Head to Trout Town USA for Fly-Fishing and a Beer Mountain

Chase waterfalls, trap trout, and sip some award-winning brews.

Russell Brook Falls
Russell Brook Falls | Photo by Lauren Breedlove
Russell Brook Falls | Photo by Lauren Breedlove

“Hitchhike to heaven.” My guide, Joe, stuck his thumb toward the sky. I had never hitchhiked in a pair of waders before, but here I was: Thigh deep in the cool waters of the Willowemoc Creek, learning how to fly fish in Trout Town, USA—government name: Roscoe, New York.

We were standing in the exact spot where Theodore Gordon—the Father of American Dry Fly Fishing and a master of the hitchhiker-style casting move—once came to fish back in the 1800s. That was only the beginning of Roscoe’s fishy claim to fame: This small, unassuming town on the western edge of the Catskills in Upstate New York is the fly-fishing capital of the country, with a handful of America’s best trout fishing streams weaving through the lush landscape.

Livingston Manor Covered Bridge
Livingston Manor Covered Bridge | Photo by Lauren Breedlove

With its historic buildings, riverside pull-offs, and covered bridges, Roscoe saw an influx of love during the pandemic as urbanites flocked upstate to buy country homes and indulge in the luxury of open space. Several local businesses also opened their doors during Covid, creating a town-wide sense of mutual support so strong, it’s almost Hallmark movie-like.

The more you explore, the more you’ll come to realize there’s a whole lot more to Trout Town than just trout—although you may be surprised by how zen you’ll feel casting a line while submerged in the steady flow of the water. Whether you’re a seasoned fisherman or a weekender looking to get in on the fun, here’s what to check out along the riverside in Roscoe.

Fly-fishing in Roscoe, NY
Fly-fishing in Roscoe, NY | Photo by Lauren Breedlove

Chase waterfalls and trap trout

For hiking adventures near Roscoe, you can take the short trail to Russell Brook Falls, a cascading waterfall oasis, or stretch your legs on the 1.8 mile scenic loop around Crystal Lake. There are also plenty of lakes in the area for paddling around in a canoe or kayak.

But obviously, you can’t go to the birthplace of fly-fishing and not try it out. It’s basically the law. Roscoe’s main drag is approximately 456 feet long and yet has three angler shops, if that helps drive the point home.

Peak fishing season lasts from April through early June, though if you ask Joe, he’ll tell you he’d always pick the last week in May, hands down. He’s just one of many fly-fishing masters at Trout Town Flies, where they offer lessons for first-timers and guided trips, as well as free women’s workshops taught by an all-female team of volunteers during the summer. After my morning with Joe, I was gifted the fishing-fly I used to catch my first (tiny) brown trout, a little memento I’m still proud of.

If you prefer to fish sans guide, plant yourself in the streams at Junction Pool, Hendrickson's Pool, Painter’s Bend, and Wulff Run at the Catskill Fly Fishing Museum. But basically any public fishing spot along the Beaverkill River, Willowemoc Creek, and the east branch of the Delaware River is going to rock your fly fishing world. And if you need to grab some gear, rod and wader rentals are available at the Beaverkill Angler in town, where $70 should get you fully outfitted.

Heads up for those newbies out there: Before you try your luck casting, make sure to check if the area is a catch and release zone or a kill zone—there’s usually signage. You’ll also want to grab a fishing license online (it’s easy peasy!).

Do Good Spirits
Do Good Spirits | Photo by Lauren Breedlove

Drink your way along the Beverage Trail

Sullivan County is host to perhaps the best kind of trail: one dedicated to drinking. The Good Taste Artisanal Beverage Trail has over a dozen drinking spots with breweries, distilleries, cideries, and wineries galore. Start with Roscoe’s resident distillery, housed in the old firehouse and a favorite amongst locals and visitors alike.

You’ll feel welcomed immediately at Do Good Spirits, where owner and Navy veteran Brian Facquet keeps the memory of his best friends alive. (“I can have a drink in memory of my buddies anytime I want,” he told me happily, pouring me a swill.) The distillery lives up to its name, partnering with charities and offering donations-only tastings, with all contributions going to The Third Option Foundation. Their Bootlegger New York Craft Vodka was the best vodka I’ve had, and they serve up a mean nitro cold brew with Beaver Kill Bourbon Cream right at the bar.

Next, head to nearby Livingston Manor’s Catskill Brewery, where you can do beer tastings out of a cardboard box, and eat your food truck taco accompanied by live music on the deck. Finish things off at Upward Brewing Company, where owners Dave and Dana have wildly succeeded in bringing the outdoors into the beer world. Their 120 acres includes an onsite water spring source used for brewing their beer. Hike the one mile trail up the property’s Beer Mountain, where you can sip their award-winning brews with a panoramic view. Inside, admire the creative design using repurposed materials, like the bar made out of a major Craigslist score: someone’s old mahogany wood deck.

Upward Brewing Co.
Upward Brewing Co. | Photo by Lauren Breedlove

Chow down in Trout Town

Grab a quick breakfast or lunch sandwich at Main Street Farm or The Walk In, both located in the neighboring hamlet of Livingston Manor. Later, you’ll find the answer to all your pasta cravings at Northern Farmhouse Pasta, a small operation that keeps it simple but oh-so-delicious. Owner Bob Eckert, aka “Bobby Ravioli,” is somewhat of a legend in Roscoe and does all the cooking himself. Do yourself a favor and order the famous baked clams. They’re delivered on a cast iron skillet in a pool of perfectly melted mozzarella cheese, like clams casino on steroids.

Roscoe’s main strip just got a little cooler with bar and restaurant The Junction, whose name pays homage to the historically renowned fishing spot where the Beaverkill and the Willowemoc meet. They make a killer fried chicken sandwich.

And although there are clearly plenty of options other than trout, it’s kind of a must. The two absolute drool-worthy dishes to try are Upward Brewing Company’s trout nuggets (the aioli is out of this world), and the smoked trout dip crostini at Do Good Spirits (rumor has it that one couple drove 100 miles for a tub of it).

Wander a classic small town Main Street

OK, so it's not called Main Street, but rather Stewart Brook Road. But it's lined with charming historic buildings, scores of fishing signs, and a plethora of hilarious trout-themed photo stand-ins primed for memory-making. While you’re there, pop into the Railway Museum, as well as the newly opened Wemoc General Store, a gift shop and salon hybrid where owner Marissa’s goal was to “see what the community needed” and provide it.

downtown Roscoe
Downtown Roscoe | Roscoe, NY - Roscoe Chamber of Commerce

Where to stay in Roscoe, New York

A short country road drive from downtown will land you amongst the best views in the area. Tennanah Lake Golf & Tennis Club is perfect for those into golf or who just love incredible scenery. Perch on the porch of the onsite restaurant for a tasty dinner and a show courtesy of Mother Nature; you’ll be hard pressed to find a better sunset spot in all of Roscoe. Or, just two and a half miles outside of town on the edge of the Beaverkill River, go retro with a stay at 1930s roadside motel The Red Rose, renovated with an artfully designed hybrid of rustic and antique-chic style.

Those looking to be one with nature in their waking and their slumbering hours will find plenty of camping, from campgrounds with solid facilities to more primitive forest land sites like Mud Pond and Trout Pond. Whatever you choose, you’ll have somewhere cool to lay your head and hang your waders to dry at the end of a day in Trout Town, USA.

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Lauren Breedlove is a contributor for Thrillist.