New York Fly Fishing 5 min read

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing Croton River in New York

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

December 31, 2020

Croton River Dam in New York

If you want to head out on a fly fishing adventure but you can’t afford to hire a guide, or prefer to go it alone, the Internet is going to be your new best friend. Fly fishing can be a great way to enjoy your free time and land some great catches. When you plan your own trip, you can make it everything that you want and more. 

New York is home to plenty of great fly fishing spots. Fortunately, with guides like this, it’s easy to find out what you need to know and find the best spots. Keep reading to get the scoop on fly fishing the Croton River.

About Croton River

Fly fishing the East Branch Croton River in New York

The Croton River is a stocked stream that has a lot of different choices for fishing, but the best can be found in the tailwater section. The East Branch, as it is known, lies between the East Branch and Diverting reservoirs, just north of New York City. It offers parking and access right along the river’s path. 

This stocked stream offers rainbow trout and browns aplenty, thanks to excellent holdover. The waters below the dam stay cool all summer, and the river is a standard pool, riffle, run stream configuration that New York is known for. You will find some larger, deep pools filled with bigger trout. 

This spot offers year-round access and it’s got plenty of great hatches for aquatic insects, including midges, mayflies, caddisflies, and even some stoneflies. Most anglers follow catch-and-release rules, although you’re allowed one 14+ inch trout per day to keep if you’d like. 

This destination has a lot to offer and it’s accessible from NYC in a short amount of time, making it a great choice for a day trip or weekend getaway. If you’re traveling to the area, you’ll be able to get major transit into the City and then head up to the Croton River from there. 

Perhaps the biggest downfall of the Croton River is its popularity. Considering that it’s about an hour from Manhattan, it attracts a lot of city folks looking for a weekend escape or quick day off getaway. However, if you go during the right time, you’ll be able to enjoy plenty of peaceful angling on this river. 

There’s a trail that follows most of the tailwater stream, and you can stop and visit the village of Brewster along the way. It’s not hard to find, and neither are the fish, making it a great choice.

Croton River Map and Fishing Access Sites

map of fishing access spots on the Croton River in New York

Get Directions to the Fishing Access Points shown above with the DIY Fly Fishing Map

Best Places to Fish the Croton River

If you’re looking to reach the regulation area of the Croton River, you’ll want to take highway 84 or 684, near the intersections with Route 6 or 22. Here, you’ll pass through the village of Brewster, which is worth a stop if you’ve got time. Then, it’s onto the river. 

The Croton River offers access from almost all of the bridges, with plentiful parking along the river and a trail that follows it for those who want to access an area further from parking. You’ll find plenty of different areas of challenge, including locations that might fare better during one season or another. 

There are five major access points in total, including the intersection of Route 22 in Brewster at I-684, which leads to the Bathtub Pool. This is one of the most popular spots because it’s so close to the road, but it does have some great catches if you stop by. 

The origination of the stream just past the dam is where you want to go. That’s where the regulation rules come into play, including the use of artificial lures only. You can also walk up and down the river from here to find various other fishing spots.

Best Time to Fish the Croton River

Fly fishing the West Branch Croton River in New York

The Croton River is open year-round for trout fishing, and each season has its pros and cons to consider. The winter is really a great time for fly fishing the Croton River because the water temperature remains almost constant, making for great catches. 

Of course, if you’re looking for hatches, consider the springtime, as usual, which is when you’ll find all of the mayflies and other insects coming to life. Summer keeps good fishing because of the lake water inflow, as well. You really can’t go wrong in any season.

Of course, like most New York locations, one of the best times for trout fishing in the Croton River is during the fall. This is when the trout are most active and available, and when the weather conditions are best for fly fishing success.

Stream Flow and Current Conditions

Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish the Croton River. The USGS stream gauges at Brewster, NY and near Croton Falls provide a good indication of current conditions on the East Branch and West Branch, respectively.

The graphs below shows the stream flow (discharge) for the past 7-days. If flows are considerably above or below historical norms (yellow triangles on the chart) then fishing conditions maybe not be ideal.


  • Streamflow: 49.9 ft³/s
  • Gage height: 3.33 ft
Streamflow GraphGage height Graph


  • Streamflow: 50.4 ft³/s
  • Gage height: 3.09 ft
Streamflow GraphGage height Graph

Best Flies for Croton River

Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for the Croton River:

Dry Flies

  • Parachute Adams (#10 – 20)
  • BWO Sparkle Dun (#14 – 24)
  • PMD Sparkle Dun (#10 – 22)
  • Elk Hair Caddis (#12 – 18)
  • Chernobyl Ant (#8 – 12)
  • Griffith’s Gnat (#14 – 22)


  • Pheasant Tail (#12 – 20)
  • Hare’s Ear (#8 – 18)
  • Brown Stonefly (#6 – 10)
  • Golden Stonefly (#6 – 10)
  • Zebra Midge (#16 – 22)
  • WD40 (#16-20)


  • Wooly Bugger (#6 -12)
  • Clouser Minnow (#6 – 8)

Gear Recommendations

A 9-foot 4-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs on the Croton River. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.

Croton River Fishing Report

Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide a Croton River fly fishing report and update on current conditions are listed below:

Fishing Regulations

The state of New York requires that all people who are 16 years of age and older have a valid fishing license. There are resident and non-resident sport fishing licenses available.

You can purchase a New York State fishing license and learn about the most current regulations through the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Note: the East and West Branch Croton Rivers are located on New York City Watershed Property.  You will need a NYC DEP Access Permit to fish these waters.  Permits are free and available online from the NYC Watershed website.

Trip Planning Tips

If you’re not local, you’ll be happy to know you’re only about an hour outside of New York City. You’ll be within easy access of popular airports like LaGuardia and JFK, and plenty of bus and rail lines, as well. You’ll also pass through Croton Falls on your way north, offering access to restaurants, lodging, and more. 

If you’re on a budget, you can find some camping in the area depending on the season, as well as B&B accommodations and budget-friendly motels. Plus, if you are local, it’s not a far drive and all you’ll need is a tank of gas. 

If you can, plan your trip during the week because the Croton River fishing area fills up quickly on the weekends, thanks to its proximity to New York City and easy frontage access.

Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in New York

Feature image CC by Jon Dawson