By Barbara Gref
ROSCOE April 17, 2007 More than 200 celebrants gathered in Roscoe on Saturday night for the annual Two-Headed Trout Dinner.
Though the dinner heralds the opening of trout season, the topic for several years now, was not the quality of the fishing or the quantity of the fish. Instead, it has been the quantity of the rain or snow that was on the diners’ minds.
Indeed, there were a few empty places at the Rockland House’s long banquet tables, prompted by the incoming Nor’easter that was to have hit the east coast Sunday and Monday.
No one could lay any blame at all for the weather jitters. Two years ago, a record-setting rain storm deluged the Beaverkill Valley the day after trout season opened. This past summer, an even bigger, more violent flood swept into the Beaverkill Valley.
These events were very much on the minds of all in attendance. Patricia Yelle, who is the President of the Roscoe Chamber of Commerce, made a point of thanking all those who were supporting the chamber through their attendance at the Two-Headed Trout Dinner.
“It has been kind of scary,” she said, referring to the hardships on the town, its businesses and the cancellation of events due to repeat floods here.
She noted that the hamlet of Roscoe was so hard hit last summer that the Fourth of July Parade took place in August.
Nonetheless, Yelle took the opportunity Saturday to launch into a mini-rally for the place known as Trout Town USA.
“Welcome home to Roscoe,” she said to the many who traditionally travel to the town in order to usher in the trout season. “There is no place like Roscoe.”
The Two-Headed Trout Dinner is a testament to the unique and has always been the biggest fundraiser from the chamber and money has been used for community events and beautification projects.
The Two-Headed Trout Dinner is a steadfast custom in trout country, though it has changed flavor over the years. The dinner was begun in the 1940s as a gathering of journalists and outdoors writers who would converge on the now-closed Antrim Lodge in order to scope out the prospects of the season, drink among colleagues and anglers and eat a communal meal.
Those early dinners included New York Times writer Red Smith, who is often said to have founded the event. Daily News scribe Jerry Kenney was also a fixture as were anglers such as Lee Wulff and A. J. McClane.
The dinner back then was held on the eve of Opening Day, April 1. Although this year that berth was claimed by the Anglers Reunion Dinner, another feasting occasion which welcomes the season.
The Two-Headed Dinner takes its name, of course, from the legendary fish which is said to have reached the convergence of the Beaverkill and Willowemoc Rivers in Roscoe and, in a fit of indecision over which fork to take, grew two heads. This fish was thereafter called the Beamoc and inspired the fabled dinner.
The original Two-Headed Trout Dinner was known for its fish tales and pre-season revelries. That tradition was kept alive in a new form Saturday night as Ellen Skarka of Catskill Flies did a fine Alex Trebek impersonation with her collection of fly fishing trivia questions which referred to such local treasures as anglers Walt and Winnie Dette, Joan and Lee Wulff and other fishing facts.
Small prizes were given as raffles were called and auction items sold to put a wrap on the Two-Headed Trout Dinner of 2007.