Get lost in the rhythm of your cast, soak up the Catskills' beauty while wading the region's historic rivers, pools and eddies, and bask in the landscapes where fly fishing legends evolved the sport's American school of dry-fly angling. If your more into the calmness of the lakes, resevoirs and ponds get to know the top Catskill fishing spots.
History of Fly Fishing in the Catskills
Fly fishing's popularity in the Catskills began in the 1890s when Theodore Gordon – today known as the 'Father of American Dry Fly Fishing' – began to notice that many of the trout he was wet fishing upstream in the Neversink River – a 55-mile long tributary of the mighty Delaware River –would take to flies floating just above the surface of the water. This prompted him to write famed British dry fly fishing authority and author of Floating Ties and How to Dress Them, Frederick M. Halford.
Halford responded by sending Gordon dry flies, and Gordon quickly realized that since Halford's flies imitated British insect species, the technique needed to be adapted for Catskills waterways. Gordon set out to design and tie his own dry fly patterns, which would mimic native American insects, developing the American school of dry fly fishing in the process.
Trout Towns and Fly Fishing Hotspots in the Catskills
Today, the Catskills are still home to some of the best fly fishing in the Northeast along the Delaware River and its numerous tributaries. Honoring the region's fly fishing legacy, modern institutions like the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum, and the renowned Wulff School of Fly Fishing, both in Livingston Manor, as well as the Jerry Bartlett Angling Collection in Phoenicia continue to carry on the region's important place in the sport through prime angling opportunities, historical exhibitions, and fishing seminars and lessons.
The Catskills even boast the official 'Trout Town USA,' aka Roscoe, a small town home to the famous Junction Pool where avid anglers will find prime fishing at the confluence of the Willowemoc and Beaverkill Rivers, not to mention the East Branch, West Branch and Main Stem of the Delaware River, all just a short drive away.
Visit a local outfitter to buy the proper New York State fishing license, and stock up on tips, gear, flies, and tidbits about where to find the perfect run. Above all, be sure to follow all Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) regulations when fly fishing in the Catskills.
Whether you're a novice or a seasoned angler, the Catskills' variety of waterways offer some of the Northeast's best fly fishing conditions. Here are some of the region's angling diamonds:
- The Delaware River – In the fisheries of the Delaware River, anglers can hook everything from Shad and Smallmouth Bass on the East Branch, to Wild Brown and Rainbow Trout on the West Branch. Looking to challenge your wading and casting skills? Fish the ever-changing main stem of the Upper Delaware, home to some the area's biggest catches.
- The Neversink River – Gordon's source of inspiration for developing American dry fly fishing originated on the Neversink and today, countless flyrodders flock to this tranquil spot to connect with the river's place in fly fishing history and nag a few prime catches.
- The Esopus Creek – Home to world-class trout fishing, the Esopus is a haven for varieties including wild Rainbow and Brown Trout. The Esopus is essentially a tailwater flowing from the Shandaken portal, and casting with nymphs and streamers is recommended.
- Batavia Kill – Find less-fished waters along the Batavia Kill and a variety of wild trout species including Brown, Brook and Rainbow Trout. Yearling and two-year-old Brown Trout are stocked annually on the lower 19 miles of the Batavia as well.