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.