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Artist who fished the Catskills

Judy Van Put
Posted 9/28/21

Recently the Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum sponsored its 4th Annual Emerging Anglers Dinner to a sold-out crowd, honoring Jill Joyce for her years of “dedication and endless …

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Artist who fished the Catskills


Recently the Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum sponsored its 4th Annual Emerging Anglers Dinner to a sold-out crowd, honoring Jill Joyce for her years of “dedication and endless energy,” and being the driving force behind many of the Center’s improvements and offerings, including this event, which celebrates and encourages new fly-fishers to learn about the rich history, culture and natural environment of the Catskills. The evening’s presentation was The Hudson River School of Landscape Painters and Other Artists Who Fished the Catskills.

As far back as the early 1800s, the Catskill mountains attracted not only the country’s earliest notable trout fishermen, but also many of America’s earliest artists of renown. The splendor and magnificence of the Catskill waterfalls and mountain scenery inspired many to come not only to paint, but to try their hand at catching the feisty and colorful trout that inhabited the area’s rivers and streams.

This group of serious artists utilized the methods and techniques of Thomas Cole, the nation’s first acclaimed landscape painter, and were referred to as the Hudson River School - also because many painted the Hudson, and resided or kept art studios all along the river from Catskill to Rondout to Newburgh – but they could very well have been called the Catskill School of Landscape Painters.

Thomas Doughty (1793 – 1856) was one of the first artists to specialize in painting landscapes. He came to reside in New York City and Newburgh, and was an avid fisherman. Many of his famous works are fishing scenes, some featuring fishermen, others referring to fishing in their titles.

Doughty came to the Catskills to fish and sketch in the 1830s and 1840s, not only around the area of Katterskill Clove and the western Catskills, but further on into the wilderness of the upper Delaware watershed in Sullivan and Delaware counties, including the Beaverkill. His well-known painting “The Anglers” (1834) is a scene along a stream in the western Catskills, most likely in Sullivan County, where he was known as a pioneer trout fisherman.

Sanford Robinson Gifford (1823 – 1880) grew up in Hudson, NY, within sight of the Catskill Mountains. After moving to New York City to study art, he made his first trip to the Catskills at the age of 23 and was fascinated by the beauty of the Kaaterskill Clove, where he returned each year to sketch and paint. He recorded his fishing experiences on the waters of the Esopus and Schoharie Creeks, the Lower Neversink, and the East and West Branches of the Delaware, where he sketched their confluence at Hancock in 1849. And in the fall of 1851, he traveled to Sullivan County, where he sketched the famous junction of the Beaverkill and Willowemoc Creek at what is known today as Junction Pool in Roscoe. Gifford was an avid fisherman, and enjoyed fishing for trout in the Beaverkill, Willowemoc, Neversink and all the other Catskills streams known for their trout fishing.

But one of the earliest fishing artists who helped popularize trout fishing in Sullivan County was Henry Inman (1801-1846.) Born in Utica but raised in New York City, Inman studied and apprenticed with the well-known portrait painter, John Wesley Jarvis, as a young teenager. He opened his own studio on Vesey Street at the age of 22, where he painted portraits of many eminent patrons. Equally known for his exceptional abilities with a fly rod, the popular Inman made regular trips to the wilds of Sullivan County, discovering the fine fishing offered by the Beaverkill, Willowemoc and Callicoon Creeks. He wrote of his fishing experiences and his love of the natural beauty of the unspoiled rivers, lakes and streams of the Catskills; enjoying nature and the pristine environment as much as catching fish. One of his close friends kept a fishing diary of their experiences, recording scores of fish they caught while camping in the Catskills and fishing in Misner’s Pond (today known as Tennanah Lake.)

Inman would often stay at the Darbee House while fishing the Beaverkill and became well-known to area residents after catching an extraordinarily large brook trout and drawing its outline on the side of the building. He began painting landscapes of Catskill scenes, one of the first was Trout Fishing in Sullivan County, New York, which is almost certainly the famous junction of the Beaverkill and Willowemoc Creek, just a short walk from the Darbee House Inman had frequented when fishing Sullivan County streams. Interestingly, the celebrated painting disappeared after having been on exhibit in the 1840s at annual art exhibitions in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. It resurfaced in 1983, more than 100 years later, when it was purchased by the Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute Museum of Art, located in Utica, New York, the birthplace of the renowned painter, where it remains today.

It adds an interesting note to our fishing experiences when we realize how many of these illustrious artists came to this area of the Catskills to capture on canvas the exceptional beauty they discovered, and to fish and wade and cast their flies in the same pools, riffles and runs that we do today.


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