Fly fishing on the East Coast of the United States puts anglers in touch with some of the founding fathers of fly fishing. The state of New York is considered to be the birthplace of fly fishing in America due to the amazing dry fly hatches and technical fisheries. Fly fishing on the Delaware River can be traced back to the early 20th century, and it continues to be one of the best East Coast trout fisheries.
A Little Bit About the Delaware River in New York
The Delaware River in New York is divided into three branches: East, West, and Main Stem. This river is known as the best dry fly fishing river on the entire East Coast. There are 75 miles of this river that are considered to be a Wild and Scenic River, so it’s left relatively untouched, and trout populations are able to thrive.
As soon as April hits, the fishing on the Delaware river system heats up and it stays hot throughout the summer and into the early fall.
Access to the Delaware can be a bit tricky, but there are still plenty of spots available for anglers. Below are a few of my favorite places to fish on the Delaware.
Hale Eddy Bridge- Easy Access to West Branch
If you want to fish the West Branch of the Upper Delaware, Hale Eddy Bridge is a good place to access. You can work your way up and downstream and wading is fairly easy as long as you’re not fishing during snowmelt in the spring. It’s a fairly wide section of river that has beautiful seams, cut banks, and eddies. This section of water is great to fish in the mornings and the evenings during the hatches.
Take your time in this section. Fish need accurate presentations, so if you make a poor cast, give it another chance. You’re going to be tested on every section of this river.
Tomannex State Forest- Good Access to the East Branch
If you want some more privacy and seclusion, the Tomannex State Forest east of the town of Harvard has some quality access. This access is above the point where the Beaverkill meets up with the Delaware. Above the confluence, the water temperature stays below 70 degrees and the brown trout populations are what dominate this area. Some of these fish are stocked, but many are wild or holdovers from previous years. You can easily float this section of the river due to the width and more smooth flows. You can also wade here and look for some more seams and rises.
Hancock- Main Stem Access
If you want access to the Main Stem of the Delaware, Hancock is a good place to do it. Here, you can fish the famous “Junction Pool” that’s known to produce some extremely large fish. It’s a large, wide section of river with extremely long and deep pools. Wait for the hatches in the mornings and evenings to fish here. As soon as those insects start hatching, you’re in for a phenomenal day of fishing. You can wade, drift, or fish from shore in this section of water.
Why the Delaware is Perfect for Fly Fishing
The Delaware is perfect for fly fishing for a variety of reasons. Anglers have decent access, the fish are healthy and can grow extremely large, and the river provides one of the purest fly fishing experiences in the world. The trout are spooky but willing to reward you if you’re able to properly present the flies. If you can’t, you’ll find yourself empty-handed and frustrated.
Anglers are left wanting more and always feel a sense of pride if they’re able to land one of those prized trophy brown or rainbow trout. The peace and quiet and perfect water all seems too good to be true. You’ll absolutely fall in love with the river as soon as you see it.
What Stream Flow is Best for Fishing the Delaware River
If you can fish the Delaware River at 200-600 CFS, you’re going to be in luck. The river has enough flow to keep moving, and the wading is quite easy. You won’t feel in danger as soon as you set foot in the water. Look for the fish to be heading to deep sections of water during the warmer parts of the day. If you’re floating, you want the flows to be closer to 500 to 600 CFS.
What Kind of Fish Can You Catch on the Delaware River?
The Delaware River is known for brown trout, rainbow trout, and smallmouth bass. The trout in the Delaware are known to be around 15 to 17 inches in length. It’s not uncommon to land these fish over 20 inches. There are minimal stocking programs that take place, and the fish are able to survive throughout the entire year in most sections of the river. The fish are extremely healthy and smart.
Favorite Flies for the Delaware River
Due to the high number of hatches in the Delaware River, it’s important to pay close attention to what is hatching at the time you’re fishing. The following are three of my favorite patterns for the Delaware.
Black Stonefly (12-18)
If you’re fishing with nymphs, stick with a black stonefly. These flies will bounce along the bottom of the water column, and entice any fish that are in the area. Fish it with an indicator or as the bottom fly in a dry-dropper rig.
Little Black Caddis (16-20)
Early in the season, the Little Black Caddis is one of the first flies to hatch. This pattern sits high on the water column, and it’s a great searching fly for those days you aren’t exactly sure of what is hatching.
Blue Winged Olive (14-18)
The Blue Winged Olive is a must-have for fly fishing on the Delaware River. The fish are desperate to eat these flies and they hatch multiple times during the year. Once these start hatching, it’s game on.
Ventures Fly Co. 40 Fly Assortment Has a Great Selection of Flies
This assortment has most of the flies needed lay the foundation for an effective fly box. the most common dries, nymphs and streamers. Check out the on water video review on YouTube – HERE
Hatch Chart for the Delaware River
|Fly Name||Size||Start Date||End Date|
|Blue Winged Olive||16-18||March 15||May 15|
|Tiny Black Stone||18||March 15||May 1|
|Little Black Caddis||18/20||April 1||May 15|
|Quill Gordon||14||April 10||May 10|
|Hendrickson||12/14||April 15||May 20|
|Light Cahill||14||April 15||October 31|
|Green Drake||8-2XL||May 15||June 15|
|Golden Stone||8-2XL||June 1||August 31|
|Golden Drake||10||June 1||August 15|
|Trico||24||July 1||October 15|
Fly Rod and Reel Setup for the Delaware River
For the Delaware, you’ll want a 4-weight or 5-weight 9’ or fly rod. The added length is ideal for helping you cast and lay down the dry flies. Plus, the added length will give you some more leverage for when you hook into a large fish. Make sure whatever reel you choose matches the weight of the rod (i.e. 5-weight rod needs a 5-weight reel).
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Guides and Fly Shops
Troutfitter Fly Shop & Inn is the ideal fly shop to visit when fishing the West Branch of the Delaware River. It’s located in Deposit, NY, and it offers fully guided trips as well as a nicely stocked fly shop.
Baxter House Outfitters: If you’re in the Baxter, NY area, the Baxter House Outfitters guide service is a great choice for your Delaware River fishing trip.
Last Cast for the Delaware River
The Delaware River is going to test your abilities and your patience. When you visit, make sure you’re prepared to make the most of each cast. You want to be accurate and ensure your presentations are soft and smooth. As soon as you land your first fish, you’ll understand the worldwide appeal of the Delaware River.
Danny Mooers is a high school English teacher in Arizona with a love for fly fishing. Growing up in Minnesota gave him the opportunity to experience all types of fishing and grow his skills. After living out in the Western United States for several summers in college, his fly fishing obsession grew. Having the opportunity to share in his passion for fishing through writing is a dream come true. It’s a lifelong hobby and he strives to make it understandable for people of all skill levels