JBAC fishing forum

Panelists and audience during the 2016 Fly Fishing Forum Series.

News & Events


Free Outdoor Classroom in the Creek

Saturday, July 27, 2024 from 11AM to 1PM

Get your feet wet and learn how to find and identify the insects that trout and other fish feed on! Outdoor educator Aaron Bennett will lead this fascinating hands-on workshop in the Stoney Clove Creek. The workshop will be fun for all ages, but especially for kids. There is no charge to attend. Meet at the gazebo in Phoenicia at the intersection of Main Street and Route 214. Download the event flyer here.

The workshop is sponsored by the Jerry Bartlett Angling Collection and made possible by funds from the Catskill Watershed Corporation in partnership with New York City DEP.


The Catskill Fly Tyers Guild and Famous Fly Tyers of the Catskills

May 5, 2024 — with Joe Ceballos and Phil Street

Dun Variant. Photo by Mark Loete

In May, the Angling Collection was very pleased to present an informative journey through American fly tying history and techniques. Our speakers were two representatives of the Catskill Fly Tyers Guild — President Joe Ceballos, who discussed the organization’s history and the traditions of fly tying in the U.S., and Guild member Phil Street, who tied a couple of exquisite classic Catskill dry flies. As Joe explained, a small group of tying enthusiasts formed the Guild in 1993 in order to preserve and document traditional Catskill dry fly tying history and techniques. Since then, the Catskill Fly Tyers Guild has grown to 300 members. Joe went on to take us back through fly tying history, beginning with Marcus Aurelius in Macedonia and Julia Berners’ 14th century work, “Treatyse” on fly fishing in England, and touching on more recent greats, like Theodore Gordon, Rube Cross and the Dettes and Darbees. After Joe spoke, we were treated to a hands-on demonstration by Phil Street, who led us through the steps and materials involved in tying two iconic Catskill flies — the Quill Gordon and the Light Cahill. Phil and Joe also brought along a collection of feathers and other materials involved in creating these and other Catskill classics.

Catskill Fly Tyers Guild member Phil Street (left) and Guild President Joe Ceballo joined us on May 5 for a discussion of Catskill fly tying history and a tying demonstration.

Joe and Phil brought a selection of fly tying materials, such as various necks and threads.

Joe Ceballos started out the talk by delving into the history of fly tying, from Marcus Aurelius in Macedonia, to Julia Berners in the 14th century to today's Catskill fly tying traditions.

Joe demonstrated where the "quill" in the Quill Gordon fly comes from — the wing feathers.

He also brought showed a sample of a wood duck feather, an important material for tying in the Catskill tradition.

Phil Street demonstrated how the Quill Gordon and Light Cahill flies are tied in the Catskill tradition.

Dubbing is minimal and the flies are sparsely and precisely tied.

He winds the thread around and between the wings to separate them.

The finished Light Cahill fly, a perfect specimen of the Catskill style.

Glory Days of Fly Fishing in Phoenicia

October 15, 2023 — with Mark Loete, Richard Loveless and Tony Bonavist

Elmer's Diner in its heyday — 1940's.

Phoenicia’s legendary reputation in the world of American fly fishing began as far back as the 1830’s, when the Milo Barber boarding house catered to intrepid anglers who made the then arduous journey to Phoenicia to fish the Stony Clove and Esopus Creeks. Once transportation was easier and hotels and inns were built, a thriving sporting culture developed. Flash forward to the post WWII years, when Folkert’s sporting goods store was the unofficial headquarters of Esopus Creek trout fishing, and Ray Smith, Phoenicia’s renowned guide and fly tier, served many celebrity clients. The Rainbow Lodge hosted countless anglers, and Elmer’s Diner was the spot where fishermen gathered to swap tales and journalists from far and wide came to hear what they had to say.

On October 15, 2023 the Angling Collection brought together anglers and other local residents to remember the “glory days” and learn more about the colorful characters and fabled catches of Phoenicia’s piscine past.

Mark Loete (left) is a photographer and licensed fly fishing guide. The parents of Richard Loveless (center) owned Elmer's Diner. Tony Bonavist (right) is a lifelong Phoenicia fisherman and fisheries biologist.

Mark Loete tries to pinpoint the location of the Milo Barber boarding house on a parcel map. Tony Bonavist shares his recollection of fishing and helping manage the Esopus Creek and its tributaries.

Richard Loveless talked about how his parents started up and ran the famous Elmer's Diner and shared photographs and old news clippings.

Memorabilia from the Jerry Bartlett Angling Collection.

Ray Smith: The Legend Lives On — with Jody Hoyt, Paul Hoyt and Preston Woolheater (2 episodes)

August 17, 2021 — with Jody and Paul Hoyt

July 27, 2021 — with Preston Woolheater

The Esopus Valley’s most famous outdoorsman, Ray Smith (1900–1975), is undeniably the quintessential sporting legend of the Catskills. An accomplished fly fisherman and casting expert, Ray was also a prolific fly tyer. A sought-after fishing guide, his clients included numerous celebrities of the day. Jody Hoyt, Paul Hoyt and Preston Woolheater, all accomplished fishermen and fly tyers in their own right, initially learned their craft from Ray Smith at age 10 to 13. In these two episodes of "Ray Smith: The Legend Lives On," Jody, Paul and Preston share their remembrances with us.

Theodore Gordon: Father of Dry Fly Fishing in America

July 26, 2021

Theodore Gordon (1854–1915) is known for his work adapting British materials and techniques for the dry fly to the rougher, tumbling waters of the Catskill region. He was a pivotal figure in the growth and popularity of dry fly fishing in America, and the development of the “Catskill Style” of fly tying. Gordon’s iconic dry fly— the Quill Gordon — still endures today as one of anglers’ most popular patterns. This talk on one of the most important figures in Catskills fly fishing history was presented by Bert Darrow, President of the Theodore Gordon Flyfishers, Inc, past President of the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum, permanent Director and past President of the Catskill Mountain Trout Unlimited, licensed fishing guide and author.

Outdoor Guides of the Catskills: The “Adventure Experts”

May 11, 2019

Since the early 1800’s, New York’s guides have been leading visitors into the wild areas of our beautiful state. Back in the day, colorful characacters like Orson “Old Mountain” Phelps and other local outdoorsmen plied their trade as fishing and hunting guides to the wealthy robber barons of the Adirondack Great Camps. By 1924, New York required guides to be licensed, in an effort to reduce fires, enforce conservation laws, curb hunting abuses and enhance enjoyment of the outdoors. Today, the tradition continues, and licensed guides are available for outdoor adventure opportunities like whitewater, rock climbing, snowshoeing and nature studies, in addition to fishing and hunting.

On May 11, four local "Adventure Experts" got together to tell us about the history of guiding, what it takes to be a guide, how to choose one and how to get licensed. And we heard about some interesting personal experiences too!

Our panelists were: Will Soter, co-founder of Upstate Adventure Guides and the president of the New York State Outdoor Guide Association (NYSOGA); Legendary fishing guide Hank Rope, owner of Big Indian Guide Service; Lifelong angler and expert guide Cliff Schwark, a founder of the Catskill Mt. Chapter of Trout Unlimited; and Patty Rudge, the first woman to serve as a full time NYS Forest Ranger.

  • Outdoor Guides of the Catskills Panel
  • Fishing Guide Cliff Schwark
  • Fishing Guide Cliff Schwark
  • Fishing Guide Hank Rope
  • Will Soter, owner of Outdoor Adventure Guides
  • Will Soter, owner of Outdoor Adventure Guides
  • Will Soter, owner of Outdoor Adventure Guides
  • Panelists discuss the value of a guide
  • Will Soter and Patty Rudge
  • Fishing Guide Cliff Schwark tells a few stories
  • Hank Rope shares reminiscences
  • Patty Rudge shows a forest marker
  • Patty Rudge shows a framed version of article 14 of the NYS Constitution
  • Reception after the presentation

Joan Wulff: “First Lady of Fly Fishing”

October 27, 2018

Once again, the house was packed, as “First Lady” Joan Wulff and her associate Jen Grossman took the floor to tell the story of her remarkable life and career in the angling world. Hooked on fishing at a very early age, she rose to prominence as a National Casting Champion, winning competitions for both distance (161 feet!) and accuracy from 1943-1960. In the late 1970s, she and her husband, Lee Wulff, opened the Wulff School of Fly Fishing in Lew Beach on the Upper Beaverkill.Joan is widely known for her pioneering set of fly casting mechanics, presented in her book “Fly Casting Techniques” and instructional video, “Dynamics of Fly Casting.” She has authored two other books on casting and one on fishing from a woman’s perspective, and she penned a column for Fly Rod & Reel Magazine about casting for 22 years. In 2007, she was elected to the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame. As an author, mentor, teacher and legend, Joan's contribution to fly fishing is truly awe-inspiring, and we were thrilled to help celebrate her many accomplishments. 

  • Joan Wulff, First Lady of Fly Fishing
  • Audience at the Joan Wulff Sporting Clubs event
  • Joan Wulff and Beth Waterman
  • Joan Wulff and her “Fly-O” teaching tool
  • Joan Wulff's “Fly-O”
  • Joan demonstrating the “Fly-O” rod
  • Joan Wulff and Jen Grossman
  • Soan Wulff and Jen Grossman
  • Joan Wulff gesticulating
  • Joan Wulff speaking
  • Joan Wulff speaking
  • Joan Wulff casting in a cocktail dress
  • Joan and Lee Wulff at their school
  • Joan speaking about casting mechanics
  • Joan speaking about the school
  • Joan speaking
  • The reception after Joan's talk
  • Joan and fishing guide Mark Loete
  • Joan's current husband at the reception
  • Joan with Jerry Bartlett Collection founders

Sporting Clubs: Saviors of our Catskill Rivers

April 28, 2018

We had a full house on April 28, as author Austin 'Mac' Francis and Bethia Waterman discussed the history and origins of sporting clubs and preserves, both public and private, in the Catskills. By the late nineteenth century, overfishing, pollution and deforestation had devastated Catskill streams. In response, groups of sportsmen founded organizations like Phoenicia Fish and Game to protect streams and forest lands. Some became advocates and activists for environmental conservation, achieving landmark reforms and protections. Stay tuned as we post photos and a link to the event podcast in the coming weeks.


Austin McK. Francis is owner and publisher of The Beaverkill Press, a small literary press specializing in sporting and outdoors books. He is the author of Land of Little Rivers and Catskill Rivers, Birthplace of American Flyfishing. Bethia Waterman is one of the founders of the Jerry Bartlett Angling Collection and a resident of the Town of Shandaken.

  • Speakers at the Sporting Clubs event
  • Map from Land of Little Rivers”
  • Sporting Clubs talk at the Jerry Bartlett Angling Collection at the Phoencia Library
  • Catskill Rivers book
  • Sporting Clubs talk at the Jerry Bartlett Angling Collection at the Phoencia Library
  • Sporting Clubs promotional brochure
  • Sporting Clubs reception after the talk at the Jerry Bartlett Angling Collection at the Phoencia Library
  • Sporting Clubs reception at the Jerry Bartlett Angling Collection at the Phoencia Library
  • Sporting Clubs memorabilia at the Jerry Bartlett Angling Collection at the Phoencia Library
  • Hunting and fishing licenses
  • Save the Esopus bumber sticker

Get the Sporting Clubs transcript

Nick Lyons: A Life Well Fished

December 2, 2017

Nick Lyons, a titan in the field of books about fishing, joined us on December 2 for a memorable talk about his life and work. Before a full house, Nick reminisced about a lifetime of fishing, told some of his favorite stories, and answered questions. His generous donation of many of his books, which he signed for attendees, helped raise funds for the collection. Thank you, Nick! Listen to the podcast of the event or download the transcript, below.

  • A full house at the Nick Lyons talk
  • Nick Lyons talk at the Jerry Bartlett Angling Collection at the Phoencia Library
  • Nick Lyons talk at the Jerry Bartlett Angling Collection at the Phoencia Library
  • Nick Lyons talk at the Jerry Bartlett Angling Collection at the Phoencia Library
  • Nick Lyons talk at the Jerry Bartlett Angling Collection at the Phoencia Library
  • Nick Lyons talk at the Jerry Bartlett Angling Collection at the Phoencia Library
  • Nick Lyons talk at the Jerry Bartlett Angling Collection at the Phoencia Library

Get the Nick Lyons transcript

Catching of Old Bess and the History of Rainbow Lodge

October 14, 2017

The family of Larry Decker entertained a full house with the epic story of the 1955 capture of the elusive and wily trout, "Old Bess," and Ed Kahil shared his scrapbook and memories from his family's legendary lodge for fishermen. Enjoy Larry Decker memorabilia and rare historic photos of the Rainbow Lodge in its heyday,listen to the podcasts of the event or download the transcripts, below.

  • The Decker family
  • Automatic reel
  • Photo of Larry Decker
  • Outdoor Life magazine
  • Larry Decker's fly box
  • Ed Kahil
  • Ed Kahil
  • Ed Kahil
  • Starlight Lodge
  • Business Card
  • The Mt. Tremper lodge
  • The cottage
  • The Lodge in winter
  • Dick Kahil and the artist John Pike
  • The bar
  • Cooking steaks
  • Dick Kahil and Mickey Mantle
  • Opening day in Mt. Tremper
  • Deer hunters
  • Baking fruitcakes
  • Preston Jennings
  • Fly tying
  • Pappy
  • Pappy
  • Floyd Smith
  • Larry Decker
  • Larry Decker and Old Bess
  • Measuring Old Bess
  • news clipping
  • Outdoor Life
  • Larry Decker
  • Kahil siblings
  • Dick Kahil fishing
  • trout limit
  • Larry Decker fishing gear
  • Guest with large fish
  • Rainbow Lodge sign
  • Angling still life
  • Young Ed Kahil
  • Ed Kahil as teenager
  • Jake with fish

Events from the 20th Anniversary Celebration: Catskill Fishing Fever Forums showcase local fishing history, tradition and celebrities

In commemoration of our 20th Anniversary, the Jerry Bartlett Collection hosted a four-part series of lively discussions about the history of fishing in the Catskills. All the events were held in the community meeting room in the Phoenicia Library, on Main Street, Phoenicia.

July 23, 2016: “On the River with Authors, Guides and Catskill Characters.” Moderated by local historian Bill Birns, local authors and fishing guides shared their stories about fishing legends Ralph Hoffman, Paul O'Neil and Ray Smith, and their own experiences from a lifetime of fishing on the river. You can listen to the podcast of the event or download the transcript, below.

May 14, 2016: “Fishy Tales.” Active and retired DEC folks took us along on a wide ranging discussion of topics like their major battles, Catskill Bill Kelly, fishery management crises and public fishing rights. Moderated by Outdoor Writer Judy Van Put, the panel featured Jack Isaacs, Walt Keller, Mike Gann and Ed Van Put. You can listen to the podcast or download the transcript, below.

  • Beth Waterman
  • Wayne Elliot
  • Beth Waterman
  • Outdoor writer Judy Van Put
  • Walt Keller
  • Walt Keller
  • Walt Keller
  • Walt Keller
  • Mike Gann
  • Mike Gann
  • Mike Gann
  • Mike Gann
  • Mike Gann
  • Mike Gann
  • Jack Isaacs
  • Jack Isaacs
  • Jack Isaacs
  • Ed Van Put
  • Ed Van Put
  • Ed Van Put
  • Judy Van Put
  • Beth Waterman
  • Beth Waterman
  • Judy Van Put
  • Fishing Forum Panel
  • Fishing Forum Panel
  • Fishing Forum Panel

April 16, 2016: “Art Flick, Author, Fly Tyer and Conservationist.” Panelists Judd Weisberg, Wendy Neefus, Tony Bonavist, John Hoeko, Dave Brandt and Bert Darrow shared personal anecdotes and reminiscences about Art Flick, and discussed the impact of his essential Streamside Guide to Naturals and Their Imitations, as well as his important conservation efforts on the Schoharie. You can listen to the podcast or download the transcript, below.

  • Beth Waterman opens the Forum with a film
  • A Day of Fishing with Art Flick by Wendy Neefus
  • Art fished his beloved Schoharie Creek
  • A favorite fly for the Schoharie
  • Bill Birns moderates the panel
  • Fishing guide Judd Weisberg met Art as a teenager
  • Fishing instructor and author Bert Darrow
  • Bert and fishing guide Dave Brandt
  • Environmentalist and fly shop owner John Hoeko
  • Retired DEC biologist and author Tony Bonavist
  • Photographer Wendy Neefus
  • Discussion begins with the video
  • Dave remembers Art's conservation efforts
  • John and Art worked on Catskill Waters together
  • Bert talked about the Art Flick Memorial on Route 23
  • Showing the biography of Art
  • A photo of the monument to Art
  • Little Green Book
  • The Streamside Guide
  • The full panel
  • A collection of flies tied by Art Flick
  • A page from the Streamside Guide
  • Moderator Bill Birns
  • Bert and Dave
  • A box of Art Flick originals
  • John examines the Art Flick fly box
  • A later edition of the Streamside Guide
  • The full panel
  • Dave Brandt and John Hoeko
  • A highly entertaining event!
  • After the Forum, Judd Weisberg
  • Hank Rope and Dave Brandt
  • Roger Menard and Beth Waterman
  • Bert Darrow and Forum attendee
  • Dave Brandt and Lisa Menard
  • A number of artifacts were on view

March 19, 2016: “Frank Mele, the Fisherman, Author and Activist.” Moderated by local historian Bill Birns, the panel discussed Frank's life and writings, and his contribution to the organization Catskill Waters and its campaign for increased water releases into the Catskill system in the 1970s. The panel included Frank's son, Andy Mele, as well as John Hoeko, Roger Menard and Tony Bonavist. You can listen to the podcast or download the transcript, below.

  • Setting up the mikes
  • Doris Bartlett & Beth Waterman
  • The panelists
  • Moderator Bill Birns
  • Andy Mele, Frank's son
  • Tony Bonavist
  • John Hoeko & Andy Mele
  • John Hoeko
  • John Hoeko
  • Roger Menard & Bill Birns
  • Mele's book
  • A later edition
  • Mele's book
  • Mele's famous tobacco
  • The Aberdeen Can
  • His pipe
  • Tony Bonavist
  • Roger's remembrances
  • John Hoeko & Andy Mele
  • Comments from Judd Weisberg
  • Judd Weisberg
  • Reading a passage from Mele's book
  • Questions
  • 24_Comments from the audience
  • In the audience
  • Q&A
  • And comments
  • Roger Menard
  • wowslider.com
  • After the Forum