Deep in the Catskills, a plaque at a roadside park says it all, quoting the Fisherman’s Prayer: “God grant that I may live to fish until my dying day, And when it comes to my last cast I then most humbly pray, When in the Lord’s safe landing net I’m peacefully asleep, Then in His mercy I be judged good enough to keep.”
Livingston Manor, on the banks of the Willowemoc, is primarily known for its superb trout fishing. The Willowemoc offers nearly 7 miles of public water from Livingston Manor downstream to Roscoe, and the Beaverkill’s 15 miles below Roscoe are all public and easily wadable. Covered bridges dating back to the mid-1800s span the trout streams.
Appropriately situated about midway between Livingston Manor and Roscoe is the state-of-the-art Catskill Fly Fishing Center (1031 Old Rte. 17, 845/439-4810, www.cffcm.org). Started up by a group of local fisherfolk in 1981, the center does an excellent job of documenting the history of fly-fishing in the United States.
On display in the museum are hundreds of meticulously crafted flies, along with rods, reels (some dating back to 1850), historic photos, and other artifacts. To the uninitiated, that might sound ho-hum, but don’t pass judgment until you’ve seen the bumble puppy, midge, quill gordon, wet spider, cow dung, or the red ant. Fly-tying is a bona fide folk art, and each fly is an intricate affair, individually designed and named. At one time, flies were made out of feathers and furs; today, the material is usually synthetic.
Also at the center are fly-tying demonstrations, lectures, and fly-tying classes for beginners. Out front runs the Willowemoc, usually lined with hip-booted fisherfolk in waders, casting their lines.
Roscoe, aka Trout Town U.S.A., is considerably larger and more sophisticated than Livingston Manor, but its raison d’être is the same. It was at Junction Pool, just west of Roscoe where the Willowemoc and Beaverkill meet, that American fly-fishing was first developed.
A number of expert fly-tiers still live and work in Roscoe. Dette Trout Flies (68 Cottage St., 607/498-4991, www.dettetroutflies.com) is a family-owned fly-tying business started in 1928. Among anglers, the Dette name is known around the world. By website or by phone, the shop gives the straight info on what to expect throughout the area in their Daily Report, including river flows, temperatures, turbidity, insect hatches, and local weather.
Continuing further up Lewbeach Road, you’ll enter Catskill Park and soon come to the hamlets of Beaverkill and Lewbeach. In Beaverkill is the state-run Beaverkill Campground (792 Berrybrook Rd., 845/439-4281), situated on the banks of the Beaverkill River, another world-famous trout-fishing stream. The 97-site campground on 62 wooded acres also offers river swimming. For reservations, call 800/456-CAMP.
Operating in Lewbeach is the Wulff School of Fly Fishing (845/439-4060), which offers weekend trout-fishing and fly-casting workshops May–June. Run by Joan Wulff, a champion fisherwoman and author, the school is set on 100 acres and includes a private stretch of the Beaverkill River.
© Avalon Travel and Sascha Zuger from Moon New York State, 5th Edition