ramblings of a catskill fly fisher

‘Art Flicks Streamside Guide to Naturals and Their Imitations’

By TONY BONAVIST
Posted 6/3/20

It was in late 1972 or early 1973 at a Catskill Mountain’s Chapter of Trout Unlimited (TU) meeting in Kingston, NY that I met Arthur Flick. I was at that meeting as a fisheries biologist …

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ramblings of a catskill fly fisher

‘Art Flicks Streamside Guide to Naturals and Their Imitations’

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It was in late 1972 or early 1973 at a Catskill Mountain’s Chapter of Trout Unlimited (TU) meeting in Kingston, NY that I met Arthur Flick. I was at that meeting as a fisheries biologist representing the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). My mission was to make TU members aware of the DEC’s goal to cause the City of New York to release more water from its Catskill reservoirs in order to enhance down-stream trout fisheries. The DEC was hopeful that TU would be supportive of that effort. As it turned out, Art became a charter member of Catskill Waters, a group of interested citizens who organized to work with the state and lobby for increased water releases from NYC reservoirs. Trout Unlimited and Catskill Waters played a significant roll in the adoption of the NYS Water Releases Legislation signed into law in 1976.

Soon after I met Art, Frank Mele—whose name appeared in this column a number of times—and I were invited to dinner by Lita, Art’s wife. Frank had known Art through the fly-fishing community for several years. At that time, Art and Lita lived in a large white house on the corner of Spruceton Road and Route 42 in Westkill, NY. The Flicks had previously owned and sold the Westkill Tavern, which burned in 1963.

Lita was a most gracious hostess, plying us with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, a lovely meal of hasenpfeffer and homemade apple pie. During dinner, Art asked if I would mount some 35 mm slides for a talk he had agreed to for a TU chapter in Michigan. When I said yes, and Art offered to pay. I said, “Just give me one of your Red Quill dry flies,” which he did.

While Art was dedicated to the preservation of Catskill trout fishery resources, he was also a superb fly fisherman, fly tier and amateur entomologist. Initially, Art did not want to write a book, mainly because he was friends with Preston Jennings, author of “A book of Trout Flies” and did not want to infringe upon Jennings’s work. However, after considerable cajoling by Raymond “Ray” Camp, the then outdoor editor for the New York Times, Art relented and wrote “Art Flick’s Streamside Guide To Naturals and Their Imitations.” That little volume was first published in 1947 by Putnam and is still in print today. However, the title has been changed to “Art Flick’s New Streamside Guide to Naturals and Their Imitations” published by Globe Pequot Press. I have not read this new version but suspect that it has been edited to some degree.

In my view, this streamside guide remains a classic—the one book, the only book, that every eastern fly fisher should have in his and her possession. I got my first copy in 1960 and refer to it to this day even after years of fly fishing. I consider it the “Bible” for eastern fly hatches and fly fishing. What Art did in his little book was simplify what has now become a highly technical and over-hyped sport. Instead, he emphasized the most important species of mayflies and caddisflies found in Catskill rivers. He included the likes of Quill Gordon, Hendrickson, March Browns, Light Cahill and Green Drake mayflies, along with some caddisflies, as the only aquatic insects that anglers needed to be aware of and have imitations for.

Art tied the most delicate, beautiful Catskill-style dry flies: sparsely dressed yet elegant. I’ve never seen better. In addition to his book, he created the Red Quill dry fly (male to the Hendrickson) along with the Blacknose Dace bucktail that represents a common minnow found in most Catskill rivers.

Art had a stroke sometime in the early 1980s. While he rehabbed in the Schenectady area, I met Lita on my way to work and drove her to Albany every day until Art returned home. Sadly, Art passed away in 1981 at the age of 81. A large stone monument with a bronze plaque was erected along the banks of Schoharie Creek in his memory.

After more than 70 years, Art Flick’s streamside guide remains a tribute to Art’s knowledge of the trout and insect world he knew so well and how anglers can better exploit it. How many authors can say that, after so many years?

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