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Democrat Photo by Ted Waddell

GUEST CASTERS CHEF Tom Colicchio, left, and author/artist James Prosek discuss their opening day fishing strategies to land a large trout.

Opening Day
Exciting as Always

By Ted Waddell
ROSCOE — April 8, 2005 – A little fly fishergirl named Allie is getting to be a familiar face at Junction Pool, home of the traditional “first cast” that signals the opening day of trout fishing season in New York State.
As the media focused their lens and microphones on a trio of official “firstcasters” last Friday morning at Junction Pool, 6-year-old Allie Phelan was upstream of the commotion. She was joined knee deep in the sparkling waters by her older sister Alicia, 12, and their fisherfolks, Jeff and Karen Phelan of Westbrookville.
Two years ago, Allie Phelan was featured in the Sullivan County Democrat as the youngest angler at Junction Pool, and was decked out to combat a chilly day with a down jacket and knit cap pulled down over her eyes.
On April 1, 2005 Allie returned with a different view of the fishing world.
“All I want is my two front teeth instead of a fish,” she said with a bit of a whistle through a gap in her grin.
Ralph Harucki of Brooklyn was back for his 17th year at Junction Pool.
But for him, opening day – which was April 1, also known as April Fool’s Day – is no joke.
“There’s a lot of comradery here, the guys you see every year and the good food,” he said. “No one’s yelling, screaming or hollering, and it really works.”
Harucki’s claim to fishing fame?
“Total patience,” he said.
Then it was time for the guest casters to take center stage where the Willowemoc and Beaverkill meet in Roscoe, known around the fly fishing world as “Trout Town USA.” Those guest casters were Tom Colicchio, Floyd Franke and James Prosek.
Colicchio, a three star chef and restaurantier of New York City and Las Vegas, has been fly fishing since the age of about 15.
While 2005 was his sixth time wetting a line on opening day, he was a first-timer at Junction Pool.
“I try to avoid the crowds,” Colicchio said.
Author/artist Prosek was there working on a story for The New York Times about the tradition of the Catskills and opening day.
“Fly fishing is a vehicle for me to learn about things, and it gets me out standing in a river for hours at a time, but if you’re standing there without a rod you look ridiculous,” he said.
While he “loves the thrill of catching a fish,” Prosek said he releases most.
“But I keep a few to eat,” he added.
His take on opening day at Junction Pool?
“It’s almost like a church gathering,” replied Prosek. “Fishing is spiritual for me.”
Franke, one of the premier fly fishing instructors in the United States, makes his home along the banks of the Beaverkill where he runs his own guide service, Emphemera, and teaches at the famed Wulff School of Fly Fishing.
He is also an accomplished fly tyer with over 40 national and international awards to his credit.
As the morning mist began to clear over the waters and the fish rose to take a lure, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Officer Scott R. Steingart was joined by a fellow Environmental Conservation Officer (ECO) in checking fishing licenses.
Although no tickets were issued – and it’s hard to fathom somebody showing up for the opening day of trout season without a valid fishing license – the officers and anglers shared a creel full of good fishing stories.
Bert Darrow, president of the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum (CFFCM) of Livingston Manor, said he doesn’t call the first day of the fourth month April 1 or April Fool’s Day.
“This is Saint Trout’s Day,” Darrow said.
“I love to go out and see fish rise, and then I know the river is alive and the fish are doing well,” he added.

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