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The Esopus Creek, located in South Central New York, is a freestone creek well known for its great wild trout population and the large browns and rainbows that migrate upstream from the Ashokan Reservoir during their spawning period. One of the more accessible rivers in the Catskills, the Esopus attracts fishermen from all over. (Exceptions to General Angling Regulations)

The Ashokan Reservoir was completed in 1915 and was the first reservoir in the Catskill water-supply system responsible for supplying New York City with drinking water. In 1917, work began on the Schoharie Reservoir, which is located in the valley to the north of the Ashokan. In order to channel the water into the supply system, an underground tunnel was built connecting the two reservoirs. This is the Shandakan Tunnel, which is commonly known as the Portal. The Portal runs two-thirds of the distance between the two reservoirs and in Allaben it dumps into the Esopus, using its river bed to carry the water to the Ashokan.

esopus creek New York map


Many fishermen become frustrated when fishing the Esopus because it's always cloudy and muddy. The creek runs muddy from the red clay deposits that lay in the Esopus and its tributaries, and from the silt that's at the bottom of the Schoharie Reservoir.
Esopus Creek Hatch Chart
The Esopus can be broken down into four distinct sections. The first part, from Winnisook to Big Indian, is steep, narrow and shaded. This area contains mostly small fish until the larger fish make their spawning runs up the creek. The majority of this eight and a half-mile section is mostly private and posted, except for a few stretches.

Birch Creek marks the beginning of the second section of the Esopus, and as this five-mile section begins to widen, it ranges between 15 and 40 feet wide. It mainly consists of riffles and pockets, with an occasional pool. Three more large tributaries increase the flow: the Bushnellsville Creek, Fox Hollow, and Peck Hollow. This section ends in Allaben at the Portal.

The third section of the Esopus runs a little more than four miles, from the Portal to Stony Clove Creek at Phoenicia. The water continues to widen from 40 to 80 feet. Most of this area consists of riffles and pockets, with an increasing number of pools. The Broadstreet Hollow, Woodland Valley Creek, and Stony Clove Creek pour into the Esopus in this section.

The lowest section of water begins with Simpson's Hole at the mouth of Stony Clove Creek, and ends almost eight miles downstream at the beginning of the Ashokan. This part of the Esopus is 60 to 100 feet wide, with many large boulders, creating big pockets that hold plenty of trout.

The Esopus is one of the most productive wild trout streams in the Northeast. The majority of fish that fill this stream are wild rainbows, and you'll also find a good number of wild browns. However, in order to further improve the fishing, each spring the State stocks the Esopus with hatchery browns. And although the number of fish in the Esopus is impressive, most average just 9 to 12 inches long.

The fast-moving pocket water makes this creek an excellent wet-fly stream. Nymphs and wet flies are an early-season fly rodder's best bet until the water flow slows down. The Esopus has good hatches of Mayflies and Caddis, with very strong Stonefly hatches. The Isonychia hatch is one of the creek's best, lasting from June through September. The Portal has an effect on the emergence times of these hatches.

The Esopus can be a difficult stream to wade, therefore, fishermen must be careful. During the warmer summer months, fishermen must share the creek with tubers, but there are ways to avoid the tubers. You can fish above the Portal or below the Five Arch Bridge, where tubers are not allowed; or fish early or late in the day, before and after they're on the stream. If you're interested in catching a good number of wild trout, the Esopus is a great stop during fly-fishing season.