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December 07, 2016
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Spring in the Catskills is off the hook!

TV personality and fishing enthusiast Sally Jesse Raphael greets a fan at the Catskills Fly Fishing Center and Museum’s open cast in Livingston Manor, NY.
Photo by Jerry Cohen

Thank you, Mother Nature, for (finally) coming through. With April showers nowhere in sight, I’ve a spring in my step and have flung open the windows, hung laundry on the line and am preparing for the house cleaning that is always so good for the soul. The change of seasons awakens more than the birds, bees and darling buds of May, and this past week offered events that herald the celebration of life that we all cherish here in the Upper Delaware River Valley.

My mother was an avid enthusiast of all things trout and made sure that as kids, we were well versed in fly fishing. As a result, I was kind of “fished out” by the time college rolled around and hung up the rod and reel, but Mom never stopped and was excited to visit Roscoe, NY the last time she visited with me, a few years ago. Although it’s been known as “Trout Town USA” for a number of years, in June 2011 Roscoe was named the “Ultimate Fishing Town in the USA” by the World Fishing Network (WFN). The official website (www.roscoeny.com) states that the town won its coveted title by “having competed against 300 U.S. fishing towns over a period of three months; Roscoe won the title by receiving 267,434 votes from anglers and countless supporters of this special place.”

No small feat for a town that (at last census count) boasted a population of 541 residents. With that in mind, I decided to honor my mother and rise at the crack of dawn to observe the first cast of the season where “the world-renowned Beaverkill River and Willowemoc Creek meet in the legendary Junction Pool, home of the famous Two-Headed Trout. Here a parade of legendary pools such as Hendrickson’s, Cairn’s and Wagon Tracks begin, all of which have been challenging dry fly anglers for hundreds of years.” I arrived early, to set up some shots, and managed to hook up with New York Bureau of Fisheries representative Phil Hulbert, who was on hand to throw out the ceremonial first cast. “Roscoe has a long-standing tradition of being the center of the universe for fishers everywhere,” he reported, “and that’s good for the economy, good for tourism and good for the community.”

Nodding her head in agreement was Roscoe Mayor Betty Grossman, who had driven up from Florida to celebrate her birthday on the auspicious day. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” she shared, while hugging friends and loved ones who had shown up to wade into the frigid waters, along with the rest of the town. Having heard that celebrity Sally Jesse Raphael would be in attendance, I was crestfallen when State Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther informed me that Raphael was scheduled to appear at the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum in Livingston Manor later in the morning. I asked pal Jerry Cohen to snap a pic of the TV icon for me, before heading home to dust off my tux and head out the door, with Dharma the Wonder Dog all dolled up.

Our formal attire was called for, since the Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce (www.catskills.com) “The Catskill Club” speakeasy fundraiser was being held at the nightclub “Hype” in Monticello (www.monticelloraceway.com), which had been transformed into a 1920s speakeasy, replete with secret codes, gaming tables, flappers, gangsters and a few gun molls dancing the Charleston while dice were tossed and the roulette wheel spun. Fortunate to have two ladies on the hook, I escorted The River Reporter’s Barbara Soscie Matos to the black tie soiree, and the party was in full swing by the time we made our grand entrance. Sponsored by Empire Resorts, EPR Properties and Hart Howerton, song stylist Donna Singer (www.donna-singer.com) headlined the entertainment, which was further enhanced by costumed members of the Spencer Daniels Agency, the Sullivan County Dramatic Workshop and the Swing Shift Orchestra, all of whom added (IMHO) fantastic ambiance to the affair.

Barbara and I sampled hors d’oeuvres and sipped cocktails (featuring Bootlegger 21 Vodka) before joining the throngs waiting to have their portraits taken during an authentic 1920s film noir photo session with ND Pro Media’s Nuby DeLeon. The shots (developed on the spot) came out ultra-cool, and Nuby, along with the chamber, created memories for us all that will last a lifetime. Between the baconstuffed scallops, the salmon canapés and the filet mignon, I barely had room for the cream puffs, cannolis and eclairs that followed, but Dharma had sampled the honey glazed ham and grilled vegetables, too, so dessert was out of the question for her. Between fishing, dancing, wining and dining, my weekend in the Catskills was delightful, delicious and totally off the hook!

[For a complete photo album of “The Catskill Club” speakeasy event, like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/theriverreporter. And you can follow Jonathan on Twitter at @JonathanfoxIMHO]