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December 04, 2016
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Mothers and other river champions

Our Upper Delaware fishery has a rich and fascinating history. We have an abundance of fishing opportunities in our backyard that are all too easy to take for granted. Threats to our fisheries are never far around the bend. Yet there always seems to be a “river champion” who rises to the occasion, or goes quietly about her everyday efforts to improve the river or angling opportunities. I use the word “her” advisedly, for our fishery has had an abundant share of woman protectors and activists. This column is far too short to mention more than just a sampling.

We don’t have to go back to Juliana Berners, the English nun who wrote a verse treatise on fly fishing in the early 15th century. Not when today’s First Lady of Fly Fishing, Joan Wulff, is so active in teaching and in advocating for fisheries not only at the Wulff Fishing School on the Beaverkill, but also as a trustee of both the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and International Game Fishing Association.

Legendary fly-tier Elsie Darbee had a vision that the history of fly fishing in our region needed to be preserved for posterity. She enlisted a legion of angling notables who brought her dream to reality in 1981, with the formation of the Catskill Fly Fishing Center, shortly after her untimely passing. And while both Joan and Elsie are Hall of Famers, it is sometimes the quiet voice, working behind the scenes, that makes remarkable contributions.

I am talking about Pam Reinhardt, for example. Pam and Val Reinhardt have long been the backbone of the Upper Delaware Chapter of Trout Unlimited. Pam is the person most responsible for the outstanding success of the Trout in the Classroom (TIC) program with the fifth graders at Sullivan West, Jeffersonville campus. Last fall, the New York State Council of Trout Unlimited awarded our TU Chapter with the Conservation Award. This prestigious award went to our chapter, but really belongs to Pam Reinhardt. If fishing is to survive in the future, we need to get our children involved and programs like TIC do just that. This year on May 15, the students will release into the wild the hundreds of fry (baby trout) that they have raised in the classroom from eggs. Pam is responsible not only for releasing thousands of trout into our waters over the past six years, but also for “releasing” hundreds of youngsters into society, each of them with an enhanced love and appreciation of nature.

My own love of nature and the stream was a gift to me from my parents. My mother was not much of a fisher, being awfully busy with raising six children. But she did catch a fish on a fly rod at age 90, and I have to give her credit for that achievement, even though, when I told her we would release it, she asked, “So what’s the point?”

I remember bringing my first 10-inch “trophy” into the kitchen. Did my dear mother tell me to get that slimy, dripping midget out of her kitchen? Oh, but no, rather she marveled at my “fine fish,” and quick as a wink she fried it in butter for my lunch. Growing up, she always found the time to cook up my fish, or marvel at my fishing prowess. Today I realize how kind and generous she was, then and always. But that, I guess, is what wonderful mothers do and is precisely why we have Mother’s Day.

Happy Mother’s Day to all.

Attention shad fishers! It won’t be long now. Highland Town Judge John A. Traver, Sr., was a font of hunting and fishing lore. When cooking a rabbit, “add a squirrel; one flavor tempers the other”. Fishing for Walleyes at Barryville: “always fish the bubble line”. Fish for shad “when the leaves are the size of a mouse’s ear.” Some experts predict we may see a fine shad run this year based on last year and this year’s good flows on the Delaware. If you’re fishing for shad from a boat, here’s the best tip of all: wear a life vest.

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