Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Voices from the Past: George Greenfield (1935)

George Greenfield was one of my favorite semi-forgotten outdoor writers from the 1920s and 1930s, penning the "Wood, Field & Stream" for the New York Times for much of that time. Here he opines on a bit of history of the Catskill region in an article dated January 25, 1935.

"There are rivers whose names are inseparably linked with the art of angling for trout with a fly," writes Richard C. Hunt in the Anglers Club Bulletin. "Among them the Test and Itchen, the Beaverkill, the Neversink and the Brodhead are so surrounded by tradition and have been so beloved by the men who have fished them, that they are in truth classic streams,

"From the earliest days of which we have record, the Delaware and Its tributaries have been famous fishing waters. Before the white man came, the Indians fished there, often traveling long distances to do so.

"At a later day, trout were so plentiful that apprentice Indentures often contained the proviso that fish would not be served to apprentices more than a specified number of times a week.

Antedated Fishing for Sport

"These provisos antedated the time when fishing had become a pastime. They were of a time now difficult for the imagination to reconstruct; no towns and but a few small settlements; a few farms and scattered settlers whose main source of Income was lumbering and the making of barrel hoops and staves; Indians plentiful and dangerous, and fish so abundant that they were a principal item of diet."

At that time, Mr. Hunt tells us, the Brodhead was called the Analomink, or the Analoming Creek. So it was named in 1737 when Daniel Brodhead moved from Marbletown, N. Y., and settled on the Pennsylvania stream now bearing his name. Continuing, Mr. Hunt states:

"In all the early records I find nothing about fishing for sport in the Brodhead, but there Is reason to believe that by 1845 at least one good fly fisherman bad been on its banks, for Dr. George Washington Bethune, who edited the first American edition of 'The Compleat Angler,' published In 1847, gives a list of flies suitable for use in inland waters and furnished to him by an 4 excellent brother of our gentle art.

Famous Anglers Recalled

"This may have been the Dr. Ricketts of Philadelphia whom Bethune mentions elsewhere as "the best fly-fisher I ever met at streamside."

Mr. Hunt writes with tender reminiscence of The Henryvllle House, built in 1842, and Its old register which contains the names of many famous fishermen, Including Thaddeus Norris, Dr. Albert Eugene Rouselle, C. G. Levison, Henry A. Ingraham, Dr. Henry van Dyke, John La Farge, Alden Weir, Harold de Raasloff, Edward R. Hewitt and George M. La Branche.

"There Is good reason for the Brodhead's appeal to the angler," Mr. Hunt adds. Rising in the Poconos above Canadensis, it winds its way down the friendliest of valleys, through Stroudsburg to the Delaware. It has been described as 'the biggest of little rivers,' and so it is. Its fish average well for our Eastern streams, and in a mile or less the fisherman can find every sort of water.

Effective Early In Season.

"There are riffs and rapids, deep, heavy pools, runs and long, still flats. I know of no other stream with such variety of water. And from the early Spring when the shadbush flowers and the buds on the trees turn red and pink, yellow and green, it is beautiful, and for me its beauty culminates when the rhododendrons bloom.

"The season open on the 15th of April, but It is not until the 25th or thereabouts that the dry fly man will find a real hatch on the Brodhead. Then the water will be cold, and snow may be in the air, but there is a batch of small, dark blue-gray duns and the trout rise freely. I know of no other near-by streams where the dry fly is effective so early."

Mr. Hunt recalls the tradition that the Brodhead is "dead" in May, and admits that to a great extent this is true, and that its trout do not rise to the fly so freely as in May as do those In the Beaverkill and other Catskill streams.

"But May on the Brodhead should not be dismissed as unproductive," he cautions us, "for every so often one has a rare, unforgetable day, and when the Brodhead is good it's beyond compare.

4-rounder Taken on Dry Fly.

"The first week in June the Brodhead comes into its very own. About May 5 occurs the May fly rise and the trout go mad. It is only then that the angler realizes the number of trout the river holds."

After mentioning a few of the record fish taken from the stream, including a four-pounder caught on a dry fly, Mr. Hunt concludes:

"Some day such a fish may come my way, but it does not seem very important. The lovely stream flows through Its friendly valley, and pleasant days await me there. I can feel at one with those who have fished and loved it. I can foregather again with men whose companionship means much to me. I can tell tall tales of the big ones which got away In the biggest of little rivers."

-- Dr. Todd

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