Yogi and the fat lady: Trout season’s last day

The Esopus (photos by Ed Ostapczuk)

November 30 – Esopus Creek: Much needed rain finally found its way into the Catskills; our creeks and rivers are on the rise, dragging snowmelt with it. The Esopus below Phoenicia held a tannish tint, from Big Indian upstream it was clear, but carried a green snowmelt hue. Recent snow has just about disappeared from the high peaks given the warm weather and steady rain.

It doesn’t really matter much; trout season on the Esopus closes today. That’s what makes this day so tough. Unlike opening day, there are no more tomorrows, no more redoes nor reruns, no more second chances; it’s now or never — or not until 2017. As the late, great Yankee Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over till it’s over” and it’s over midnight tonight. The fat lady is signing; her voice echoes throughout the wooded headwaters.

I briefly thought about fishing Rondout Reservoir, but my heart belongs to the Esopus on this last day. Rain began falling again as I drove north on NY 28 this morning. Above the Portal the Esopus was up, angry, stained, and cold. And the creek was on the rise here; it supported a healthier flow than when I fished the Beaverkill earlier this month. Thus I invested my time searching for fishable water and when it started rain too hard I camped and read some baitcast reel reviews that I brought along.


To get down I “nymphed” — dead-drift on a tight line — a black #8 Conehead Woolly Bugger on point with a #12 weighted Prince Nymph dropper. I probed three favorite November locations with this combo. Zip! I know I was drifting my flies over wild fish, as I caught them here as recent as Saturday. High water, cold water, stained water I can handle, but experience has taught me the hard lessons of fishing snowmelt. I firmly believe the shock of cold water coupled with a drop in pH, really affects trout.

The outing ended in small water that I love to wander. Initially nothing was doing in primo spots.  My mindset now was one of going through the motions, not really expecting to catch anything.  Then I caught a small wild brook trout, soon following it with another. Working my way upstream I eventually reached the Brook Trout Hole.

Not much was doing here, except for a trout I spooked in the tailout and debris that spun in the foamy head of this tiny pool. Then I caught my final 2016 Esopus Creek trout, one more brookie and quit at Noon.

Today I fished the Esopus hard for three hours, managing to detect five feeble takes, catching three small wild brook trout. Months ago, on opening day of my 2016 NYS trout season, I also caught several small wild brook trout in an Esopus Creek watershed tributary. Thus I guess I’ve come full circle.

Rain started to fall rather steady and a ghostly fog ate the mountain peaks as I hiked up the steep incline, along on old stone wall from the belly of the forest ravine below. It was a good day and I probably experienced the best the Esopus had to offer, as the stream was on the rise again. While I’m done fishing the Esopus in 2016, there seem to be enough exceptions, loop-holes, and technicalities in angling regulations that I’m not done fishing this year just quite yet. But, the number of angling outings that lie ahead don’t require all the fingers on one hand to count.

2016 was a complicated year for the Esopus Creek trout fishery. It started in grand fashion with a goodly number of wild rainbows accounted for from mid-April through late June. Then the creek warmed and became turbid over summer. Once it cooled and cleared again, the prolonged dry spell caused DEC to close angling downstream of the Shandaken Tunnel in early November. Yet trout were still to be had, upstream of the Portal and 2016 was a great bounce-back year for wild Esopus rainbows throughout the system, in my opinion.

Along these lines regarding the Esopus, trout season, and today, I once read the following,

“So perhaps many of us are creatures of habit, followers of rituals. The opening and last day of each trout season are just part of the fabric of our lives. And, I guess it’s all the other outings between these bookend rituals that can become commonplace, lost in the fragments and dark places of our angling minds if allowed to happen; but these two days are clearly special…”  — Ramblings of a Charmed Circle Flyfisher

Today was special and so is the Esopus.

So that’s it; the fat lady is singing, and Yogi nailed it.

The last Esopus trout of 2016.