November 10th, 1989: I was just got to Rome for the beginning of my first year to the University. Also some of my friends, after the high school, decided to attend the University, some others prefered to take some time for travelling and start to discover the world and how it appeared different from our little city located in the heart of the Abruzzo mountains. Few days after i arrived to Rome, i received a post card from Berlin. The post card signed by my friend Gianluca said: “Living the History from inside”. He was right, as during those days an epic event was happening over there. The Berlin Wall was falling down under the riot of freedom of the german people, both from East and West sides of the wall.
September 3rd, 2014: after being trying to attend the Catskill Bamboo Rodmakers Gathering since the last past two years, finally this year i was able to do it. While Flying over the ocean to get there, i thought that this time was me who would have had the chance to live a piece of the fly fishing history.
I have had only 5 days for this amazing trip, short time i know, but the program has been very intense.
I got to JFK airport at 7:30 pm. Differently from the other times, the baggage claim and the check of the passports, have been smooth and quick. So after few minutes my flight landed, i was already out from the airport. My friend John McConnell was there for picking me up and drive directly to the Castkills. Steve Hoye and Jon Lewis was waiting us at the Tennanah Golf and Tennis Club. Steve had booked a nice house at the Tennanah Town House. Some talking and laughing, couple of beers and i felt asleep.
John was the only of us who had knowledge of the area, so during the first two days he was our “friendly guide”. Beaverkill was the choice for the first day….but we all needed the fishing licenses. So we left Tennanah Town House leading to Roscoe.
As soon as you get to Roscoe, you can breath the magic atmosphere of the place. On the main street of Roscoe you see a Pharmacy, a liquor shop, 2 banks and 3 Fly Shops. Signs like “Roscoe the city of trout” where quite common. In a nice and cured space there was also a little plaque and a wooden main sculpure with reminding the legend of the two headed trout: “The Beamoc Trout is an odd looking creature that lurks in the rocky bottom of the famous “Junction Pool” where the Willowemoc and the Beaverkill meat. Once at the Junction Pool the fish looked right towards the Willowemoc and left upstream to the Beaverkill. Unsure of which direction to go and remaining in one spot for so long the trout grew an addictional head. To this day people swear they have spotted the odd loocking fish”.
We bought our license at an old fishing tackle shop, then we got in the other fly shops for a quick visit, and then finally we went directly to the Cairns’ pool on the Beaverkill.
While you are journeying at the Castkills, the story talks to you all the times.
In fact the Cairns’ pool presents itself as soon as you get to river public access. Another nice plaque stand and says ”Named after the Cairn Family, owners of adjoining lands, early Beaverkill setllers, farmers and raftsmen. Erected by Theodore Gordon Flyfishers”.
Beaverkill is a lengendary name, especially for a guy who build bamboo rods, has never fished in the US and lives in Europe. You may read few rows from Austin McK Francis book (Land of little River) to fully understand the roots of these places: “As late as 1873, when the first fishing clubs appeared on the river, access to the Upper Beaverkill was still primitive” . The fact that also Lee and Joan Wulff founded their School on the banks of this river, can let understand how many fishing stories have been lived on these waters and how many still are going on them. I approached the river with respect and peace in my soul. Didn’t even care about catching fish…was enough watching and enjoying my line flying above those riffles. Caught a couple of nice little browns that afternoon.
After we got back to Town House, Tom Brzoza joined us for a late evening. Tom is a big guy (he played Football professionally). Big guys normally like big waters. My guessing was right. The day after we’d be fishing the West Branch of the Delawere. Those are not my kind of waters. Too big for a dry fly lover. But with some experience you learn to focus your fishing space also in these big waters. So i started to fish the banks of the river and some shadowed place. Caught a nice brown on a big Ant patterns. The nice trout came out in the middle of a little riffles running under some willow branches. After a quick lunch the option was heading south in a nice pool for the late hatches. Shallow waters are never easy to fish. That evening the Delawere gave us a rude lesson about how selective a trout can be.
September 5th, 2014: i made a quick visit to the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museun, the morning of the day before. In fact before heading to the Delawere we stopped to the Center, for say hello to Jim Krul and all the other Rodmakers already there. The Bamboo Rodmakers Gathering started that morning at noon.
Following Jim, I made a quick tour of Fly Fishing Center. In the Museum an amazing selection of Split Canes made by the Master Rodbuilders from the East Coast is hosted all along one of the walls : just joy for my eyes. Next to them the corner dedicated to Lee and Joan Wulff; fair contribute to two of the main Actors of the Worldwide Fly Fishing Movement and actively partecipants of the history and conservation of the Catskill area. Fantastic is also the space dedicated to H.L. Leonard, with the fire guns carried out by the great rodbuilder.
Downstairs is located the workshop…that Friday morning there were some work to do. An old and fashon lathe had been donated to the Center. Only one week before, thanks to the kind generosity of Hoagy Carmichael, the original workbench and the lathe of the Master Rodbuilder Mr. Garrison had been hosted by the workshop. Some other Garrison’s tools and a fantastic original notebook with some of his original Tapers were there too, as memories and as teaching tools for the modern rodmakers generations.
I couldn’t miss a visit of the little flyshop….well stocked with nice gadget of the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum.
This has been my first and quick touch with the Center…i felt a little guilty when with Steve and the others we led directly to West Branch of he Delawere while the guys at the Center where working for the last settle up of the workshop.
September 6th, 2014 Saturday morning i reached the Center early in the morning. A kind crowdy pathio was alreay on by people hanging around in the Center.
Several seminars and workshop took place all day long: Unversal ferrules in the Wulff Gallery put on by master maker Ted Barnhart. Other programs included: Setting up an efficient shop with Jorge Carcao; Rodmakers and Gun makers by Jerry Girard; Lathe and band saw demos by Jed Dempsey; Tim Abbott’s electroplating and ammonia toning; John Zimney on finishing and techinques, James Bond sharpening and tooling; and many others.
So i’m sorry if here i won’t report all of them. The presentation of the story of Paul H. Young, as man and as rodmaker, have had a great appeal on me. So at 9 am i was there. It has been a very exhaustive and well attended presentation that kept people interested until its end and over. Was almost lunch time when the presentation ended, but still a lot of people around (the speaker forgot his name).
Once i got out from the Lee & Joan Wulff space (where the seminars had been held) i realize that all the pounds around the Center were filled by bamboo casters. I tried some rods too….you know watching all that colorful fly lines awaked by different and nice split canes, gave me the fever. In the meantime in the lower section of the Center the casting competition was going on, managed by Per Brandin.
The lunch was nice, nicer after lunch conversation had with Sante (Fish ‘n’ Benjo). We talked a lot and it was funny that during that long conversation, bamboo rods have never been the theme.
That afternoon slided fast between casting rods, attending workshops and some talk with the numerous rodmakers attending the gathering.
Maybe in that afternoon i fully realized how the Catskil Fly Fishing Center and Musuem is a great tank of bamboo rodmaking knowledge and also a wonderful guardian of the Catskill Fly Fishing History and of the wonderful rivers sourrounding the area (the most famous of them are the Beaverkill, the Delaware and the Willowemoc that runs right close to the Center. Al the guys that do a daily great job to make that wonderful heritage available also for the next generations of bamboo rodmakers and fly fishermen/women.
September 6th, 2014: normally when you attend a fly fair or a gathering or any other event arranged during a week end, the suandy morning is the final rush of the event. In fact soon after lunch normally poeple coming also from far places, start to get ready for their home coming. It has been quite the same also the Catskill gathering, but i still didn’t know that also that final moments were preparing some other nice gifts for me.
I was talking with other rodmakers when Jim Krul came for taking me up in the event room where was starting an other interesting workshop about Garrison heritage and his influence on the modern bamboo rodmakers movement. It has been a nice interactive talk where lot of general life information, events and technical studies that envolved the life of this great Master. It’s always nice to see how pleasure there is on sharing knowledge about one of the great Master of the bamboo rodbuilding.
Soon after that it was almost the time for lunch. I saw a nice Lady with a bright pink flee and, despite i have never met her before, i immediately reconnize her: Joan Wulff. I can’t tell how much proud and joy i felt while shaking her hand. It’s something like when you have the chance to meet one of those great personalità who take part of the worlwide fly fishing history. She was so kind with everybody and she kindly accepted to give some cast to one of my rod. It’s amazing watching her casting with that one of kind style and grace that only her can give to the casting movements. Also more nice it was to see here always helping other people to improve their casting skills. It has been a short time we share but i’ll never forget those emotions for good.
The gathering was getting near to be over. At the last there have been the premiation of the casting copetition. A warm and big tanks to all the people attending the gathering and it was officially over.
I was still missing the Willowemoc river. I couldn’t leave from the Catskills before i had fished at least the Big Three: Beaverkill, Delawere and Willowemoc.
So as i had no car there, i asked to some people if they were heading for fishing. Finally i got my fishing buddy: Frank Payne. The night before after the Auction at the Center, he kindly took me back to the hotel. Despite he had to drive 4 hours for get back at home, he told that a couple of hours he could fish. Great! I quickly collected my stuff, say hello to the guys of the Center and the other people attending the gathering, and after half an hour we were into the Wilowemoc waters. I spent few hours on this river, caught couple of trout, but it left to me unique sensations and very good emotions. If i should pick my favorite one between the Big Three, I’d say Willowemoc.
Once again i was missing the latest hatches which in this time of the year are maybe the short best window on the river. But i was glad of my first touch with another of those rivers that will occupy a special place in my heart.
While driving me back to the hotel, Frank was glad enough to show me a very special fly fishing shop in Roscoe. Dette Fly Shop. The family run this cute fly shop since almost 100 years. Three generations of great fly tyer and between the firt to breed species to obtain the best feathers for fly tying pourposes. In the shop i got my souvenirs with some of the famous patterns from the Catskill. We met there also Leonard Tobler (winner of the last casting bamboo Hardy Cup). I was impressed to see his ability on casting my Gulliver 7’ #4 3 pieces. I tiny and very confortable travel rod i took with me for the trip.
This was the last gift on a wonderful long week end i spent to the Catskill. I’d like to tank all the people i met during this wonderful trip. They make of this journey a very unique experience. The sun was going down behind the Castkill Mountains. It looked like the last sign of the end of the trip. While Flying back to home, i suddendly had a thought in my min: “i didn’t meet Kathy Scott!” This has been my only regret.