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> > Flashback to the Rivergate

PatcrisciMarch 25th, 2009, 8:17 am
Lagrangeville, NY

Posts: 119
When I started tying flies in the 70s, there was (regrettably) no such thing as the Internet, or The Troutnut forum or any of the other online forums we have today for sharing ideas and fly tying advice. There were a lot of very good books, classic works on flyfishing and flytying, and I read as many as I could get my hands on.

I was living in Peekskill, a blue-collar town hard by the Hudson River in northern Westchester County, NY. I cut my flyfishing teeth on the local creeks and tributaries of the Hudson: Peekskill Hollow Brook, Furnace Brook, and the tailwaters of NY City reservoirs in Putnam and Westchester counties. I was bitten by the fly fishing and fly tying bug.

I read – Nick Lyons, Ray Bergman, Sparse Grey Hackle, Zern and McClane and countless others and had made a few acquaintances through the local chapter of Trout Unlimited. I watched the flyfishers, even fished along side some, though at a distance, and marveled at the easy casting motion, and the tiny, delicate creations presented with precision. It seemed to me pure poetry.

In Cold Spring, about 15 miles north of Peekskill, Eric Leiser had set up shop in The Rivergate. I bought one of Eric’s beginner fly tying kits and began tying flies at the kitchen table of my small apartment. I carefully followed the step by step instructions and photos in Eric’s fly tying manual, but my early flies were, as you might imagine, ungainly proportioned and poorly constructed.

Patience, persistence, snippets of hair, fur and feathers were everywhere. Soon my tying skills improved to the point where I felt I could bring one of my so-called “flies” to The Rivergate to show the guys who routinely hung around and tied there.

It was a raw Saturday. A fire burned in the wood stove. The scent of hardwood smoke mixed with the smell of coffee brewing. A couple of vises were clamped to a table, their jaws held flies in various stages of dress. On any given Saturday, at the vise you’d find the most generous and helpful fly tyers. Dave McCarthy, Al Purdy, Herb Dickerson, Pete Zito, even Eric Leiser.

Sitting at the table I watched every move as the tyers spun dubbing, would hackle, set a pair of quill wings on a wet fly. Eric and others patiently answered all my questions about dubbing fur, about rooster hackles and deer hair. From Eric I learned to use woodchuck hair for wings on caddis dries, for wings on streamers, and for wings and tails on hair winged flies.
Pat Crisci
TaxonMarch 25th, 2009, 8:29 am
Site Editor
Royse City, TX

Posts: 1350

You have a wonderful writing style. Thanks for sharing.
Best regards,
Roger Rohrbeck
DOSMarch 25th, 2009, 9:37 am
Buffalo, NY

Posts: 64
Hi Pat,

You really brightened up my lunch break with your writing. That you!
Andrew Nisbet
PatcrisciMarch 25th, 2009, 10:11 am
Lagrangeville, NY

Posts: 119
Roger, Andrew, thank you for the nice compliments. Writing and editing are what I do for a living --- that is until April 30, when I will be laid off from IBM. I'm glad you liked the post.

I've read a lot of fly tying books and magazines, watched videos on You Tube, but there is no substitute for watching a master like Eric Leiser tie. And I can't say enough about how generous he was to me as a tenderfoot fly tyer. Thanks to folks like Jason, we have a forum to share our stories, ideas and opinions on fly tying and fly fishing.
Pat Crisci
GONZOMarch 25th, 2009, 12:18 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Sorry to hear about the impending layoff, Pat. There's a lot of that going around.

Thanks for the well-phrased slice from your fly-fishing life. It evoked memories of my own introduction to fly fishing and tying back in the '60s (especially the mention of A. J. McClane). Great mentors like Eric seemed a bit harder to find in those days, and fly fishing was not nearly as popular as it would later become. Even though I grew up in one of the "cradles" of American fly fishing (the Cumberland Valley of PA), the sport had a beautiful but frustrating air of mystery about it.

Things have certainly changed, and some of them for the better, but I still can't help waxing nostalgic when a story like yours brings memories of the "good old days" into spate.
RleePMarch 26th, 2009, 7:06 am
NW PA - Pennsylvania's Glacial Pothole Wonderland

Posts: 398

Great stuff, Pat. While during the period you write of, I never came within 150 miles of Cold Spring, I too learned a lot from Eric Leiser's writings about fishing and tying, particularly with woodchuck. I remember a Leiser-designed (I think anyway) woodchuck-winged streamer called the Llama that was murder on both stocked and wild fish in the streams of my native NW Pennsylvania.

I also remember that Leiser got pretty heavily into using photographic chemicals to dye india necks various shades of dun. I bought several from him through the mail. And while the process didn't always work all that well (some of the necks were more the color of an army jeep), others served quite nicely, especially during those times when actual dun hackle was so scarce or so prohibitively expensive.

Good memories..
PatcrisciMarch 26th, 2009, 10:40 am
Lagrangeville, NY

Posts: 119
Gonzo, I loved reading McClane -- and especially Field and Stream mag, which he was fishing editor of some 40 years ago. At the same time I recall enjoying the other columnists too: Ted Trueblood and Ed Zern were my favorites.

I have never fished in PA but have always been fascinated by its wealth of trout fishing. Would love to learn more.
Pat Crisci
PatcrisciMarch 26th, 2009, 10:49 am
Lagrangeville, NY

Posts: 119
The streamer you mentioned in your post is indeed the "Llama" and I learned of it from Eric. It's also mentioned in his Complete Fly Tyer, where he attributes the fly's originination to a native guide from the Pacific Northwest (I think -- not sure where the guide was from). It is a bucktail streamer made with a wing of woodchuck guard hairs. If you want the recipe I'll dig it out. Eric's book on fly tying materials has a wealth of info on dyeing as well as the care and use of fly tying materials.
Pat Crisci
Jcamp43November 26th, 2013, 2:10 pm
Florida & Michigan

Posts: 2
I was looking through some of my old tying material and came across an unopened pack of Peccary. I bought it from the River Gate back in the 70's I guess it was. As a result, I went on the Web to see if the shop is still in operation. That's when I found this posting from Pat about his experience at the River Gate Shop. I've never been there, but Eric Leiser was a fellow that I followed in my early days of tying. Certainly is refreshing to read this posting back in 2009. Thanks much!

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