Knowledge of the best hunting and fishing on estates—such as those of Congressman Hamilton Fish Jr., or of Dr. Edward L. Thorndike of Columbia University, "that fellow who wrote the dictionary"—was "handed down in the family," Broadie says. "I figured those estates were all my territory. Ham Fish used to have some nice trout stocked in his private fishing preserve. Don't forget that this was the Depression. Pop was a railroad man, and he was only working two or three days a week. Everything was a meal. Even the game warden didn't pay attention to the season, most of the time."
Broadie attended Hendrick Hudson High School and, although he played hooky to fish or hunt, he graduated in three years with an 89.6 average. "Latin knocked the hell out it," he says, "but I've always been glad I took it because I can break down words to figure out what they mean." Most of the time, Broadie talks like a rustic, but when he gets serious he will start using such language as "indigenous," "cogitating" and "my poaching proclivities." "Sometimes you got to go along with the crowd," he says, however that applies.
College was out of the question, so Broadie worked for an auto mechanic and then in the New York Central Railroad repair shops at Harmon, when he wasn't loose in the field. Deer were then protected by a closed season, and Broadie learned that the warden was out to nail whoever was hunting at DeRahm's Brook, where it flowed into Constitution Marsh across the Hudson from West Point. "One morning the warden shows up at the brook at four o'clock," Broadie recalls. "He looks around, no one else is there, and so he hides in some bushes. He waits and waits. Five o'clock goes by, and no one has shown up. Six o'clock. Still no one. Then this nice big fat buck comes down to the brook. The warden looks around. He doesn't see anyone. He pulls out his .38 revolver, shoots the buck and packs it out of there. A couple of days later I met the warden in a place where he hung out, and I just casually said to him, 'How does the venison taste?" That was the end of the conversation, and after that he never did run into me in the woods."
When he's out hunting, Broadie chews on black birch twigs so as not to get thirsty, and he habitually moves with stealth. "People who grew up in the city can't be quiet in the woods," he says. "They walk with their feet out because they grew up on pavement." The only man Broadie ever knew who was quieter than he is in the woods was the late Nelse Kingsley. "I'd be stock-still waiting for a squirrel," Broadie says, "and all of a sudden I'd hear Kingsley's voice right behind me, asking, 'Seen anything, Art?' "
The New York Central found Broadie a quick learner. With the skills he acquired in the Central's shops, he is able to do all his own truck and car maintenance and repair, plumbing and electrical work, and carpentry. "I can put in the footings, lay up the foundation and completely build a house and put every damn thing in it," he says. He also ties his own Black Ghosts and other flies and jigs, does decorative leatherwork, makes knives, carves decoys and designs and builds his own duck boats. In the days when he hunted Constitution Marsh in winter, he built an air boat that could hit 60 miles an hour skimming across the ice. When he cuts a Christmas tree, he always cuts two, the extra one for spare branches which he inserts into holes drilled in the trunk of the first tree to make it absolutely symmetrical. "I'm learnin' all the time," he says. "How many guys would look at a picture of something in a book and say, 'I'm going to make me one of those,' and then make it? I do."
In 1943, Broadie married his wife, Alice, and then spent, by his own recollection, "exactly three years, one month and 19 days" in the Army. Returning home, he worked as a welder and pipefitter until he landed a job with the VA in 1963. Of course, he also returned to poaching. What else could a man like Broadie do with the 2,000-acre Camp Smith Military Reservation at his disposal? Broadie's activities so incensed the colonel in charge, whose children had a pet deer with a red ribbon on its neck, that he took to patrolling the roads himself at night in a Jeep. As Broadie learned after one narrow escape, the colonel would park the Jeep at the crest of a steep hill with the lights out. When he heard a noise on the road below, he would release the brake and zoom downhill, aiming for the intruder. Broadie was after ducks, not deer—he hasn't hunted deer in 25 years because that season conflicts with the bird season—and to avoid the colonel he clambered up the back side of a mountain, Anthony's Nose, before sunrise one morning. By eight o'clock he had worked his way down the other side into some prime duck country. Suddenly he heard an explosion, the whine of a shell overhead and another explosion behind him as the shell landed. He had arrived just in time for artillery practice. He ducked into a hidey-hole behind some rocks and waited out the bombardment for three hours. The next time Broadie hunted ducks at Camp Smith was between six and 7:30 in the morning. "Nobody gets up at six to start firing artillery in the peacetime Army," is the way Broadie figured it.
Art and Alice raised four sons. The oldest is 35, the youngest 26, and Broadie took them all hunting and fishing. "Set them down anywhere, and they can make a tent," he says. "All fishermen and hunters and all law-abidin' citizens."
The Black Ghost has used a fly rod ever since his 16th birthday. His father gave it to him shortly after his mother died. "It was a three-piece, nine-foot el cheapo club," he says. "No one had any money. It had an old skeleton reel that cost 29¢, and I used to buy fly lines, mill ends 25-to 30-feet long, in a stationery store for 25¢. I didn't even know anyone who owned a fly rod. In those days the only thing I knew about fly fishing was what I read in magazines. I had the whole month of June to practice with cork-bodied bass bugs. Everybody used big plugs for bass, and they all laughed at me when I showed up with little bugs—until I started taking four to five fish for every one they were taking.
"Then I started to use the fly rod to fish for trout. First I used bait, worms and shiners, and it wasn't too long before I'd get my limit. Then I'd switch to flies. Eventually I started going without bait. I went to flies because I realized I could turn fish loose without injuring them. After I started releasing more fish, I started catching more fish. Maybe it's because I was more relaxed. This was the '30s, and guys used to climb up and down my back for releasing fish. Some guys still feel that they have to prove themselves by bringing home a fish."
Broadie remembers the days on which he caught certain fish the way other people remember where they were when Pearl Harbor was bombed or Bobby Thomson hit the shot heard 'round the world. "The memory bank up there in my head tells me what to do when I want to go fishing," he says. "Different streams have different rhythms, and you have to know what the trout want. For instance, on some water the fish like a fairly long retrieve of a streamer, and on others they like short twitches. Even the same stream changes from spring to late spring, with water temperature and water flow. When the water's high and the temperature's low, you can't rip a streamer in front of a trout's snoot. You have to tease him out. When the water gets real low and warm, that's high-speed fishing. You got to startle them into grabbing aholt.