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> > Beat up pretty bad on the West Branch

Report at a Glance

General RegionUpper West Branch of the Delaware River
Time of DayAfternoon to Evening
Fish CaughtNot much
Conditions & HatchesSulphurs and Olives. Very few Isos, Low clear water. Very windy at times, and a terrific thunderstorm the last evening that sent everyone scattering as the lightning bolts started hitting.

Details and Discussion

MartinlfAugust 17th, 2007, 7:44 am
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3233
Got my butt kicked on the Upper West Branch. My only consolation was that most everyone else was in the same boat, and I met some great guys on the water, including a fellow from Japan who rushed down one night to help me load my canoe when he heard me dragging it out of the water. Skunked day one and two fish hooked, one landed day two. The fish I landed wasn't big either, about 12 inches, but for a youngster, he had his degree, along with his larger brethren. Fished over a big fish for a long time two evenings that ignored everything I threw at him. I kept thinking, just one mistake. He never made it. A guide fishing next to me, who by the way did catch some fish, tried him at my urging and declared him uncatchable. Back to working on my presentation--which is what sends me to school on the Delaware. I always return determined to improve my fishing skills. And to lick my wounds.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
Chris_3gAugust 17th, 2007, 10:07 am
Posts: 59Louis,

I just had a similar experience a couple of weeks ago just downstream from Deposit. I chalk it up to a lack of experience on my part, so in the end, I didn't really deserve to catch these trout - I'm fine with that for now, but I will return! Most of the trout I fished to were better than 20" and I fished throughout a nice long sulfur hatch - E. dorothea, I guess? I also saw a few (literally) very large mayflies, which I've decided must have been Green Drakes, but the trout were feeding on the E. dorotheas.

Of course, all of the flies I tied were too dark, too large, or just wrong. Even the flies I had that could have passed as a weak E. dorothea imitation were laughed at by every trout I cast to. I was consoled by the fact that I did see more fly changes from more fishermen than I had ever seen before, so I wasn't the only one having issues. A guide from Montana landed a solid 21-23" brown, with the help of my net, but that was all the action I saw all day. I was, of course, further consoled by the fact that he was a guide from Montana. There's always tomorrow I guess!

WiflyfisherAugust 17th, 2007, 10:39 am

Posts: 663
Some of my fondest memories are not about the fish I caught but instead the uncatchable ones.
John S.
MartinlfAugust 17th, 2007, 10:44 am
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3233
Chris, the fly that worked for me, if you can call two hookups and one landed in two days of fishing working, was a size 20 parachute sulphur emerger. If you want, I'll PM you the recipe. A few weeks ago the big flies were probably Isos. They hatch virtually all summer up there, into the fall. The guide I talked with said the fish weren't eating them when we were out--lucky for the Isos anyway. I'm working on casting and presentation again, hoping to get good enough someday to catch more fish under these conditions.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
WbranchAugust 19th, 2007, 2:44 am
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2733
I have very little entomology expertise on the rivers that I fish. However I have fished the Delaware system since 1965 and the WB since 1968 and have often seen stragglers of mayflies that are normally seen much earlier throughout the season long after the typical emergence period. I suggest much of that has to do with the constant very cold releases from Cannonsville reservoir. Once the releases begin the water temperature can be as low as 44 degrees in Stileville at 7:00 a.m. and no more than the high 40's at the Hale Eddy gage about four miles below Stilesville.

During most years one can find Ephemerella Subvaria emerging as early as the third week in April where the WB joins the EB just below Hancock, NY. Similar to the Western Stone Fly an angler can follow the Subvaria emergence upstream a mile or two every couple of days. This year there were still significant emergences of Subvaria as late as the third week in May in the No-Kill water and all the way up to the upper fishing limits of the WB.

These long lasting emergences compound angler success problems because often you will see multiple emergences of various mayflies. You will see both the male and female Hendrikson, March Browns, some Grey Foxes, and if it is cloudy it is likely there will be various sizes of BWO's mixed in with the other mentioned mayflies. Add to that the myraid caddis that are on the WB and one can begin to imagine the difficulty of consistently catching good, 15" and larger, wild fish.

While it is possible that Chris saw some extremely late emerging Ephemera Guttalata it is more likely that he saw Stenonema vicarium (Grey Fox) as I saw a good number of these during the latter part of the week of 05 August. The latest that I've ever seen Green Drake straggglers would be in the second to third week in July and the latest fishable emergence would be the last week in June.

It would be strongly recommended to fish with 7X tippet in any section of the upper WB No-Kill section where the water is slower and flatter such as the long pool opposite the chipboard factory or the deeper, somewhat more narrow, water below the Gentlemen's Club. This is the "Go To" water for the thousands of guys who come to the No-Kill water. The fish literally see thousands and thousands of casts and likely every style of mayfly that has ever been developed by the most imaginative and innovative fly tiers.

I luckily can go up during the week but if I see more than five cars in the parking lot below the Gent's Club I won't even venture down through the cornfields. Admittedly access is difficult on the entire river but if one is willing to walk from half to one mile away from the parking lots it is likely you will find fish that are more receptive to flies that are presented correctly and drag free and while they are no pushovers they are far more catchable than the slow water No-Kill fish.
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
MartinlfAugust 19th, 2007, 10:33 am
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3233
Thanks Matt; this is helpful to me and I would think to others. I of course defer to you on any information on the Delaware, but could the bigger bugs have been Isos, especially if the wings were dark? Chris, do you remember what the wings looked like?
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
KrachenDecember 7th, 2007, 8:12 pm
good ol P 'AYYY

Posts: 13
7x on the westbranch?? out of your mind my friend, no offense or anything, but thats begging to be snapped off on the hook set for the average angler, since you have experience up there, you might be able to pull it off, but i assure you the average west branch angler is going to be leaving a TON of flies in fish...In my opinion there is never a need to fish that light of a tippet on the need to have a perfect drag free presentation, and later in the season a nearly exact match for a fly...alot of things guys miss on the delaware is timing, you need to have your fly timing down, find the fishes feeding rhythm and you should be ok provided your presentation and fly are also acceptable...remember by august these fish have had countless lines thrown over their heads...going to 7 or 8x is not really the answer, especially since its big fish in big water, your chances of landing anything nice (there are some beasts in that water) are slim when you start fishing tippet that on your cast, and mend and try different angles...
MartinlfDecember 8th, 2007, 6:07 am
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3233

Thanks for your suggestions. I assume you are addressing Matt's recommendations when you mention 7X. Knowing Matt a little I can say that he's one of those guys who can pull off the 7X trick: he's very experienced and knows how to put maximum pressure on a fish and use head turning to tire them quickly. I don't think he's that average angler who leaves flies in fish. He's talking about the flattest water at the lowest level, and he catches fish when no one else can get a rise. I personally stick with 6X mostly at these levels, and I very rarely break fish off. The fish I lost on this trip came unbuttoned with a big ball of Upper West Branch slime helping work the fly loose. That said, your recommendations about changing angle and practicing casting are excellent ones, and I will keep them in mind as I prepare for the next season on the Delaware. I typically use mends to keep drag out of my tippet, but I'm not very good at timing the fish's feeding rhythm. That's another good tip that I will try to work on. Do you have any favorite fly style recommendations? The guide I talked with was catching fish on size 16 catskill style olives! He was a fishing machine who caught fish when no one else around me was having any luck. My fish took little sulphur parachutes, on another day, further upstream. I guess one just has to experiment and check what's in the film. It was definitely some of the most challenging fishing I did all season.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
FalsiflyDecember 8th, 2007, 9:49 am
Hayward, WI.

Posts: 661
While I am not familiar with the water east of my home state of Wisconsin I have had the opportunity to fish a lot of water between here and the Pacific coast. I have not found a river that, at some time or place, does not offer the challenge of fishing fine tippet and minute imitations. I do not consider this as something unnecessary but as a much sought after pursuit. I find it very satisfying bringing fish to hand on tippet as light as 8X and flies tied to 28. It does require a fine balance of equipment and technique, which when achieved; I consider the ultimate in fishing pleasure not too mention that at times the only way to provoke a strike.

Big fish, small flies, youíve got to love that.
When asked what I just caught that monster on I showed him. He put on his magnifiers and said, "I can't believe they can see that."
KrachenDecember 8th, 2007, 2:58 pm
good ol P 'AYYY

Posts: 13
Falsifly i agree one hundred percent, when you are fishing small flies, but on the west branch and the mainstem of the dela. you're often fishing 16 or better and making some long casts, if you are fishing too fine of a tippet the typical guy is going to break alot of fish off on the hook set for a multitude of reasons (one being these fish are spooky and get fished over alot, and often as soon as they take a fly they are turning and diving if you combine that with a hook set from an angler who hasnt managed a fish all day because the drag and micro currents are killer, excitidly setting the hook, you're gonna break a ton of fish off, trust me i have seen it up there so many times its not even funny) small tippet for small flies, but dont underestimate how large a river this is.

Martin, Gotta love the delaware gooballs....I really love fishing comparaduns up there, thats typically what i do best with, or emergers when the fish are REALLY picky...Honestly though most of my best fish come after dark, you usually get about 30 mins or 40 mins of good fishing after the sun is gone and the place is completely dark, casting to just splooshes...(again light tippet in this situation is just begging to snap fish off) when it gets to be that time i'll fish like 2 or 3 need losing flies or fish, plus on the mainstem as the temps increase, if you are fishing light tippet you're going to be killing fish, plain and simple)

Falsifly thats another thing to be weary of, although most of the time the WB and Mainstem are cool, once these temps warm, you're dooming fish to death if you are fishing that light of a tippet, they might swim away from you, but the stress of being fought for too long and the warm temp dooms them, especially the bows...
JOHNWDecember 8th, 2007, 4:11 pm
Chambersburg, PA

Posts: 452
It's about time you mended your way here.

Guy's I'll vouch for Krachen on going after huge fish on the Delaware. Unfortunatly most of us aren't able to be on the "BIG D" for the better part of late May through June. What is really scarry is when he breaks out the big stick and starts throwing streamers.
Fortunatly I have found his cryptonite and can keep my home waters protected
"old habits are hard to kill once you have gray in your beard" -Old Red Barn
KrachenDecember 8th, 2007, 4:31 pm
good ol P 'AYYY

Posts: 13
At least when you are there John :-) When you aren't there, and all i have is my tripod is a whole other story (actually then i used rocks and my old chest box)...I was on Penn's was COLD as (insert your adjective here)
LonehunterDecember 14th, 2007, 5:21 am

Posts: 6
If fishing with a fly was easy everyone would be doing it.

I have been humbled many times for many years on the Delaware (both branches) The challenge is part of the fun. I learn every time I get skunked and believe me I learn much. LOL
A good place for info and what is getting hit on the Del. is Hornbecks' shop in Deposit. Just my opinion.
Good day!

MartinlfDecember 14th, 2007, 5:51 am
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3233
Thanks for the tip, Jack. I haven't ever been in Hornbeck's, but will check it out next season. I'm already getting psyched. I did have my best luck last year near Deposit, though not the weekend I wrote about for this post. Tough fish! Good times.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
LonehunterDecember 14th, 2007, 9:09 am

Posts: 6
Yes......I usually avoid the weekends...
The river is busy on weekends, I try to fish on
weekdays. I sometimes even have long stretches alone to myself on weekdays. Also after the long September weekend the river quites down on weekends.

WbranchDecember 16th, 2007, 9:09 am
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2733
Krachen makes pertinent comments about his opinions on the use of 7x and lighter/finer tippets. I agree with him 100%. One should not be attempting to use 7x unless they have gained significant river and fish fighting experience with 6x. I do not like to leave flies in fish when 7x breaks. I don't know if it really does any harm to the fish as I often catch fish with one or more flies in their mouths. I however love these trout and don't want to leave them in a state other in which they were prior to my fishing for them.

I don't condone using 7x often and I have never used it on the main stem of the Delaware. While it may be harder to fool those big rainbows rising to Tricos on summer mornings or sucking in little Sulfurs and olives on those flat pools during a summer afternoon it is foolhardly to think you have as good a chance to land one on 7x as compared to 6x.

There was a one week period in late July where even my most perfect casts with 6x did little to enticing the WB No Kill browns to rise to any of my offerings. When I switched to Rio 7x I immediately began hooking up fish. I lost more fish to the hook pulling out than to broken tippets. I set the drag on my little Teton reel to almost the lightest setting - the spool revolves freely. I use either a 8' 6" or 9' rod for a DTF #4. When a fish eats the fly I let the fish close it's mouth and complete the rise before I just lightly lift the rod to initiate the contest.

Lastly there are sections of the river where one can actually study not only the rise form but one can also see the size of the quarry. I would be more likely to make a cast to a 12" - 15" brown with 7x than I would to a fish the 16" and larger class.

As soon as the difficult period ended I immediately went back to 6x and had a couple of days where I caught so many large fish that I can't even post the lengths for fear you will consider me to be testing the limits of your credulity.

Presentation, getting as close to the fish as possible, timing, and proper fly selection is far more important then going to 7x. Many of my 20" and larger Delaware River fish are caught on 5x. The photo demonstrates one of many large browns taken on the Delaware system on tippets heavier than 7x.

Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
IEatimagoDecember 21st, 2007, 7:16 am
Spring Mills, PA

Posts: 97
westbranch, that picture of you is great,
looks like a really enjoyable time.
Shawnny3December 21st, 2007, 6:19 pm
Pleasant Gap, PA

Posts: 1197
Nice pic, WBranch.

Jason, are we now able to post photos in places other than the Photography section?

Jewelry-Quality Artistic Salmon Flies, by Shawn Davis
WbranchDecember 23rd, 2007, 12:21 pm
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2733
As you can see it is drizzling in the picture. A fellow I met at another fly forum and I put in on the EB of the Delaware at 9:30 a.m. and fished until about 7:30 p.m. There was about a two hour period shortly after this fish was taken where we had to get out of the boat due to very heavy thuderstorm activity.

However when the heavy rain stopped it continued to mist and drizzle all day and we put a dozen large trout into the boat. There were BWO's in # 16 - # 18 all day. Here is another brown landed that day.

Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
AndygFebruary 9th, 2008, 6:10 pm
Eastern Sussex co., NJ

Posts: 13
Wow W. Branch, you really know how to catch big fish! I'd like to learn from your expertise, how does one get to go fishing with you?

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