By Ted Waddell
ROSCOE The annual Two-Headed Trout Dinner was held Saturday evening, April 4 at the Rockland House in Roscoe.
Local fly-fishing legend has it that the “Bea-Moc,” commonly known as the “Two-Headed Trout,” was a mighty trout that couldn’t make up its mind whether to swim upstream against the current of the Little Beaverkill or the Willowemoc when it came time to spawn in the spring. As a result, it remained in Junction Pool, that famed pool where the two aforementioned waterways merge to form the Beaverkill River.
Legend also records that a local fisherman soaked a piece of bread in vintage scotch, and thus lured the “Two-Headed Trout” onto his line and then into the frying pan.
In a sense, the annual dinner is a time for fly-fishermen to trade stories, remember the past and pass on old traditions to future generations.
Before the dinner, a few folks braved a wet, cold morning for the annual First Cast at Junction Pool. Then they placed a wreath at the gravesite of Dick “Pop” Robbins, who now lies beneath the earth at Riverview Cemetery.
According to Jim Krul, Executive Director of the internationally known Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum (CFFCM) in Livingston Manor, in the late 1800s “Pop” Robbins was one of the founding members of the Brooklyn Fly Fishing Club, which is located along the Little Beaverkill.
As bad luck would have it, Robbins was stricken with arthritis, and after falling on hard times spent the last three years of his life in the poor house.
“He was a conservationist who mentored Harry Darbee, and later introduced Harry to Elsie Bivens, who was a feather sorter,” Krul said.
Recalling the memory of “Pop” Robbins, Krul said, “He died in the poor house in 1937, but he was a fine thread in the fabric of Catskill fly fishing.”
Sandy Stone remembered the old Antrim Lodge in Roscoe back in the days when a room with a bath cost six bucks a night, and especially “Keenan’s Pool,” as the hotel’s bar was known.
Outraged when the price went up to $8, Stone used to let a broke buddy who spent the night in his car rather than pony up the price of a bed, sneak up for an early morning shower.
“When Doug Bury and his wife raised the price, I screamed like crazy, but those were the days,” Stone said.
Dave Brant, referred to by Krul as “the last link to the Darbee chain he learned his fly tying from Harry and Elsie Darbee,” served as the evening’s master-of- ceremonies.
“He’s probably the best Catskill-style fly tyer in the world,” Krul said of Brant.
Brant said fly fishing is “all important to a lot of people, and for some it’s the number one thing in the Catskills and elsewhere.”
He’s been wetting a line “coming on 60 years” and a fly fisherman for about the last 40 years.
“I’ve been working with Joan Wulff for 27 years now as an instructor, and at the time that allowed Lee [Wulff] to spend more time flying and goofing off and less time working at the [fly fishing] school,” added Brant, who teaches a course on fly fishing at SUNY Oneonta.
Asked about the passion of fly fishing, Brant said it’s hard to put into words, but a few years ago “a fellow who was at the helm of the department of fisheries [Bruce Schupp] told me that if you’ve never fished by the time you’re 12, you never will.”
“If we’re going to keep hunting, fishing and the outdoor sports alive, we have to recruit new young people,” Brant commented.
To that end, about 20 years ago, he helped found the Catskill Fly Tyers Guild “to keep alive the early techniques, histories and traditions, because this is the area where it all started.”.