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FLY FISHING THE EAST BRANCH OF THE DELAWARE RIVER IN NEW YORK

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The East Branch of the Delaware River is located in the Southeastern part of New York State near the Pennsylvania border. It begins some 75 miles up river from where it meets the West Branch in Hancock. The Pepacton Reservoir splits this river into two sections. There are a few exceptions to the General Angling Regulations along its route.

The upper section offers about eight miles of good trout fishing above the reservoir. This begins at Wawaka Lake in Halcottsville and continues with some of its tributaries like the Bushkill and the Bataviakill. The Upper East Branch has good hatches and a good population of brown trout. This section of the river is small and its pools measure from 20 to 25 feet wide. The bottom is made up of a mixture of gravel, sand, ledge rock and boulders. Most of the fish in the Upper East Branch are small, usually less than 12 inches long, except in the fall when browns run up from the reservoir. This section of river has about five miles of public fishing rights, and land owner's permission must be obtained in all other areas.

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The 33-mile stretch of the East Branch below the Pepacton Reservoir is an entirely different river. It is a tailwater fishery that is controlled by bottom releases of water from the Pepacton Dam. This area is much larger, ranging from 75 to 200 feet wide. When 40-degree water is consistently released from the dam, it makes the East Branch a great cold-water fishery. However, the majority of the system's releases are from the Cannonville Reservoir on the West Branch.
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This tailwater fishery also can be broken into two parts, the 16 miles above the junction of the Beaverkill and the river below it. Above the Beaverkill, the pools are long and slow moving with either sandy or silt bottoms, creating an easy bottom for wading and a perfect environment for insects. This section of river doesn't have any public access, but permission can be obtained by asking around. The majority of the fish caught in this section are browns, but brookies are caught near the tributaries.

The river below the junction of the Beaverkill is much more like a freestone stream, and is dependent on the flows from the Beaverkill. The Beaverkill's temperature controls the temperature of the lower east. The pools are shorter and deeper, with the bottom consisting of more rocks and boulders.

The fish in the East Branch are very particular and difficult to catch in the clear, slow water. The hatches are fairly consistent with the rest of the rivers in the Catskills, but the Green Drake and Stonefly hatches can be outstanding. The best months to fish the East Branch are April through June, because the water temperatures are most consistent.

The East Branch is a great fishery when the water temperatures are right. One can only imagine what this fishery would be like if the State did a better job of managing the river system. Proper control of the water releases and catch-and-release areas would do wonders for this river.