First Time On the West Branch of the Delaware

This past Monday my mom and I hit the road for a most memorable trip to the WBD. We were going to the West Branch Angler and Resort on the Orvis hosted trip for three days and three nights, all were spent eating, sleeping (minimally) and fishing.

We got there Monday afternoon and quickly unloaded our bags and my fly gear in preparation for fishing. This was my first trip to the West Branch and was looking forward to it. Being my somewhat pessimistic self, I had chosen not to, or rather, not encouraged trips to fish this river until I had three years of both fly tying and fly fishing under my belt. I had not wanted to feel outmatched any more than was necessary or expected.

The WBD presented a new set of challenges I had never faced, as my fishing has been limited to the Rochester area for lack of a car. Fly fishing Irondequoit Creek, with minimal hatches and few consistent or selective risers meant I had never seen pods of fish taking minute dries off the surface. And the lack of a car meant I had never fished a river I could not cover with a good double haul. Additionally, had never needed to fish dries too small to see in order to catch fish. But I knew that would be required before I got there.

Upon arriving I hit the water at about 3:30 with no information from the fly shop or the other guests. I went to the nearest pool and started prospecting with a olive dun much to big to be effective but visible and that’s what I really wanted. With no risers in sight I started blind casting every which way hoping to see something that told me what to do. After working up and across the river once I realized how big this river was especially when compared to everywhere else I had fished. This became apparent to me only after seeing I had covered twenty yards of the river and could see where I had walked in after an hour of fishing. Upon this epiphany I hustled over to and island and started to cover more water, to no avail.

At dinner I was happy to learn that Ben Sheard an experienced fly fisher of the Delaware would be making a presentation.  Upon leaving the restaurant, I was informed that some guys, all Orvis employees, would be mousing and graciously extended an invitation to me. I got my 7wt. and headed out to mouse the WBD. While I was unsuccessful at hooking, fooling or landing a trout, it was an awesome experience. With the pitch black consuming everything, we listened for a violent strike on a swung and twitched mouse. However, instead we listened to either a massive trout or a territorial beaver splash and taunt us for the next hour and a half.

photoThe next morning I was informed that we would be practicing casting, Tory, the regional Orvis manager introduced himself saying that he had been instructed to take me nymph a run a little ways down river. We had a great conversation on everything fly fishing. Upon reaching the run, I was given a stonefly and told to tie a pheasant tail off the back of that. I chose one of my size 20 PTs’ and set the indicator up a good ten feet and started nymphing. While I knew we were nymphing, the weight of the setup was shocking. My 8’ 5wt. was clearing its throat at me almost saying “ummm… you have a 7wt for this”. But the rod casted the rig well enough and I was underway. Tory was soon also set up and landed a smaller brown in what appeared to be the 14” range. I must admit I was a little jealous he had started a good five or ten minutes after me but had hooked the first fish. Suddenly my indicator jumped to the side and I was on. Tory correctly deduced it was a big fish and after a good fight and some bass-like behavior I landed the twenty one inch brown. I will admit industrial cleaner couldn’t have wiped the grin off my face. Tory landed several smaller fish but I was done catching for the rest of the day. Excluding a 10” rainbow on a dry late that afternoon at Hale Eddy. Upon arriving back for dinner I soon learned Tory had spread the word, rather enthusiastically, to all that would listen saying he got the little guys out of the way so I could hook the big one. That fish was certainly the trip fish. The next day we unsuccessfully nymphed around Hancock, and returned to lunch Fish 1, Fly Fishermen 0. We were soon told we would be going to the run where the majority of the fish had been caught. I; however, had been noticing the overcast day and decided to fish right near the resort, hoping for BWOs. With my JP Ross fiberglass rod I waded out to a little over my waist and caught three 14-15” brown on invisible BWO emergers. I never saw my fly after the third or fourth cast. So if I felt that the rise was in my fly’s general area I set the hook and three times in a row there was a fish on. On the glass rod everything was a little more special because it was just a little more difficult. Following a switch to my graphite rod in an attempt to target the fish right across the river, the hatch died off and no longer were the snouts steadily piercing the surface.

That night I tried a few futile casts with a mouse but my heart really was not into it. So we went and played cards until 12:30 in the morning and then woke up and hit the road. While the fishing was not stellar, it sure was an incredible experience one that I hope I will have another chance at. I was very appreciative of the opportunity provided by Orvis at an affordable cost that allowed me to come on this trip. But the summer is coming to a close and with it school is lurking, formidable and determined to kill off all my opportunities to go fishing until late October. So until then enjoy what is left of the summer and get on the water and if you can get down to the West Branch for the opportunity to catch some of the late hatches. Tight lines and good luck.


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Liam Bethlendy

Unlike many contributing on this blog, I am rather new to the fly fishing scene. I have learned loads of information off of this site and now hope to help others by contributing as well. I live in the Rochester area and slowly but surely I am trying to find and fish spots less frequently targeted by more experienced anglers in the quest for The Fish, don't get me wrong, I love catching big smallmouth and steelhead but I am just as happy catching small brookies in a wild stream with my 3 wt fly rod. I also tie my own flies, it is one of my favorite past times and it is what originally got me into fly fishing. I hope to keep learning and help the teaching process because as we all know we are all learning young and old. Tight lines... hope to see you on the water.

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