Fly Fishing “the Brodhead” in ages past

Brodhead Creek Park, Stroud Township, Monroe County, near dusk. 28 March 2007 Source: Nicholas A. Tonelli (Wikimedia Commons:  This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Brodhead Creek Park, Stroud Township, Monroe County, near dusk. 28 March 2007
Source: Nicholas A. Tonelli (Wikimedia Commons: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Photo of portrait of Capt. Daniel Brodhead (1693-1755), husband of Hester Wyngart, only child of Capt. Richard Brodhead & Magdalena Jansen, and grandson of Capt. Daniel Brodhead & Ann Tye Current location: Senate House, Kingston, NY; www.senatehousekingston.org

IMAGE COPYRIGHT: BARBARA & JAMES BRODHEAD. Used with permission. Photo of portrait of Capt. Daniel Brodhead (1693-1755), husband of Hester Wyngart, only child of Capt. Richard Brodhead & Magdalena Jansen, and grandson of Capt. Daniel Brodhead & Ann Tye Current location: Senate House, Kingston, NY; http://www.senatehousekingston.org. PHOTO CREDIT: Barbara & James Brodhead

Those of us descended from Daniel Brodhead and Hester Wyngart, who uprooted themselves and their children from Esopus, NY (present-day Kingston) to relocate to the wilds of Eastern Pennsylvania’s Minisink Valley in 1738*, can feel fairly confident that they (Daniel — a man of great energy and intrepidity**,  Hester, and “crew”) and their myriad descendants in this picturesque area spent time fishing—whether for the purpose of catching dinner or for the pure enjoyment of the sport.

Numerous creeks, brooks, and rivers are found in fair abundance here, in what is now Monroe County. Daniel’s vast estate (composed of an initial warrant of 600 acres and a later warrant of 150 acres, according to Mrs. Horace G. Walters’ Early History of East Stroudsburg, p. 21-22) was known locally as “Brodhead Manor” and gave birth to the settlement of Dansbury (better known today as the town of East Stroudsburg)**. The 21.9-mile creek that passed through Daniel’s property on its way to the Delaware came to be known as Brodhead Creek.

Having just recently done posts on the Hon. Richard Brodhead and his daughter and son-in-law (Rachael and John Linderman), I can easily imagine them fishing and otherwise enjoying a well-earned day of rest there on ‘the Brodhead.’ And can’t you just see Daniel and Hester’s sons Richard, Charles, Daniel, Garret (my 5th great grandfather), John, and Luke enjoying some friendly, brotherly creek-side competition when they were boys?

From American Fishes by Goode and Gill (1903)

“Brook Trout” from American Fishes by Goode and Gill (1903)

On eBay and other sites that sell and/or display antique and vintage postcards, you can sometimes come across old images of Brodhead Creek (sometimes referred to as “Broadhead’s Creek”). The oldest image I found dates back to 1796. It is an etching by John Scoles from a drawing by Jacob Hoffman. If you’d like to view it, you can do so by clicking here and visiting the Granger Collection website. I would display the image for you here, but their usage rules prohibit that.

I found mention of the Brodhead in the 1906 book The Determined Angler and the Brook Trout: An Anthological Volume of Trout Fishing, Trout Histories, Trout Lore, Trout Resorts, and Trout Tackle by Charles Bradford, and thought I would share a relevant chapter here with you today.

Small section of Brodhead Creek running through East Stroudsburg

Small section of Brodhead Creek running through East Stroudsburg (Image credit: James and Barbara Brodhead)

By the way, having now shared “glorious stories” of Brodhead Creek trout fishing with family members, my husband—an avid fisherman—is suddenly keen to get out to eastern Pennsylvania to try his hand at it, which is saying quite a lot since we live a thousand miles away! So, dear reader, just between you and me, I have found a major carrot that will, I hope, someday soon take me back to the geographical setting in which many of my ancestors lived and worked, and where I myself once spent happy childhood moments! The lure of fishing and ‘catching the big one’ has once again cast (no pun intended) its magic spell. :-D

So I hope you will enjoy Chapter IX, “Trout and Trouting” of The Determined Angler and the Brook Trout. Chapter X (“Trouting in Canadensis Valley”) has references to Brodhead Creek as well, so be sure to click on the link to the book above if you’d like to read on.

1942 map of Stroudsburg (Wikipedia: Public Domain)

1942 map of Stroudsburg (Wikipedia: Public Domain)

P. S. I have put the word “Brodhead” in bold in case you don’t have too much time on your hands and want to hone in on those specific passages. Farther down this post you will find links to some good resources. I especially enjoyed the articles by Vic Attardo and Doug Vitale. Enjoy! Perhaps, after reading all this you will want to “Go, Fish!” And if you’ve already had the pleasure of fishing the Brodhead, by all means share your experiences in the Comment box below.

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p 93 of Outing magazine

p 93 of Outing magazine, Vol. XVIII, 1891

Chapter IX: “Trout and Trouting” (written in 1906 by Charles Bradford)

“A day with not too bright a beam;
A warm, but not a scorching, sun.”
—Charles Cotton

Where can I enjoy trout fishing amid good scenery and good cheer without its necessitating a lengthy absence from the city? That is a question which frequently rises in the mind of the toilers in the busy centers of the East, and it is one becoming daily more difficult to answer. Yet there are still nearby trout streams where a creel of from fifteen to fifty, or even more, in favorable weather, might be made. One such locality, which for years local sportsmen have proven, lies within a four hours’ ride of either Philadelphia or New York. All that is necessary is to take the railroad, which conveys you to Cresco, in Monroe County, Pa., and a ride or drive of five miles through the Pocono Mountains will land you in the little village of Canadensis, in the valley of the Brodhead; and within the radius of a few miles on either side fully a dozen other unposted streams ripple along in their natural state, not boarded, bridged, dammed, or fenced by the hand of man, thanks to the naturally uncultivatable condition of the greater part of this paradise for trout fishers. The villagers of Canadensis do their trading and receive their mail at Cresco, and it is an easy matter to obtain excellent food and lodgings for a dollar a day at one of the many farmhouses dotting here and there the valleys, and a seat when needful in one of the several private conveyances running every day between the two villages.

The open season for trout in Pennsylvania is from April 15th until July 15th [present-day regulations call for April-July], and there appears to be no particularly favored period during these three months, for the trout here afford sport equally well at all times, though they greatly vary in their tastes for the fly.

p. 92 Outing Magazine, Vol. XVIII, 1891

p. 92 Outing magazine, Vol. XVIII, 1891

If the angler goes there in the early part of the open season, when the weather is cold, he should engage a room and take his meals at the farmhouse selected; but if the trip is made in the early part of June or any time after that, during the open season, camp life may be enjoyed with great comfort.

Two favorite waters within walking distance from any of the farmhouses in Canadensis are Stony Run and the Buckhill. The great Brodhead, a famous old water in the days of Thaddeus Norris, and noted then and now for its big trout, flows in the valley proper, within a stone’s throw of the farmhouse at which I engaged quarters. Spruce Cabin Run, a mile distant, is a charming stream, but the trout here are not very large beyond the deep pools at the foot of Spruce Falls and in the water flowing through Turner’s fields and woods above the falls.

Any of these streams will afford plenty of sport, but if one wishes to visit a still more wild, romantic, and beautiful trout water, he has only to walk a little farther or take a buckboard wagon and ride to the mighty Bushkill, a stream that must not be confounded with the Buckhill, which lies in an opposite direction from Canadensis.

Trout traits, p. 110

Trout traits, The Determined Angler, p. 110

The Bushkill is the wildest stream in the region, and is fished less than any of the others named, one reason being that there are plenty of trout in the waters of Canadensis which can be fished without the Angler going so far. For those who like to camp, the Bushkill is the proper locality. I spent a day there with friends one season, and we caught in less than two hours, in the liveliest possible manner, all the trout five of us could eat throughout the day, and four dozen extra large ones which we took home to send to friends in the city.

“The trout in the Bushkill,” remarked one of my companions, “are so wild that they’re tame”–an expression based upon the greediness and utter disregard of the enemy with which fontinalis, in his unfamiliarity with man, took the fly. I remember having a number of rises within two feet of my legs as I was taking in my line for a front toss.

I know men who have many times traveled a thousand miles from New York on an angling trip to different famous waters who have not found either the sport or the scenery to be enjoyed on the Bushkill.

The lower Brodhead below the point at which this stream and Spruce Cabin Run come together is very beautiful. It is owned by a farmer who lives on its banks, and who has never been known to refuse Anglers permission to fish there when they asked for the privilege.

Image from p 46 of The Determined Angler and the Brook Trout by Charles Bradford (NY & London: GP Putnam's Sons, 1916)

Image from p 46 of The Determined Angler and the Brook Trout by Charles Bradford (NY & London: GP Putnam’s Sons, 1916)

There are four natural features in the scenery about Canadensis that are especially prized by the countrymen there–the Sand Spring, Buckhill Falls, Spruce Cabin Falls, and the Bushkill Falls.

The Sand Spring is so called because grains of brilliant sand spring up with the water. This sand resembles a mixture of gold and silver dust; it forms in little clouds just under the water’s bubble and then settles down to form and rise again and again. This effect, with the rich colors of wild pink roses, tiny yellow watercups, blue lilies, and three shades of green in the cresses and deer tongue that grow all about, produces a pretty picture. The spring is not over a foot in diameter, but the sand edges and the pool cover several feet. In drinking the water, strange to say, one does not take any sand with it.

Fair and foul angling, p. 119

Fair and foul angling, The Determined Angler, p. 119

Being located at one side of the old road between Cresco and Canadensis every visitor has an opportunity of seeing it without going more than a few feet out of his direct way. Some of the stories told about the old Sand Spring are worth hearing, and no one can tell them better or with more special pleasure than the farmers living thereabout. One man affirms that “more ‘an a hundred b’ar and as many deer have been killed while drinking the crystal water of the spring.”

Each of the falls is a picture of true wild scenery. Though some miles apart they may be here described in the same paragraph.

Great trees have fallen over the water from the banks and lodged on huge projecting moss-covered rocks; they are additional obstacles to the rushing, roaring, down-pouring water, which flows through and over them like melted silver. This against the dark background of the mountain woods, the blue and snow-white of the heavens, the green of the rhododendron-lined banks, and the streams’ bottoms of all-colored stones creates a series of charming and ever-varying views.

Wikimedia Commons (public domain) American brook trout. Lithograph, 1872, Currier & Ives

Wikimedia Commons (public domain) American brook trout. Lithograph, 1872, Currier & Ives

A half dozen trout, weighing from one to two pounds and a half, may always be seen about the huge rock at the point where the lower Brodhead and the Spruce Cabin Run come together, and hundreds may be seen in the stream below the Buckhill Falls. I do not know that fish may be actually seen in any other parts of the waters of Canadensis, but at these points the water is calm and the bottom smooth, and the specimens are plainly in view.

Do not waste time on the “flock” lying about the big rock at Brodhead Point. The trout there will deceive you. I played with them a half day, and before I began work on them I felt certain I would have them in my creel in a half-hour’s time. They are a pack of pampered idlers who do not have to move a fin to feed. All the trout food comes rushing down both streams from behind these big rocks into the silent water and floats right up to the very noses of these gentlemen of leisure. If you have any practicing to do with the rod and fly do it here. These trout are very obliging; they will lie there all day and enjoy your casting all sorts of things at them. This is a good place to prove to yourself whether you are a patient fisherman or not.

Nathan Currier lithograph of Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait's painting "Catching a Trout", 1854 - Depicts fishermen catching a brook trout near South Haven Church, Long Island, NY (Wikimedia Commons: Public Domain)

Nathan Currier lithograph of Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait’s painting “Catching a Trout”, 1854 – Depicts fishermen catching a brook trout near South Haven Church, Long Island, NY (Wikimedia Commons: Public Domain)

And now a few words about the proper tackle for mountain streams. Most anglers use rods that are too heavy and too long. During my first visit I used a rod of eight feet, four ounces, and I soon found that, while it was a nice weight, it was too long for real convenience, although there were rods used there nine and ten feet long. My rod was the lightest and one of the shortest ever seen in the valley. There are only a few open spots where long casts are necessary, and a long, ordinary-weight trout rod is of very little service compared with one of seven, seven and a half, or eight feet, four or three ounces, that can be handled well along the narrow, bush-lined, tree-branch-covered streams.

The greater part of the fishing is done by sneaking along under cover of the rocks, logs, bushes, and the low-hanging branches, as casts are made in every little pool and eddy. I use a lancewood rod, but of course the higher-priced popular split bamboo is just as good. I shall not claim my rod’s material is the better of the two, as some men do when speaking of their tackle, but I am quite sure I shall never say the split bamboo is more than its equal. I do not advise as to the material; I speak only of the weight and length. Let every man use his choice, but I seriously advise him to avoid the cheap-priced split bamboo rod.

p. 138 of The Determined Angler

p. 138 of The Determined Angler

If split bamboo is the choice, let it be the work of a practical rod-maker. Any ordinary wood rod is better than the four-dollar split bamboo affair.

The leader should be of single gut, but the length should be a trifle more than is commonly used. Twelve feet is my favorite amount. The reel should be the lightest common click reel; the creel, a willow one that sells for a dollar in the stores; and the flies–here’s the rub–must be the smallest and finest in the market. Large, cheap, coarse flies will never do for Eastern waters, and you must not fail to secure your list of the proper kind, as well as all your outfit, before you start on your trip. The only decent thing on sale in the village stores is tobacco.

Wikimedia Commons (public domain): Trout Anglers circa 1820 from Fishing and Shooting-Buxton (1902)

Wikimedia Commons (public domain): “Trout Anglers” circa 1820 from Fishing and Shooting by Sydney Buxton (1902)

When you buy your flies buy lots of them, for, be you a tyro or practical Angler, you will lose them easier on these streams than you imagine. Yes, you must be very careful about the selection of your flies. They must be small and finely made, high-priced goods. I wish I might tell you who to have make them, but I dare not, lest I be charged with advertising a particular house. Regarding the patterns touse, I will say that none are more killing than the general list, if they are the best made and used according to the old rule all are familiar with–dark colors on cold days and bright ones on warm days. The later the season the louder the fly–that is, when the season closes during hot weather, as it does in Canadensis. My favorite time here is from June 15th to July 15th, the closing day, but any time after the first two weeks of the open season is very charming. I avoid the first week or two because the weather is then cold and the trout are more fond of natural bait than the artificial fly. Men take hundreds of fish early in the season with worms and minnows.

I never wear rubber boots to wade in. An old pair of heavy-soled shoes with spikes in their bottoms, and small slits cut in the sides to let the water in and out, and a pair of heavy woolen socks comprise my wading footwear. The slits must not be large enough to let in coarse sand and pebbles, but I find it absolutely necessary to have a slight opening, for if there be no means for the water to run freely in and out, the shoes fill from the tops and become heavy. Rubber boots are too hot for my feet and legs, while the water is never too cold. I have often had wet feet all day, and have never yet experienced any ill effects from it.

Trout by Walter M. Brackett, ca. 1867 (Wikimedia Commons: Public Domain)

Trout by Walter M. Brackett, ca. 1867 (Wikimedia Commons: Public Domain)

I never use a staff in wading, but I should, for here in some places it is very hard to wade. I have often fallen down in water up to my waist, overbalanced by the heavy current, where the bottoms were rough, with sharp, slimy stones. If you carry a staff, follow the custom of the old Anglers and tie it to your body with a string to keep it out of the way and allow your hands to be as free as possible for a strike. Your landing-net should be a small one, minus any metal, with a foot and a half handle, and a string tied to a front button on your garment should allow it to be slung over your shoulder onto your back when not in use.

Of course, these little points about the use of different things are all familiar to the Angler with but the slightest experience, and will appear to him neither instructive nor interesting, but we must, as gentle Anglers, give a thought or two to the earnest tyro, for we were young once ourselves.

I always carry two fly-books with me; one big fellow with the general fly stock in, which is kept at the farmhouse, and a little one holding two dozen flies and a dozen leaders, which I carry on the stream. A string tied to this, too, will prevent the unpleasantness of having it fall in the water and glide away from you. I even tie a string to my pipe and knife. The outing hat is an important thing to me. Mine is always a soft brown or gray felt, and I use it to sit on in damp and hard places fifty times a day.

***********************************************************************************************

Dressing a Fly

“Dressing a Fly” circa 1817 from Fishing and Shooting by Sydney Buxton (1902), p. 92.

*Some sources say 1737, e.g., The Wyoming and Lackawanna Valleys by Hayden, Hand and Jordan (pub. 1906)

**p. 2 of The Heraldic Journal, Vol. III (Boston: Wiggin & Lunt, Publishers, 1867)

***p. 446 of The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. XXVII (Philadelphia: The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1903)

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Categories: Brodhead, Kingston, Monroe Co., Nature, Pennsylvania | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Fly Fishing “the Brodhead” in ages past

  1. Barbara Brodhead

    Another great Blog post!
    We have one particular friend who would’ve the fishing story, as he is a great lover of fly fishing.
    Let’s hope your “bait” does bring you and your husband to PA someday soon! :)
    Take care!
    Barbara Brodhead

  2. Funny, it’s the lure of genealogy that my wife can use to get me to go places. :) –Curt

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