Into the Field: An unexpected homecoming brings back fond memories

PHOTOGRAPHER:

The gobblers from the quick morning hunt with Guide Collin Tallman. (Stephen George/For The Leader-Herald)

The New York State Outdoor Writers Association (NYSOWA) held its annual Spring Safari in Roscoe in May. Roscoe is known as the birthplace of fly fishing in the United States and it holds a very dear place in my heart.

Dubbed as “Trout Town USA”, Roscoe’s deep and rich history of fly fishing, fly tying, and outdoor adventure is obvious as soon as you enter the small mountain town. Roscoe was selected as the host town for this very reason.

The three-day event was packed with tours and outings so the writers who attended could get a taste of the history of the small town and role the Beaver Kill, Willowemoc Creek and the Delaware River played in shaping fly fishing in the United States.

The weekend was based out of the Rockland House located at 159 Rockland Road. It has great dining and rooms for anyone looking to stay in the area and have everything you need in one location. If you’d like to try it out, call Tom Roseo at (607) 498-4240.

The Safari was packed with activities, including a tour of the Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum, the cane/bamboo rod making shop at the museum, a fly-casting demo at Dette Flies and Joe Rist of Trout Town Flies demonstrated fly tying. We got a tour of the Roscoe Beer Company brewery, and we were within walking distance of the Beaver Kill River when we wanted to wet a line. For outdoor activities, several of the writers hunted turkey, fly fished the Beaver Kill, fished the Pepacton Reservoir (one of the New York City water supply reservoirs) for small mouth bass and brown trout and took tours of the area and its landmarks. 

Not having harvested a turkey yet, I opted to hunt turkey and was teamed up with Collin Tallman of CT Outdoors (845-866-2445). Collin is a New York state-licensed hunting and fishing guide in Roscoe, so I felt confident the hunt would be a good one. Knowing anything can happen outside of the guide’s control when hunting, I was just hoping for an enjoyable day in the woods.

Collin had roosted a few birds earlier in the week, so he had a good idea where birds would be, and he had a few back-up locations in his pocket in case the first set up did not produce.

The 3:45 a.m. alarm went off, and despite being dog tired, I was ready to go. We drove through the dark, avoiding deer along the way, to the fields to hunt. Crossing the open fields in the dark, the calls of barred owls, woodcock, and early-morning songbirds reminded me that the wilds, even at night, are alive and a busy place.

In position on the edge of a field, Collin set up a strutter and hen decoy. Just before first light, we made some light roost calls to mimic an awakening hen turkey that was ready to fly down. Soon, we heard the gobbles of the Tom’s that were roosting nearby. Some additional light calling and ground scratching in the leaves gave the impression that the hen had flown down and was feeding along the edge of the tree line.

Soon, two big gobblers appeared at the edge of the field, and once they locked eyes with the strutter and hen decoy, they came running at the decoys to see who the rude intruder was. As they ran, they offered no shot. But once they got to the decoys, both toms strutted, gobbled and displayed to intimidate the intruder.

Once they stood still, my 870 Remington Super-Mag, loaded with Remington 3-inch copper-coated No. 4 shot, ended the display for one bird. Before the second bird could figure out what had happened, another shot rang out and Collin had secured that one, too. It was a short, but memorable hunt, as the two toms put on a show.

Instead of hunting the next morning, I opted to fly fish on the main branch of the Delaware River.

Coming to Roscoe was a real homecoming for me. I grew up at my uncle’s cabin on the Beaver Kill in Roscoe and was required to learn how to fly fish and tie my own flies at the age of 12. My uncle, who was a major influence in my passion for the outdoors, had traveled the world hunting and fishing, and I thought of him as my family’s own Hemingway. He was a patient instructor to a kid who waded the rivers in Converse sneakers, cut off blue jeans and ran the rivers too fast and noisily. I had my own private paradise on the Beaver Kill and loved every second there.

After my uncle passed and my life got busy, I never went back there. So, on this trip, before leaving town and coming home, I stopped by and found that the cabin and its contents were just as I remember as a kid. I apprehensively knocked on the door and when a woman answered, I found out the cabin is still in the family, but that her husband, who is the grandson of my uncle, had gone into town. After a short conversation, her husband arrived. Not recognizing me when he entered the cabin and probably guessing as to who the stranger was, much like the turkey from the previous morning, he was a bit offput at first.

After I introduced myself and spoke about my time there, he remembered me from our times together as kids, and an hour of time flew by as quick as the river flows as we reconnected and remembered all the great times fishing, swimming, tubing, late night campfires, fishing for eel, eating the eel at breakfast and enjoyed the epic stories of my uncles’ adventures.

The weekend was fantastic, as getting together with my fellow outdoor writers from all over the state is always an experience to say the least. Taking a great turkey with a new friend in Collin, catching some brown and rainbow trout, and being with friends and colleagues made the weekend something I will always remember and cherish. Getting to know Roscoe and its rich history was memorable, and it’s great to see the little town maintain its long-standing traditions and history, even through the pandemic.

The best part of the weekend was the heartwarming reception I received at my uncle’s cabin that overlooks the Beaver Kill. Having memories of my childhood that were long stored away, becoming vivid like they just happened when talking to extended family at the cabin, made the whole event complete and truly a soul enriching homecoming in the Catskills.

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