By Lenny Ackerman
Fishing With Jay
After our inaugural fishing expedition to Beaver Kill in 1990, Jay and I embarked on a fishing romance spanning 24 years until our trip to Iceland in 2014. I returned to Iceland again in 2017, but that time as a loner. Jay was not fit to travel after a bout of illness and I, suffering from a back injury, plowed through the trip with a distressing inflamed something or other. Leading up to that last trip alone was a wonderful series of travels with Jay and a few other friends, some now gone. Our first real expedition together was deep sea fishing in Gardiner’s Bay off of East Hampton, with Captain Paul Dixon, on the hunt for bluefish and stripers. Eventually, Jay surpassed me in his collecting of flies and gear as he had a number of friends and work colleagues in the dental profession who regularly went to the Catskills to fish on the Delaware. Jay, being a surgeon, was into the technical intricacies of fishing. I was more interested in finding sources for English country fishing attire, and of course I was into the travel.
Our next outing together was trout fishing on the Connetquot River on Long Island. More like fishing in a bathtub, with assigned beats where fish waited for meals. The fish dined on a schedule, and as long as you were on their timetable, you caught plenty. Like shooting in a barrel. After that, we were ready to explore beyond the shores of Long Island. Thus began our European adventures and over the years we went to Scotland and Ireland, and to Iceland twice. We often took local trips in between–during economic recessions and off times in the real estate practice, Jay and I would do the three-hour drive to Al Caucci’s fishing establishment called Riverfront Lodge, on the West Branch of the Delaware River in the Catskills, near Hancock, New York. Caucci was an interesting fellow– a fishing guide, entrepreneur and hotelier, who wrote the basic treatise on fishing entomology or, for us simpletons, the guide to flies that attract fish. Interestingly, with Al it was technical fishing but rarely catching. It seems there just weren’t many fish. It was with Al that I first heard all the immortal fishing guide sayings that begin with “should have.” “Should have been here last week.” “Should’ve been drier—the water’s too high.” “Should’ve rained—the water is too low.” Once there was a dam release issue on that branch of the Delaware. Al must have been a bit amused watching us beginners wade in so far over our heads we had to swim back to shore.
The best part of a trip to Al’s–aside from the exceptional motel décor–was the dining. Always outdoors, weather permitting, the meals were first rate. Al would bring in talented up-and-coming chefs on the weekends, one of whom was Tom Colicchio. Later on, we would see Colicchio’s name in print in restaurant reviews, as he gained fame from his many restaurants in New York and beyond. Al knew beginner fishermen faced a lot of frustration on the water, and casting all day was tiring, so in the evening a special dinner put everything right again. There were always stories from the day’s events to tell over a meal, and it was always a happy exhaustion, from casting away for those supposed fish in the dark waters of the Delaware.