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Many anglers consider the West Branch of the Delaware host to the best trout fishing in the Catskills, and some of the finest wild trout fishing east of the Rocky Mountains. And, most ... morealso agree that action in the West Branch really begins at the Cannonsville Reservoir and continues on the 11-mile tailwater that follows. The dam controls most of the Delaware releases and typically sends enough cold water into the stem to support year round fishing. This constant water flow gives the trout an extended growing season, which may account for their large size, population density and ability to sustain a challenging fight.

Below the dam the river first flows through a few rapids, then around a series of small islands and eventually opens to a wide main channel with long pools and short sections of rifles. One of the river’s main attractions is that it can be easily waded (at times from shore to shore) and has a relatively level bottom. 

While most of the fish in the West Branch are brown trout, there are also brookies and rainbows. All of the fish are wild although a two of its tributaries are occasionally stocked, and in theory it’s possible for these fish to enter the main channel. What’s most important to anglers is that the West Branch has more trout per acre than either the East Branch or the Delaware proper.

Access to the river is excellent with over a dozen well marked public points of entry and parking. One word of caution –sections of the riverbed are privately owned and may need to be floated to fish. On the upper river there is a 2-mile section limited to catch and release. Trout here average over 12 inches although fish up to 18-20 inches are not uncommon. Browns over 20 inches are plentiful and locals will be the first to tell you that many trout over 30 inches have been pulled from these waters.
Game Fish Opportunities:
Originating from an unnamed pond northeast of Hancock, New York, the East Branch runs for 75 miles. What matters though to anglers is stretch below the Pepacton Reservoir, a cold, ... morerich tailwater that provides great habitat for trout. From the Downsville Dam to its confluence with the Delaware, enthusiasts can enjoy 33 miles of truly great fishing.

Like many rivers, the East Branch is thought of in two sections, the upper and lower. Small and narrow, the upper water is cold and clear, assuming many characteristics of a freshwater stream. It winds through a tree lined, scenic valley with long flat pools and braided channels formed by a series of small islands. Remaining cold throughout the summer season, both wild and hatchery born brown trout thrive. Less abundant are wild rainbow and native brook although they are there to be found and taken.

Near the town of East Branch and its junction with the Beaverkill River, the lower section begins. At this point the river widens out, varying from 75 to over 150 feet across. Flows become slower with the appearance of deep pools and limited riffles. During the warm summer months the river tends to heat up, forcing the fish to flee to the cooler, upper Branch waters or the main stem Delaware.

Gravel covers much of the river bottom but there are boulders and ledges where fish can hide. A mix of wild and stocked fish run the river, with browns dominating the upper section, rainbows the lower.
Game Fish Opportunities:
Fishing Creek is apparently a popular name in Pennsylvania. You can find one in at least 6 counties in the state. That may explain why anglers near State College refer to their stream ... moreas the Big Fishing Creek. Starting near Green Gap and running for nearly 40 miles through Clinton County, this limestone creek is home to both wild and stocked browns, brook and the occasional rainbow. Eight freestone and limestone creeks feed into the Creek helping to maintain cold, trout friendly temperatures.

There are portions of the stream between its headwaters and Eastville, where during the summer water levels diminish or disappear entirely and flow underground. In these shallower waters anglers can expect to find small browns and brooks. Near Tylersville the stream picks up, receiving an average of 10,000 to 15,000 gallons of 50-degree water per day. Known as the “Narrows,” this section is filled with deep pools, rifles and pocket waters. 

Easy access off SR 2002 and abundant trout combine to make this section a favorite for anglers. Many are also drawn to scenic beauty with overhanging tree lined shores and steep slopes that rise from the banks. The Creek is well managed with a catch-and-release stretch bordered on either side by Trophy Trout sections. Regulations in the two Trophy sections limit anglers to artificial lures and 2 fish per day of 14 inches or longer.

Some parts of the creek are stocked with brown, brook and rainbow trout by the Fishing Creek’s Sportsman’s Association although healthy wild populations co-exist. To date the largest brown caught in the creek weighed over 8 pounds and exceeded 28 inches in length. Most browns average between 14-16 inches. A 2011 study of the upper creek habitat and its tributaries, by Point Park University and the Sportsman’s Association, found that conditions in this section were optimal.
Game Fish Opportunities:
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Nestled in a picturesque section of the Appalachian Mountains, Penns Creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna, starts at Penns Cave. This limestone cave, a frequented tourist attraction, ... morereleases an estimated 1 million gallons of cold water each day. Historically home to mills and used for transport by the logging industry, the creek was spoiled by dams and the demands of commerce. 

Thankfully, today only one dam remains and it’s for the sole purpose of accommodating people who want to tour Penns Cave by boat. The first 5 miles down from the cave are privately held and hard to access. Access improves from Spring Mills down to Coburn although the water here tends to warm due to heavy farming. Most favored is the run below Coburn, where the Penn gathers energy from the cold waters of Elk and Pine Creeks.

Below the confluence of the three creeks, the Penn doubles in volume and size and widens out to 40+ feet. This 7 mile run through to the Poe Caddy Campgrounds is designated as an All Tackle Trophy Trout Project Area where the fish count is 2,300 per mile. Near Poe Paddy the Swift Run Creek enters and not long after that, Cherry Run. This 3.9 mile known locally as the as the Project, is designated as catch-and-release only and is considered some of the best water in the state. Wild browns here range from 12-16 inches and are found much larger.

Remote and enveloped by an Appalachian range, this scenic area is full of thick growth and teems with wildlife. The water is filled with deep pools, broad rifles and large boulders. Here a mile long hike is required to get to the creek but that means the pressure tends to be modest. Night hatches are voluminous and provide some of the best times to fish.
Game Fish Opportunities:
Trout Unlimited describes Spruce Creek as the place to go if you want to “wrestle with hogs … truly gargantuan browns and bows.” Much of their excessive girth is apparently due to ... morethe ample feeding they receive from resident landowners who routinely feed them pails full of fish pellets. The landowner’s generosity however is fed by their desire to lure fishermen willing to pay to fish. Because the creek is almost entirely owned by individuals or private clubs, public access is quite limited.

Thankfully, there is a half-mile stretch just above Spruce Creek Village that is owned by Penn State and open to everyone. This section is named after George M. Harvey, the Penn State professor who pioneered fly fishing as a college level subject and spent much of his life studying the waters in this area. It was during his studies around Falling Spring Run that he discovered the importance of tricos, which prior to this time, were not considered important to hatches.

Near the Village this limestone stream divides into two separate braids; the western channel is narrow, rarely more than 10 feet across. Shaded by a heavy canopy of trees, the shore is lined with overgrown shrubs that provide perfect shelter for big browns. The eastern braid has large pools, chutes and rapids, where the browns are smaller but easier to catch.

Perhaps Spruce Creek is best known as the place where former Presidents have gone to fish. A favorite of President Eisenhower, he is said to have spent many relaxing hours here while President Carter continues to visit.
Game Fish Opportunities:
The tale of Spring Creek is a bit unusual in today’s world, simply because it has a happy ending. Between effluent and numerous toxic spills during the last century, this freestone ... moreCreek’s waters became severely compromised. Declining water quality and stocking of brown trout led to a decline in native brook and by the 1950’s browns dominated the stream’s main stem. By the 1980’s the state stopped stocking and declared the Creek catch and release only, fearing people would become ill from consuming contaminated fish.

Since then, improvements in wastewater treatment and increased regulation have cleared the Creek’s water to the point that many experts consider it the best it’s been since 1900. In fact, the Creek, which begins near the town of Boalsburg and ends at Bald Eagle Creek, is now considered one of the top wild trout streams in the state. It has even achieved the distinction of being deemed a Class-A fishery by the state, meaning it contains over 36 pounds per acre.

Spring Creek provides a good home for trout due to the constant flows of cold groundwater it receives from its neighboring watershed. It also benefits from its karst geology, that provides it with high pH levels and abundant supplies of crustaceans, baitfish, sculpin and aquatic insects. Browns today average 10-14 inches but some of the better-educated fish can exceed 20 inches. 

The stream is easy to wade in most places with lots of access points. The upper section is largely private but the best fishing is below the Benner Springs Hatchery where flows increase and habitat improves. From the Heritage Fisherman’s Paradise area, downstream to the confluence with Bald Eagle Creek, Spring Creek provides outstanding trout fishing opportunities.
Game Fish Opportunities:
Running parallel to the Au Sable for several miles, the Manistee, known to locals as the “Big Manistee,” turns southwest instead of east and makes its way to Lake Michigan. Regarded ... moreby the state as a Blue Ribbon Trout Stream, several miles of its waters are also designated as a national Wild and Scenic River. Similar to the Au Sable, experienced anglers consider this to be one of the finest fisheries east of the Mississippi.

Like the Au Sable, the Manistee was once home to Artic gray, and here too they disappeared as logging destroyed their ecosystem. Fortunately for the region, from 1933 to 1942 the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) actively repaired habitat structures, reforested the surrounding area and planted millions of fish in the rivers and the streams that feed into them.

Today the river is primarily a brown fishery, although brook and rainbow can also be found, with the best fishing at the upper end of the river. Here, non-migratory trout tend to average about 12-14 inches. Initially a narrow, easily waded 15-25 feet across, over the next 30-miles it gradually opens up to as wide as 200 feet and picks up speed. Throughout the lower reaches of the river you can expect to find steelhead, salmon and large browns from Lake Michigan. In fact, the river holds the U.S. record for brown trout with a lake-river run, weighing in at over 40 pounds.

Public access is available for the entire length of the river with ample parks, campgrounds and boat launches. One section 17-mile section, between Michigan 72 and the CCC Bridge, is open year round and reserved for fly fishing only; it is considered the best place to catch resident large browns. The combination of a sand, silt and gravel bottom along with fallen logs, undercut banks, deep runs, and abundant pools, make the Manistee a great place for trout to thrive.
Referred to locally as the mainstream, the Au Sable wears the triple crown of fly fishing. The state classifies it as a Natural River and a Blue Ribbon Trout Stream, while it also ... moreboasts the rare distinction of being a federal Wild and Scenic River. First brought to international fame in the early 1900’s for its abundant supply of Artic grayling, the river acquired the Holy Waters acronym. Unfortunately, the grayling died out years ago, its habitat destroyed by the timber industry, but browns, rainbows and brooks live on.

Cooled by a plethora of fresh streams and the shade of dense forests, the Au Sable is considered one of the finest trout fisheries east of the Mississippi. The 9-mile section from Burton’s Landing to Wakely Bridge, aptly called the Holy Waters, is managed by the state as fly fish only/catch and release only. Easily waded, this stretch is also renowned for its impressive hatches and exceptionally large fish. The river between Mio Pond between Alcona Pond, has been designated as a National Wild and Scenic River since 1984.

Downstream from Wakely Bridge to Mio Pond the river widens out yielding more pools and fewer runs. The 23-mile stretch from Mio (approximately 30 miles below Grayling) to McKinley, is designated as Trophy Water and is famous for its 24+inch fish. Here parts of the river can be waded close to shore, but most experienced anglers prefer to use a drift boat or an Au Sable River craft. Unique to the area with a history going back over 100 years, these boats are long, wooden, flat-bottom skiffs that are both elegant and functional.

Steelhead season starts in March with the best fishing in April. Approximately half of these fish are hatchery planted and are marked by a clipped fin with the remainder coming in from Lake Huron. Salmon spawning begins in November, making it possible to catch steelhead below the beds on egg patterns below the Foote Dam.
Game Fish Opportunities:
A well kept secret, the Eagle River, once desecrated by mining waste, is now a restored, healthy and great place to fish. This freestone river starts its journey at over 10,000 feet ... moreon the west side of the Continental Divide near Tennessee Pass. During its first 25 miles it drops over 2,400 vertical feet and can only be fished by wading. The first access site is near Camp Hale, famous for training the 10th Mt. Division during WWII, where it is surrounded by scenic Alpine meadows. Here the river is a near-perfect, brown trout habitat with fast water and numerous pockets.

Named by the Ute Indians, who compared the river’s many branches and streams to the feathers of an eagle’s tail, the river flows northward through the Vail Valley until it is joined by Gore Creek near the town of Minturn. At this point the river turns west and basically follows I-70 until it meets up with the Colorado River in Dotsero.

Although the entire river can be waded, because it is a freestone river, water levels can vary considerably throughout the year and conditions can be challenging. Strong currents are frequent as are swirling, invisible teacups. Slick rocks line the river bottom, often described by Eagle River vets as “greased bowling balls.” Before entering, you might consider bringing studded wading boots and/or wading staffs as well as obtaining up-to-date stream flow data.

The lower portion of the river from Minturn down can be floated in a drift boat, although going with a guide who knows the waters is also worth considering. Given that there are several privately owned sections of the river, a boat will give you entry to waters you might otherwise miss. The river is not known for an abundance of fish, but both the rainbows and browns are wild and often exceed 20 inches. The limit on the lower river is 2 trout per person.
Game Fish Opportunities:
Starting in the Tenmile Range near Quandry Peak, not far from Breckenridge, the Blue River can be thought of as a tale of two tailwaters. All 65 miles of the Blue have been classified ... moreby the state as a Blue Ribbon trout fishery. It follows the same basic route as the Williams Fork River; both run basically parallel to Route 9, which provides ample access to fishing in these waters.

Starting at an altitude well over 8,000 feet, the river courses north through the scenic, mountainous, Breckenridge area before it is impounded by the Dillon Dam, just shy of Silverthorne. The tailwater below the Dillon is flush with well fed, super-sized trout that obtain their girth from the consistent, ample supply of Mysis shrimp released from the dam. From here the river passes through town where access points are numerous, easy to find and easy to fish.

North of Silverthorne the river is impounded once again at the Green Mountain Reservoir; the water below this reservoir receives another distinction from the state, that of Wild Trout fishery. While the trout in this tailwater tend to be smaller than those pulled from the upper tailwater, they are still ample and sizeable. Below Dillon Dam, the river is managed as a year-round, catch and release fishery. Rainbows and browns dominate although cutthroat and brooks are also present. Kokanee salmon can be found during fall spawning season.

In addition to abundant trout, the river also flows through a variety of different terrain, providing a continuing feast for the eyes. Passing through the Blue River Valley, the Gore Wilderness Area and it’s looming peaks paint the horizon. There are other sections where the river runs through old cattle ranches, some dating back to the mid 1800’s. Wherever you are on this river, nothing disappoints.

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