Hot Temps and Low Water on the Delaware


Over a week ago I fished the West Branch and Main Stem of the Delaware.  It was early May and I had never seen the WBD so low (290 cfs).  Most years the water on the WBD is twice, or three times that flow in May.  There’s been some years when I’ve fished the WBD the first two weeks of May and it’s been well over 1,500 cfs.  So, the water was low, the trout snotty spooky on the WBD and the insect hatches inconsistent.  Trout really weren’t looking up, yet.  Or, if a fish rose, it would only rise once.  So, I spent the first portion of the day waiting, hiking and looking, waiting and just getting comfortable on the bank of the river.  I visited three different locations looking for rising fish.  It just wasn’t happening.

IMG_3833The next day, I awoke early with anticipation of locating early morning risers.  Despite having an entire portion of the Gamelands to myself, there weren’t cooperative fish.  The wildlife watching was superb (deer/rabbits/geese/heron/snapping turtle, etc).  The fish just weren’t ready to chow on the surface.  So, I hiked, waited, hoped and kept on searching different locations.  Finally, I moved downstream to the Main Stem and decided that my last hurrah was to be on the big water.  My first few hours were disappointing.  Around 2pm, I broke down and eventually rigged up with a pair of nymphs.  On my tenth cast I connected with a spunky rainbow.  Nymphing a fast riffle, I located 3 fish (2 bows and 1 brown) within the hour.  It never ceases to amaze me in how fast a portion of river these fish hold/feed!

Nymphing is fun and effective, yet it’s not why I head to the Delaware River system.  Around 4pm, some hendricksons started to come off and finally I located a feeding snout.  It was a decent rainbow, wedged between two rocks within 2′ of the bank.  After forty minutes of working that fish, it finally gulped my #14 cdc emerger hendrickson pattern.  The 18″ rainbow was a beauty and a nice way to start the season surface fishing on the Delaware.  I managed several more surface fish, before it was time to drive back.  That long ride home is always easier with a couple of memorable fish under the belt!IMG_0382

Since my trip, several friends fished the Delaware and it hasn’t been a cake walk.  The bright sun, heat and inconsistent risers have made it tough.  This most recent bout of heat and low water has further stressed that fishery.  Water temps are now above 70 degrees and the cfs on the WBD is in the low 200s.  That’s unheard of for early/mid May.  Fighting those trout in these low water conditions is harmful to them and just not sensible.  Let’s hope they get some of this rain and that the cooler temps drop the water.  That fishery needs a reprieve.  Until then, why not consider targeting local carp, panfish, pike or other species that can tolerate heat better.  Until the WBD temps and water level stabilizes, I know that I won’t be making any runs down there.


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Craig Dennison

This is Craig and I host Fly Fisher's Workshop. My fly fishing experiences include plenty of travel (Montana/Florida/North Carolina/Maine) and a few years part time guiding for trout. While I primarily target trout and steelhead, I still manage to chase warm water species and enjoy chasing stripers and bluefish. I'm a 3rd generation fly fisher trying to share the passion with my two sons!

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