The Beaverkill and Willowemoc Today

Fishing around Roscoe is every bit as popular today as it was one hundred years ago. The majority of people who fish the Beaverkill and Willowemoc live within 2-3 hours of Roscoe, but the rivers enjoy a storied reputation and are known by fly fishermen around the world. It is not unusual to meet a fellow fisherman from out of state, or hear hints of British or Japanese accents while casting to rising fish…

Of course such notoriety can come with problems of its own, and being located within easy striking distance of major population sources could cause some concern. Fortunately steps were taken throughout the 1930s and 1940s to help preserve the excellent fishing found in the area. Improved stocking methods increased the quality and numbers of fish found in the rivers, and a progressive policy of securing permanent public fishing easements paved the way for the fishing we know today.

Many modern anglers express concerns about overcrowding on the rivers, but these are largely misplaced. Within easy striking distance of New York City (and even Boston and Philadelphia), the Beaverkill and Willowemoc can see crowds during the peak season, especially on weekends and holidays. Most fishermen tend to gravitate toward the more popular and famous fishing holes, but those willing to walk a little ways or do a little driving along the river can usually find a stretch of river of their own. Although the upper sections of the Beaverkill and Willowemoc are largely owned by the fly fishing clubs or private individuals, the massive easements provide plenty of access and parking along the main sections of the two rivers.

Part of what made the Roscoe area so famous, and popular, among fly fishermen is the abundance of aquatic insect life found in the local rivers. Hatches of various mayflies, caddis, midges, and stoneflies can be found throughout the season. You could ask a dozen anglers what their favorite Beaverkill river hatch is and get a dozen different answers…always an encouraging sign.

The general opening day for trout fishing in New York is April 1st, but both the Beaverkill and Willowemoc have special regulation sections that are open to fishing all year. These “no-kill” areas are limited to fly fishing and the use of artificial lures only, and all fish must be returned to the water immediately. The middle of May through the middle of June is generally considered to be the prime time for fly fishing around Roscoe. Water levels tend to be more stable than in early spring, and temperatures are cooler than in midsummer. This time of year traditionally sees the most insect activity as well, and numerous hatches can be taking place at the same time. Each year can be different however, and good fishing can be had at just about any time.

Brown trout are now the most common fish found in the Beaverkill and Willowemoc systems, although native brook trout can still be found in the upper sections or at times near the mouths of the smaller feeder creeks. Rainbow trout are also present, but not common, and if you do catch one it has most likely made its way up from the East Branch of the Delaware River. Some years also see shad runs in the Beaverkill, depending upon water levels and temperatures. If you are specifically targeting shad then the East Branch or the main stem of the Delaware river are a better option.

An average trout in the Beaverkill or Willowemoc will run between 12-15 inches, but the state does still stock these rivers and recently stocked fish tend to run a little smaller. Fish in the 16-18 inch are not uncommon and fish exceeding 20 inches are caught every year. Larger fish are typically tougher to catch, and the people who do hook them consistently are typically doing so with nymphs or streamers.