Best Fly Fishing in New York

Image of a fishermen casting lines while fly fishing from a small boat on Salmon River in New York during sunrise.
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New York offers a diverse range of fly fishing experiences, featuring everything from tranquil streams in the Catskills to the turbulent currents of the Salmon River. With its rich angling history, the state is not only the birthplace of American dry fly fishing but also home to a multitude of species including trout and salmon. As you explore New York’s fly fishing scene, you’ll find that each location has its character, presenting distinct challenges and opportunities for both novice and experienced anglers.

Beaverkill River

When you’re exploring the storied waters of New York, the Beaverkill River stands out as a historical and delightful destination for fly fishing. Originating in the Catskill Mountains, this 44-mile river is celebrated for its significance in the development of American dry fly fishing.

Key Features:

  • Length: Approximately 44 miles
  • Region: Catskills Mountains
  • Tributary of: East Branch Delaware River

This river isn’t just about history; it provides an excellent fishing experience. Expect to navigate through a mix of pools, riffles, and runs that accommodate a variety of fly fishing tactics. Notoriously known for its trout populations, the Beaverkill River is an enticing challenge for anglers of all skill levels.

Notable Sections:

  • Upper Beaverkill: Known for being narrow, steep, and rocky.
  • Lower Beaverkill: Wider sections with more accessible fishing spots.

Current conditions, as of February 20, 2024, indicate that the river levels are near normal and clear, with good midge and winter stonefly hatches.

Before you pack your gear, consider local knowledge and fly fishing reports to get the latest on river conditions and hatch information to maximize your chances of a successful outing.

Fishing Tactics:

  • Midges and winter stoneflies are effective.
  • Tandem rigs can provide a strategic advantage.

Remember, this river sees a significant amount of fishing pressure due to its proximity to NYC. Approach with respect to both the environment and fellow anglers to preserve the quality and tradition of fly fishing on the Beaverkill River.

Delaware River

Fly fishing in the Delaware River offers some of the most engaging experiences for anglers. The river is divided into three branches: East, West, and Main Stem, each offering unique opportunities for fishing. The East and West Branches are particularly renowned for their spectacular fly fishing settings.

West Branch: This branch is often considered the best section for fly fishing on the river. It boasts better access and easier wading conditions than other parts, and you are likely to find more trout here.

East Branch and Main Stem: These are also celebrated fishing areas but are distinct in their offerings. While the Main Stem may provide a broader river experience, the East Branch is known for its dry fly fishing opportunities.

When you’re planning your fishing trip, keep in mind that the Delaware River is recognized as one of the best dry fly fishing rivers on the East Coast. You’ll find that there are 75 miles of river designated as a Wild and Scenic River, resulting in minimally disturbed habitats where trout populations thrive.

Here’s what you need to tackle the Delaware River:

  • Fly Rods: A 5 or 6 weight rod is ideal
  • Fly Reels: Match your reel to the rod weight
  • Fly Line: Weight Forward Line is recommended for its versatility
  • Accessories: You may need floatants and strike indicators for an enhanced experience

To stay updated with the latest conditions, consider reports for real-time information on water levels and hatches, helping ensure that your fly fishing adventure is not only enjoyable but also successful.

Esopus Creek

Esopus Creek is a renowned destination for fly fishing enthusiasts in New York. You’ll find this 65.4-mile long tributary of the Hudson River offering some of the most picturesque and productive trout fishing in the Catskills Mountains.

Upper Esopus Creek:
The creek is divided into sections, the upper part characterized by features typical of mountain trout streams – shallow waters and swift flows. This area hosts a wide variety of fish, including wild brown trout and rainbows, flourishing in the cool and clean waters.

  • Access Points:
    • Public fishing areas along Route 28
    • Several pull-offs near Phoenicia, NY

Fly Selection:
When you’re selecting flies for your adventure on Esopus Creek, consider matching the creek’s natural insect hatches. Local patterns like the Catskill dry flies are a trustworthy choice.

Lower Esopus Creek:
Below the Ashokan Reservoir, the lower section of Esopus Creek changes character. Water releases from the reservoir can affect flow levels, so it’s crucial to check conditions, like the fishing report, before planning your trip.

  • Fishing Techniques:
    • Nymphing and streamers for deeper pools
    • Dry fly fishing during hatch periods

Esopus Creek is not just a fishing spot, it’s a piece of fly fishing history. As a center for American dry-fly fishing, your experience here connects you with a tradition established by angling legends such as Theodore Gordon.

West Branch Ausable River

When you plan for fly fishing in New York, the West Branch Ausable River should be at the top of your list. Recognized for its large trout, this river stakes its claim as one of the best trout streams in the East.

  • Location: High Peaks Region, Adirondacks, New York
  • Notable Features: Freestone river, catch-and-release areas, diverse water types

Fly Fishing Opportunities:

  • Catch-and-Release Sections: Two combined areas totaling 7.2 miles, available for fly fishing year-round, weather permitting. Orvis provides conditions.
  • Types of Fish: Predominantly famed for trout, including Rainbow and Brown Trout.

Regulations you must be aware of:

  • Some areas are designated for artificial lures only.
  • Check for specific rules regarding sections open year-round and seasonal changes which may affect access or permissible fishing methods.

Hatches to Expect:

  • Midge and Winter stonefly are common, with hatches contributing to excellent fishing conditions. Current fishing reports can guide you on when to visit.

If you’re seeking an authentic Adirondack experience, the West Branch Ausable River is a premier destination for fly fishing. Access to the river is facilitated by good public access points, offering a variety of water types suited to different styles of fly fishing. Remember to respect local regulations for a responsible and fulfilling fishing experience.

Salmon River

When you’re planning to fly fish in New York, the Salmon River should be at the top of your list. Renowned for its steelhead, salmon, and trout, this river provides an exceptional fishing experience. Here’s what you need to know before you cast your line in these waters:

  • Location: Stretching through central New York, the Salmon River flows into Lake Ontario, offering various access points for anglers.
  • Best Time to Fish: Timing is key; visit during the fall for the salmon run, or in spring to catch steelhead.

Gear Recommendations:

  • Rod: Opt for a 7 to 9-weight rod, either 9′ or 10′, to ensure you have enough power for the large fish you may hook.
  • Reels: A large arbor reel is recommended, with plenty of backing to handle the strong runs of these fish.


  • Steelhead: Estaz egg patterns and dark shaded egg sucking leeches are currently effective.
  • Salmon: Patterns mimicking the local forage will increase your chances of success.

Current conditions play a significant role in your fishing strategy:

Stream ConditionsRate (cfs)
High Water> 700
Normal Level250 – 350

Be aware that the stream conditions change, and it’s essential to check these before your trip. Strategize accordingly; higher flows might require different techniques and safety precautions. With the right preparation, a trip to New York’s Salmon River is sure to be a memorable one.

Battenkill River

Geography & Access
Nestled in the northeastern region of Manchester, New York, you will find the Battenkill River. It’s a 50-mile long waterway that flows primarily through New York and Vermont. The river is well-known for its accessibility and the opportunities it presents for year-round fly fishing.

Fly Fishing Experience
The Battenkill boasts healthy populations of brown trout and rainbow trout, making it a sought-after destination for anglers. The river’s clear waters and abundant hatches provide a challenging yet rewarding experience. Fly fishing the Battenkill requires finesse and patience, as the trout can be selective.

Seasonal Hatches
You can expect to encounter a variety of hatches throughout the year:

  • Spring: Blue-Winged Olives, March Browns
  • Summer: Light Cahills, Tricos
  • Fall: Isonychias, October Caddis

Access Points
Several public access points are available, but much of the river runs through private land. It’s essential to be mindful of property boundaries when planning your trip. For detailed access information, consider the guide available from Ask About Fly Fishing.

Local Wisdom
It’s highly recommended that you familiarize yourself with the river’s regulations and local etiquette. A fly fishing report on the Battenkill River can update you on current conditions and hatches to improve your success on the water.

Equipment Tips
Using lighter tippets and smaller flies often yields better results on the Battenkill due to its clear waters and discerning fish. Remember to adjust your techniques with the seasons and hatches for a more productive outing.

Upper Delaware River

The Upper Delaware River in New York is a premier destination for fly fishing enthusiasts. April to June is the optimal time to visit due to the abundant hatches, which include mayflies, caddisflies, and stoneflies. You’ll find that fall also offers good fishing conditions.

The river comprises three main branches: East, West, and Main Stem. The West Branch is notable for being particularly accessible and offering a variety of fly fishing experiences. If you’re passionate about dry fly fishing, the Delaware River boasts some of the best opportunities on the East Coast.

  • Fish Species: Primarily trout
    • Brown Trout
    • Rainbow Trout
  • Recommended Fly Patterns:
    • Baetis Dun (size 22)
    • Barr Emergers BWO (size 20)

To enhance your fly fishing trip, remember that 75 miles of the Delaware River are designated as a Wild and Scenic River, ensuring a more natural fishing environment with thriving trout populations. Also, carefully research the local regulations, as this section of the river is open year-round for catch and release.

Before casting your line, consult the Delaware River fishing report for the most current conditions. High water levels can impact your experience, so it’s important to plan accordingly.

When planning your gear, remember that the Upper Delaware River is a diverse ecosystem. Your tackle selections should accommodate varied water conditions and fish feeding patterns. For more in-depth guidance, including maps and additional fly recommendations, visit Guide Recommended.

Willowemoc Creek

Nestled in the Catskills Mountains, Willowemoc Creek stands out as a premier destination for fly fishing enthusiasts. This 27-mile long tributary of the Beaverkill River offers a serene and rewarding experience.

When to Fish:

  • Spring: Expect notable hatches of blue-winged olives and hendricksons transforming the creek into a fly fisher’s haven.
  • Summer: Enjoy pleasant weather and consistent water levels ideal for dry fly fishing.
  • Fall: Opportunities abound as trout become more active before winter.
  • Winter: Venture into the no-kill sections during milder weather for year-round fishing.

Techniques: Willowemoc Creek suits various fly fishing techniques. Practice good presentations and maintain stealth to increase your chances of success. Utilize nymphs and streamers in the early season, transitioning to dry flies as the weather warms up.

Fish Species: The creek is populated primarily with brown and brook trout, with the average catch ranging from 10 to 14 inches. However, don’t be surprised to hook a 20-inch trophy.

Stream Flow: For optimal conditions, aim for a stream flow below 100 CFS.

As you explore Willowemoc Creek, you’ll find various access points suitable for anglers of all skill levels. Whether you gravitate towards the Junction Pool or explore its many tributaries, you’re in for an authentic New York fly fishing experience. Remember to check local regulations for catch and release areas and seasonal restrictions to preserve the aquatic life of this storied fishing creek.

Neversink River

When you’re exploring the opportunities for fly fishing in New York, the Neversink River stands out as a notable destination. This 55-mile long waterway, a tributary of the Upper Delaware River, is deeply rooted in the history of American fly fishing.

Upper Neversink: The headwaters upstream of the Neversink Reservoir promise a chance to catch wild, native brook trout. The clear, crisp waters that flow from the Catskills provide an ideal environment for these fishes.

Lower Neversink: Below the reservoir, the river continues to sustain a rich trout population, including not just brook but also brown and rainbow trout.

  • Access: Numerous entry points allow you to find your perfect spot, especially along the 5-mile stretch within the Neversink River Unique Area, where low fishing pressure due to required hiking can offer a more solitary experience.
  • Conditions: Keeping track of the river conditions is essential for a productive trip. It’s best to wait until the water levels and flows normalize following periods of high discharge for clearer waters that enhance your fly fishing experience.

Remember that each section of the river may offer different challenges and rewards, so gear up with varied flies and tackle. With its storied past and vibrant fish populations, the Neversink River is a quintessential part of the fly fishing heritage in New York.

Catskill Creek

When you consider the pantheon of exceptional fly fishing locations in New York, Catskill Creek invariably secures a place of honor. This waterway provides a variety of aquatic habitats congenial for trout, particularly the coveted species of Brown and Rainbow Trout.

Seasonal Highlights:

  • Spring: The creek is alive with hatching aquatic insects, providing an ideal time for dry fly fishing.
  • Fall: Spawning season for Brown Trout, leading to an upsurge in fish activity.

In planning your visit, you should be aware that Catskill Creek is split into distinctive sections, each offering unique fishing experiences:

  1. Upper Section:

  2. Lower Section:

    • Deeper and slower waters
    • Larger pools holding bigger fish
    • A chance for larger fly patterns

Ensure to stay updated with the New York State fishing regulations as they can change. Knowing the regulations is crucial for a responsible and enjoyable experience.

For your gear, a standard 9-foot fly rod for a 5-weight line usually suffices in most sections of the creek. You should also pack various fly patterns, as hatches can be diverse and plentiful throughout the seasons.

Lastly, prepare for the weather – conditions in the Catskills can change rapidly. Quick-dry clothing and waterproof gear will ensure that you stay comfortable during your fishing adventure.

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