west branch tidbits and snapped tippets
We left Syracuse around 5am, sucking down coffee, and we were on the West Branch of the Delaware River by 7:30am. It was another scorching day, but the cool water helped some. I took a day to fish with my brother, Brandon, and my cousin, Connor. We had fun, caught fish, broke some fish off, threw a few fits, didn’t lose too many flies or break any rods, didn’t run out of water, coffee, food or beer, and didn’t leave any rods on the roof and drive away. WIN!
It’s August and it’s hot. We have to get a bit creative finding good fishing the next month or so until things cool down in early to mid September. Many lakes are topping 80 degrees and if they are not, the mercury is climbing a bit more each day. Some cool nights will bring temperatures down in the freestones and warmer tailwaters for a fishable morning or two, but not consistently until September. The spring creeks and cold tailwaters, like the West Branch, will continue to be fine. For our day trip, we considered a plethora of other cold-water options including the Neversink, Esopus, East Branch, or making the run to the western Mass. tailwaters, but we settled on the WB of the Delaware as it is an hour closer than anything else and we could maximize time on the water.
Brandon and I planned to fish hard. Connor was along to enjoy a day on the river, play with his new camera, laugh at me and Brandon when we did something stupid, and take some pictures. Here’s a little shout out to him and thank you for coming along for an exhausting day and taking some pictures. To see some of his work, you can visit his site at https://cbuckvisuals.com/ or check out his Instagram page @connorbuckk.
Our weapons of choice for the day were from the trusty Thomas & Thomas collection. I was throwing my 10’8” 3wt Contact and Brandon was throwing the 10’ 4wt Zone. We started the day nymphing as there was little surface and bug activity to speak of, but we switched to dries and dry droppers later in the afternoon and evening. I planned to do a review of the Contact in the near future, but Thomas & Thomas has just launched the new and improved Contact II. I will have a review of the 10’ 4wt Zone later this week and a review of the rest of the Zone lineup in the coming weeks as well. I’ve been using the Zone series, along with some others, in my personal and guiding arsenal quite a bit this year and they’ve been an extremely high quality and dependable mid-level rod.
Back to the fishing! I started my morning with a drop in the first 10 minutes, followed by another shortly thereafter. I was a hair slow in picking up my sighter and reacting to the quick hits. A quick adjustment, a shuffle of my feet up a couple of steps, and more focus allowed me to connect and put my next three fish in the net. All were rainbows, with one being a solid fish around 17”. The other two were in the 12”-13” range. As the sun got higher, and the shade and shadows disappeared, the action quickly died. We moved onto our second area. Brandon was on the board in quick fashion and lost a couple others. For me, a couple misses and a lost fish made up my action for the area.
By now, we were well into the mid-day heat. The fishing was slow and our bellies were empty. I grilled hot dogs back at the tailgate of my truck, sipped a cold beer, filled up on water, and swapped stories with another fly fisherman in the parking lot with the same idea. Refreshed, refueled, and rejuvenated, we headed back to the water.
Nymphing through faster water brought 2 more rainbows to the net, but as the sun started to dip lower, we moved spots again to set ourselves up for the evening. It was an extremely busy day on the river. It was hard to find an area without other anglers. We asked which way others were working and if they minded if we slid a little bit down below them to fish. All were cooperative enough to allow us to work behind them.
Etiquette goes a long way. Ask before you jump in someplace. Don’t jump in 50’ in front of someone and high hole them without saying a word. It happened. It’s aggravating. I understand the river is busy, but get there sooner or ask to jump in. Most people are nice enough to work you into the picture somewhere so long as you have enough courtesy to ask them. You may have to wait a bit until they finish working through, or maybe they give you info on a different run to try out, but ask before you jump in.
Etiquette doesn’t stop with fisherman either. It should be carried out by boaters, kayakers, and tubers alike. I have no issue with sharing a waterway with recreationalists, but in a bigger river like the Delaware, go behind me. Don’t kayak or float over the water in front of me that you watched me cast to 30 seconds prior and then smile and wave as you float by while I stare you down, not waving back. You’re lucky that’s all you received from me. If I’m standing in water over my knees, there is more than enough room to make your way behind me. It’s not like there are class V rapids and you can’t get out of the current. There’s enough room for a 20’ center console to get behind me. Should you have a burning desire to cut in front of someone fishing, shout and ask if you can float through. If they are kind enough to say “go for it”, the least you can do is throw the guy/gal one of your 12 beers as you float over the fish they were trying to catch.
After the other group of fly fisherman was kind enough to let us work into the run they had been fishing, it was dry fly time. Brandon changed rigs and fished quite well, landing and hooking quite a few browns and rainbows. I continued to struggle with hook sets, snapping tippet, and losing some real nice fish. A combination of old tippet (it does get weak, bad, and brittle), bad hook sets, and just not being on top of my game led to a rough evening. If you have a spool of tippet you’re using and it’s aging, have a backup plan with you. It was nice watching Brandon have success up above me a bit and I was able to snap some nice pictures. It was a great day and an enjoyable evening on the water. I had a nutritious dinner of cake and ice cream when I arrived home at 10:30pm. The cake was to celebrate my 4th anniversary of being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, also known as my ‘betesiversary. My Wife is awesome.
I’ve got some fly tying and leader tying to do now during Tuesday’s potentially heavy rain from the coastal storm. If you head out in the coming days and weeks, continue to keep an eye on water temps if you plan to practice catch and release fishing. If you head to the west branch, be ready for crowds and finicky trout. Early and late were the best times for the Hancock area. If things aren't happening, keep switching until you find what works. For us, it was pheasant tails underneath and caddis on top. We’re also getting into hopper season and that is always something to look forward to.
Thanks for reading, good luck on the water, and go Yankees!