Fly fishing outlook for the Big D

Posted 5/24/17

The month of May is more than half over, and the river conditions on the Big “D” (Delaware) are just getting good. The cold wet weather this spring has had the Delaware running high and …

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Fly fishing outlook for the Big D


The month of May is more than half over, and the river conditions on the Big “D” (Delaware) are just getting good. The cold wet weather this spring has had the Delaware running high and cold throughout the early portion of the trout season.

Last week, change came. Our first real warm weather hit the region. The changing conditions are right on cue for some of our biggest insect hatches of the year.

I was out on the Big D several times this past week. The river is in great shape now, and the entire river corridor is a busy place. Everywhere you look something is happening. The buffer is greening up and something new is blooming every day. The migratory birds are back and the peeper frogs are making some noise.

The shad run is in full swing now, and every pool is full of these ocean-run fish. My clients have been hooking a few of these hard-fighting fish on our recent trips. The trout are becoming more active each day, and as the water flows continue to drop, their activity will shift into high gear.

The coming days will be the time for us fly fishermen to fish our biggest dry flies. March Browns are on the water and this hatch is building daily. We have been seeing a good emergence of these big boys throughout the day, with the best action occurring toward dusk on sunny days. These large mayflies provoke violent strikes from our wild trout, so now is a good time to blind fish the riffle water. There has been enough activity recently that we should start to see some huge spinner flies showing up over the riffles each night.

The best way to fish the Delaware at this time remains by boat, but more wadable water is becoming available with each passing day. Right now, I am finding the fish holding in the riffle water that is about two feet deep or less. They are also along the river banks and in the seams that lie along the slower water.

These are the best places to run your flies at this time. Traditional March Brown dry flies along with cripples, comparaduns and hackle-wing spinners will get your line tight.

Looking forward, insect diversity should pick up. Both the large and small Sulfurs will begin their emergence any day now. Around the first of June, the Green and Brown Drakes will join in, followed by Isonychia and the large stoneflies. The fly-fishing time of plenty is upon us.

Anglers planning to fish these hatches should remember that the emergence of each insect species usually begins in the warmer waters downstream near Callicoon. Each day the hatch progresses upstream toward the headwaters. Anglers can maximize their fishing by following the big bugs upstream over the course of the next few weeks.

Right now, it is good advice to stay on the water late. The river has been lighting up with activity just before and continuing into darkness. Fishing late can add some extra fish to your day and quite often the biggest fish come to net right at dusk.

Wade safe and good luck.


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