For some time I’ve been looking forward to floating the West Branch of the Delaware River with Andy Cappotelli. Andy owns and operates a local guide service – Troutsnobs Guides and Outfitters. As a guide, Andy specializes in fly fishing WNY rivers, as well as the Catskills. One of his particular passions is floating the Delaware River branches, targeting trophy trout. He has a nicely rigged, low profile ClackaCraft drift boat. That vessel is perfect for covering miles of water and fishing dries, nymphs or streamers. Even better than the drift boat, the guide behind the oars (Andy) is genuinely committed to sharing his knowledge and affinity for the Delaware River trout fisheries.
Andy recently guided me and a friend on a ten mile float of the West Branch of the Delaware. It was one of those gorgeous, sunny, seventy degree Fall days. The morning started cool, the fog burned away by 10 am and the wind was light. It was a perfect day to be on the water, floating the river and taking in the foliage. The flow was around 900 cfs and the only wrinkle was a bumped release from Cannonsville Reservoir during the night. That caused the water to be slightly off color-murky and produced lower water visibility.
We determined that I would throw streamers from the bow and that my buddy would drift nymphs from the stern. My friend is a beginner fly fisher and his job was to cast a tandem nymph rig on the seams/riffles. I rigged my 8wt rod with a floating line and an 8′ piece of T-14 loop-to-looped to the floating line. For a leader, I employed a simple 3′ section of 20 pound and 10 pound fluorocarbon. For streamers, I experimented with articulated olive, white and brown 4″ Kelly Galloup patterns. White and olive were the winners of the day. The technique was to put the fly within inches of the bank and jerk strip the flies sideways, across the current. Despite the bright, sunny conditions, I hooked half a dozen fish during the float and witnessed another half a dozen looks/chases. My best fish was a chunky brown shy of 19″. Nothing huge, but plenty of visual fun. It’s an adrenaline rush to watch a predatory brown blast out of a hiding spot to track your moving streamer. Some of the near misses were more memorable than the catches. I still wish that I could hit the “re-do” button on a large dark brownie that smacked my fly once, then followed for another 10′ as I teased it back to the boat. The streamer bite was solid during our float and an absolute angling highlight of the trip.
While I didn’t expect to experience so much streamer interest from trout, we did anticipate cooperative bug action. To our surprise, the overnight bump must have messed up the system. The hatches were minimal. Despite the beautiful warmth and sunny conditions, there weren’t insects and therefore, no risers. It’s ironic that our most storied, reliable hatch consistent fishery in NYS didn’t cooperate during the float. That’s just the way things go. The water temperature must have dropped a degree or two and the bugs, and fish were sluggish. Consistent water conditions definitely improve the quality of feeding (rising) trout. We managed a few hook ups nymphing, but it was also slower than expected. Sometimes these conditions come with Fall fishing. The steamer bite was on, the dry fly action absent and nymphing was mediocre. Regardless, the angling company was good and it was a spectacular day to float the West Branch. Also, we never saw another drift boat in our ten mile float. Andy Cappotelli really enjoys the Fall fishing on the Delaware fisheries (less crowds/decent hatch activity/streamer fishing/consistent nymphing). He’s got me thinking about delaying my foray into tributary fishing and spending a few more days this Fall on the WBD…
The West Branch of the Delaware is a legendary trophy fishery. Yet, it has its’ moods and nuances. Pay your dues and it all comes together. On this trip I’m appreciative that I managed several fish willing to chase down streamers. Anytime of the year is streamer time, but none more than Fall. Get out on the water and chuck your meaty flies. They work well on small, medium and large fisheries. Cover water, trigger that predatory instinct and remember to keep the rod tip low (strip set) when a brown grabs streamer!
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