster led the group of friends in An Angler's Prayer, and upon laying the wreath on the grave, they decided to start a fund to purchase a gravestone for their beloved friend, Richard “Pop” Robbins.
We found the stone on the slope not far from a towering evergreen, and looking through and beyond the trees, could see the Junction of the Willowemoc and Beaverkill, just as Robbins had desired.
The stone is engraved simply :
Dick Pop Robbins
1863 - 1937
with a handsome carving of a trout leaping toward a mayfly overhead.
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.