Research and development

The catch of the day for the Tangled column of the week.

Patrick L. Sullivan

Research and development

Fishing trips are rarely straightforward propositions. Over 52 years of flicking the baited hook, I have learned not to make plans with rigid schedules, because something always goes awry.

Last week I traveled deep into the wilds of Greene County, N.Y., for some research and development with my fishing guru Gary.

This meant remembering where his house is.

In that part of the world, there is a Route 23, a Route 23A, and a Route 23C.

I have often wondered why the geniuses that assign numbers to roads couldn’t just call them Route 23, Route 24, and Route 25.

Maybe a sequential clump of numbers is too easily confused. How about Routes 23, 47 and 59?

Luckily Gary’s neighbor has hung a gigantic American flag a couple doors down.

Whoops, there’s the flag, turn around.

R&D project A was a town reservoir. I’m not going to name the town because everything about this adventure was highly irregular.

Acting on intelligence gleaned from unusually reliable sources, we drove past a series of increasingly unpromising signs.

First we were warned to keep out. Then it was no hunting, fishing, trapping or trespassing for any reason. Then the signs returned to the general “keep out” theme.

We finally got to a gate. It was open. There were two men talking about something.

Gary went over to them. He conversed with one. He returned.

“We’re good,” he said. He had been talking to the water supply boss, who said it was fine if we parked outside the gate, out of the way, and walked up.

“It’s only about a quarter mile,” said Gary.

Of course it was mostly uphill, and not a gentle grade, either.

At the midway point, we heard yelping and hollering from the deep woods.

Two men emerged. They did not look outdoorsy. They looked out of shape and frustrated. (I am, after all, a highly trained observer.)

They had lost two chihuahuas. The dogs had been in the woods all night. The plan seemed to be to stumble around the woods in haphazard fashion yelling variations on “Here doggy!”

There didn’t seem to be anything we could do so we soldiered on, eventually reaching a large pond of sorts which was the reservoir that supposedly held big rainbow trout.

We tried, but it was windy and squishy and I was wearing a pair of boat shoes, handy enough in the right context but next to useless here.

I caught two bluegills. Gary caught a shiner.

On the way back the rescue team had located one dog. The other one had gone silent. I suggested opening a can of the ripest dog food available, on the theory the rich scent might overcome the dog’s terror.

The R&D continued at Lake Colgate, which is really more of a pond, created by damming up the East Kill. There is another impoundment about a mile upstream, and in between is a nice-looking bit of stream that should contain brook trout.

There is another impoundment about a mile upstream, and in between is a nice-looking bit of stream that should contain brook trout.

On this day it contained shiners and nothing else.

We tracked it down to where it merges into the lake, and I caught another bluegill which was sitting in about three inches of water making faces at me.

I showed him.

The guru in action in his natural habitat: the slow wait by the watery depths.Patrick L. Sullivan

The good thing about riding around with Gary is his catalog of amusing anecdotes and vivid character sketches. Also cigar smoking is allowed.

This time I learned about Cowboy George. A Brooklynite, George found himself in New Mexico, where he developed a taste for garish, stage cowboy attire.

Upon his return to Brooklyn, he developed the theme, with a twist.

George was also a cross-dresser. And a cocaine dealer, with a sideline in illegal guns.

Gary once asked him why he liked dressing like Dale Evans.

“When that buckskin hits my thighs, the years just melt away,” George replied.

Back in Phoenicia, I convened with my nomadic attorney, Thos., who was ensconced at the Woodland Valley Campground nearby.

I’m not sure how we got on the subject, but he explained his “layered defense” for personal protection that does not involve a firearm. His travels take him all over the place, and carrying a gun just isn’t practical for legal reasons.

The first item is pepper spray.

The second is a gas mask. “One of those World War One things, I want it to be terrifying.”

And the third is a spear.

He explained he had returned a custom made spear to the Japanese maker. It wasn’t pointy enough.

“I’d do more damage hitting someone with the handle.”

Thos. further explained that sometimes he finds himself bivouacking in less than ideal circumstances.

Thos. saw “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” at a tender age, and it left a lasting impression.

One Florida campground reminded him of the film enough that after talking with his new neighbors for five minutes, he got back in the car and left, without unhitching the camper or even stopping at the office to get his 15 bucks back.

Some fishing did get done on this trip.

Woodland Valley Creek is a major Esopus tributary and for 60 years or so, the Woodland Trout Fund (which sports the easily misconstrued acronym WTF), has planted brown and brook trout on Memorial Day weekend with a smaller stocking in July.

There is excellent access to public water downstream, and the WTF has a long-standing arrangement with the homeowners in the valley that trespassing for the purpose of fly-fishing is allowed.

The years have not been kind to the stream. Hurricanes and floods have reconfigured the streambed several times and left exposed clay banks. Forests of knotweed have eliminated cherished pools and runs.

And the new generation of homeowners are not as accommodating as their predecessors.

Nonetheless, it is where I learned to fish, and I always chip in. I try to catch my first Catskill trout of any given year in Woodland, with a bamboo rod and a dry fly.

That didn’t happen this year. I was unfaithful and hit the Beaverkill, Schoharie and a couple of others first.

But I did chuck a Chubby Chernobyl into the pool where my late father caught his last trout, and a feisty brown obliged by smacking it hard.

I used a Phillipson bamboo rod, seven feet for five weight, which my father gave me as a college graduation present.

Other kids got fancy cars, or a seat on the board, or a months-long trip to Europe.

But I’m still using the rod.

So who got the better deal?

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