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The Catskills - A Brief History of American Dry Fly Fishing

Updated: Aug 11, 2019

The Catskill Mountains, also known as the Catskills are a large area in the southeastern portion of the U.S. state of New York. As a maker of traditional English fly fishing rods, and with a deep historical connection with the America, we felt compelled to share this fascinating story of the Catskills – The birthplace of American dry fly-fishing.

The pristine, protected waters of the Catskills has an abundance of fauna and flora in the surrounding area, from Bobcats, Cougars and Black Bears to tiny insects, and of course, trout. Cannonsville Reservoir - one of One of four reservoirs in the Catskills - is 12-miles long and stocked annually with 6,000 to 7,000 Brown Trout. However, you can also find species such Alewife, Common Carp, Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass, among others.

History or fly fishing in the Catskills

According the tourist authority for the region, the popularity of Fly fishing in the Catskills emerged in the 1890s when Theodore Gordon – the 'Father of American Dry Fly Fishing' – began to notice that many of the trout he was wet fishing for upstream in the Neversink River – a 55-mile long tributary of the mighty Delaware River –would take to flies floating just above the surface of the water. This prompted him to write to the famed British dry fly fishing authority of the time, and author of Floating Flies and How to Dress Them Frederick M. Halford.

The Beaverkill river

Halford exchanged a series of letters on the subject of dry fly fishing with American angler, Theodore Gordon which were adapted by Gordon and led to the development of this famous dry fly fishery. In his response, Halford also sent Gordon some dry flies.

...and so it began.

Gordon quickly realized that since Halford's flies imitated British insect species, the technique needed to be adapted for Catskills waterways. He set out to design and tie his own dry fly patterns, which would mimic native American insects, developing the American school of dry fly fishing in the process.

Read our article on How a split cane fly rod is made

History of American fly fishing

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