Todd Spire is a scholar of the Esopus.
He runs Esopus Creel, a guided trout fishing service. Also, he’s a founding member of Catskill Trout Tales, a marketing initiative that recently won a $50,000 New York State grant to promote fly fishing in the Catskills. Spire is clear-eyed about the struggles of the Esopus. To the damage done by the tanneries, he adds the devastating floods of Hurricane Irene in 2011, which further eroded the integrity of the Esopus’s banks. More galling, Spire notes, some second-home buyers also unknowingly hurt the creek.
“We screwed it up twice. Everyone wanted these houses on the rivers, and they wanted to sit on their back porch and see the river. So, buyers came in, developed the property and cut down all the trees once again.”
Yet, Spire says, Catskill waterways will always default to good fishing. “The general topography of the Catskills—these incredibly steep mountains—are what makes Catskill fishing so great. Tumbling water, fast rates of descent, this creates lots of oxygen—and the gravel base that came out of all this glacial till works like a natural filter to keep the water clean.” He continues, “All the stupid stuff that we’ve done by interfering with the rivers, the Catskills will always find a way to stay a relatively good place for trout.”