DIY Guide to Fly Fishing the Upper Delaware River in New York

The Upper Delaware River in New York, which refers to the 73.4 mile long stretch of the Delaware River from Hancock to Sparrowbush, isn’t as popular with anglers as the East and West Branch of the River. But fly fishermen who skip this section in favor of the other branches will miss out on catching some of the feistiest rainbow trout found in the United States.

Additionally, the Upper Reaches of the River have seen a significant increase in the amount of large brown trout found there, with some recorded catches measuring above twenty inches in length. It’s safe to say that anglers who venture off the beaten path will be rewarded for their efforts.

Fly fishing the Upper Delaware River

The Upper Delaware River in New York is designated as a Wild and Scenic River by the National Park Service, and it’s not difficult to understand why. It is surrounded by breathtaking wooded mountains and consists of long pools and gentle riffles. It is also characterized by large boulders and steep drop offs.

Most of the land surrounding the Upper Delaware River is privately owned, so access can be tricky, but public use of the waterway is permitted . Nearby, you’ll find the Zane Gray Museum, which honors the American writer who was an angler himself (although he preferred to go for dolphins and porpoises, as opposed to trout). The river is also popular with wildlife enthusiasts, boaters, and bird watchers, who flock to see the bald eagles in the winter months. While swimming is permitted, the swift flow coupled with the slippery rocks make it a dangerous activity to attempt on the Upper Delaware River.

Further downriver, you can spot smallmouth bass, as well as American Shad. But the River is most famous for its plucky rainbow trout. In the lower and middle sections of the main stem, the rainbow trout are more migratory, and your success there will largely depend on the cold water releases of the West Branch, which change drastically from year to year.

Upper Delaware River Map and Fishing Access Sites

map of fishing access spots on the Upper Delaware River in New York

Get directions to fishing access points and real-time stream flow data with the DIY Fly Fishing Map

Best Places to Fish the Upper Delaware River

As most of the shoreline is privately owned land, anglers typically tackle the Upper Delaware River by drift boat. There are boat launches available from both the Pennsylvania side of the river and New York. It is possible to wade much of the main stem, but it can be treacherous in certain sections depending on the flow conditions and depth. 

The uppermost section, located near Junction Pool, provides the best fishing. This area is safer to wade than the lower sections, but it is still recommended that you use a drift boat.

Best Time to Fish the Upper Delaware River

The River is open year round for catch and release fishing. The best time to visit the Upper Delaware River in New York is from April to June, as that is when the best hatches occur. The most common hatches you will see during this time are mayflies, caddisflies, and stoneflies.

You can also have success tackling this River in the fall when the resident brown trout get aggressive. In October, Isonychias, along with Blue Winged Olives and white flies, become increasingly important.

In the summer, the trout will migrate to the cool water in the uppermost sections and will likely respond well to terrestrials.

Stream Flow and Current Conditions

Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish the Upper Delaware River. The USGS stream gauge near Lordville, 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 may not be ideal.

DELAWARE RIVER AT LORDVILLE NY

  • Water Temp: 51.98 ° F
  • Flow: 2690 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 7.47 ft
.
USGS

Best Flies for Upper Delaware River

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

  • Blue Winged Olive (#16-18)
  • Blue Quill (#16-18)
  • Quill Gordon (#14)
  • Hendrickson (#12-14)
  • Dark Hendrickson (#14-16)
  • Light Cahill (#14)
  • Sulfur (#14)
  • Pale Evening Dun (#14)

Need flies? 

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. 

Dry Flies
- Adams Dry Fly
- Elk Hair Caddis
- Blue Wing Olive
- Royal Wulff
- Griffith's Gnat White
- Stimulator, Organge
- Chernobyl Ant

Nymphs/Wet Flies
- Rubber Leg Nymph, Brown
- BH Pheasant Tail Nymph
- BH Prince Nymph
- BH Hare's Ear Nymph
- Barr's Emerger Nymph
- Zebra Midge Nymph, Black

Streamers
- Wooly Bugger, Black (Size #8x2)
- Wooly Bugger, Olive (Size #8x2)

Gear Recommendations

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

Need Gear? 

Below are recommendations for essential gear to make the most of your time on the water.

Quality rod, reel, line and rod tube at a reasonable price. Backed by Orvis 25-yr guarantee, a brand you can trust.

High performance nylon leader, great for fishing Dry Flies, Nymphs and Streamers.

Excellent knot strength, stretch and suppleness make this the finest nylon tippet.  3-pack of the sizes you'll need the most.

Heavy duty, waterproof, yet breathable.  If you are tough on waders, these are for you. Backed by Simms Wader Warranty. If they leak, they got your back.

Most durable, yet comfortable, boot on the market.  Excellent foot and ankle support.  Great for rocky rivers. Lightweight and designed for all-day wear.

Sweet pack with ample storage. Unique harness system reduces neck strain. Sleek tapered face improves visibility - you can see your feet when wading!

Durable and lightweight. The carbon fiber frame floats.  Hooks don't get stuck in the rubber mesh bag . Extra length makes it easier to net fish.  Simply the best nets on the market.

Tough, waterproof and priced right. Hold 900+ flies in slotted foam.  If you need more storage - you have too many flies!

Simple, sharp nippers at great price. Clip on retractor keeps this must have gear at your fingertips.

Strong with a fine tip. Perfect for removing split shot and hooks. Simply the best fishing pliers.

The 580 Glass polarized lenses are super clear and somehow relaxing on the eyes.  Game changer.

Note: DIY Fly Fishing earns a commission (at no cost to you) on sales made using the links above. Thank you for your support!

Upper Delaware River Fishing Report

Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide an Upper Delaware 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.

Trip Planning Tips

The closest airport to the Upper Delaware River is Binghamton Airport located in Binghamton, New York. If you don’t mind a couple hours of scenic driving, you could travel to Syracuse Hancock International Airport, which is about 120 miles away from your destination.

Guestward Ho Campground, located near Hancock, is a budget friendly campsite in a private 50 acre setting. You’ll be treated to beautiful sunsets and clean accommodations as you relax and unwind with other outdoor enthusiasts. Pine Crest Campground is another viable option for travelers looking for lodging in the area. They offer free WiFi, along with a store for all the essentials and an outdoor swimming pool.

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

Feature image by Seth B. Lyon

Ken Sperry

About the author

Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and find new places to fish. He created DIY Fly Fishing to help you do the same.

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