Recently we were reminiscing with fishing friends about how fortunate we are to live in a water-rich area; most of our small towns were built near waterways, enabling us to enjoy a variety of fishing …
Recently we were reminiscing with fishing friends about how fortunate we are to live in a water-rich area; most of our small towns were built near waterways, enabling us to enjoy a variety of fishing options - from trout to panfish and bass; in ponds, lakes and streams, from tiny wild brook trout creeks to the fantastic wild rainbow fishery of the mainstem Delaware River.
Many of us have grown up along streams that lured us, as children, to fish with worms or whatever we could find that might entice a trout. And how proud we were to bring home fresh fish for supper!
My fishing experiences began about the age of 6, from the rocks and boulders of nearby Sundown Creek. Sundown was a sleepy little place, and “town”consisting of Loren Dean's general store where you could buy Bazooka bubble gum and non-perishable items; behind the building was a steep laid-up-stone wall we scrambled down to reach the large bedrock ledge from which we fished the great pool below.
Fast forward to enjoying fly-fishing as an adult, for many years now residing in the hamlet of Livingston Manor; well known to the trout fishing world, and special - with a world-class blue-ribbon trout stream, the Willowemoc Creek, running through the center of town.
The Old Route 17 bridge that crosses the Willowemoc provides a lovely view of the hamlet looking downstream on a favorite stretch of water that passes in front of the picturesque Livingston Manor Central School, with its Georgian colonial architecture, clock tower and slate roof. For years, school children participated in the Trout in The Classroom program, and in the spring, would release the trout fry they “raised”into the Willowemoc's waters.
Growing up with a first-class trout stream flowing just steps away from their playground, students could utilize the school's “walk across bridge”to observe trout fishers below. The river is large enough to enable fly-fishers to make a comfortable backcast, with enough access points for both spinning and fly fishing alike.
On occasion when we've fished the stretch in front of the school, interested youngsters would inquire “any luck?”or “what fly are you using?”
Dette Flies, a fly-fishing store, is located in Waterwheel Junction at the head of the pool, and the stretch of river is more popular than ever, whether for spin fishing or fly fishing downstream, or beginning at the lower end of Main Street and fishing your way back upstream through the hamlet. Some of the merchants in town offer deck seating and large window views to capitalize on the charms of the river as it flows by their establishments. Depending on the time of day, you can savor the aroma of the “World's Best Coffee”and offerings of blueberry pancakes, bacon/eggs and homefries; or biscuits, homemade soups and wood-fired pizza, Chinese food and barbecue - tempered by the malty tang of the breweries and sweet treats at the ice cream stand.
Angling in town might not appeal to everyone, but there is excellent fishing to be had in Livingston Manor thanks to a stream improvement project that was done years ago, with structures made to create pools and offer good trout habitat. Many of the local children have learned how to fly-fish by observing, along with partaking in occasional fly-casting lessons that have been offered at the school from time to time through the years.
It is rare to have a river that offers such superb trout fishing running right through the middle of a town; one other such place that comes to mind is the River Liffey, a salmon and trout fishery located in Dublin, Ireland, where, on the southern bank, there is a public walkway at Memorial Park with free car parking available at the main entrance. And while there is free fishing at Memorial Park above Island Bridge, fishing on the Liffey is controlled by angling associations or private owners.
But in Livingston Manor, the trout fishing is free, and is open to all - and residents of the community can accurately state that in their town, “a river runs through it.”
Judy Van Put is a long-time member of the NYS Outdoor Writers Association, and is the recipient of the New York State Council of Trout Unlimited's Professional Communications Award.