This week I interviewed Roger and Lisa Menard on the subject of fly fishing and Roger read the remarks that he gave to the Angler’s Club of NY in New York City in November 2009 on fishing the River Esopus. Here’s the full transcript:
The Esopus The Way It Was by Roger Menard
It has been nearly fifty years since Keith Fulsher and I were invited to the Angler’s Club to show a film I had taken of Keith tying streamer flies. On that evening I had the pleasure of meeting Guy Jenkins, a correspondent and friend of Theodore Gordon, the father of the dry fly in America. Since I had previously met both Roy Steenrod and Herman Christian, for me this completed meeting Gordon’s circle of friends.
Go swimming in Big Pond. Make a detour on the way home and get the most juicy, tender and delicate smoked trout this side of, actually anywhere. Mark Twain wrote extensively about America’s trout with reverence calling it “the masterpiece of the universe”.
According to Andrew Beahrs, who wrote Twain’s Feast, throughout Twain’s life the simple phrase “trout dinner” was synonymous with simple enjoyment, with the pleasure at once luxurious and comforting. Whether he was in Germany or stage coaching across the Nevada Flats, when Twain wrote something to the effect of “we had trout dinner”, you can be sure that whatever had happened before, he ended the day contented. Apparently, Twain loved his trout, straight out of the pristine waters of Lake Tahoe, fried with bacon.
John Hoeko, a lifelong fly fisherman, owns Fur, Feathers and Steel in Fleischmanns. He’s writing a book about his life and times and his work with the Catskills waterways.
How long have you lived in the Catskills?
My whole life, except for one day. I was born in Jamaica, Queens. My grandfather was Chief of Radiology in a hospital in Queens. He thought that the local hospital here in Margaretville, the old one, was too provincial. So he insisted I be born in New York City.
So you’ve lived here in Fleischmanns ever since?
Yes, my parents originally lived off Ellsworth Avenue, while they were building our house.
“…. but when I’m alone in the half-light of the canyon, all existence seems to fade to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Black Foot River and a four-count rhythm, and the hope that a fish will rise. Eventually all things merge into one and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.” Norman McLean.
The ethereal magic of fly-fishing had hitherto failed to capture my heart or my interest until I recently gathered that it’s akin to Buddhism in that one desires the fish, but if it is not attained nobody (literally) has suffered. In fact, I stand corrected: remove all desire for the fish and you have the Buddhist ideal: it’s all about the joy of nature, being in the moment and not what you catch. No, it’s about standing knee-high in a stream, as fast as a boulder, while the water bifurcates around your legs and babbles past, twinkling in the early morning sun like a handful of glitter was tossed downstream with it. You’re meditatively casting, casting, casting… You are one with the line as you tempt the fish with the best flies you could find. Come late Autumn and the close of the season, fly-fisherman I know have, in conversation, wistfully lamented their absence from the stream, nodding their head ruefully, staring into the middle distance and conjuring the great Esopus in their minds. Don’t think I exaggerate.
18F at 7am. Freezing lines hampering early morning cast-off on the first day of Trout Season at Junction Pool, Roscoe “Trout Town”. Sunny at 8am. Update: 39F at glorious clear skies with light winds at 1.30pm.
Photo supplied by the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum
Next week, you’ll catch anglers meditatively throwing their first casts of the season into local streams in quiet celebration of their beloved skill. “Trout season”, aka fishing season officially begins in the Catskills on April 1st, but the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum in Livingston Manor, NY, has its “season opener” on Saturday April 11th. From their web page: