For more than thirty years, Orvis has been putting its imprimatur on the best fly-fishing operations in the country and around the world, through its Endorsed Lodges, Guides, and Outfitters program. But the newest member of this elite club may be the most unique one yet. Located in the hippest part of the most famous city on the world, Breuckelen Fly-Fishing Adventures provides both a fantastic urban angling experience and a taste of New York City that will make you feel like the coolest fly fisher ever.
The founder of BFFA is descended from fly-fishing royalty. Forrest Dorsey is the son of famed Colorado tailwaters legend Pat Dorsey and grew up drifting small patterns for big trout on the South Platte River in revered places such as Cheeseman Canyon and the Dream Stream. But a young man dreams of stepping out from his father’s shadow, so in reverse-Horace-Greeley fashion, Forrest headed east, to the Big Apple, to make his own way. While working at the Orvis Manhattan store, he explored the far corners of the five boroughs, looking for great fishing in places where others dared not tread. And in the process, he fell in love with “The BK”—its waters, places, and people. Starting this spring, he will share his passion with discriminating anglers.
Orvis Travel’s Seth Berger and I traveled from Vermont to the “Borough of Churches” to get a sense for what clients of Breuckelen Fly-Fishing Adventures can expect, and what we discovered was remarkable. Forrest has forged relationships all over Brooklyn, creating a unique program that combines the best fishing NYC has to offer and an immersion into hipster culture that will open your eyes. Don’t worry, you don’t need full-sleeve tattoos or mutton-chop sideburns to feel a part of the scene (although Forrest can arrange for those, too, if you so desire).
You’ll really get the feeling that you’re in for a different kind of fly-fishing adventure when your guide picks you up at your hotel. To leave the smallest carbon footprint possible (something many millennial clients insist on), the main mode of travel for BFFA is Citi Bike. These public, fixed-gear bikes—“fixies” in local parlance—allow you to burn some calories on your way to the water, avoiding traffic and parking hassles in the process.
Stop number one on our angling tour was the Gowanus Canal, Forrests’s most remarkable discovery. Long known as one of America’s most polluted waterways—Wikipedia claims that “owing to pollution with high ratios of fecal coliforms, deadly proportions of pathogens, and a low concentration of oxygen, it is generally seen as incompatible with marine life”—the Gowanus has actually been coming back in recent decades, thanks to conservation efforts by organizations such as Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club. Using techniques honed while fishing for tailwater trout, Forrest has pulled some real trophies, including a pending IGFA-record blackfish (Tautoga onitis), from waters that once held little life at all.
We stopped in at Dredger’s boathouse to pick up a couple canoes and hit the water below a large graffitied wall that featured the encouraging message, “Welcome to Venice. Love, Jerko.” BFFA guide Stephen Karaolis steered Seth to the best holding water among the rubble, construction sites, and bridges, and suggested a variety of presentations and retrieves. Casting Woolly Buggers, Clouser Minnows, and Deceivers, Seth was able to entice several follows and even hooked up briefly, but he just couldn’t get a fish to the net. Stephen explained that low tide generally made the fish sluggish and that the canal fishes much better when sea water makes it way upstream, bringing stripers and bluefish with it. We can’t wait to get back and give it a try because nothing would be cooler than catching a striper right in front of the construction worker who yelled to us, “There are no f@$#%*g fish in that f@$#%*g water!” Little does he know . . . .
Next, we pedaled to Louis Valentino Pier for a shot at stripers moving out of Buttermilk Channel. Forrest met us there, along with Moose the Guide Dog, who helps to carry gear and serves as a deterrent for any ne’er-do-wells who might give the evil eye to anglers in waders. The views of the Statue of Liberty, Lower Manhattan, and the ship traffic were spectacular, but once again the fish failed to cooperate. Concerned that he wasn’t showing off his home waters to their fullest, Forrest suggested that we head to his honey hole, right between two of the city’s iconic bridges.
When we arrived at Empire Fulton Ferry State Park, Forrest said we’d be trading in the bikes and continuing on horseback. Having guided pack trips in Montana for Hubbard’s Yellowstone Lodge back in the day, I was excited to saddle up again. The horses were pretty slow and stiff—despite their impressive décor—but they got us to where we needed to go, the aptly named Pebble Beach. Forrest clearly has this stretch of the East River figured out, and it wasn’t long before Seth was showing off his first striper, as a gaggle of Korean tourists looked on in amazement. Forrest celebrated by declaring it lunchtime.
One of the beauties of fishing in a place like Brooklyn is that the dining options are limitless. When you fish with BFFA, don’t expect a sandwich, chips, and a Coke. During the glorious days of summer, Forrest likes to prepare a shore lunch of charcuterie and artisanal raclette, but on this chilly day he chose to take us to Juliana’s Pizza to savor the pies of Patsy Grimaldi, New York City’s most celebrated pizza proprietor. After a hard morning on the water, it felt great to bask in the warmth of the coal-fired oven and chow down on a “No. 1,” which features mozzarella, scamorza affumicata, pancetta, scallions, and oregon-grown white truffles in olive oil. We washed it down with chocolate egg crèmes, of course.
We picked up some fresh Citi Bikes and worked our way north from DUMBO along the water, hitting the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Hurricane Point, Bushwick Inlet, and ended up in WNYC Tansmitter Park. We caught a few schoolie stripers and a little tautog but just couldn’t find the larger fish. (We did lose an hour looking for a shop that sold Williamsburg Beard Oil, which Seth said he really needed, since he couldn’t get it in Vermont.)
At about 4:00, Forrest reeled up his line and said, “Time to shoot pool.” We assumed that this was code for a secret fishing spot, but he led us to Shayz Lounge, a cozy Irish Pub in Greenpoint, where played 8 Ball, downed a few picklebacks, and relived the day’s adventure. It turns out that Forrest is a bit of a hustler, though, so we recommend that clients refuse to wager on games.
I guarantee that no other fly-fishing outfitter in the country combines the angling expertise, exceptional grooming opportunities, hipster street-cred, and culinary delights that make Breuckelen Fly-Fishing Adventures so unique. Whether you’re headed to Brooklyn on business, to try a Rainbow Bagel, or to try your hand at urban fly fishing, BFFA will not disappoint.