The Beaverkill

May 16, 2010

I was thinking a lot this week about the Catskills. A number of rodmakers gathered there this past weekend and I was supposed to be among them before I had to scuttle my plans at the last minute due to an embarrassing injury (some doofus–me–managed to drop a rather sizable piece of machinery on his foot).

Since I couldn’t be there physically I found myself thinking back about the fishing that I’ve done in that region over the years, especially when I was young and working in Central Valley. As a rodmaker I sort of came into my own at Leonard in the late 1970’s and I have a lot of fond memories of the area and of the fishing. If bamboo rodbuilding has a mecca, it’s there.

Anyway while I was hobbling around the shop I found myself thinking back and chuckling about this time when Tom Maxwell, his son Tommy Jr., and I all went out to fish the beaverkill one afternoon. It must have been early spring because it was a chilly day and I remember that Tommy Jr. had struck off a good way upstream from where Tom Sr. and I had set up on a nice group of fish. Apparently Tommy thought he had also spotted a pod of trout and being younger and a bit more spry he had charged off to investigate.

After Tom Sr. and I had been fishing for a while we decided to take a break and were sitting on the bank talking about rods, trout, and life more generally, when presently we saw Tommy making his way back downstream and edging out to cross the river to meet us. We watched him carefully picking his way across, the water swirling around his knees, when suddenly he let out a holler, did a kind of half-pirouette, and went down with a thunderous splash.

The Beaverkill (by pvsbond via flickr)

 Fortunately the river wasn’t too terribly deep or strong and after a good bit of flailing about he managed to struggle back to his feet. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to stay that way for long, since in those day there were no such things as breathable, streamlined waders. Tommy’s old, baggy rubberized ones had filled up with so much water that he couldn’t get more than a step or two before being dragged down again, holding his rod high to keep from landing on it.

Anyway, after a few moments I remember looking over at Tom and he just started chuckling and broke out into a mischievous sort of play-by-play: “Oh, he’s up again. And there he is. Looks like he might make… Whoah. Wait a minute. There he… And down he goes again!” and the two of us just started laughing like hell.

Tommy was a trooper about it afterwards. Or at least until we finally got back to the car later and remembered that the heater on my old Volvo 540 didn’t work.

It’s just one of those little slices of fishing life that still makes me smile, and which I’ll forever associate with the Beaverkill and with Tom.

I guess if you can’t be there again yourself it’s nice to have a store of memories like that to fall back on. Sort of takes the sting out of staying home with a sore foot.


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