The Willowemoc, in the Southern region of the New York
Catskills, is often overshadowed by the Beaverkill's
national reputation as the Northeast's top trout stream.
It's ironic because the "Willow" runs into the Beaverkill
and somewhat influences its water flow and temperature.
Every year, fishermen visit this river in pursuit of
great numbers of wild and stocked trout. The Willow can
be viewed from New York State Route 17 and is easily
accessible from the Livingston Manor and Roscoe exits.
The Willowemoc Creek has been a trout-fishing paradise
since it opened up to fishermen by railroad in the
mid-1870s. Fishermen traveled up the Hudson River to
Cornwall, New York and then headed west through Middletown
to Livingston Manor. During this period, fishermen
would stay in large clubs like Charles B. Ward's DeBruce
Club Inn. In the early 1900s, many Catskill resort
hotels comfortably serviced these fishermen. This resort-type
environment continued until the early 1950s when many
of these hotels and resorts closed. Today, the Willowemoc
remains a trout-fishing paradise. The trip up Route
17 and the accommodations might be different, but the
fishing remains the same.
The upper portion of the Willow ranges from 10- to 15-feet
wide, with small clear pools and silted bottoms, and
is perfect for the small-stream angler. Its tributaries
are slow and gentle and have many fishable pools. This
section of stream is loaded with insect life and has
great numbers of wild brook trout. These fish average
from 6 to 12 inches. The abundance of cold springs and
shade keep this section of stream cool most of the year.
You'll find many places in the upper Willow that are
open to the public; however, some of its tributaries
The middle section of river begins to widen from
20 to 50 feet. This part begins in the Village of Willowemoc
and ends in Livingston Manor. The base of this portion
is made up of small boulders and gravel, with some
faster-moving water and larger pools. Brown trout begin
to appear in this section of the creek. The ratio of
fish caught here is about one brown to every brook
trout. These fish still are average-sized in the 8-
to 10-inch range. The middle section of the creek also
has plenty of public fishing rights; however, six of
the miles in this section are private, so fishermen
must obey posted signs. Along here you'll also find
a very productive No Kill (Exceptions
to General Angling Regulations) section of water.
The lower section of the Willowemoc becomes even
wider, opening up to 100 feet in spots. This section
has a good mixture of riffles and large pools that
resemble the larger Catskill rivers. It begins at Livingston
Manor and ends in Roscoe, where it dumps into the Beaverkill.
This section of river is open to the public, with easy
access to the river. Most people believe that this
section offers the best fly fishing, mostly due to
the 2.4-mile no-kill section of river. It begins at
Bascom Brook and ends at the overpass below Hazel Brook.
Stocked brown trout, 10 to 15 inches, dominate this
The hatches on the Willowemoc are consistent with
the other Catskill rivers. There are good numbers of
Stoneflies and Mayflies; however, the most dominant
hatches are Caddis. Fishing the Willowemoc is best
from April through June, when the water is cool and
the fish are most active. The Willowemoc is a special
trout stream because it offers fishing for both novice
and experienced fishermen. It has everything from small-stream
pocket-nymph fishing to big-water dry-fly fishing.
Any fisherman visiting the Willow should set aside
a few hours to visit the Fly Fishing Museum, which
is located off the Livingston Manor exit. It's packed
full of historic fly-fishing items and traces the growth
and advancements of the sport in the Catskill region.
The museum is a great place to spend the middle of
the day, if the fishing slows down.