By Ted Waddell
ROSCOE April 3, 2001 People are smart, and fish are dumb. Or is it the other way around?
On April 1st April Fools Day the traditional opening day of New York States trout season, the fish were hunkered down in the 38-degree waters of Junction Pool in Roscoe, where the waters of the Willowemoc and the Beaverkill converge.
Crowds of fishing folk and curious bystanders stomped through the snow and across the slippery rocks to catch a glimpse of three fly fishing celebrities who were featured as the events first casters.
The legendary Poul Jorgensen and Joan Wulff were joined by television personality Sally Jesse Raphael, an avid and active flyfisher.
First Cast was sponsored by the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum (CFFCM) of nearby Livingston Manor.
A hearty hot breakfast prepared and served by members of the Sullivan County Bed & Breakfast Association helped ward off the chilly fog rising from the snow and sparkling waters flowing timelessly past the traditional early morning outing.
Joan Wulff returned from three months in Florida just in time for opening day at Junction Pool.
I read in the newspaper that I was going to be here, so I made sure I got back in time, she said with a grin. Whether I fish all day or just appear, its a tradition. Its the spirit of the whole area, and you have to be here.
Wulff picked up a rod and wet a line for the first time in 1937 as a 10-year-old, after joining the Patterson Casting Club of NJ.
It was a bunch of kids who were learning to fish, she recalled. Eventually all the other girls faded, but I hung in there because there was something about it that always brought me back.
What keeps Wulff in the sport?
I love being in the water, she said. Im always fishing in beautiful places because game fish can only live in beautiful, clean water. Its the feeling of being part of the natural world, a part of the earth.
I love the out of doors, she added. Its like my church.
Looking back on her career as one of the sports true luminaries, Wulff said, I happy that Ive lived long enough to see women finally discover what I discovered so many years ago.
Joan Wulff will celebrate her 75th birthday this year. Fly fishing legend Poul Jorgensen, Dr. Alan Fried and Gardner Grant also are in their Diamond Year.
Were in the youth of our old age, said Wulff, noting that of several of the sports leaders are turning 75 in the year 2001.
The snow covered rocks and chilly day didnt stop Poul Jorgensen from making it to Junction Pool on opening day.
Being here on opening day is a tradition, [so] it doesnt really make a difference if its cold or snowing, and it helps me get rid of my cabin fever, he said.
I love it here because I get to meet people I havent seen all year, added Jorgensen. Its a reunion, its just wonderful.
Jorgensen was born 75 years ago in Odense, Denmark on March 26.
Odense also hails Hans Christian Anderson as a native son.
Jorgensens take on it?
It wasnt big enough for both of us, so I left fifty years ago.
In honor of his birthday, someone had erected a large sign on the other side of the river. The silver painted numerals 75 were lettered Happy Birthday Poul.
Jorgensen was the featured speaker during the annual Two-Headed Trout Dinner, held Saturday night at the Rockland House in Roscoe. The annual dinner marks the traditional kick off celebration of the states opening day of trout season.
Later on opening day, Jorgensen demonstrated the art of fly tying at the CFFCM. The center held a reception in celebration of his 75th birthday.
The avid fly fisherman, master fly-tier and author is also a keen environmentalist.
According to Jorgensen, the Willowemoc/Beaverkill has had a couple of tough years because of a drought, but is bouncing back.
We lost a lot of fisherman to the Delaware [River], but last year was beautiful, he said. The river was just at the right level and more big fish were caught than I can remember in a long time.
While Jorgensen wouldnt reveal were the big ones are lurking this season, he said, I think were going to have a good year.
Sally Jesse Raphael has been fly fishing for about 11 years, and wet a line at Junction Pool on opening day in front of the cameras.
Asked why she is an avid fisherman, Raphael replied, I need it for the solitude.
As the media scurried around taking pictures of and recording the thoughts of all the celebrities, others talked about their love of fly fishing.
Jerry Casey sat on a snow bank next to the slick rocks at the waters edge, putting a fly on his line.
He was born in the little Irish village of Monastaraden, where as a lad of four or five he learned to love the art of fly fishing. Casey now lives in East Rockaway, Long Island. Hes wet a line on opening day several times.
Hopefully, Ill raise a trout, said Casey.
Phil Perrone of NYC built a second home in the area because of the fly fishing, and hasnt missed an opening day at Junction Pool in 35 years.
Over the years, the cast (surely no pun was intended) has changed, he said. New people come and then retire, and then new people fill the ranks. But the conditions on opening day are essentially pretty much the same, pretty damn cold!
The adverse conditions attract only the stalwarts, and the fish are very difficult to catch, he added. People have to be a little crazy to love it out here.
While nobody seemed to be catching any trout at Junction Pool, the first casters managed to hook a few cameramen and reporters swirling around in search of stories.
In his own right, 11-year old Bruce Huggins of Roscoe is a local fly fishing celebrity. In recent years, hes been featured in the local press for his exploits with a rod and ability as a tier of flies.
On opening day 2001, he was fishing with his grandfather, Tom Trask of Roscoe, beneath the bridge just upstream of the famed pool.
Asked what he was doing, the lad replied, Catching fish.
Did he catch any?
No, said Huggins.
They dont like me, he said. I think theyre afraid of me because if I catch them, I put them in a pan and fry them.