Copyright 2018 James Marsh
Fly Fishing The Esopus River (Creek)
The Esopus River has a very unique source of water.
and is used for drinking water for New York City. A
tunnel for the Schoharie Reservoir carries water to the
portal at Shandaken, providing water for the Esopus
River. It is called Esopus Creek by some. The water
flows down to the Ashokan Reservoir. The tunnel was
intended only to transport drinking water for New York
but it also provides a perfect rainbow trout habitat
because it keeps the water cool throughout the summer.
There are two parts to the river. The section above the
point the portal enters the river to the east of
Shandaken is the natural flow of the river. From
Winnisooks Lake the river flows down county road # 47
past Big Indian. It flows to Shandaken where it
converges with Bushnellsville Creek. Above Big Indian
there's ample public access to the river. The trout in this
section are rainbows, browns and native brook trout.
This part of the river is relatively small.
Below the portal the Esopus River is, in my opinion, a
tailwater. Many do not call it a tailwater because the
water doesn't come directly from a dam turbine
discharge, It comes from the portal. Whatever you want
to call it, it is a very good cold water discharge of water
suitable for trout. Much like a dam, the discharges can
be strong enough to make the Esopus tough to fish. The
stream is not small below the portal. It's rather large with
deep pools, runs and riffles much like a freestone
stream which in a structural sense, it is I suppose.
There's good access in this section all the way from the
Five Arches Bridge to the portal. Route 28 follows along
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Recommended Tackle & Gear
4, 5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 &12 ft., 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 71/2
ft., 3 or 4X, Streamers 0-2X
Dry fly: 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X,
Best Fly Rods:
Perfect Fly Supreme Four, Superb Five or
For 4/5/6 fly line
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
The hot months of summer can be one
of the best times to fish the Esopus
because of the cold water
Autumn is a beautiful and productive
time to fish the river. Brown trout
migrate upstream from Ashokan
Reservoir to spawn in the fall.
Fly Fishing Guide to the Esopus River
Fly Fishing the Esopus River varies between its two
main sections because the stream varies in makeup,
hatches and water temperatures. It's almost like you
need two fly fishing guides for this river. The Esopus
River is one of New York's better trout streams. It's
rainbow trout are wild. It's brown trout are also wild but
they are supplemented by stocking.
The uppermost part of the stream, above the portal,
flows mostly through private property but there's some
places you can access it. In this section, the stream falls
at a fairly steep decline. This section, just over eight
miles in length, runs from Winnisook to Big Indian. It is
narrow and consist mostly of pocket water. The fish are
plentiful but not as large as they are in the larger
sections of the stream.
From Birch Creek downstream for about five miles to the
portal at Allaben, the stream changes from a narrow
creek to a wide stream because of increased flow from
four tributary streams. The first is Birch Creek, then
Bushnellsville Creek, Fox Hollow Creek and Peck Hollow
Creek. It is primarily pocket water.
From the Portral downstream to Stony Clove
Creek, a distance of about four miles, the river
or creek, whichever you want to call it, widens
even more. The water from three more
tributaries are added to its flow - Broadstreet
Hollow Creek, Woodland Valley Creek and
Stony Clove Creek. There's several large pools
in this section of the river but it's still basic
pocket water with riffles and runs.
From Stony Clove Creek the stream flows
another eight miles down to Ashokan. It
continues to be quite wide, up to a hundred
feet wide in places, with some large pools, big
pockets yet still plenty of runs and riffles. This
section also has plenty of rainbow trout.
The rainbows average about ten to twelve
inches in length and are all wild trout. The
browns are larger and are both wild and
There's one disadvantage to fishing this
wonderful trout stream. Tubes, kayaks,
canoes and other similar type recreational
boating is very popular during the summer.
Another thing some anglers consider a
disadvantages is the color of the water. It
stays a little cloudy and at times, can even
get a little muddy but it doesn't seem to
affect the fishing very much.
Esopus River (Creek) Hatches and
Our information on aquatic insects is based
on our stream samples of larvae and
nymphs, not guess work. We base fly
suggestions on imitating the most plentiful
and most available insects and other foods
at the particular time you are fishing. Unlike
the generic fly shop trout flies, we have
specific imitations of all the insects in
Esopus Creek and in all stages of life that
are applicable to fishing. If you want to fish
better, more realistic trout flies, have a much
higher degree of success, give us a call.
We not only will help you with selections,
you will learn why, after trying Perfect Flies,
92% of the thousands of our customers will
use nothing else. 1-800-594-4726
The Esopus River, or Esopus Creek some
call it, has many of the normal Catskill
aquatic insect hatches but nymph fishing is
usually the most productive fishing
technique. Dry flies will catch fish, especially
in the upper section of the river, but not
over long periods of time. Like most
tailwaters, the varying water discharges
through the tunnel affect the fishing in the
lower section quite a bit.
Stoneflies are the main insects to focus on
when you are nymph fishing. There are also
lots of mayfly nymphs and caddisfly larvae,
but the stream is well suited for stoneflies.
Winter stoneflies, Little Brown Stoneflies,
Little Yellow Stoneflies and Golden
Stoneflies exist in the stream.
Blue-winged Olives, both the little species
and larger Eastern Blue-winged Olives, are
present in the stream. They hatch in the
early part of the season and again in the
later part of the season.
The Eastern Blue-winged Olives usually
hatch during the month of June. Blue
Quills start hatching in mid April and can
last a month. Quill Gordons hatch starting
about the middle of April and last until the
first week of May. The Gray-winged
Yellow Quills follow right behind them.
Hendricksons hatch the last of April into
the first part of May. American March
Browns are very plentiful and hatch about
the middle of May. There are a few
Sulphurs that hatch in June. Light Cahills
are quite plentiful and hatch in June and
into August. Slate Drakes hatch over a
very long period of time starting in June
and off and on through most of the month
Caddisflies can be important especially in
the upper section. Little Black Caddis
hatch in April. Cinnamon Caddis are
around for most of the summer starting in
June and lasting into September. Green
Sedges are also important. The larvae, or
rock worms, are great flies you can use
during late spring and early summer.
Midges are plentiful, especially in the
lower section of the river. They can be
very important when nothing else is
hatching. Never forget about streamers.
The water is often very cloudy and
sometimes stained. Bright yellow and
white streamers work often in the off
There's little change in the tailwater section
of the Esopus because of an almost constant
Many of the traditional Catskills hatches
occur in the Spring and it's a good time to
fish the stream. Springtime is probably the
best time to fish the creek.
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Fishing Report Updated 01/16/18
Esopus River Fishing Report - 01/02/18
Note: This won't be updated until the season reopens. The river is near a normal level.
There are some hatches taking place - Winter stoneflies and Midges mostly. Sculpin
streamers are still working good.
7 Day Weather Forecast: There is a chance of snow through Thursday, otherwise clear for
the next week. Highs will range from 0 to 22 degrees and lows from -11 to 6 degrees.
Recommended Trout Flies:
Strategies, Techniques and Tips:
Midges are hatching good. Fish the larva imitation and the pupa imitation rigged in
Our Brown Sculpin and White Belly sculpin streamers are great flies to use during the
entire year. The Black and Olive Matuka sculpin are great flies to use at this time.
Winter stoneflies are hatching.
Midges: Blood (Red), sizes 20/22, larva, pupa and adults
Midges: Light Green, size 20/22, larva, pupa and adults
Midges: Cream, size 20/22, larva pupa and adults
Brown Sculpin and White Belly Sculpin, size 6
Black Matuka and Olive Matuka Sculpin, size 4/6
Blue-winged Olives: size 16, nymph, emergers, duns and spinners
Winter Stoneflies, size 16/18, nymphs and adults
|Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (email@example.com)
with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.
2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.
3. Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org)
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
you in time for your fly fishing trip.
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