Copyright 2013 James Marsh
Fly Fishing Guide for the West Branch of the Delaware River
The West Branch is the premiere fishing destination of the three branches of the
Delaware River. I think that is for several reasons, some of which have little to do with
the fish or I should say, fish catching. It has plentiful and fairly easy access; is it far
less intimidating to new anglers than the huge Main Stem; it is like wading a flooded
parking lot (easy to wade); and it isn't as difficult to fish or understand as the different
types of water that exist in the East Branch. It has also received most of the publicity
over the years.
The West Branch first flows though some minor rapids with fast water below the dam.
The flows subside and the river begins to flow moderately through some islands. It is
the coldest of the two branches. The river gradually goes into a main wide channel
below the islands with long pools connected by short sections of riffles. You can wade
across the river in most areas provided the releases are suitable. The bottom of the
stream is relatively level. Even so, many anglers still prefer to fish it from a drift boat.
Most of the trout in the West Branch are brown trout, with some brookies and
rainbows. It is not stocked. All its fish are wild although two of its small tributaries are
stocked and it is possible for them to get into the West Branch. It has more trout per
acre than either the Main Stem or the East Branch. Highway #17 follows the river
fairly closely for most all of its length. It is approximately 18 miles long and wide,
averaging probably 200 feet or more.
There are over a dozen well marked fishing access points along the West Branch.
The uppermost mile plus section of the river, above a weir dam, is closed to fishing.
Below the weir dam the water stays clear and cold. This section can be fished after
heavy rains that stain most other parts of the river.
The lower section of the West Branch, from the Hale Eddy Bridge to the Junction Pool
where the Main Stem starts, is the longest section. It depends on constant discharges
of water during the summer to remain cool. The lower section can become too warm
during the hot summer if the discharges aren't regulated to help the fish. The farther
downstream you fish, the more rainbows you are likely to encounter. This section of
the river can be accessed from both Pennsylvania and New York. By the way, fishing
license are reciprocal.
The West Branch is noted for its prolific hatches of aquatic insects and the
challenges it presents in matching the hatch. Anglers come from throughout the
nation to fish its Hendrickson, Sulphur and other mayfly hatches, but it also contains
large populations of stoneflies, midges and caddisflies. Its banks are lined with grass
providing a good habitat for terrestrial insects. During major hatches, its waters can
become crowded with anglers, complicating the catching problem. Even so, the fact
the West Branch has a excellent population of all wild rainbow and brown trout that
are very catchable by anglers that can master the challenges, makes it in our opinion,
the best tailwater in the Eastern United States.
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