The History of Lew Beach

Contributed by Fran Sharpless in August 2008, probably written by Mrs. Si Gordon for the First Collection. This pdf document shows you the original manuscript, typed back in the days before cut & paste existed, when you had to type it right the first time, and you got your fingers black from carbon paper. Mrs. Gordon’s story, as far as we know, has never been published anywhere but here.

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Trout Fishing on the Beaverkill by Fred Banks

This story appeared in the 1950s booklet, but to our knowledge, nowhere else. 

Who was the first white man to fish the Beaverkill? Some very intensive research would have to be done to find this out. We can be assured that it was not long after the first settlers reached the valley of this famous trout stream. The Indians had ways and means of catching fish. They certainly were catching the na­tive brook trout from the Cats­kill streams long before the first settlers arrived.

In the U. S. sport fishing had been practically unknown before 1830. Fish was food and they were taken from our streams lakes and rivers, in the conven­tional manner of that day, the same as wild game fell before the bow and arrow, and muzzle loaded gun.

We can very well assume that fishing with hook and line and baited with the lowly angle worm was the first sporting me­thod used by the settlers upon reaching the Beaverkill. My research has not gone quite that far back. However, we have a date published in “The Complete Angler,” containing notes and letters of Theodore Gordon, that a fisherman known as Uncle Thaddius Norris fished the Wil­lowemoc prior to 1865 with flies, as he published this fact in his book “The American Angler.” If fly fishing started on our neigh­boring stream, the Willowemoc, at this early date we can be sure that the anglers did not overlook the Beaverkill only a few miles distant. At that date we did have the Erie R. R. running thru the Delaware Valley and we know I that many anglers came to the Beaverkill via the railroad to Callicoon station and then by horse drawn carriages to their favorite farm house on the Bea­verkill stream to fish for trout.

For a number of years in the early days of trout fishing, fish and game laws including size and creel limits were of course unheard of.  The conservation of fish and game had not come into our laws. The Beaverkill teemed with native brook trout, and sad to relate, a great deal of commercial fishing was done on the river to supply the New York market. Brook Trout were considered a great delicacy in the finest restaurants and they were caught in great numbers and shipped to the big City. This commercial fishing was far from sport fishing, and I can very well venture to say that it was not done with a wet or dry fly. With this commercial fishing together with the location of tanneries on our streams, trout became scarce. In fact the time had come when fishermen became alarmed at this state of affairs. During this alarming period, brown trout were introduced into the Beaver­kill. A sportsman by the name of Seth Green, was responsible for this and we can thank him to­day for our fishing, as the native brook trout would never have survived in any great numbers.

The brown trout can stand much warmer water temperatures, and grow faster than the brook trout.  In streams like the Beaverkill the brown trout have given us the finest of fishing for a great many years and are still being stocked in great numbers and all sizes.  Long after the onslaught of the early commercial fishermen, tanneries, acid plants, the great increase in the public fishing, the coming of the automobile and paved highways, and various ways and means of taking fish, the last of which is the spinning rod and reel, the brown trout have survived.

In the past twenty-five years trout fishing has been given a tremendous amount of publicity in our sporting magazines and the rod and gun columns of our daily newspapers. Thousands of other fresh and salt water fishermen have taken up trout fishing. Many of these an­glers have not had the ways and means of spending enough time on the stream to master the art of fly fishing. As a result, there has been a tremendous taking of trout by bait fishing, spinners, tie and lures, of every description. Man’s inborn instinct is, of course, to show his fellow man that he can catch fish. Again we have been able to overcome this onslaught by the stocking of trout from the state hatcheries and the tightening of the creel limits. The legal limit to ten fish per day. Within the past year the Conservation Department has set aside certain stretches of stream for fly fishing only. This is a noble experiment and in my opin­ion the entire Beaverkill should come under this regulation. It is interesting to note that a fishing club on the stream has had fly fishing only for over forty years.

Fly fishing can be divided into two categories, wet fly and dry fly fishing. Wet fly fishing is done by the angler fishing downstream with the current. He casts his flies, usually two or three wet flies on a long gut leader, and three quarters across the current. The leader and the flies sink and the fish follow them and strike as the line and leader straighten out.  The fish is hooked usually by the end of the rod. The wet fly is most effective in the early season when the streams are high and the natural insects are not too numerous. The wet fly is an artificial fly which represents a drowned fly or fly in the nymph stage and has been washed under the surface of the stream. The wet flies are tied with flat wings and a slender body so that it will have a minimum of floating qualities.

Dry fly fishing is somewhat the reverse of this procedure described above. The dry fly is so tied that it is a floating fly and resembles the natural insect that has fallen on the water and is in the act of laying eggs on the surface of the water. The dry fly is fished upstream allowed to float a short distance, then retrieved and cast again, on some likely spot, or over some trout that has been observed by the fisherman taking a natural insect.

Theodore Gordon has been known as the dean of the American Dry Fly Fishermen. Dry flies were not used on our streams at first, but they were used in England. The English streams were of a different type from ours and the English fishermen of a much different temperament. The chalk streams, as they were called, were slow flowing, passing through meadows and pasture lands. The English fishermen did not wade their streams but used to stalk the rising fish, often with a pair of binoculars, spot the feeding trout, as it would take a natural insect on the surface of the placid stream. With very accurate casting and a dry fly the angler would drop the fly on the spot the fish had been seen to rise. The fish would r rise to the dry fly take it down and the fisherman would then set the hook with a quick rising of the rod.

Theodore Gordon had read about this method of fishing and began at first, to experiment on our streams by fishing his wet fly, by the dry fly method. He found that it could be done and lost no time in tying some dry flies of his own. The most famous of his flies are the Gordon Quill pattern. No fisherman would be without some Gordon Quills in his fly box today.

As this method of dry fly fishing developed amongst our Am­erican trout fishermen they were able to go one step further than their English cousins. The Englishman as I stated above fished the rising fish, but by repeated casting in likely spots, in the current or behind rocks, he would induce a fish to rise for his fly in many instances when there were no natural insects to be seen on the surface of the water at all. There is no more deadly way of taking trout, than the dry fly method of fishing if done by one that has mastered the art of fly casting, and has fished enough to know where the likely spots are that trout will lie. Our stream the Famous Beaverkill could not be improved upon as far as this method of fishing is concerned. Perhaps that is why Gordon spent so many hours on it.

In the early 1920’s our fishing resorts on the Beaverkill were patronized, by middle-aged men, and older men, that would come to the stream on fishing vaca­tion, not just for a hurried weekend. They were all expert fly fishermen. Most of them dry fly fishermen. The novice was a rare sight in those days. Today this condition is just the reverse.  The expert is very rare. The desire to catch fish, regardless of by what method, urges the younger generations to refrain from the practice and knowledge of becoming an expert fly caster. Perhaps this is a result of the tempo of our present daily living.

The time the modern fisherman spends on streams does not allow him to become a good caster, or gather the necessary stream knowledge to know where to cast after he has become able to handle a rod and line.

I must add one more fact that has saved the trout fishing in the Beaverkill. Although I am an open stream fisherman myself, I will say that the existence of numerous private clubs and privately owned water on the river where the general public are not allowed to fish has been one of the prevailing factors in keeping fish in the Beaverkill. The clubs and private waters have never been fished out, they are stocked with adult fish and have supplied large reservoirs of fish that spread up and down stream to stock the open water.

Today we have inherited a direct line of fly tiers here in the Beaverkill country. This line has come down to us directly from Theodore Gordon, the master of American fly fishing. Gordon’s influence is very much alive in the school of fly-tying. Rube Cross, who learned fly-tying from the master, Roy Steenrod, author of the Hendrickson fly, and Her­man Christian were both fishing companions of Gordan’s. The expert fly tiers, Walter Dette and his wife and the Harry Darbees, all have the style and technique of the master Theodore Gordon.

Nature Watch: Bobcats in Beaverkill

contributed by Patricia Adams

A small bobcat was spotted between the Adams house and the church on Friday, August 12th. It looks like a young bobcat that has been “pushed out” of the nest.  He/she seemed almost tame and we (John, Patricia and Zelda) were able to watch it for quite a while as he/she pounced, cleaned itself and then stretched out on a log for a rest.

Tom Burnham and his family also saw a Bobcat, on Sunday the 14th in their yard on Ragin Road. We’ve seen Bobcats on and off for years. They are very shy and hard to see, but these two may be “kittens” just learning to fend form themselves.

Nature Watch: Spring Color in the Beaverkill

Contributed by Patricia Adams

This spring has been slow, with snow falling as late as May 15, but perhaps this has enhanced the colors that we’ve seen. Rather than spring bursting out in full color, the greens have slowly gotten richer while the yellows and whites deepened. Yellow primrose and blue violets blanketed the forest.

The fresh green grass provided a perfect background for new visitors in our back yard. For the first time we saw Scarlett Tanagers, who at first look like Cardinals but are much more orange and brilliant. Migs Wright and I were walking up by Beech Hill Road and a beautiful tanager hoped along beside us for at least a quarter of a mile. One afternoon we saw two Indigo Buntings sharing the yard with a couple of Robins and at lease six Goldfinches. They were all eating dandelion seeds. We’ve had one of the largest crops of dandelions as well.  Two Baltimore Oriels are back, fusing at one another.  We usually have two nests, at opposite ends of our lawn. We haven’t seen a bluebird, although others have seen them in the valley.

A beaver has been working hard in the stream that flows by Sally Shea’s. He/she has a series of dams that seem to grow almost daily. However, I’ve never see the beaver at work. But last week I did see a head moving through the water, so I crouched down to watch what was happening. This animal smoothly swam up past the dams holding green grass in its mouth. It dove down into a hole by the side of the stream and then surfaced. But it wasn’t a beaver, it was a Muskrat. I watched as she made three trips with grass to her den, so must have a brood there. We’ve also seen a muskrat in our pond. (Which unfortunately will have the invasive lilies blanketing the pond again this year. We do have a clear reflection pond from October to May, but the lilies return regularly.)

The peepers have left but we have a whole new crop of singing frogs along the banks of the river. We keep watching for newts but have only seen a few. Snakes have emerges but are moving slowly.
Above I’ve been watching the pair of Blue Heron’s we see each year and I’m trying to figure out where they have built their nest. Last year it was in the tall hemlocks on the West side of the river just down the river from the bridge. We also have a pair of eagles that fly up and down the river, but no idea where they have their nest.

On the ground and in some bare branches I saw hundreds of spider webs on Mother’s Day. I was amazed at how quickly they had appeared. But was even more amazed at how quickly they disappeared; they were all gone on Monday morning. We did have a heavy rain that night but how ephemeral those delicate looking but strong little webs are John Burroughs said, “To learn something new, take the path that you took yesterday.”  I’ve found I learn a great deal by taking the same morning walk along the Beaverkill.

In Memory of Tim Foote

contributed by Peter Malik

Tim called the house one weekend last October, saying he had a few books for our Blake, then 18 months old. I started to discuss plans for a dinner or some such involved thing, but Tim interrupted me gently, simply suggesting to pop over right away. He stepped out of his car in our driveway 10 minutes later.

Blake, a naturally friendly fellow, took to Tim with particular ease. Perhaps to reward him, Tim proceeded to read to him from The Color Kittens by Margaret Brown, one of the books he brought.

Everybody enjoyed this pop-up book club. And one of the guests who were staying over even had the quick wit to catch it all on his phone.

I don’t think Tim was even aware.

Church Steeple

Church circa 1910.  This picture is hanging in the church.

The above picture is circa 1910ish. The steeple shown is the one we are trying to replicate. A couple of changes need to be made to make it work in today’s world:

1. The openings will be covered by shutters similar to the ones on the windows. They will keep out birds, bats etc. Also, it will protect the interior of the steeple and church from water damage from rain & snow.

2.  The finial atop the steeple will differ a bit with the inclusion of lightning protection (nothing major).

3.  The spire atop the bell tower will be encased with copper sheeting which initially may seem overly bright but will weather nicely. This covering will eliminate the need to replace shingles and will last many years.

The steeple pre-fabrication is well underway. We are trying to schedule a crane for the second half of September for removal of the old structure and installation of the new one. I will let everyone know once we firm up the date(s) of the work; it might be fun to watch.

Note: There will be a short (24″) lightning rod on the new finial atop the steeple.  The existing steeple is shorter than the original, which was destroyed by lightning in the early 1900s. Subsequent steeples were built shorter, probably to facilitate construction so high above the ground. When we undertook the church restoration, we decided to go back to the original design. 

Beaverkill Community Church Dedication

The ceremony began outdoors in the rain. and then all entered the church to the ringing of the bell.  The prayer of Dedication was given by Ginny Carle, President of the Board of Trustees, New York Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
The congregation.
Church Board. (l to r) Ed Cerny, Steve Lott, Ginny Carle,
Mary Hall, Patricia Adams, Stu Root.