Fly Fishing on the Upper Delaware River
“It’s all about that bug.”
Things are about to get serious in these parts as the annual influx of fly fishers begins — a highly anticipated and revered occasion to which the region plays willing and enthusiastic host each year. The snow is quickly melting. Spring is in the air. And millions upon millions of bugs will soon be emerging from the river bottom to herald the advent of fly fishing season on the Upper Delaware River.
At the center of this thrilling metamorphosis of nature is the sleepy little village of Hancock New York, which sits directly at the confluence of the East and West branches of the Upper Delaware. There are heated debates and long-standing, good-natured rivalries over who has the best location for fly fishing in these parts, and there are as many opinions on the subject as there are fish in the river. The fact of the matter is, there is no lack of premium fly fishing all along the pristine 70-mile stretch of the Upper Delaware. But one thing’s for sure — for those who seek the greatest challenge to their tying and casting skills, they won’t find a more wild and authentic fly fishing experience than right here in Hancock, NY.
In Hancock, where both the East and West branches feeding the main stem of the Delaware are tailwater fisheries fed by New York City’s extensive reservoir system, the cold waters regularly released into the river by these reservoirs are prime habitat for the brook, brown, and rainbow trout that make Hancock their home. As you move farther down the river near Callicoon, the warming waters become less favorable to the wild trout, and warm water species like bass, panfish, walleye, and pike take over. And in the famed waters of the Beaverkill and Willowemoc, you’re likely to find plenty of eager stocked fish just waiting to take your fly. But in contrast, in Hancock, the trout are wild… and wily. And for fly fishermen seeking a truly unique challenge, that’s the biggest attraction.
And so, just as the calendar turns from April into May, the Friends of the Upper Delaware River (FUDR) — a community-based watershed protection organization — hosts its annual “One Bug” competition to herald in the fly fishing season and give competitors a chance to show these wild Hancock trout who’s boss. Modeled after the Jackson Hole, Wyoming One Fly, the One Bug takes place at the height of the annual Hendrickson Hatch (for us laypeople, that’s code for a common early season mayfly emergence), and the 3-day event kicks off with a public banquet and live and silent auctions. The banquet takes on an aura of excitement and secrecy as teammates huddle around their tables checking out their bugs and discussing strategies. But it’s all in good fun, and a major focus of the banquet is to raise funds for the good work of the FUDR.
Early the next morning, and for the next two days, the teams head out onto the water for eight hours of catch and release fishing. They are allowed just one bug each day and, if lost, that’s the end of the competition for that fisherman. For many, it’s their first chance of the year to get out onto the water for some serious fishing… and for the winners (both fishermen and local guides), it’s their chance to be recognized for their superior skills in the fly fishing community.
The cold, clean waters in Hancock remain wild and pristine thanks, in part, to the work of the FUDR, whose primary goal is to protect, preserve, and enhance the ecosystem and cold-water fishery of the Upper Delaware River system. FUDR works to identify environmental threats to our waters, and they work with our community, government, and other environmental advocacy groups such as the Upper Delaware River Tailwaters Coalition to mitigate those threats. So, when fly fishing season begins each year, Hancock can confidently welcome fly fishing enthusiasts from all around the world with the knowledge that they will be ensured the best opportunity for an authentic, wild fly fishing experience on the Upper Delaware River.
For more information on FUDR and their annual One Bug event, click here.