Outdoor Articles

Summertime on the Delaware

by Pursue The Outdoors on November 30th, 1999 in Fly Fishing

Sometime during the dead of winter or maybe really early in the spring, we start getting restless for the beginning of the season. I say “the season” because as trout anglers we all know exactly what we mean. There is no other season. Early stoneflies, blue quills, Hendicksons, March browns, green drakes, brown drakes, cornutas, sulphers, shad flies, apple caddis… you get the picture. Sweet!

The explosion of life that takes place right in front of our eyes during those first six weeks of each season is really impressive. Fishermen also seem to be hatching everywhere! Then late June arrives. Fewer anglers; the Glory Hatches are over… Or are they?

As we enter the summer months the names of the bugs change, but the place remains the same. Now we need to change our tactics in order to be successful. Wild fish know enough to move into better habitat, call it their summer homes. They adjust their feeding activity to avoid predators and at the same time capitalize on the available food supply.

As a tailwater, the Delaware is supplied with cold clean water throughout the months when most other eastern trout fisheries are put on hold until the cooling days of autumn arrive. True, sometimes we don’t receive the amount of water we’d like or sometimes even too much, if there is such a thing, but in any event, the fishing remains worthwhile if you match your efforts to the conditions.


Too often the lower reaches of the river become warm and unfishable. This includes much of the East Branch, Main Stem and the lower portions of the West Branch. Now it becomes time to do what the trout do; seek out colder water. This time of year your most important piece of equipment is a stream thermometer.

In our search for colder water and the fish that call it home, the best strategy is to get closer to the source. Moving up river until we find water in the low sixties and colder should do the trick. During severe heat waves and minimal reservoir releases, this is from approximately the New York State Line and higher on the West Branch, and often in the shadow of the dam on the East Branch.

Time of day is another important consideration. During no or little water release periods, the mornings and evenings are cooler, and the low light conditions make the trout feel a more secure from predators. When the reservoir is releasing water, 500 CFS or more, everything changes. Insect activity increases and the higher flows and abundant food supply bring out the fish throughout the day.

Tackle selection and fly pattern style differ little from earlier in the season. A nine foot, four, five, or six weight still work fine. You may want to lean more towards the fours and fives and maybe a little softer tip to protect the lighter tippets. Spools of 5X, 6X, & 7X and an assortment of dry flies and nymphs take care of the terminal end.

A dry fly box stuffed with olives, sulfurs, caddis, Cahills, flying ants, beetles, tricos, isonychias, and spinners of the same will take care of the surface action. For subsurface, nymphs and wet flies include an assortment of bead head pheasant tails, regular pheasant tails, partridge and yellows, partridge and greens, isonychia nymphs, zug bugs, princes, and caddis pupa.

The best part about summertime fishing on the Delaware is that autumn fishing has yet to come. See you on the river…

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