Although the East Branch and Main Stem of the Delaware River are well known stomping grounds for anglers from around the world, most fly fishermen agree that the West Branch is the best section the River has to offer. The West Branch boasts better access, easier wading conditions, and more trout than anywhere else on the River.
But that doesn’t mean that fishing the West Branch is going to be a piece of cake. The West Branch contains the same feisty trout that made the River famous in the first place. You will need to be on your toes to outwit the denizens of Delaware River’s best branch.
Fly fishing the West Branch Delaware River
The West Branch is a 90 mile long river that joins the East Branch on the Pennsylvania border to form the main stem of the Delaware River. The West Branch rises in Schoharie County, New York, and flows southwest through Delaware County into the Cannonsville Reservoir, which is part of the New York City water supply system. Between Broome and Delaware County, the River turns southeast and is paralleled by New York State Route 17, until it reaches Hancock and joins with the East Branch. It is fed by numerous tributaries, including Falls Creek, Steele Brook, and Sherman Creek.
While most of the trout you will see in the West Branch are brown trout, there are also wild brook and rainbow trout. The River is not stocked and is a naturally reproductive fishery. There have also been reports of striped bass and runs of American shad in the Rivers as well.
Many anglers consider this to be the best tailwater fishery in the Eastern United States, due to the cold water runoffs provided by the Reservoir, coupled with an excellent aquatic insect population.
West Branch Delaware River Map and Fishing Access Sites
Best Places to Fish the West Branch Delaware River
There are many public access points located on the West Branch. The upper section of this Branch is characterized by rapids but the flow gradually slows down and the River widens as it makes its way southwest.
In most areas, you can safely wade, but many fly fishermen still choose to tackle this fishery via drift boat. The water in this Branch is very cold, so if you do opt for wading the River, you’ll want to make sure you are suitably prepared for the sometimes extreme temperature.
The lower section from Hale Eddy Bridge to Junction Pool has some of the best water on the River. This section can be very crowded with anglers during prime season, as this is where you’ll find the most trout. If you really want to avoid the crowds, you can also have luck fishing some of the Branch’s smaller tributaries for brook trout.
In order to have success with the trout, you’ll want to match the hatch closely, and be on the lookout for rising fish. When the first are not looking up you'll have the most suggest use nymphing techniques or fishing streamers.
Best Time to Fish the West Branch Delaware River
Fishing season is open year round on the West Branch. The best time to visit is in the spring because of the hatches. The most important hatches on this River are the Hendrickson, Sulphur, Blue Winged Olives, and a variety of other mayfly hatches. Stoneflies, midges, and caddisflies are also significant hatches on the River.
On really hot summer days, you will want to stick to the upper section. You can also have luck fishing in the early fall, as that is when the brown trout spawn.
Stream Flow and Current Conditions
Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish the West Branch Delaware River. The USGS stream gauge at Hale Eddy, 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.
WEST BRANCH DELAWARE RIVER AT HALE EDDY NY
- Water Temp: 55.76 ° F
- Flow: 1120 ft³/s
- Water Level: 3.87 ft
Best Flies for West Branch Delaware River
Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for the West Branch 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)
- Apple Grannom Caddis (#16)
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 West Branch Delaware River. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.
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.
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West Branch Delaware River Fishing Report
Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide a West Branch 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 West Branch is Binghamton Airport in New York. You could also fly into Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Airport and arrive at your destination after a couple hours of scenic driving.
Bear Spring Mountain Campground is located near the West Branch, by the western end of the Catskill Forest Preserve. They offer a great basecamp for exploring the Catskill region. Outdoor enthusiasts will delight in the many activities they offer, including horseback riding, fishing, hiking, swimming, and boating.
Guestward Ho Family Campground is another option with a good reputation if you are looking for the perfect place to unwind in the area. Situated on the highest point in Deposit, you are guaranteed an unforgettable view of the surrounding Catskill region during your stay.
Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in New York