The dog days of summer may be upon us, but don’t let the heat and humidity stop you from enjoying the great outdoors here in the Valley. Looking for a low-key outing? Take a hike or a bike ride, or perhaps a sail on the Hudson. Need a little more excitement? How about tubing, rock climbing — or skydiving? No matter what thrill level you seek, these 10 invigorating excursions are guaranteed to get your heart racing
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The Catskills are widely regarded as the birthplace of American fly-fishing. It was here that legendary angler Theodore “Badger Hackle” Gordon modified British “flies” — man-made insect-like lures — to fit the entomological demands of the Neversink River, Willowemoc Creek, and, most famously, the Beaver Kill. Although the terrain has changed somewhat since Gordon waded into the waters in the 19th century, the Catskills remain one of the country’s finest fishing spots.
When the season begins on April 1, dedicated anglers descend upon tiny Roscoe in northern Sullivan County and, with great fanfare, fish the Junction Pool, where the Beaver Kill and the Willowemoc converge. This is how a hamlet with a population of 597 came to be called Trout Town, U.S.A.
“For fly fishermen, these are the hallowed waters,” says Jim Krul, executive director of the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum located in Livingston Manor. “Between Maine and Montana and everyplace I’ve ever fished, this is the place.”
The east and west branches of the Delaware River system also offer excellent fishing, as does the Esopus Creek, the many reservoirs, and the lakes in Harriman State Park. Restrictions do apply: some stretches are “no-kill” zones, where fish must be released, and regulations are more stringent at the reservoirs.
Fly-fishing is not the sort of lazy, hook-and-worm operation Tom Sawyer did while floating down the Mississippi. It’s a sport requiring skill, technique, artistry, and arcane scientific knowledge — of water temperatures, currents, feeding preferences, native entomology, and so forth. The object is to bag the fish by deception: you’re trying to trick it into biting at the fly instead of an actual insect. This is harder than it sounds. “If you’re a fly fisherman, you hunt for your trout,” Krul says. “You might cast to him for three days in a row, and he won’t take the fly because he doesn’t like the way it looks.”
And when the angler catches the elusive trout, most of the time, he throws him back into the river. “Ninety-nine percent of fly fishermen tend to release the fish, so you can come and catch him again,” says Krul. There is a mystique to fly-fishing, the by-product of a library’s worth of material written about the sport in its heyday a century ago. “Fly fishermen have their rock stars,” Krul says, “just like Yankees fans have Derek Jeter.”
The mystique and the degree of difficulty, Krul postulates, intimidate many who would otherwise enjoy the sport. “Anybody can learn how to do it,” he says. “You don’t have to be good to do it. At a certain time, with a certain lure, you will catch a fish.”