Renowned angler, author, artist, photographer and long-time Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing volunteer Richard Franklin shares an excellent article in which he recaps the annual 3-day spring trip taken by our New York City Program to the West Branch Angler in Hancock, NY below.

You can stay up-to-date with the PHWFF-NYC Program by visiting their Facebook Page at www.facebook.com/PHWFFNYC


The 9th Annual West Branch Angler Outing

Richard Franklin

Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing – NYC April 24 – 29, 2019

There are a few things we can count on for our PHWFF-NYC three day trip to the West Branch of the Delaware; our host, Ken Darling and the Deposit American Legion Post will be awaiting our arrival with a plater loaded with sandwiches, the Spring Peepers will serenade us with their mating calls in the evening, and the river will almost surely be swollen with big springtime flows. Well, a couple of times the Cannonsville Reservoir had stopped spilling right before we got there and the river was a near wadeable 800 CFS, once it was in flood at 6,000 CFS and another time it was snowing. This year it was 3,300 upon our arrival dropping to 2,800 for our prime, Thursday, float on the water. One other thing for sure, our eight PHWFF veteran participants and three volunteers are thrilled to be here.

After, the Vets were fitted for loaner waders by our generous co-host, Matt Batschelet, and his great staff at the West Branch Angler and Resort, it was back to the Lodge to check leaders and rig our rods. Rather than fish the Home Pool in the swift current, we organized around the Lodge-side pond for an on-water casting session where we were joined by one of our two regular guides, Mark Malenovsky. Instructing and refining our participants’ casting strokes outdoors after a winter of indoor casting sessions at the JCC’s gymnasium in NYC proved valuable for the next day out on the rivers, and for some, that could not come soon enough. That evening, donning their waders our most hard core fished the West Branch within sight of the Pavilion where Ken and the American Legion were grilling up copious quantities of hamburgers and fat frankfurters while his famous baked beans simmered. This drew our anglers from river to table and was followed up with a table full of home baked cakes and pies

Our second day dawned clear and calm and as the sun rose higher, the chill, nighttime air warmed into a lovely day. The rivers dropped overnight and our group divided in half with some of us floating the West Branch with our guides while others, led by volunteers John Enochty and Michael Rubin, drove upstream to the famed Beaverkill, a headwater river to the Delaware system whose water level was far more conducive to safe wading, and fished the classic Cemetery Pool.

 

Our Veteran Participants spread out on the Beaverkill – Image courtesy of Michael Rubin

Floating the much higher West Branch of the Delaware, our guides proposed we fish weighted streamer flies; 7-weight rods loaded with heavy sink tip fly lines and short leaders were employed to drill heavy cone-head, rabbit strip flies hard to the bank. Strip-strip-strip and pick it up and hit the next little eddy or pocket on the bank and strip again. This is hardly the gentle presentation of a dry fly to a sipping trout; this is high energy angling. Long time PHWFF-NYC participant, a Veteran of the Vietnam War, George Hicks, was prepared for this task and nailed the bank side grass with his fly, striped once and a golden flash appeared beneath the surface. Immediately, he and a brown trout where engaged in battle. Mind you, not the kind of battle George experienced in Southeast Asia, but rather the quite, alternating, yield and pressure of rod and reel to a wild trout; ultimately photographed and released carefully without harm.

George Hicks and Mark Malenovsky with a fine wild brown trout on the West Branch © Richard Franklin

 

Our two boats rendezvoused for a stream-side lunch and water temperature reading revealed the river had risen to 50°. We elected to stow our streamer rods and tie Hendrickson emergers onto our 5-weight outfits. Our optimism was prescient as a pool or two downstream, mayflies began to appear. Small Paraleptophlebia “Blue Quills” and larger Hendricksons commenced to float like micro sailboats upon the current and a few trout took notice. Following Mark’s tutelage on a Reach Cast and downstream slack line feed into a dead drift, George again struck gold, this time a surface feeding and leaping trout. George also caught a rainbow and with three trout landed, proved to be the High Rod for the day, a great accomplishment on this challenging river.

So much generosity! George and so many more have worked long and ambitiously within PHWFF to continuously develop their angling skills rendering fly fishing an important part of their lives. Our PHWFF-NYC Program puts significant effort and focus into maintaining and extending this seminal annual event. Initiator Ken Darling of Deposit, NY, and the fine folks of the West Branch Angler and Resort always go above and beyond on our behalf. Even the wild Delaware trout exuded generosity.

And that is not all, as upon our return to the Lodge, Ken and the folks from the American Legion Post had two brimming platters of meat loaf, a vat of mashed potatoes, and a big bowl of fresh salad awaiting us to feast upon.

NYC Program Lead, Ira Krell, packed a big swag bag for us, too. Sure, there were practical things like wading staffs and gear lanyards and emblematic items like PHWFF Logo hats. Among the boxes of flies something unusual was included; works of fly tying artistry crafted by an elderly lady just for our Veterans: Mille Custom Flies. We displayed them on a table and in a heartbeat her generous donation was adopted.