Monthly Archives: March 2012

Addition Planned for Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum

Daily Gazette article
Thursday, March 22, 2012

There’s going to be so much going on in the Catskills April 1, the opening day of trout season, that it might be tough to get any fishing in — which is kind of ironic since, if the weather holds, conditions are likely to be excellent.Of course, trout season will continue for another 61⁄2 months, and there’s only one opening day, so it seems appropriate to mark it with some pomp and circumstance.

This year, the ceremonial first cast with celebrities and VIPs won’t be made at the Junction Pool where the Willowemoc Creek meets the Beaverkill River. It will be held upstream at 9:30 a.m. on the Willow, close to the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum, so that whoever shows up can just walk across the bridge and take in the groundbreaking ceremony for the center’s new 4,000-square-foot addition, scheduled to open in May 2013.

The first floor of the new building will host the The Catskill Rodmakers’ Workshop and Heritage Craft Center, said Jim Krul, exec­utive director of the museum. It will be a working bamboo fly rod shop, an homage to the legendary rodmakers of the Catskills and Hudson Valley in the first half of the 20th century.

In fact, it will house artifacts that are priceless to the many fans of bamboo rodmaking — such as the planning mill used by Pinky Gillum, a reclusive craftsman from Ridgefield, Conn., who made 2,000 exquisite rods between 1923 and 1966, and the workbench used by Hiram Leonard, the “father of the modern split-bamboo fly rod.” Much of the center’s collection of bamboo rods made the by the masters will eventually be displayed near the shop.

Best of all, these specialized tools won’t just be sitting there. The public will be able to observe rodmakers using them.

“There was always a dream that we would have a living museum like Old Sturbridge Village or Col­onial Williamsburgh, that there would be some crafting going on,” Krul said. The project has the active support of the Catskill Rodmakers Gathering and the Southern Rod gathering, clubs for bamboo rod enthusiasts, several of whom have promised to donate rods to sell to raise funds.

The workshop is also expected to serve as an anchor for weekend exhibitions of various other crafts, such as reel making, writing, painting and carving, Krul said.

The second floor of the new structure will house the Wulff Gallery, dedicated to exhibits of the late Lee Wulff and his wife, Joan, who has been a key figure at the Catskill Center since it opened and still operates the Wulff School of Fly Fishing in nearby Lew Beach. Along with displays, it will have a multipurpose meeting room for seminars, film festivals, classes, programs and lectures relating to fly-fishing.

Over the winter, the center rebuilt its ground floor bathrooms and shower facilities, which will be helpful during visits and fishing trips by Project Healing Waters, a program of fly-fishing as recreation and therapy for disabled veterans and active-duty service members. The center also renovated its kitchen and named it after Agnes Van Put, mother of Catskills trout fishing historian and longtime Department of Environmental Conservation fisheries professional, Ed Van Put. Agnes’ homemade soup will be for sale in the center’s gift shop, as it is every opening day.

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Hating Nice Weather

UPDATE: Catskill Streams in the 50s in Mid-March
Daily Gazette article
Thursday, March 15, 2012

Leave it to a trout fisherman to complain about weather everybody else loves.

High 60s in mid-March? Shirt-sleeves for St. Patrick’s Day? People like me go around brooding and mumbling about trout streams getting too warm and too low, too soon.

What we anglers think of as the ideal natural rhythm goes something like this: early April, streams high and cold, well under 40 deg­rees; early May, streams at good levels, water just above 50; early June, easy wading, water still under 60.

Warm, dry, sunny days are nice for the beach (if you don’t care about fishing at the beach), but the best kind of summer for trout is cool, gray and rainy, and so that’s the best kind of summer for trout fishermen, too.

Mild springs with little snow on the ground and infrequent rain make me worry that we’ll have one of those seasons where the streams are bony and close to 70 degrees by June. Summers that start that way are bad for trout.

Update: It’s March 20. The West Branch of the Delaware is flowing at 377 cubic feet per second (normally over 1,000 on this date) and is already 51 degrees. The East Branch and the Neversink are 53 degrees. This is cause for real concern.

But I’m trying to curb my ten­dency to find the cloud around every silver lining. The fact is, despite the mild winter, hydrologic conditions right now don’t seem too bad.

Most streams have flows fairly close to average for this time of year, and they’re still plenty chilly — well under 40 in the Catskills. The streams will begin to drop when the trees get their leaves in a few weeks, but the U.S. Geological Survey shows water tables across the state are at or above normal levels, thanks to all the rain we got in 2011.

So instead of fretting about the summer, I’ve decided to look forward to pretty good conditions for the start of the season.

Normally, at this time of year, fly-fishermen resign themselves to dragging heavy flies around the bottoms of cold, brown streams, hoping against hope that a trout will decide it’s more hungry than cold and bite.

This year, we may have clear water and fairly moderate temper­atures. The insects may be active, and trout may actually be comfortable enough to feed on them with some enthusiasm.

And once the fish begin biting in a serious way, the fishing may be better than average. All that high water last summer spoiled a lot of anglers’ weekend fishing plans, but it kept the trout nice and cool and ensured a steady supply of food.

“The 2011 summer was generally a wet one throughout Region 4, which bodes well for the upcoming trout season,” the Department of Env­ironmental Conservation said in its annual news release on conditions for the upcoming season. (Region 4 is generally the Capital Region and the northern and western Catskills.) “Wet summers result in better stream flows and generally cooler water temperatures which benefit wild trout populations and enhance survival of stocked trout.”

A trout-friendly summer, followed by a mild winter, with ang­ler-friendly spring conditions may add up to some better-than-average fishing in April. If things hold up, we could have a bang-up Hendrickson hatch at the end of the month and the beginning of May.

At that point, I’ll start hoping the weather clouds up, cools down and rains once a week. Until then, I’ll try to make like Dr. Strangelove: stop worrying and learn to love the nice weather.

Morgan Lyle’s commentary appears regularly in The Daily Gazette. Reach him at morganlyle@gmail.com.

Cap-and-Trade Worked for Acid Rain. Why Not for Climate Change?

Daily Gazette article
Thursday, March 1, 2012

By Morgan Lyle

 

Brook trout once again live in Brook Trout Lake, and the brookies of nearby Honnedaga Lake can now safely leave their tributary streams and swim the lake itself.

The federal law enacted in 1990 to reduce the power plant emissions that cause acid rain has been a success. By 2009, emissions of both sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides were two-thirds lower than in the early 1990s, according to a report submitted to Congress in December by Douglas A. Burns of the U.S. Geological Survey office in Troy.

In fact, emissions were even lower than the targets set in the Clean Air Act Amendments. They were achieved through a cap-and-trade system and made possible by switching to lower-sulfur coal and using technology such as scrubbers on smokestacks.

This is not to say the trout ponds of the North Country all have their trout back. Many remain barren, and hundreds still receive too much acid precipitation, the report said.

But there is also substantial improvement.

“There has been a large reduction in sulfates in surface waters of the Adirondacks in lakes and ponds and precipitation,” said Daniel Josephson, a biologist at Cornell University’s field station on Honnedaga Lake in the southwestern Adirondacks. “As sulfates have gone down, pH has come up, and in a lot of instances, the toxic aluminum levels have reduced to the point where fish, mainly brook trout, can survive out in these waters again.”

As in hundreds of Adirondack lakes and ponds, brook trout had been eliminated from Brook Trout Lake by 1984. By 2005, 15 years after the pollution controls took effect, the water was found to be safe for fish again, and brookies were reintroduced. On Honnedaga, trap nets in the 1970s would capture pitifully few fish, but throughout the 2000s, the numbers increased eight-fold, according to Josephson’s research. Trout were observed spawning in the lake’s tributaries — or at least the ones not permanently damaged by acid deposition.

Streams, it seems, recover much more slowly than stillwaters.

“The downside in the southwestern Adirondacks, and I think in some of the Catskill streams too, we now have a condition where quite a few tributaries and streams are chronically acidified,” Josephson said. “They have been pretty much depleted of their positive ions from acid rainfall over all these decades. Fish can’t live in those streams, so they’re pretty much permanently impaired. It’ll take a long time for them to recover even in the absence of acid rain.”

A prominent Adirondacker once called acid rain “the AIDS of the forest,” but you don’t hear so much about it these days. The big ecolog­ical worry today is climate change. It has been shown to have steadily reduced the flows and raised the temperatures of the great trout rivers of the Rocky Mountains over the past 60 years, and here in the East, large tracts of trout habitat will simply disappear as the climate of New York becomes more and more like that of Georgia.

As with acid precipitation, cap-and-trade has been offered as a way of reducing greenhouse gases. With acid rain, it worked. In fact, it worked better than expected and cost less.

But identifying the sources of acid deposition and dialing them back was pretty straightforward. Climate change is more complex, and cap-and-trade is vehemently opposed by a substantial part of the electorate, or at least by their congressmen — even though it didn’t seem to cause any hardship when deployed against acid rain.

So protecting trout and their habitat from the warming of the world is going to require many small measures — anything that will keep streams cool and full and give trout mobility, like conserving their trees, restoring their channels, removing obstructions to migration and keeping warm run-off away.

It’s our only hope, until the leaders of this and other countries get around to meaningful action.

Morgan Lyle’s commentary appears regularly in The Daily Gazette. Reach him at morganlyle@gmail.com.