We recorded 85-year-old Nick Lyons at the Jerry Bartlett Angling Collection in Phoenicia, NY, as part of its "Sporting Legends of The Catskills" series.
From that event: "Nick began to fish as a child during summers at the Laurel House in Haines Falls, when the hotel was owned by his grandfather. He went on to wet a line just about everywhere he could find water — from Steeplechase Pier in Brooklyn to the Catskill Mountains, and beyond.
Nick is widely known for his popular “Seasonable Angler” column in Fly Fisherman Magazine, which he wrote for decades. In articles for Fly Fisherman and other publications, and in more than a dozen books, he chonicled his fishing adventures all over the world. Meanwhile, he pursued a busy life as an English professor at Hunter College and as a book publisher.
Nick’s late wife Mari was an accomplished artist who accompanied Nick on many of his journeys. Her watercolors and sketches appear in all of his later books."
Painting courtesy Mari Lyons, from Nick's well-known book “Spring Creek.”
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Welcome to cats cast, a biweekly podcast delivering interviews, arts, culture and history from New York's Catskill Mountains. Nick Lyons is a writer, editor and publisher of books that celebrate his lifelong passion, fly fishing. I really was too passionate about it. He told The New York Times in a 1997 profile. I almost lost my wife and my children, he said, but added, I have it under control now. Among his books, Spring Creek, the seasonable angler and fishermen's year, not long ago, but long enough that we could sit in a small room together on masked to listen to stories. We had the pleasure of recording a conversation with Nick Lyons at the Jerry Bartlett angling collection at the financial library, following his his story, thank you. Thanks. Thank you all for coming for being patient. I, this started in September when I was supposed to come and I had pneumonia. Then it happened again, that I had a family matter that I had could not break. My granddaughter was playing Lear and clean King Lear. Just thought that was a unique situation that I couldn't pass up. But I'm delighted to be here. And I'd like to talk about some of the early moments of my fishing how I got started, which is different in each case, but it it overlaps with with the way everyone got started, I think and then get to the publishing which was became an important part of my life. And something about it and I'd be glad to answer any questions eventually that would be of some help. I was a cutting little kid and when I was six, I think I can remember back that far. I was catching everything that moved up at the Laurel house. I caught frogs salamanders, newts, of various kinds, crayfish, and then eventually a catcher gets to the catching of fish. And I can remember catching perch and and what we called shiners very got quite large in what is called South Lake now. I, my grandfather on the Laurel house in those days, most of what went on with the older folk with Pinnacle on the back deck, and swimming no one else fished Come on in. And star star is invited also. So I was just at the place where I'm catching everything that moved up at the Laurel house. And there was a comic that they hired to be there and entertain the guests, not just that performances, but also to walk around and make them laugh a little bit. He had the name of pitsee cats, as I remember. And and I did my first enterprising activity related to fishing at that time, he paid me five cents of frog, little frogs, the little ones to go under, he would turn a cup over like this, or all the cups were turned over when they served at the dining table. And then when somebody opened it up and they saw the frog, it became a moment to some hilarity and shock I there was a little creek that came out of South Lake I think it's called simply Lake Lake passage now or something like that. I don't know what sounds like what they sell now what they what it produces now, but it only had shiners blue gills then rather big and also perch in it. And what I didn't know, since I had never seen one of them was that it also had the shock of the of the pond, very large pickle that ate everything in sight. And we're better catchers than I was. One day I was bringing in a shiner of maybe six or seven inches long. And suddenly like a dog taking a shot of a pickle comes along, grabs it doesn't get the hook at him but I wouldn't let go he wouldn't let go of his meal. Like got him into the boat and lost and add to was started to scream was out there with me. The little runoff from the lake had a little area just below where the water was very clear. And where the smaller pickerel go maybe 1112 inches where and being a devious little kid, I figured out that in the short time that they wouldn't they wouldn't feed down there. And what I had to do is get some piano wire on the end of the stick, put the piano wire down with a new Sonic and yank them, and I got them. My next big accomplishment was even worse when I've had very very bad childhood with someone who he came a lunatic fly fisherman for a while. partway down the the the runoff from the lake, there was a little blooming of the of the water of the of the stream. And lying on the boards one day I just watching things happen. I spotted the nose of some fish I'd never seen before. quite lovely, and hiding under one of the bulwarks. And this is mid summer I think. I tried everything I could I use worms, of course, I started with worms. I tried to crayfish, I tried one of the frogs that I was capable of trying anything that I had caught elsewhere to catch a fish, nothing got this thing to move. So I went down onto the buttress of the of the of the little little bridge. And it was trout. It was a very big trout, maybe 15 inches, which was a lot for me. I tried the wire on him, but I couldn't get it around him. And then I figured out the only way to do this since he was a very tame and quiet trout was to tie a colonial hook on the end of the on the end of one of these sticks that I use probably an older, tie it on the end, and very, very patiently, perhaps after 10 minutes of very slowly lowering it down, slip it below the head and yank. I did so and I caught this. This really beautiful trout killed it immediately. Beautiful, probably the last of the Mohicans in that in that water. I brought it back and was feeling very, very proud of myself. Fly Fisher happened to come up to visit at that time. And then Leo Myrtle has iram. And he had a trunk full of fly fishing equipment. It seemed bizarre to me to have boxes of flies, six or seven rods in cases. special places for the reels this would have been in 1940, maybe 1939. Perhaps I didn't know what it was about. And he was brought to me in good time as the resident dangler all of age seven and wanted to fish for trout. Naturally. I told him that I had heard of a trout. I didn't tell him the whole story. Like it would be too complicated. So we went to the pond first and he fished for bass. And he got nothing there were no better than no bass in South Lake at that time. And we fished for a week, and I really tolerated him, you know, with his flies, and all of his equipment. Then when he left, I had a little drawing that I had made of this trout before I turned it over to the kitchen to cook it. And I sent him the drawing and said, here's something that I hate. Is this a trout? It's something I caught a little before you came and I caught it on a worm. So I not only caught it by digging it, but I also lied. It was the beginning of many lies are here too. And I remember him writing back and saying, you know it looks like a trap to me, but I really couldn't be sure from your drawing. And that creek that we fished didn't have any fish in it. So I'm not sure what it is. It was my first falling I fell and things continued. The last time I fished was with a very old friend named Knox Berger, a literary agent and we fished in a place called that I call Bill's pond. Bill Cronenberg's palms you may know Bill it was filled with with absolutely gigantic rainbow trout that he fed on pellets. And that's all they they wanted. They want pellets for lunch dinner all the time, and they would come readily to it and not to the fly at all. I had taken a few of the fish and figured out the great problem that you need to repel it imitation. Not a fly and knocks I'm afraid was on his last months is very frail, lost a lot of weight is a great literary agent. And he wore a T shirt all the time saying honest prose and words and and nerves of steel. And I don't think he weighed 90 pounds then. And his eyesight had gone bad and his hearing had gone bad. And it was coming to the end of things as things go. He wanted to fish once more. So I figured the best place was Bill's pond. I took him there. And on the on just as we sat down, I said, Knox, you can't you can't catch them on flies here. You need a special pellet fly that I've devised. The big devising It was a piece of cork that had a cook in it. But not said no hamburger. Just a fish with flies. He couldn't tie the fly on himself, he couldn't hardly see it. So I tied on flies for five, six flies, that we changed. And nothing came to it. I mean, you could see these huge fish cruising. Finally he put on the IPS agent around. But he said one more try. And this time, went to the side, I put on the famous lions pellet fly. And of course, the first cast something, I don't know 20 inches, maybe seven eight pounds, comes in, takes it and just about pulls knocks into the water. He said your chair and I have to hold him with two hands. Or it's gonna he's gonna go in. We bring it in, put it in the net. He puts his hand over it. So he tells how how big the thing is. And it's just gigantic. And he and he turns and says to me, no hamburger. I said, and I lied, just like I had lied about the job. I said, That's right knocks goes a great catch a great fly. And I'd lied my teeth. In between those two events. I learned a bit about the ethics of it all, and did a batch of different kinds of fishing. I think that the most interesting part of my relationship to fishing, and including all types is that my father had died before I was born. My mother had to work. Living with my grandparents, people thought I was being spoiled rotten. I was a nice kid then. I mean, I didn't believe that they were going to do to me what happened. They sent me to a boarding school. And it scared the shit out of me can really, really, I had never seen anything like that in my life. It had one virtue. It was on a pond called the ice pond, which had been used in revolutionary times for cutting ice. And I went there and there were pictures of me fishing it. And I believe that it probably saved my life. Going down to that pond fishing with the bobber watching the pecking trying to tell what what was down there watching the lions go into the water, the lions of light going into the water and somehow touching something numinous and real and mysterious, and it hooked me and I became very, very involved with it. When my mother finally remarried, we lived in Brooklyn, and I fished for all the junk that was available down at Sheepshead Bay hackle heads of one kind or another fish that blew up when you touch them. Fish without names and loved it, loved it madly. trout still echoed in my brain a little bit. And at 13, which is I was quite small at 13 I began to make the long trip with a friend of mine by subway from Brooklyn to Grand Central, and from Grand Central up to Brewster. We had big backpacks on us. We had rods we we could have lived for a month in the wilderness with all we took up for this one day. And we caught we caught trout, we were catchers, we knew how to catch and kill trout in those days. First with with nightcrawlers that we got on the lawns in Brooklyn, and almost got arrested for and go around with a flashlight on someone's lawn your level they get arrested. And then with spinning Lords for a while, which seemed to us a very great advance on our technique, particularly something called the Houma riverso which sounds worse than it is I guess, but and also a fly called this the spinner called the CP swing, which was the great killer. I remember the SEC the second time we went up, I found a feeder Creek to the east branch and was fishing With worms and Ababa and caught a green fish about that long I would have been 14 that year as a fish of 1213 inches, put it on a stringer didn't know what the devil it was caught another, I had three of them on there. And the warden came the only time the warden a warden has ever come to visit me while I was on a river. And he said, how's luck? And I said, Well, I'm just I just got this nice green trout I said, and he said, If you get any more of them, and I said yes, and showed him the stringer. He said, they're not trout son, bass, their small mouth bass. The season doesn't start until July 1. I can remember vividly taking the fish I had on the line off and let him let him go immediately. And then the ones on the stringer, one at a time, the last of which was over on its side, wiggled for a while went down stream and then kept praying that it would that it would suddenly write itself and take off. Finally it did. He said learn the Learn the trouts son, let me learn the fish learn what the fish are, which I I tried to do. I think that that the years in college at the University of Pennsylvania, I've fished a bit and I picked up a fly rod for some reason, one of those Shakespeare rods and figured out that you don't put the line through that little ring that's just that you can't cast as well, when you put it in the little ring. I would cast in the Polestar while I was you know, went after basketball practice didn't get very good at it. And I didn't think it was a good way to catch fish. I didn't believe you could catch fish that way. But in graduate school in Michigan, I went to the table once for a visit, just going up a country and I stood at a bridge Callum's but not kill him sprint. One of the bridges over the hill say well, I stood there for a minute watching a fly fisherman really the first I'd ever seen I was 25 I've been in the army I'd really advanced my fishing to being a very lethal kind of killer of trout with a spinning rod, but I watched this guy and there was something about the fly rod and the and the line and the aerial ballet that when that took place when when a good caster is working on the fly guy and with using a big yellow fly like sulfur of some kind. And you could watch it go down right under the he would cast the just upstream of some overhanging branches. And you could watch the fly on the surface of dry fly, of course, float down and slip into the main current. And then of course, a trout came up and took it and it just electrified me. I almost lost my wife on that trip. She was sitting in the rain in the car and couldn't figure out why I was standing on a bridge in the rain over that. But it was absolutely hypnotizing to see that casting. The fact that he not only caught fish caught a fish, but also caught it beautifully caught it in an interesting manner. And after that I became more and more involved with fly fishing. Till one summer, I was beginning to fly fish a little more in the salt kill that runs through Woodstock. spent a couple of summers there with four children, all of whom were quite four years apart and from the youngest to the oldest and looked like quadruplets at times and we were acquired two or possibly three babysitters at a time to handle them. But I would slip off to the sofas which I when I first had contact with the edge who was the master of the sofas and I also fish the the the creek the little salt kill. Someone told me about a man who was the painter named Manny Bromberg told me about a man who was the best serious fly fisherman at the mall. And I had to go with him and he was going to set up a trip turned out to be frank maley. And in the fullness of time, maybe two weeks of trying to to get him I finally made an arrangement to meet at eight eight o'clock in the morning at Jim Mulligan's house. I don't know whether you knew Jim Mulligan cartoonist for The New Yorker. So we set out that day Eight o'clock to go to the beaver kill, which he called Mecca. The trip we finally got there at eight o'clock that night. Frank was in his cups for a while and those days, and he also would stop and at every bar, and he would make comments on every person he cites stop and look at someone in the fields and give me a whole story about them. It was, it was quite an event we finally got there. I've never been a drinker. But I think I'd had one or two beers along the way, I could hardly stand. We rushed down to the water, I had that winter tried to develop a fly that would imitate the the spinner of the green Drake, it was called I called it the pigeon Drake. And what you find in New York are a lot of pigeon quills hanging around. So I had taken the quill strapped it to something, put some white pair on the sides. And I thought this was going to be a great, great fly for the that hatch. I get out on the water weaving and bobbing and make a cast in this. Can I call it a fucking think sinks, sinks like a stone. It was it was terrible. I by the time I got it off and got on new flies, Frank and calmly with his pipe and mouth, caught one fish and was catching a second fish. We left we got back in 45 minutes, I think. And I kept thinking about this odd day. And I know from my teen years, I'd wanted to be a writer. And I'd written by this time, maybe 15 scholarly essays done based on the Advanced Studies in English that I'd done at Michigan, I'd written somewhere about the publishing world, which I was now involved with. But somewhere in the back of my head, there was something else rattling around some other voice. And this voice didn't seem to me mine, the one I was using to write about crazy, and that was Kafka or other folks. So I sat down and I wrote this this story called Mecca, about this trip with Frank. And it just just just came right out. It's not the best piece of writing, but it was a different voice. And I could feel it as being different. I sent it off the field and stream within three days of the time. And they they responded within three days. The New Yorker has yet to respond to something still trying. Now they don't even respond. But in the old days, they used to send little slips of various kinds of shoe boxes full of them. But there's something about that, that that pros that that really said maybe this is closer to what would be a happy thing to write. So I sat down and wrote another about gigging this trout, which I called first trout first lie. I sent that to Claire Conley and feel the streaming he took that too, and paid me 1000 bucks each for two of them. I said, Gee, this is this is a lot of fun. I love doing these. I think the second one first trout first lies, is a better story and is closer to what what I knew how to what I what I finally set upon as a as a writing voice that I that I had confidence in. But since then I wrote maybe two 300 words these little, I call them shagging fish stories, there seems to be an endless number that come from, from the fishing world. Sometimes just an odd situation like some grand fly fisherman who boasted about the number of fish he caught once too often. And I heard I've heard a story about him coming off a float trip on the Madison river and having caught a 15 inch rainbow. And someone in the guide tells me he said well, that's the first time I've had a fish grows six inches between when we left and when we got back. But a lot of little things happened. gingrich telling me that he had caught on as gingrich from Esquire telling me that he had caught on a Western trip 19 inches worth of trout in four installments. Or Charles Ritz once when I published his book out of having lunch with him in a rather fancy new york restaurant. He had just fly fish in salt water for the first time and I I said he was about 8384 very vigorous and had just brought his mistress into the Ritz Hotel I think I said, Did you Did you enjoy it? What? You know, I didn't know what to ask. He said. He said well, it is like it is like sex after lunch men for hard with hard stomachs. I think I think the editing I did the fun I had with the 100 odd books on fishing. Most of them about 90% on fly fishing, I think gave me a huge amount of pleasure. met some very interesting people fish some very interesting water for top and trout in France, in England, Tomic chalk streams. And we're about I think it was Frank actually, who not only gave me the first story, but also gave me the suggestion of republishing some of the greater older books. And I knew about art flicks streamside guide, I did not know marinara marinero from a sauce I mean, he just was a totally new name to me. And I started with those two aren't introduced me to art. Frank introduced me to art flick, with whom I got along very well published his little book, I had insisted to the editor in chief that that we do it with a with a water resistant binding, since it was a book that seemed to be proper for taking to the river. And even if you didn't drop it in it, at least, would resist any kind of splash. And I remember him saying, well, we'll try it with a lead binding so that it sinks and people will have to buy another one. But the flick, the flick was amazing. It's sold 15,000 copies before you could blink. And they suddenly said we'll sign up all the ones that you can that will sell 15,000 right away. And I did some practical books that in in, you know, the years This was when 40 years ago that I started doing these, some of them still very much in print. I remember the first practical book was selective trout, which did very well and still sells I did lefty lefty for lefty is not well now I did his book with with Mark so some practical fishing knots. I was always a little a little more reluctant to do practical books. Because I I'm not good with my hands I tied with three thumbs and I the technical aspects of fishing somehow have been less interesting to me, though enormously important than enormously interesting. One of the books that was not about about anything technical was old sparse gray hackles book, which had been called fishless days originally, when it was published by the English club. And I met with sports and we had some is a remarkable man. I think he was in his early 80s. He had been the debating champion of New York State in 1914. I mean, really have remarkable old fellow and I went to one fishing with him on the debruce water. And he he said that said to Mary, he said, you know, Nick has been working too hard. I wanted to go fishing, Nick and I'll entertain your missus. This great old fellow, talk to her about ballistics in the Mexican American war. Got an hour just smiled and said she didn't remember or understand the word of what he had said. But sparks his book is one of those odd, practical not and not practical books that had a very, very interesting life as well. I decked him. The summer I was feeling very cocky that these books could really sell and I bet sparse a dime, that we would sell out the first 7500 which is of large printing of this book of stories is what they are Nothing practical in it at all. As a very funny story and who is sparse gray hackle about some 50 pound trouten soaking bread with scotch. And it's it's a bizarre thing. I didn't see how it can sell 70 510 years, but I bet him anyway because I'm the dime I could afford to, to spend. And in late November, we had to go back to press and I called up sparse and I told him, No, we're going back and I'm winning the bet. I mean, we've sold out that addition. You owe me a dime. And he turned around. Every time he came by which I don't know what he what his work was, but he always seemed free enough to show up and he with his double breasted suit and his very formal and big thick glasses. You're still the best proofreader I haven't met. But he can barely see I think I'd say sparse. Can you pay me the dime please? instead? It's a very serious bet. I was very serious about this. I worked very hard to sell it. He says Don't worry, we don't worry buster. I always pay my bets that's around April. This gnome of a man shows up and drops a box on my desk and he says I always pay my damn debts Buster walks out. And I wish I had it here in Woodstock. But he gave me a leather bound, bound and green Moroccan leather with the dime put in inserted into the into the height of it. And with the inscription for Nick who help who published this book. I had good days with it. I I tried to solve some fights between multiple authors. I had strange things happen. sparse once told me that he wrote something for Sports Illustrated, in which he talked about someone they reginal kosha i think was the name, who had once deigned to use an olive nymph. Mostly it was a dry fly fishermen and Sports Illustrated without checking pretty good checkers, they had run it. They the copy editor said what is an olive nymph I never heard of such a thing and change it to live live. And fly fishermen fishing with a live NIV is 10 times worse. spar said it was the most libelous change of one letter in the English language. And he never wrote for Sports Illustrated again, is a man of great principle. I I had some very pleasant, funny, interesting, great friendships that came from it. I had the pleasure of developing really a very a list that I was very proud of. I had books that I missed that I won't tell you about today. But that happens also and and then I sold the business and, and and mice. The people who took it over, did not work well with some of the fly Fishers and they went to other places and dis that old lists was dispersed. I think there's very little of it left though there's still Alliance press that's owned by a company in Maryland. Any rate I chatted on very fast, said everything I know about fishing that I can remember. There are lots of stories that I have in, in these various books. So many have like gone on too long. or too little. I can I can go on for hours and that now that I see that my memory works enough to go back to my sixth year. I can go on for somewhat longer. I remember Ed aesthetic writing me a letter that I didn't understand his sophus well enough in those days that I would take him you know i grace off from my four children and Woodstock and my, my wife, leaving them alone with them or the two baby sitters and the portal would be on and I didn't know how to get information on it. So I said I'd had a an erratic relationship to it. I once dropped a good English bamboo rod by a man named Dennis Bailey into the sofas coming out of it after dark. I always feel late, I had the rod tucked under my arm it must have, it must have fallen out. So I got to the bank and there was no rod. And the it was a little turbid, then little chalky. I went back the next day, and kicked around to that spot. It's just upstream of the Emerson in weather railroad is now popped all the time, which I like to fish and found the rod. Very generous to me that day. I love the soapless there is one great story that some of you most of you probably know, called in praise of trout, and also me about by Paul O'Neill, whose son now writes a lot. That distributed here, which is a wonderful, wonderful story. One of the best of the fishing stories, I think. Anything I can talk about that you'd like, you want to know. Are you all holding fishing stories that you want to publish? Actually, I have a question. Short two questions. Number one, what's your proudest story slash, you know, work revolving around fishing? That's a good question. I had the I had the good fortune to meet a curmudgeonly old guy named turbid Wellington, through a friend of mine, who fished fished a lot in Montana. And we got into a correspondence for the better part of a year, I think, from the winter on until the summer, and pass a lot of letter, he was a letter writer and I, when I get caught up, I can I have a granddaughter whom I write to twice a week, I write a lot. But Herbert and I would talk about fishing matters and who we like to not. And he invited me to come out and fish his water in the West. And I had no idea what it was. I had fished the chalk streams in England and Canada in particular, but also the the test and the the campus store, the store River, which is the river that runs down into Canterbury, that you see in all of the the paintings by somebody who constable all the constable paintings, lovely river, but I've fished the Canada a lot. And it had whipped me pretty badly. The British streams are reasonably shallow, very, very clear, the trout have been fished over by some great fishermen. And you have to be pretty precise. They have their own set of rules, as most of you know that you have to see the trout before you cast you're not allowed to cast until you see a specific trout that you're casting to. And it is a good discipline. Actually, though. When I started it just scared that scared the hell out of me. They finally put me at a bridge where there was a fish called Old George or something like that, some seven or eight pound brown that had been in there for years. Nobody had caught it. Because it hung out under the bridge, which was a little downstream of where you cast from, you couldn't cast to it from the lower part and downstream fishing being frowned on. Nobody had really fished for if I said let them have a go let the let the American have a go at old George. And for about six or seven more more than that maybe eight or 10 people lined up in a little semicircle to watch the American fish roll George. I didn't know what to do. My first time on the water, I didn't want to insult them. On the other hand, I was very anxious not to be made of a damn fool love. I get in the water and the cat is all over the place and just bouncing up and down. So I take a truth, a truth and catice which is a terrific fly. And I lay it out as as as a cross stream as I can go with a little wave and the blokes fishing downstream. So finally, I do the best I can to keep it reasonably across stream and not up. And sure enough Oh George comes up takes the fly. I strike it and and Oh, he's got Uh huh. Oh, snap him right off. But that's done a little Have that and then her Wellington invited me out. And it turns out that not only does he fish in the West and have a nice Ranch, but he is eight to 10 miles curving probably the equivalent of 12 miles of a remarkable Spring Creek called O'Dell Spring Creek, which flows for about 12 or 14 miles and then goes into the Madison there at us. And there are only two landowners he owns one section, someone else owns another. And his section is right in the middle and it's all the best water. I think the times I fished out there were the most interesting, challenging, satisfying of all the fishing I've ever had. I love the Catskills and I love the rivers of the many that are fished from the secure skyray. The, the here, the beaverkill, the willowy mark, and certainly these sofas, too. But this this thing, this thing was remarkable. It was one of those unfished unstart Rivers with just the right balance between between the amount of food available, and then the trout, they, in most places hung out under undercut banks that were deeper than the tail to the table. I mean, sometimes you'd get close to the edge and step in and you can see that it was really hollow. I fished it for the first time for about three weeks. And it took me a week before I caught a trout. It was I was reasonably good by them. But the trout had their own patterns. He only allowed the dry fly. I couldn't quite get it. I just didn't really understand it. I caught some trout that first trip. And then the third or fourth trips we've made I I started to get a lot and they It was fascinating because it was it had a rhythm and it had a logic to it. The the pale morning Dunn's would start at about 10 o'clock, and they'd go on with little changes right up until dark when the catus would start just until dark. Every now and then they'd be in July 4 weekend there would be the western green Drake that came off. And it was it was astonishing. It was like a circus. The fish would you can see them in the shallow water making awake right across 2020 feet of gravel now they tell that they would go 20 feet across after a real Dru green Drake fluttering on the other side of the creek. It was it was astonishing fishing was almost it's not quite like like that wonderful gam scuse story called Mr. Theodore cast well in which someone finds himself in hell. And he catches trout after trout. And he said, can't we stop? And then his keeper says no. You mean I've got to go on catching these two pounders. Yes. It wasn't like that because the fish were all varied. They remained hard right up until the last time I fished it. And you had to be pretty canny to do much business with them. I fished it. I fished it a lot. And I really fell in love with it. caught some very big trout. I saw Wellington catch one that i i think was 30 inches. It was a dog of a fish. I mean, it was just absolutely gigantic like a salmon. I saw I was sitting next to him when he was casting from a sitting position. And I saw the fish take him forward all the way to the end. And then it finally was right next to him and the hook pulled out. And he didn't he didn't throw his rod down or get angry. He'd seen him before but it had that kind of fish in it hidden. I never got anything more than about 2122 inches. But I found that a remarkable, a remarkable fishery, endlessly interesting. Wellington was very close to none. No, he never talked about his friends and you didn't know who his friends were. And he was very much contained in what he said. But he was a very close friend of Harry Dhabi's and he would bring Harry out for a couple of weeks and how are you would camp down on this time down near the creek. Herb had about 500 there'll be flowers in a jar, and they had a break in and guys, they stole the jar and threw all the flies out the window. It was a it was a great place. I went back in the summer of 2015, two years ago. And they had done the other, the other landlord or landowner. And this is something, you know that what you were writing about Tony had done extensive renovation of the stream. And the reports without the renovation was great, the fish fishery was very healthy, was producing some big fish. The problem was that Wellington's water in the middle had gotten all the silt, the silt had come down. And there was a famous pool that is on the jacket, actually, one of the books that that I donated. The pool was it was about 12 feet deep, you know, as it came around, it was a Ben pool. And after the turn, that was about 12 feet deep. And the fish, you can see them in the very clear water, maybe 2530 trout, and they would rise almost as if they have meal tickets of some kind. I mean, they'd never be more than one or two rising. But there would be if you rested it there would always be something coming back in a few minutes. I love the pool, and just the number of times. That summer, two years ago, there was an island where that where that indentation had been with, with plants growing and everything else. It was terrible. I mean, the silt had literally killed the the fly life. I saw no pale morning guns, the water temperature was close to 70, which for Spring Creek, and that particular Spring Creek, so at least 10 to 12 degrees higher than it ever was. I did not catch a fish. I've fished in places that I knew well. And I think I think screwing around with a river. You get that now and then that's happening. Tony bonavista is writing something on the beaverkill about that. And it's Advent Pat has been involved with it. And it's really gonna gums up rivers if you don't think about the whole thing, but that in a few words that answer what my favorite fishing experience, it was fishing that Creek and the times when it was the best and the times when it really was very tragic. I had two or three wonderful, wonderfully interesting episodes left. He came out once as a friend of Wellington's and I fished with him, and he fished one. He He has several times said Nick has just been lying all these years, he's a better fisherman makes out because there was a situation one were left. He was fishing some little run. And I said lefty, you know, after he was done, you know, they really won't come up if you stand up like that. He knows enough to bend in certain sections. He said, Well, creeper, so I crept up, and then fish came up and I caught it pretty quickly. And I'm like, gosh, Woody, you've been lying all these years. Left lefty, lefty was very interesting when he, I think the only real mistake I've ever seen lefty make or hear about. He made on that that pool I just mentioned. You know, as the water came around the pool around the corner around the turn, went under an undercut bank on the far side. Then it opened up maybe into this big pool and then it had another couple of runs along the far bank. And we were coming up the stream and he sees a rise right up at the curve of the bend. Right whether there's an overhanging branch and he says I'm going to try for that and lefty Don't you know, said I can reach it Don't worry, I can reach it was about 120 feet away. And I said lefty that's not the point is that he's already and he threw it and he threw throws it. Maybe it was three inches off where it should be. But it didn't catch that he threw two more up there and the fish was down already. And it was gorgeous cast was just a beautiful cast. And then I said lefty have never been on this pool. Let me show you something. And we walked to a place where you could look down into the heart of the pool and he had put down About 35 trout with this extraordinary cast is I think those things happen and I think left he was one of the great fishermen or is one of the great fishermen he had a lot of Wellington had a lot of people come who visit he gets sit next there wants to, you know, see if anyone knows said, you know, he's said it's very intense fly fishermen does beautiful bookbindings just gorgeous. And it his gets angry very quickly. I fished with him one day, and he ran ahead of me to get to this book, which sort of put me out of out of any sympathy with him. But I found some fishing and I asked him when he was coming off the water. Did you did you have some fun said? And he said, very serious voice dead serious. He said, I never have fun when I fish. So yeah, good conversation. I always have fun. I mean, I'm just on the other side of the of the equation. But if anyone else dares to ask a question, now I have another hour that I can talk. Anything else I about the publishing world or this or that? And a lot of fun publishing 100 odd books and Mike valla is Mike valla. Here by any chance now, Mike valla wrote me a wonderful letter telling me that he had had a difficult teenage time of his life. And that the books I was publishing at Crown had really the marinero the Jennings the flick of the lies and ring. He said that saved his life. And what else do I want to hear from my publishing career, then I had some effect of giving somebody some pleasure. I was gonna ask the question, I have one more question. Just as a writer, I just thought it was a good idea to ask, Do you find that there's a story and every experience when I do? I think there are and I think that it's the strangest thing. I don't know that that any other sport quite has that. I know. There are people who say their stories in a golf game of golf. And I heard a terrible story about Mr. Trump playing with someone and the guy said, well, in fact, can't play with you anymore. And he asked Why? He said, Well, I you cheat. And apparently Trump answered, I do cheat, cheat and I cheated on my wife. And I cheat in business. He said, If you can't handle it, maybe we shouldn't play together. I don't know whether that's apocryphal or not. But it's amazing story. But I think you know, there are good baseball writers good baseball situations that I know someone who writes only on the horses and rats. But somehow the literature fly fishing. Will the active fly fishing or the connection to the water? The number of variables the number of moving parts, the number of different characters? I don't think I've ever gone on the water. Were having come back with a story of some kind. Did you ever do anything with Richard Smith? I, I knew him a bit but I I like his writing enormously. But I asked it started. I asked him to do a little book on fishing and he said, he said he write the most he gets is 1100 words. He says that's the limit. And he writes within that. He has the most natural sense of metaphor of any sports writer. I know. Think of one marvelous, marvelous. It's describing as a shortstop and he says he covered the ground like crabgrass that's just as fast and full of life as anything. It's a great writer. And I'd like his fishing stories to have which there is a little collection called read Smith on fishing. descriptor get that? Good, good, good collection. Anyway, say one thing I came one of the reasons I'm here today. Nick has to thank you. My name is Chris Hensley. Oh, yes, about three years ago. I was partly inspired by your writing some Publishing's to do an event down the road called trout tales where we brought together many of the guys in this room perfect thing. It's silly. Yeah. It's billion. And it started, you know, the idea was just to sort of tell some fish stories and connect to the past, it was successful. And now this year, in our fourth year, it's expanded, it's gonna be all up and down 28 with multiple businesses involved over a two month period. So it's sort of taken on a life of its own. And I wanted to thank you, because early on, you were encouraging, you couldn't attend that year. But you provided us some books and autographs, you did some interviews for us on the radio, and it was so much appreciated. And I wanted to come thank you for that. I had an odd time after I stopped teaching. I never used notes when I taught for 30 years in the classroom. But when I got out, I got very shy. And I used to write everything out. And it sounded so prepackaged, and some joke I'd worked on something like that just came out so flattened, and predictable, that I really decided not to talk in public at all anymore. And then went up. As Mark. Mark knows, I talked up at the hilltop Historical Society in June. And it just encouraged me to think that maybe I could remember some of these things and talk and have a conversation with folks instead of instead of writing something out. So I'm changing. And I love the anecdote that you tell about to be a successful fisherman, you have to put a little piece of your heart on the can I say? It's a nice phrase, oh, my goodness, what genius I have? I just have a question because I would when you went to university, Pennsylvania, what was your major you when you went through? Alas, it was insurance. That was the whole point. And when you went to grad school, it's it's another part of my life that I'm writing about now. Oh, it just literally, I literally hated the Wharton School I cannot think of I don't know why I stayed. I was on the basketball team. It doesn't look like it now. That was 100 pounds ago on some. We had a great star then named Bernie Beck and won the Ivy League. And I once wrote a profile of him when I learned how to write and wrote to him and said Ernie, I was on the other end of the bench. You probably don't remember me. He said, I remember you very well. Nick. He said you were a skinny little kid from Brooklyn who could run all day. Now. I can't walk without a cane. chains. Things change. No, I, I was at Penn and I think I stayed because I was very much connected to basketball and, and to crew, which I liked a lot. And then when I went into the army, I remember the day it happened, but I read big two hearted river, the Hemingway story. And I just said, My gosh, do people write about fishing and all this Is this some kind of fishing Is this some kind of writing I can do. I didn't do anything for another five or six years. But in the army, I began to read everything I could find. And it was really very scattered reading. I literally would read everything from from Gosh, Mickey's filleting, to Kafka, I mean, just whatever I could get my hands on. And when I got out, I, I decided to go back to school that I decided, you know, I'm nowhere. I don't know where my head is. I don't know what I did not going to go into insurance. I just dislike it and now like it now it helps. Medicare isn't knocked out, I'd be very happy. But I went back as a freshman to Bard College, which is just across the river. Actually, I went to the new school for six months in New York City. And the guy there at the end of the term, I said, you know, man and Keith Botsford know, very esoteric course called English prose style, which we read everything from the early English to Henry James, very intensely. And I realized something that term something about the my interest in language, the enormous and I remember at the end of the term walking up to him and saying, sort of, can I make the team do I have to Can I go on is it stupid of me to think that I can understand this stuff? And he cocky son of a bitch and he said to me, he said, No. He says you're not dumb. You're just absolutely illiterate. I took that as a great compliment. And I went to Bard, as a freshman, under the GI Bill. And it Ruth was there then. And my wife was there. And we got married that summer, and trailed married to Cranbrook in Michigan and looked around for some place to go back to school there to parlay the courses at the new school and Bard College, none of which had been anywhere near better than a b minus i did a terrible student and some, some awful monster, like, like Grendel guarded the door to the MA program and said, I should go back to the garment district that I would never get through here. But I said, it's too late. I'm already signed up and ready to go, can you let me into the MA program. And he said, I can't actually I can't. But go and take these psychological and aptitude tests, and then come back and we'll talk, I came back and he said, Well, I really can't keep you out. But I'm not gonna let you into the program unless you get five A's, which are difficult in in my life. And we were living up in Pontiac, which is about 50 miles from Ann Arbor. And in the winter, I'd come down It was like a bob sale is Bob Bob sled trail going down the Pontiac trail. And I got I got five days and really began to discipline myself then he let me in and I got a doctor to come, I've got an MA and then a doctor a couple of years later, and reasonably comfortable with my head now. But it's, you know, it's the kind of change that I think we all make, or should make some time in our lives when we when we say this is the thing I want to do. And I'm I'm late learning it. But I'm going to go back to the beginning if I have to. And, and and learn it. And I see a lot of people who make choices later on some much later than I did. I thought I was antique at 25. But it turns out to be a very fortuitous choice, scared me out of my wits, I was in total apprehension that I could get through. And it was just a delight, year after year to see that my head was good enough to get to get through all of this. And that it was that I just just lost a lot of time, but the time really didn't matter. It certainly doesn't matter now. At 85 you know, you don't worry too much about time anymore. Sporting legends of the Catskills, Nick Lyons, reflections and remembrances, a life well fished. Saturday, December 2 2017 news and events ad Catskill angling collection.org made possible with funds from the Catskill watershed Corporation in partnership with New York City DPW thanks also to our sponsor, the 52 mile Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway following New York State Route 28 through the heart of the central Catskills for maps, itineraries and links to area restaurants, shops and accommodations. Visit scenic catskills.com Katz cast is a production of silver hollow audio. Please don't forget to subscribe, and we'll see you again in two weeks. I'm Brett Barry. Thanks for listening.
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