It was a whirlwind week, beginning with Summerfest at the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum last Saturday, August 21, where we had a table at the Vendors’ Market and enjoyed seeing many …
It was a whirlwind week, beginning with Summerfest at the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum last Saturday, August 21, where we had a table at the Vendors’ Market and enjoyed seeing many friends, old and new. Despite the threat of rain and thunderstorms, spirits were high and all went well - with free museum entry, tours of the Bamboo Rod Shop, a guest fly tier, a casting clinic, a birthday celebration for 105-years-young Agnes Van Put, and the Ted Rogowski Exhibit and Reception at the Wulff Gallery.
On Sunday noon we embarked on our pre-arranged mini vacation to Manchester, Vermont, where we had planned to fish the Battenkill and visit the American Museum of Fly Fishing. By the time we passed Kingston on the Thruway, the overcast skies had opened up and poured so hard it caused highway travelers to use their flashers; the heavy rains that pelted our car made visibility difficult and resulted in white-knuckle driving until we reached the Vermont state border and Route 279. We had made our hotel reservations a little over a month ago, unaware of any hurricane, but had crossed paths with the tail of the storm, which had passed by the time we reached our destination, leaving some residual light showers.
The farms and pastoral views along scenic Route 7a were lovely, as we wound our way through Arlington into Manchester - a picturesque Vermont town, with eye-catching steeples, historic buildings (including Ye Olde Tavern, dating back to 1790, where we savored a delicious meal) lush green grass lining four miles of white marble sidewalks, some of which had first been laid in the 1840s, from the nearby quarry in Dorset.
On Monday we set out with our fishing equipment and drove along the Battenkill, an almost 60-mile long river whose source is in East Dorset, Vermont, and flows through both Vermont and New York State where it enters the Hudson River at Easton, New York. We had fished the Battenkill some 30-odd years ago and had looked forward to returning.
We drove at a leisurely pace, stopping here and there to get out and view the river; unfortunately, the water was high and murky, due to the heavy rains that had fallen from the remnants of the hurricane. We were somewhat surprised to find that in the Vermont section of the Battenkill, public access was rare. The brown and brook trout that inhabit this section of the river are all wild; as the state of Vermont has not stocked the river since the 1970s.
Continuing downstream we drove back into New York and found plenty of public fishing access sites, some with informational kiosks. We enjoyed driving through the places that had been so familiar years ago – such as the area around Shushan; Buffam’s Bridge and the site of the former Ralph DeMille’s fly shop (where Ralph would invite you out to the back porch for a cold beer) and the aptly-named Eagleville Covered Bridge – one of four covered bridges still in existence along the Battenkill. We parked near that bridge and headed toward the river, when Ed looked up and saw an eagle land in a nearby tree. As we reached the water’s edge we heard our dog bark from her kennel in the car and saw two fly fishermen who were already suited up in their waders, making their way down the bank towards us, when one exclaimed “What are you doing up here?” It was Ted Patlen, guest fly-tier for many years at the CFFC&M, and Adriano Manocchia, fine art artist of beautiful waterscapes and fishing scenes – both of whom we know from fishing the Catskill rivers – definitely adding a bright spot to our day.
As in Vermont, the lower Battenkill in New York contains wild brown and brook trout; however, the State of New York stocks brown trout, both small (yearling) and large (two-year-olds.) The area we fished had a predominantly gravel and small rock bottom; though especially up in Vermont some areas contain bedrock with some muddy areas, but relatively speaking the Battenkill is a fairly easy river to wade. It is known for its finicky but feisty large brown trout and abundant brookies. Any of your favorite Catskill trout flies, whether dries, wets, nymphs or streamers, depending on conditions, should work - as long as they are presented well.
We ended our journey the next day back in Manchester at the American Museum of Fly-Fishing, a picturesque building with “a repository for and conservator of the world’s largest collection of angling and angling-related items, numbering in the thousands” which was founded in 1968. Their collections and exhibits document the history of fly-fishing and its evolution in the United States and abroad, dating back to the sixteenth century. In addition to their permanent collection, other exhibits travel to museums across the country. They are currently working on a new exhibit featuring Lee and Joan Wulff. The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
We would recommend a visit to Manchester – we enjoyed our trip and will definitely return!
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.