Trout season closed midnight Sunday, October 15, on most New York State waters, including the Saw Kill, Plattekill, and all tributaries to the Esopus Creek. However, hardcore anglers like me can still trout fish the mainstream Esopus, and several New York City reservoirs through November 30, after which only a few designated no kill stream sections remain open to angling.
From all indications 2017 was a very good year for trout fishing the Esopus; thus I’m still excited to continue to wander it as long as I can. But our little trout streams, the headwaters and nursery brooks have taken a beaten after a long very dry, hot spell.
Recently the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that 2016 was the warmest year globally on record. NOAA went on to note that 2016 surpassed 2015 which was the prior warmest year, which surpassed the 2014 record based upon 137 years of recording keeping. And, there’s every reason to believe this trend will continue.
Well, I’m just an old trout fisherman, who sees nature through the liquid confines of our local streams. Below is my angling log entry from Columbus Day weekend, one of my last Catskill outings this year. I think Mother Nature is tired.
October 7, a Catskill brook: The hollow was a kaleidoscope of autumn colors and a morgue for brown dried-up, crackled leaves that fell before their calling. Today was part of a holiday weekend and while working at home the sound of rescue sirens punctured the air. I wasn’t going to travel, but the Esopus was elevated and turbid due to the last 2017 recreational water release. Thus I sought the serenity and stillness of a Catskill hollow, which perfectly suits me.
Wearing a T-shirt, damp cool air imprinted its presence upon me. But where is the water, when will it rain again? How will spawning trout negotiate the wet, rocky path that once was a lively streambed? The numbers of places for me to drop a dry fly have rapidly diminished; the little wild trout are disappearing also.
If one is aware of my recent small stream ramblings, then you know the lingo I’ve used for many weeks now. The creeks are clear and ribbon thin, but cold with active trout about. Now words like bugless and dangerously truncated should be added to that mix, with wild trout in hiding.
Nature appears very tired after the prolonged hot dry spell. It calls out, begs for a white winter blanket, with time to rest and regenerate itself under fallen snow. Yet I choose to agitate her, fishing what’s left of its liquid confines. However, today not even my Elk Hair Stonefly enticed many trout veiled under wet rocks below.
It was a tough go rock-hopping and searching for places to cast my dry fly. As I did, thoughts of emerald ash borer and hemlock woolly adelgid, which threaten our Catskill forests, crossed my mind. As trees die off, victims of these parasites, will future water tables diminish further, exacerbating the low stream-flow issue? That is, will our Catskill forest be able to maintain ground water and still shade headwater trees?
Picking my way upstream the EHSF brought three tiny trout to the surface — catching two of these — until the last pool. There perhaps a half-dozen fish rose to the dry fly, but I only caught one and then quit at 3:15 p.m.
Thus I wandered a favorite Catskill hollow for an hour and three quarters this afternoon, seeing and spooking few fish, yet catching three small wild browns. Nature is tired, but maybe nature doesn’t know what it does for me. As John Burroughs once noted, “I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”
So that could be it for 2017.