The Catskills are the birthplace of American fly fishing, and they add to the growth of the sport every year thanks to incredible waters, scenery, and some of the best fishing guides in the world. They are near and dear to my heart, as I grew up learning to fish in the southwestern part of the region over 25 years ago. Famed waters like the Beaverkill, Willowemoc, Delaware, Esopus, and Neversink -- everything from tiny mountain streams, ponds, lakes, and reservoirs to float-worthy tailwaters -- make the Catskills one of the best destinations whether you’re ready to learn to fly fish, looking for a new and wild setting to explore, or coming back year after year like me.
Ever fished the area? Only a 2-hour drive from New York City, it’s easily accessible from any point in the highly populated Mid-Atlantic. But don’t worry -- with hundreds of miles of fishable waters and a long season, you’re bound to experience solitude and some of the best freshwater fly fishing in the Northeast. Check out some tips below to help you plan your next trip:
The main species targeted in the Catskills are trout. Brown, rainbow, and brook trout can be found throughout the region. Other species include shad, bass, walleye, chain pickerel, and various panfish.
Season, Regulations, and Licenses
The New York State trout season runs from April 1 through October 15 on most Catskill waters, with a limit of five fish per day of any size. Please make sure to review and follow all regulations, as they do vary per waterway and/or stretch (catch and release, fly fishing only, no kill, etc.) -- regulations are posted along designated parking areas.
A New York State fishing license is required for anglers over the age of 16 targeting freshwater species. They may be purchased online here or in person at various issuing agencies throughout the state (listed here).
As with any area, I recommend booking a guide. You’re in luck with the Catskills -- we have several excellent Fisher Guiding partners to choose from, whether you are a brand new beginner or have logged years on the water. We even have a guide partner who will provide transportation to and from New York City to give you an experience far beyond just a day of fishing (not that there’s anything wrong with just a day of fishing!).
Based out of: Phoenicia, NY
Waters: Esopus Creek
Prices: $200 per person for 5 hours walk / wade; $350 per person for 8 hours walk / wade
Featured Review for Esopus Creel from Wendy Finney (June 5, 2018): "I had an amazing day of fishing the Esopus with Todd and Paul of Esopus Creel. Most of my angler friends love to nymph, but it never really moved me. I now realize that it is because I NEVER LEARNED PROPERLY! I learned more about nymphing under their expert tutelage in one hour than I had learned in 4 years of fishing with other guides. They were very easily understood, gave me some lifelong skills, and we caught fish in the process! I have NEVER had guides as competent and skilled. No exaggeration. Thank you Todd and Paul. I will recommend you to anyone coming to your area. Definitely, 5 stars."
See more info / book with Esopus Creel.
Catskill Mountain Angler
Based out of: Chichester, NY
Waters: Esopus Creek
Prices: $300 for 1-2 people for half day walk / wade; $450 for 1-2 people for full day walk / wade
Featured Review for Catskill Mountain Angler from Julia Shield (October 30, 2019): "Mark was an outstanding fly fishing guide. I gave my husband a fly fishing trip for his birthday and he had an amazing time. He raved about the trip for weeks afterwards! Mark is really knowledgeable and loves sharing that knowledge on his tours. If you're interested in a Catskills adventure, I highly recommend working with Mark." See more info / book with Catskill Mountain Angler.
Catskill Fly Fishing Club
Based out of: Roscoe, NY
Waters: Delaware River, Willowemoc, Beaverkill
Prices: $300 for 1-2 people for half day walk / wade; $400 for 1-2 people for full day walk / wade; $325 for 1-2 people for half day float; $425 for 1-2 people for full day float
Based out of: Roscoe, NY (transportation provided to / from NYC)
Waters: Beaverkill, Willowemoc, tiny mountain streams deep in the woods
Prices: $350 for 1-2 people for 8 hours walk / wade; additional trips available
Mink on the Fly Guide Service
Based out of: Hancock, NY
Waters: Delaware River
Prices: $300 for 1-2 people for ½ day float; $550 for 1-2 people for full day float
Barrett's Guide Service
Based out of: Binghamton, NY
Waters: East and West branches of the Delaware River, Salmon River, private water on the lower West branch of the Ausable River, and various Catskills and Adirondacks streams
Prices: $250 for wade trips ($50 per additional angler), $325 for wade trips on private water ($125 per additional person), and $400 for float trips by driftboat or flyraft for 1-2 anglers
Eating + Drinking
With all that fishing, you’re going to get hungry! May I suggest fueling up at the Phoenicia Diner (get any of the skillets) or Trout Town’s “World-Famous” Roscoe Diner (trust me: order the deep-fried French toast) before a long day on the water? And when dinnertime rolls around, check out the Riverside Cafe, which is situated directly on the Beaverkill. Fish an evening hatch until it’s pitch-black, drop your waders and gear off at your car and head inside for some fabulous homestyle cooking (the pies are out of this world) and a stiff one.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the excellent drinking options that can be found in the region. As a beer fan, I recommend swinging by Catskill Brewery, Roscoe Beer Co., and West Kill Brewing. If beer’s not your thing, check out Prohibition Distillery and for the perfectly curated selection of beverages, Upstream Wine & Spirits has got you covered. Please remember to drink responsibly.
After a long day of fishing (and now eating and drinking), you’ll need a place to stay in the Catskills. The aforementioned Riverside Cafe also has several cabins and motel rooms available for guests to stay on the property. I host an annual trip up to the Catskills and my guests have had some wonderful stays at the Beaverkill Manor and the Louis St. Pierre House -- both house rentals are located within a quick walk to beautiful, fish-filled waters. Their proximity to the Beaverkill and East Branch of the Delaware, respectively, also allows one to experience some prime nighttime fishing using rodent-patterns without venturing too far in the dark. And for those of you who prefer to camp, there are tons of options, ranging from rustic to glamping, throughout the region.
Not to miss
You may be on a fishing trip, but be sure not to miss the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum. Learn more about the vast history of fly fishing in the area and even rub elbows with legends like Joan Wulff who frequent the Museum. With rotating exhibits, events, and a killer gift shop, the CFFCM is the perfect venue to spend your time off of the water. But when you’re ready to get back to fishing, cast a line under the bridge across from the property -- trout stack up and one will surely hit your fly if you present it well.
-Alysson Cwyk, Platform Strategist