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FLY FISHING WILLOWEMOC CREEK IN NEW YORK

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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.

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The Willowemoc Creek is 26.7 miles long, which can be broken into three distinct sections. The upper section of the Willowemoc runs from Fir Brook down to the Village of Willowemoc. The middle section follows from the Village of Willowemoc to Livingston Manor, and the lower section continues below Livingston Manor to where it meets the Beaverkill at "Junction Pool" in Roscoe. Each section of river has its own charming characteristics and type of fishing.
hatch Chart
hatch Chart
hatch Chart
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 are posted.

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 section.

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.