Fly fishing NYC: Hot bite in the big city

I spent the last week in NYC on business, but managed to get out for a couple days fishing with some good friends. The first day we chased stripers with Capt. Ken Jones, out of Gateway Marina in Brooklyn. We headed out into the Atlantic, where Ken had luck all week chasing birds (and stripers). As is the case with most fishing situations… we should have been there yesterday. The wind had changed and the fish and bait were scattered across miles of featureless 30-foot deep shoreline. We did find a few pods of working birds, and just as the crew was giving up hope, I hooked up with a fish. I was breaking in my friend’s Sage Xi3 9wt, and tied into a 25″ striped bass on an intermediate shooting head and a white clouser minnow.


Soon after, we headed back into Jamaica Bay, casting to structure as huge jetliners landed and took off from JFK airport. I hooked up with a small bluefish, but we couldn’t find the rest of the school. Success that day depended on one thing — the two hand strip retrieve. The bottom line, when fishing in big water stripping flies, you need to stick that rod in your arm pit and strip with both hands. Not for speed, though sometimes you need that too, but it is important to keep tight to your fly. If you strip with two hands on your fly line, you will catch more fish.

The next day, we piled into my friend Matt Z’s truck and headed upstate to the Delaware River. We stopped in at the Catskill Fly Shop, and proceeded to get a raft of shit from the proprietor’s wife when I asked about wader rental. “But I called two days ago, and the guy one the phone told me it was no problem,” I said. “Do I know you? You don’t look like a regular customer,” she said, getting in my face and knocking me back on my heels. Why would that matter if you have our credit cards? Why would a regular customer rent waders? I eventually convinced her that we were responsible enough to rent waders to, while the guy I’m sure I talked to hid behind the counter and shrugged. We proceeded to spend about a hundred bucks on tiny tippet material, unfloatable dry flies tied by the owner, and day licenses. It’s not how I’d run a fly shop, but she still got our cash and I got a kick out of it. Welcome to New York.

We headed out to the West Branch of the Delaware River, and plied the flat calm currents with our East Coast March Brown patterns. There were a few huge mayflies around, along with a good medium-sized caddis hatch. Brown Trout were rising sporadically, and we cast to them, feeding the flies downstream to them so they wouldn’t see the leader material. These are picky fish, and they see a lot of imitations. Crazy flat water with nearly zero surface disturbance makes it tough to fool these educated fish. Eventually, we left for a much cooler location — the mainstem of the Delaware River along the PA/NY border. This looked a lot more like a trout river, and had riffles and boulders, and really big fish. We did hook up as evening brought a massive caddis hatch but couldn’t bring a fish to hand. Rising fish all over us, and nothing to show for it. Aside from some well-deserved humility.

NYC Fly Fishing May 2010

We had tough fishing both days, but NYC is a tough place. And the fish are there.

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6 Responses to Fly fishing NYC: Hot bite in the big city

  1. ashipman says:

    Typical Catskill fly shop response…after living in NY for 5 years we learned they are overprotective of their overcrowded waters. The browns in the Delaware are very educated and can be frustrating. We discovered the Housatonic was a more inviting place to fish from a fly shop perspective and access. There are places to rent drift boats on both rivers, which improves access and western fly tactics work well.

  2. Rob R says:

    Welcome home, Nugster!

  3. FM Marella says:

    Fishing the Delaware in college honed my angling ethic and made me appreciate about as good of a beatdown as a trout can give. Each fish is a brag-about-it accomplishment, much like a swung-up steelhead, and quite nearly as strong. I’d rank the Delaware rainbows shoulder-to-shoulder against any I’ve caught anywhere, including our fabled Deschutes redsides. Once hooked, they’re nearly impossible to land on 5X or 6X tippet, and that’s in a river with no current. They’re quite migratory and have lots of predators, which may account for their ornery attitude.

  4. That is a great shop, one of my favorites in the area. I remember her when she was on the telephone with the Simms rep. over why her wading boot order was delayed; it’d make a long shoreman blush. Did you hit the Catskill FF Museum? Can you say Willowemoc? Nothing better than the land of Little Rivers.

  5. larry manth iii says:

    I agree with the Delaware rainbows!!!

  6. luke says:

    And they sent you to the East Branch? I’ve fished the “D” and the West Branch. My father still lives in NJ and fishes them all the time.

    The Delawares aren’t any tougher then any other real western spring creeks…ie Missouri, Henrys Fork, etc. Next time hit the west branch. Way more fish, better consistent hatches. And I’ll tell you, I bet those folks were no more rude, then some of these “spey guys” are.

    And I’m a steelhead spey junkie. We have some of the rudest, most unfriendly people in our flyfishing circle too, I’m afraid to say.

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