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Opening Day!

Democrat Photo by Ted Waddell

PATRICK TOVATT, LEFT, Paul Dahlie, middle, and Poul Jorgensen look out to the waters of Junction Pool and reflect upon what opening day of trout season means to area anglers.

First Day of Trout
Season 'Off Da Hook'

By Ted Waddell
ROSCOE — April 5, 2002 – On the opening day of trout season in New York State, the worm always seems to turn as anglers of all stripes are hooked in Trout Town USA.
The opening of trout season each spring traditionally brings out a lot of serious fly fishermen and folks who swear by spinning rods and buckets of bait to test their mettle against trout at Junction Pool, where the free-flowing waters of the famed Beaverkill and Willowemoc converge on their journey to the Delaware River.
“It is one of the most famous pools in angling literature,” reads a metal sign posted by a trail leading to the rocky shoreline. “It is a pool with strange and mystifying currents and eddies. Legend says the confusing flows cause migrating trout to linger for days trying to decide which stream to enter. This indecision is the reason why some of the largest trout in the Beaverkill are taken from this pool.”
As fishermen from all over the country lined up for the ceremonial “first cast” at 7 a.m., they were treated to a complimentary streamside breakfast served up by the Sullivan County Bed & Breakfast Association. Just the ticket to warm up before a chilly day at Junction Pool.
As the morning unfolded, families stood side by side with Poul Jorgensen, one of the brightest stars in the world of fly fishing.
“Opening Day is sort of a tradition where we celebrate the start of trout season,” said the fly-tying author of Roscoe. “We’ve been sitting home all winter thinking about it, and you meet old friends you haven’t seen in a long time.
“It’s like a coming (together),” he added. “The fishing is really secondary.”
Jorgensen learned to fish from his father William while growing up in Odense, Denmark, the same town in which Hans Christian Anderson was born.
Noting this was his 20th Opening Day at Junction Pool, Jorgensen said, “They’ll have to wheel me down here in a wheelchair before I quit.”
“When I was a youngster, we fished mostly for pike using live bait in small ponds,” he recalled.
Down the shoreline a few yards, Jeffrey Phelan of Westbrookville gave his 9-year old daughter Alicia some tips on how to cast a fly into the sparkling clear waters of the Beaverkill.
“She’s getting to be a real good caster,” he said, watching his daughter flip her bright orange line into the stream, using a caddis fly he had tied. “It’s a tradition for us to come to Junction Pool ever since we bought our house in Sullivan County.”
Opening Day 2002 was Alicia’s second time challenging the legendary wiles of trout with her father. Accompanying the father/daughter fly fishing team was the rest of the Phelan clan, wife Erin Phelan and their 3-year-old daughter, Allie, who seemed content to play with stream-washed stones at the water’s edge.
Alicia’s reaction to all the fishing excitement?
“It’s cold,” she replied.
Jeffrey Phelan is a fourth-generation fly-fisherman. On his wall at home hangs a photo of his father taken during opening day in 1936.
Phelan said he started wetting a fly even earlier than his oldest daughter who began fishing at the age of five.
“We’re a fishing family, and this is the time when we start to hang rods out on our porch,” he added.
Opening Day 2002 marked the fifth time John Phillips of Yonkers has tried his luck at Junction Pool. Within ten minutes, he landed a 16-inch brown trout, the second of two he caught that morning.
“It feels good, just like every other time,” he said of his catches of the day.
In a moment of fun, Nick Pitcherella of San Diego, CA helped 5-year-old Jacqueline Beveridge of Livingston Manor and London, England “feed” a buttered bagel to large trout float next to the water.
Patrick Tovatt, star of Broadway’s production of “Proof,” is an avid fly-fishing enthusiast. He started fishing as a 5-year old in Gunnison, CO.
“These are my home waters,” said the former resident of nearby Cooks Falls. “I think the river is a healing and energizing place.
“It’s an area of breathtaking beauty, and of great significance in the history of fly fishing in America. It’s a great gift, and the responsibility to protect and preserve it is of tremendous importance.”
Paul Dahlie, director of the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum, noted the “first cast” is a tradition on Opening Day at Junction Pool.
According to Dahlie, Tovatt used a rod that once belonged to the prestigious fly-tyer Herm Christian. It was the first time in 35-some odd years that the famous rod saw action.

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