Neversink. Beaverkill. Schoharie. Esopus. Stony Clove Creek.
Never have I heard these coveted Catskill streams named so many times in one sitting. Yet, I am so glad I was present at Trout Tales, an event hosted by Leigh and Mark Melander of Spillian, this past snowy Sunday, March 1. An event that brought together passionate fly-fisherman, historians and policy-makers along with avid fishermen/women of all ages. The youngest attendee was just 6 years old.
Initially, my presence there was solely to escape cabin fever, as this winter has been long and cold, with Spring so slow to show. Yes, I did want to show support to my husband and his new business, High Peaks Outfitters, document the evening with my camera, and slurp up the amazing soup served up by my friend and resident chef, Melissa Zeligman.
Upon leaving, I left with a belly full of the most spectacular clam chowder, and enough inspiration to fuel me until Spring.
Spring… my husband cannot wait to step onto a solitary rock, stream side, and watch his line drift with the current…The wives of the below fisherman will agree, we too are looking forward to Spring, and the peaceful mood displayed by our men returning from the streams.
Also waiting, patience tested, for Spring is the panel of esteemed fly anglers that were present that night:
Enter: a brief overview of the Trout Talks. After being introduced by the moderator of the night, Chris Hensley, an accomplished fly fisherman that calls the Catskills home, we heard from the six panelists, in speaking order:
- John Hoeko, Fleischmanns, NY – Began fishing only a few years after he began to walk. Legendary anglers of the Catskills like Frank Mele, Art Flick, Harry and Elsie Darbee, Ed Van Putt and Herman Christian can be counted among his friends and associates. John was instrumental in the passage of the “Catskill Water Flow Bill”. Sunday evening, John spoke very whimsically as he recounted his love for fly-fishing. And we are all waiting for the imminent opening of his fly shop in Fleischmanns, NY.
- Tony Bonavist, Hurley, NY – Began tying flies at the age of 10. His bio includes a BS in Aquatic Biology, 26 years as a fisheries biologist for the NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation, an instructor at the Wulff School of Fly Fishing, and a published writer. He was also instrumental in the developing of the Catskill Waters organization and legislation that saved almost 200 miles of the Delaware Watershed. Tony spoke fervently and proudly of the role he played saving the waters that we all take for granted.
- Lenny Millen, Margaretville, NY – Yet again, we see fishing taking hold at a young age with Lenny, a veteran guide of 25 years, as he began fishing as soon as he could walk, no doubt with the help of his three brothers. Beginning with spin fishing (which by the way, is perfectly acceptable in my book. Especially when encouraging young people to to take up the sport, baby step by baby step.) His love for fishing eventually landed him in the Catskills from Montana, where he established Catskill Kingfisher Guide Service. Mentored by Joan Wulff, he returned the favor by serving 7 years at the Wulff School of Fly Fishing. A true and heartfelt statement from Lenny on Sunday night regarding fly-fishing – and life, I should say – “There is plenty to learn for the rest of your life, no matter how young or old you are.”
- Roger Menard, Olivebridge, NY – Roger can rightfully boast of honorable service in the United States Navy, along with accumulating 65 years of fly fishing experience. He is charter director of the Theodore Gordon Fly Fishers, member of the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum, Catskill Fly Tiers Guild and Trout Unlimited. Along with being a respected fly tier counting the Darbees, Keith Fulsher and Charlie Krom among his friends, he is also author of “My Side of the River: Reflections of a Catskill Fly Fisherman”. Listening to Roger, it makes perfect sense he is a writer, as his story-telling of 22 inch rainbows and trout-stealing raccoons were a highlight of the night.
- Judd Weisberg, Lexington, NY – Once again, fishing became a destiny realized early. At the age of 4, he began fishing at camp Lexington owned by his family. His love for fly fishing has since taken him all over the world, from Maine to Japan. Judd is a licensed guide in NY and PA, specializing in float and wade trips. He teaches his “Elements of Fly Fishing” course to any and all who wish to learn the way of life of fly fishing. Sunday night he mentioned his inspiration for guiding is his desire to “see others catch fish”. Amen
- Mark Loete, Chichester, NY – Mark became an angler on the shores of the Mississippi River. Mark has been a professional photographer (kindred spirt) for 30 years in New York, and has made the Catskills his home for the last 15 years. Mark’s most recent accomplishment is the photographed collection of artificial flies housed in the Jerry Bartlett Collection at the Phoenicia Library and website. He also is a NYS licensed guide and owner of Catskill Mountain Angler. Sunday evening he shared with us some newspaper clips from the 40’s, describing huge harvests of trout, demonstrating there wasn’t always regulations and limits.
So…one may wonder what I absorbed from this night? Perhaps I felt a little over my head. Yet at the dinner table, or in the soup line waiting to be dished out yet another bowl of Melissa’s Magical Clam Chowder, it became glaringly apparent that we all shared at least two things in common: our love for the waters of the Catskills, and our desire to see people of all ages appreciate the life-changing effect taking to the outdoors can have.
Dare I say, whether its fly fishing, spin fishing, hunting, trapping, hiking or skiing, the Catskills offer all this up on an inviting “silver platter”. All we have to do is get together our respective gear and cast out a line.
Written by: Rebecca A., poet and photographer, owner of Mountain Girl Photography and Design and Traveler’s Tea, an organic tea company. Wife to Mark, mechanic, electrician, hunting/fishing guide and owner of High Peaks Outfitters. Mother to beautiful Bella, fisher-woman in training.
Thanks to: the esteemed Chris Hensley, for his informative bios, and for taking leave of his fast-paced career in the music industry and making the waters of the Catskills his home.