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)
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 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.
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.
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.
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