Eastern Fly Fishing

By Jesse Filingo

Although New York sets the bar high for top-notch trout rivers, few boast such strong populations of wild brown and rainbow trout as the East Branch Delaware River. In addition to harboring these two species, the East Branch is renowned for heavy hatches. The combination of wild trout and great hatches make it an angler’s mecca.
   Starting in the town of Hancock, where the East and West Branches meet, forming the upper main stem of the Delaware River, the East is easily accessible. The famous Junction Pool (where the two branches merge) is just off New York State Route 97, and the fishing in this reach extends upstream through the town of Hancock (where SR 97 crosses the river). From Hancock, SR 17 (aka Old Route 17) follows the East Branch upstream and leads to a variety of access points. Above the boulder-strewn rapids of the Cadosia access (about a mile east of Hancock), walk-in access is minimal until you reach the Partridge Islands, about 5.5 miles east of Hancock and a short distance downstream from the more heavily fished area called Fishs Eddy.
   Route 17 continues along the East Branch to the confluence with the famous Beaver Kill, about 12 miles from Hancock. From here, SR 30 guides you along the beautiful East Branch about 16 miles up to Pepacton Reservoir, providing numerous access points for anglers. Lacking the inflow from the Beaver Kill that feeds the lower end of the East Branch, the upper stretch along SR 30 is much smaller. However, the upper East Branch runs cold year-round, making it fishable even in the warmest
summer months.
   Prolific hatches of mayflies, caddisflies, and stoneflies occur regularly along the East Branch Delaware. Spring begins with Little Brown and Little Black Stoneflies and Blue-Winged Olives, followed by caddisflies, Hendricksons, Green Drakes (a superb hatch on the river), Sulphurs, and Slate Drakes. The hatches vary in timing and intensity along the river, making it an ever-changing fly-fishing experience.
   Surface-feeding fish can become very finicky as the season rolls on, so lighter tippets and patterns that imitate cripples and emergers work best. When searching for fish deeper in the water column, a variety of basic nymphs catch fish year-round. My favorite go-to patterns include beadhead Hare’s Ear, Pheasant Tail, and Prince Nymphs, and stonefly patterns in various sizes and shades. My top choice among them is a size 16 beadhead Pheasant Tail. When nymphing, be prepared, because the aggressive wild rainbows strike savagely and make bruising runs. When flows are up a bit during spring and fall, and large trout are migrating upstream in search of spawning habitat, don’t hesitate to cast big black, olive, or brown streamers. 
   The East Branch is productive throughout the entire season, which runs from April 1 to October 15. Numerous outfitters work the river, including the Delaware River Club (www.thedelawareriverclub.com) and West Branch Angler & Resort (www.westbranchangler.com), as do individual guides, such as myself (www.filingoflyfishing.com). Lodging options are numerous in the region, a personal favorite being Dream Catcher Lodge on the West Branch Delaware (www.dreamcatcherlodgeny.com).
   Cooler days of spring and fall, when fishing pressure is light, have provided some of my most cherished memories on the East Branch. I’ll never forget the many times I’ve witnessed thickening hatches of Blue-Winged Olives, the insects filling the cool evening air, and the water before me boiling with large, hungry trout.

 

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