Sitting here in sweltering NW Conn. I am anxious to get over to Phoenicia which is all of 75 miles away and just as sweltering. I monitor the Esopus temps which are back up in the danger zone after the Memorial Day respite.
My knowledgeable informants assure me the Portal will be open again on June 15, which seems like a long time.
So I am hoping for a) a break in the weather and b) for people to stop scheduling their rinky dink events in such a way that prevents me from beating it for a few days.
I wanted to swing over tomorrow after work, but I'll probably wait until this weekend. Temp dropped slightly today, but it's supposed to warm up again tomorrow. Water levels were real low a couple weeks ago, not sure if the recent rains helped. Fingers crossed for the tunnel reopening on schedule. Cheers.
This has been the Summer of Technical Difficulties, not the least of which was a problem with our elderly septic "system," if the word can be deployed to describe what amounts to a pipe running into a cinderblock cistern 20 feet down in the clay and constructed in 1965.
It was fixed, and fixed speedily, for just under $1000. Which isn't pocket change, but every septic problem I've ever heard of started at $10,000 and steadily disimproved.
So I look forward to getting two or three days per week (starting next week) in my home waters. My spies tell me Woodland Valley is running vigorously and there was some decent wet fly action last week (although the spy forgot to say which wet flies).
Portal release looks like how I take my coffee. Apparently the Schoharie Reservoir got pretty roiled up during our "two months' worth of rain in two weeks" period in July. If it was ordinary decent mud that would be one thing but it's clay, which remainds suspended forever. As anyone who has ever tried to dig a little trout pond of their own knows. Stick a shovel in the ground in the eastern Catskills, you hit clay.
Fished above the portal Friday afternoon, tickled a couple but no dice. Saturday got out there above the portal before anyone else at 6 a.m. and got four decent rainbows on specks, and had little guys dancing around a Stimulator in the riffles. Some stonefly shucks here and there.
Saturday p.m. went to Schoharie right above reservoir in search of smallies. Didn't find any but did catch some rock bass and bluegill, and did some exploring in an area I do not know at all. So it was fun.
Sunday a.m. took a shot at the chocolate milk, zippo. Fellow we saw teaching a class the previous evening turned up with a couple of nephews in tow, and tried tight-lining. Another young man, Joshua Miller, also wandered by. He's on the US fly fishing team. We swapped flies and he said he's got a book coming out, "Euro-Nymphing for the Everyday Angler" or something along those lines.
Sunday p.m. crept around the little brookie stream on my property. When I say "crept" I mean it. This is next-level squirrelly. Managed a few decent specimens on red Humpys.
So all in all a pleasant and instructive trip, if not particularly fishy. The plumbing repair is holding, and the mice are non-existent thanks to the super mouse death pellets I've been putting down.
Portal release is discouragingly coffee-like. Coffee with milk that is.
Above portal there are a couple of new spots where entire root systems are in the water. Conservation groups do this on purpose. Nice when Mother Nature gets in on the act.
Friend of mine catching something on Schoharie Saturday evening.
Friend landing the rare and vicious Schoharie rock bass/ piranha hybrid Saturday, to the absolute indifference of the students fishing above him.
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I spent a very pleasant week at the ancestral home in Phoenicia and fished the Esopus almost every day.
The weather, until the very end, was fine and the river was on the lower side of a moderate flow and as clear as it ever gets -- meaning the deeper pools and runs had that murky-green look.
Esopus veterans know that murky-green is fine. Murky-brown is not.
(Wasn't "Murky Brown" a TV show?)
The portal was off the whole time. Still is, as far as I know. (Checks.) Yes, it's off.
I assume it's because the work on the gates up at the Schoharie reservoir is in progress.
This summer the tailwater section of the Esopus has been pretty murky-brown. The massive amount of rain, especially in July, didn't help.
But with the faucet off, and assuming an adequate natural flow, the Esopus is a joy to fish.
The new regulatory regimen -- no more stocking -- has paid off, in my opinion. I say this because the basic "silver bullet" wild rainbow seems to have grown about four inches, from 6-8 inches to 10-12.
There are still browns, and I caught plenty of them too. Nothing of any notable size, but lots of action.
The Esopus above the portal was particularly productive, especially a stretch where Bushnellsville creek comes down along Route 42 and joins the river just upstream of where 42 joins Route 28.
I forgot to bring the point and shoot so I will spare you the tedious photos of fish in a net.
But I temporarily suspended the rules about the hand computer long enough to get a couple shots of the water mentioned above and of the portal when it looks like frog water.
I also flicked a few bushy dries around little Pantherkill, and was rewarded with fat, sassy brookies.
The new rail trail and angler's access in Boiceville is a howling success. The rail trail section of the parking lot is always bustling, and for the anglers, a short, easy walk upstream from where the many-headed tend to bunch up by the bridge gets you to, among other things, the nicest stretch of pure dry fly water on this river. (At least, the nicest stretch of dry fly water that doesn't require an arduous hike.)
Isonychia were still active, and the bulk of my fish came on some variant -- including the Leadwing Coachman winged wet fly. This will please the traditionalists.
One overcast, warmish day produced a decent number of olives and a lighter-colored speck I couldn't place. For this I deployed an iso dry that looks like a fuzzy twig, and a size 22 olive winged wet or a similar sized Barr's emerger on a dropper. Half the time they took a whack at the dry and I ended up foul hooking them on the speck. Well, not half the time, but often enough to abadon the dry completely and go to a three-speck rig, just to see what would happen.
Below: Portal frog water; Esopus near Bushnellsville creek; portal enters Esopus; another look at #2.
Hi Patrick, always appreciate your Esopus reports. So much so that I finally made an account on this forum lol. Most of the late spring and summer resulted in the little silver bullets for me. Very few browns. Last trip out for me was around mid-September, and down closer to reservoir I got into some hefty rainbows (12-15"). Wondering if they were coming up from the reservoir already? I never believed that the rainbows followed browns up until last November I caught a few very substantial bows over 15" that were clearly out of the reservoir (very silver, few spots).
Meanwhile it took every ounce of self-control not to beat it back across the Hudson to take advantage of the Esopus conditions.
For context, a 10 on this scale is pretty bad. An 8 is sort of fishable. Anything below 6 is ok to great.
And remember to check three gauges: Esopus at Coldbrook, Esopus at Allaben, and Diversion from Schoharie Reservoir (ie. the Portal). Comparing these three with actual stream observations will give the angler a solid basis for deciding whether or not to make the trip.
Add the gauge for Woodland Valley Creek, a major trib that gets roiled up very quickly in a cloudburst and discolors the river from Phoenicia on down, for more detail.
USGS has even installed not one but two gauges on my little brook, Panther Kill. The web pages don't seem to be operating yet but the hardware is there.
As circs. warranted I got over for a couple days last week. Friday was about as nice a fall day as you can get, warm, a bit muggy and 50-50 clouds and sun. The kind of day that says "try BWO specks."
Which I did. I was ignored.
I had a buddy along. His experience is limited but his willingness to keep plugging away is admirable. AFter fiddling around, mostly without result, up in Shandaken, I took him to DIsneyland and stationed him in the beginning of the tailout some 150 yards below the rail trail bridge and before the abrupt descent down to the Chimney Hole.
I rigged him up with an orange and partridge on a dropper and a Leadwing as the point fly, as there were still a few Isos around. I showed him how to cast three-quarters up and keep a tightish line through the drift until everything starts to swing, etc.
Then I walked up a ways where I saw some surface activity.
WHile I failed to figure out what my little buggers were splashing around about, my pal caught and released a handful of rainbows.
This is more impressive than it sounds, as my friend has a history of falling in and breaking things. Catching several fish in a row without any physical mishap or equipment catastrophe is a milestone.
And in spite of mostly wretched Esopus conditions this summer, the new "wild-quality" policy of not stocking browns in the spring appears to be paying off. The standard silver bullet of 6-10 inches now seems to have grown up some. I have caught innumerable foot-longs, which now have a bright red stripe. My guess is the new not-so-silver bullet range is 8-14 inches, with the 10-12 replacing the old 6-8 in the middle of the sample.
That is purely anecdotal evidence, but a few other anglers I am friendly with have made similar observations.
The faucet remains off, and I am figuring on at least two more trips over before we get into pipe-freezing territory and I shut the house down for the winter.
Great report, Patrick! It's always great to turn people on to a great sport such as ours.
My buddies and I got out on Sunday, hung around the the Phoenicia area, up and downstream of the center of town. Everyone caught fish, but the gods really smiled down on me, easily my best day of the year. All day long I hooked and landed a great mix of those silver bullets-turned-missiles you speak of, and some 8-10" wild browns. Best of the day for me was a hefty wild brown around 17". Prettiest of the day was a colored up brookie my buddy landed, the third that our group has pulled out of the main stem this season! A sign of things to come now that the hatchery fish aren't there to compete?? One can hope!
After tightlining and swinging streamers all day, we ended throwing tiny BWOs and midges at picky little rainbows. I fumbled the only take I had, while my 2 companions were able to stick and land a few. Hope to get down this weekend, and maybe a couple more times before winter takes hold. Tight lines!
Got Friday through Sunday over there. Planning at least one more trip before closing up. Just too nice and the new regs give the autumn angler all sorts of options.
Thought I had cracked the Esopus code on Friday afternoon up in Shandaken. A dead-drifted, black conehead wooly bugger, size 6, coaxed a couple of bigger rainbows up from a) a deep hole and b) some fairly skinny water just below a short rapid. The latter location wasn't a surprise, but the former was, a bit.
Alas, by Saturday mid-morning the code had expired.
I've been operating on the theory that there's no point in hitting the water early, when the temps are down in the low 40s in the valley, but I'm rethinking that. Bright sunlight generally does not encourage fish to experiment.
Have yet to see signs of spawning.
Raining like hell now and I expect it will blow everything out for a few days. But the Esopus, unlike the Housatonic, comes down pretty quick, and frankly it was pretty low, with the Portal still off.
So I am rooting for some decent action end of the week.
Quick trip over Thursday and Friday to close up. Everything blown out with exception of tiny Pantherkill, which runs through my property. Managed a couple of decent brookies, one a real grandpa at 12 inches, and, much to my surprise, a six-inch brown. What was that song?
"Must Have Got Lost"?
The winning fly pattern was a size 12 Royal Wulff.
That doesn't preclude day trips if and when things settle down. It's not much more of a drive to the Esopus than going to the Farmington for me, and definitely less crowded.
But going over the Hudson is a psychological barrier.
So this is likely my final Esopus watershed report of 2021.