Fly-Fishing: Fishing can become way of life, not just a pastime

Maybe if I had a house along the banks of a great trout stream like West Canada Creek or Esopus Cree

Maybe if I had a house along the banks of a great trout stream like West Canada Creek or Esopus Creek, I’d spend less money on gas — or maybe not.

To be sure, if I had a place in Newport or Poland with the West Canada in my backyard, I’d fish every evening. Through trial and error, I’d learn the lies of the big trout and the best flies to imitate the mayfly hatches. I’d have secret spots that all the guys parked at the Department of Environmental Conser­vation access points would never see.

But I’d still miss the little wild rainbows of the Esopus, the brawling white water of the West Branch of the Ausable and the Ph.D.-smart wild trout of the Delaware and the upper Battenkill, to say nothing of the striped bass and bluefish of the Atlantic coast.

It’s like a man with a beautiful wife who nonetheless has affairs because he can’t resist the infinite var­iety. We fly-fishers, however, have taken no vows to our home rivers. We’re loyal in the sense that we’ll sign petitions when developers try to defile them and stick up for them over beers. But we lust for all the other rivers, too. The only thing that restrains us from unbridled promiscuity is not having the time and the gas money to visit our mistresses as frequently as we’d like.

We spend a lot of time on roads. My personal rule in judging whether I can pull off a fishing trip is this: Fishing time must equal windshield time. That is, if I’m fishing a river that’s an hour and a half away, I need to be able to fish for at least three hours.

After a while, the roads themselves begin to have personalities, the way the streams do. Take Route 28, for example, which makes a big, sweeping arc past some of the most popular fishing in New York’s two trout kingdoms, the Catskills and the Adirondacks. It begins at the Thruway at Kingston and climbs to the tumbling waters and shaded valleys of the eastern Catskills, paralleling the Esopus, past the turn-off through the notch to Schoharie Creek and across many small, exquisite tributaries.

If you stay on Route 28, you’ll wind through some lovely rolling farmland in the western Catskills, cross the Mohawk in central New York — and then find yourself alongside the West Canada: another trout fishing exper­ience altogether, great but different, browns instead of rainbows and Adirondacks instead of Catskills.

And Route 28 will take you through still more trout havens. It rolls past the Fulton chain of lakes, Raquette Lake, Blue Mountain Lake and Indian Lake in the heart of the Adirondacks. The last great river alongside the road — actually, make that the last great river that the road runs alongside — is the upper Hudson. This great trout highway finally ends at cold, deep Lake George, beloved for its landlocked salmon.

Route 29 begins on the West Canada and ends on the Battenkill. Route 22 follows Lake Champlain, crosses the Battenkill, the Walloomsac and the Hoosic, runs just a few miles to the west of the mighty Housatonic in Massachusetts and Connecticut and finally passes through the shaded, miniature tailwaters of the Croton River watershed before disappearing into the congestion of the New York metro area.

Route 30 begins on the lower East Branch of the Delaware, a few miles from the Pennsylvania line, and runs all the way to Quebec, crossing Route 28 once in the Catskills and again in the Adirondacks, finally crossing the “other” Salmon River at Malone. The last American place it passes through is an intersection called Trout River, less than 50 yards from the Canadian border.

Most avid anglers put in some serious time on these roads. We get to know their vistas and speed traps and where to get a decent cup of coffee for the trip home at 10 p.m. after a long day on the water. We become fond of them, and the drive becomes part o the fun of the trip.

Early Saturday morning, radio on, windows down, going uphill, suburbs receding in the mirror — it’s on these roads that we experience the rush of freedom, the ever-young joy of going fishing.

Categories: Sports

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