When you look at the history of fly fishing in the U. S. and consider the streams that were the original proving grounds for the art, the Catskill region of New York state is firmly at the epicenter. Its' list of famous streams reads like a who's who of rivers, the Beaverkill , the Neversink , and the West Branch of the Delaware are but a few of the "all-stars" that have been the subject of so much literature. In fact , these rivers have entertained the boots of just about every noteworthy angler that has tightened a line. So when the call came recently from my good friend and fellow SAO guide John Miller, to join him on the West Branch of the Delaware for a day of world class fishing , I was packing my gear before the conversation was even done.
John has been spending the spring and summer guiding the West Branch as a part of West Branch Anglers (http://www.westbranchangler.com/) for many years and is nothing short of a first rate angler himself . To share a day with his expert knowledge at the helm was not something I wanted to pass up. As luck would have it , I was in the Adirondack mountains fishing its' beautiful gems at the time the call came, and traveling the few hours south to go by him on the way home would work out just fine.
The day on the West Branch generally starts a little later for John, and his clients get to enjoy a good nights sleep. While it is certainly possible to catch fish early , the hatch activity doesn't heat up until the afternoon and the dry fly fishing is best done by sight when the fish begin to rise and feed. On this day in July the water levels are low due to stingy releases from the dam. It could be a tough day.After coffee, we decide to get started early.
We will begin in the morning by wading and casting to fish that John knows are holding upstream in one of his favorite spots on the river. Later , depending on water levels , we will launch the drift boat and cover more water downstream.The day is crystal clear and bright and in the mid to upper 80's as we stealthily approach our piece of water. As we watch the surface for signs of activity , we will make a decision as to whether we are nymphing or drifting dries. It isn't long before the rise forms are visible here and there , and it is time to get going.
The fish are rising only occasionally, so John suggests a dry-dropper setup to cover both surface and sub-surface feeding. We tie on small size 18 Pheasant Tails beneath a caddis flies and we are in action. As John coaches me on the likely position of the invisible trout , it isn't long before my dry stops dead in the water and raising the rod tip produces the electric jolt of fish on! And what a fish it is , my 4 weight Helios bends impressively and in seconds I am 15 feet into my backing as the reel screams to catch up to its quarry! Fortunately for me I am used to fighting large fish, because this wild rainbow has some length and girth , but even more than that , it has some irrepressible spirit.
After some minutes , as I bring the fish to heel and the high fives are complete, I am holding a 20" rainbow that is as pretty as a painting and as tough as a prize fighter.As the morning wears on , and we work methodically through the piece of water, we manage two more hookups but no fish in hand. Hey , if it were easy would we be compelled to keep coming back for more?After lunch, John is encouraged by stable water levels, and we launch the Hyde drift boat downstream.
The late afternoon and evening is spent casting to occasional rise forms not unlike the morning. While the days hatch never really materializes in force, John has his eye out constantly for the insect life drifting by on the surface and we change to match the hatch at every slight inclination of the need. On this day in late July the water is on the low side and the fish are spooky , still we managed to land fish that are trophies on most other rivers. If you are going to fish this river , know you are running the gauntlet of skill, and your casting needs to be your A-game. You just don't get too many chances at these wily , wild trout before they are down and gone.
As the afternoon melts into a beautiful summer evening we both have our shots at 20+ inch browns and both take fish in the 20" range. The fight is exciting and long on our 6X tippet, and we earn our "hero shots" this evening.As the moon rises and darkness deepens , we pull the drift boat from this amazing river. It was a day I will long remember and no doubt return to experience again! My thanks to "guide extrordinaire" John Miller for his graciousness and his excellence. I look forward to welcoming him this fall as part of the team that will guide our own world class steelhead streams!If you are interested , you better book now as we filling up fast for the fall.
Enjoy the rest of the summer and ......... Tight Lines!
SAO Fly fishing Guide