Winding its way through scenic mountains and sprawling valleys, the East Branch of the Delaware River flows through the beautiful Catskill region of New York before joining the West Branch on the Pennsylvania border. Records of the River’s charms exist as early as 1881, when John Burroughs, an American naturalist famous for his conservation efforts, wrote of his unforgettable experience boating the East Branch in an essay titled “A Summer Voyage.”
But you don’t have to take Burroughs' word for it that this River is worth visiting. Anglers from all over the world flock to the East Branch for its excellent population of brown trout, which are known for their fighting spirit and big appetites. Fly fishermen can expect to be just as enthralled and delighted by the River as Burroughs was, nearly 150 years ago.
Fly fishing the East Branch of the Delaware River
The East Branch is one of two branches that forms the Delaware River, and is about 75 miles long. The East Branch rises in Delaware County, and parallels Route 30 for much of its course. At Middletown, the East Branch flows through Wawaka Lake and receives Dry Book. Past Margaretville, the River enters Pepacton Reservoir, which carries the River through the towns of Andes and Colchester. The Reservoir ends at Downsville Dam, and the River continues its way through valleys and receives its largest tributary, Beaver Kill. At the village of Hancock, the River joins the West Branch of the Delaware River to form the main stem of the Delaware River.
The East Branch has been known by many different names over the years, including the Papaconck, the Pepachton, and the Popaxtunk Branch. The generally accepted name is now the East Branch of the Delaware River. In addition to native brown trout, you’ll also see stocked browns, wild rainbows, and wild brookies, depending on which section of the East Branch you are tackling.
Some of the East Branch flows through private property, so you will want to be careful about where you take on the River to avoid trespassing. The best place to fish will depend on the time of year and current flow conditions.
East Branch of the Delaware River Map and Fishing Access Sites
Best Places to Fish the East Branch of the Delaware River
The East Branch’s upper section is characterized by slow flows. Because the upper section is deeper and has lots of weeds, wading can be treacherous. It’s safest to tackle this area by canoe or boat. In this section you’ll see brook trout, particularly in the Branch’s smaller tributaries.
Below Beaverkill, the River flows through private property, but the few miles above the confluence with the West Branch are open to the public. You can access the River from the numerous Department of Environmental Conservation entry points.
The lower section is difficult to wade as well, so you will have better luck floating and using a drift boat. Here, you will mostly see rainbow trout. However, the water in this section can get too warm in the summer, and the trout will move upriver to reach colder waters.
Best Time to Fish the East Branch of the Delaware River
The best time to fish the East Branch is in the spring because of the hatches. Because the water temperature in the upper section varies drastically from the temperature in the lower section, the insect hatches occur at slightly different times. If you visit in the summer, you will want to stick to the upper reaches, as the lower reaches can exceed 80 degrees causing the trout to migrate.
Fishing season is from April 1 to October 15 from Downsville to Shinhopple, and extends to November 30 from Shinhopple to Hancock. Fishing in the early fall can be fruitful, as that is when the brown trout spawn and get aggressive.
Stream Flow and Current Conditions
Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish the East Branch of the Delaware River. The USGS stream gauge near Harvard, NY provide a good indication of current conditions.
The graph 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.
EAST BRANCH DELAWARE RIVER AT HARVARD NY
- Temperature: 38.12 ° F
- Streamflow: 370 ft³/s
- Gage height: 3.26 ft
Best Flies for East Branch Delaware River
Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for the East Branch of the Delaware River:
- Black Stonefly (#12 - 18)
- Brown Stonefly (#12 - 14)
- Little Black Caddis (#16 - 18)
- Grannom (#12)
- Gray Caddis (#14 - 16)
- Olive Caddis (#14 - 16)
- Blue Quill (#14)
- Blue Winged Olive (#14 - 18)
- Quill Gordon (#12 - 14)
Ventures Fly Co. offers a great selection of dry flies, nymphs and streamers that will catch fish just about anywhere. Set includes 40 high quality, hand-tied flies (see list below) and waterproof fly box.
- Adams Dry Fly
- Elk Hair Caddis
- Blue Wing Olive
- Royal Wulff
- Griffith's Gnat White
- Stimulator, Organge
- Chernobyl Ant
- Rubber Leg Nymph, Brown
- BH Pheasant Tail Nymph
- BH Prince Nymph
- BH Hare's Ear Nymph
- Barr's Emerger Nymph
- Zebra Midge Nymph, Black
- Wooly Bugger, Black (Size #8x2)
- Wooly Bugger, Olive (Size #8x2)
A 9-foot 5-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs on the East Branch of the Delaware River. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.
East Branch of the Delaware River Fishing Report
Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide an East Branch of the Delaware River fly fishing report and update on current conditions are listed below:
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.
Trip Planning Tips
The nearest airport to the East Branch of the Delaware River is Binghamton Airport in New York. You can also fly into Wilkes-Barre Scranton Airport and Lehigh Valley International Airport and arrive at your destination after a short and scenic car journey.
Peaceful Valley Campsite provides an experience that’s just as relaxing as its name promises, with spacious seasonal sites offering spectacular views of the surrounding scenery. Beaver-Del Hotel and Campground provides indoor and outdoor lodging, depending on what your version of paradise looks like. The warm, familial atmosphere will make you feel right at home, whether you are tucked in a warm bed or sleeping under the stars.
Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in New York
Feature image by Daniel Case