For those who have known me most of my life, it’s no surprise that I would become addicted to flies & fins. As a boy, I was captivated by everything fishing. I grew up on a lake in, of all places, New Jersey. If I wasn’t in a classroom, I was being schooled by my time on the lake, taking in nature, and learning everything I could about catching fish. And for whatever the reasons, I always enjoyed great success. Fishing consumed me. Just ask my high school sweetheart, who was required to verbally quiz me on classic top water bass plugs before I would “make out” with her (a decision that still seems sound to this day). Or ask my dad who suffered through a week of silence until I landed the trophy Pike I set out for on my high school graduation fishing trip. Or ask my college writing professor who informed my entire class that our final essay of the semester could be on any topic other than fishing. I guess 12 prior essays on fishing burned him out.

My baptism into fly fishing came in my mid 30s by way of some of Northern California’s more special waters. Places like the Upper Sacramento, the McCloud, the Trinity, and the Yuba to name just a few. These rivers not only schooled me, but fed my addiction. And then there was my annual trek to the holy waters of Silver Creek, Idaho. I was spoiled. I traveled to beautiful places, could almost always target rising fish with dry flies, and was rewarded with self-sustaining, wild fish. So how was I going to survive when my wife and I decided to relocate back to our home state, New Jersey? Truck trout just weren’t going to cut it.

Thankfully, years earlier I discovered the Upper Delaware River, tucked away in the Catskill Mountains of New York. The Upper D is a tailwater fishery and is really comprised of three unique systems. The East Branch drains from Pepacton Reservoir. It reminds me of spring creek fishing with long, glassy pools and weedy bottoms filled with an abundance of insects and crustaceans. Over these 16 miles, you can experience all three species of trout – Brown, Brook, and Rainbow. The West Branch drains from Cannonsville Reservoir and extends 33 miles until it conjoins with the East Branch at Junction Pool. The West Branch is probably the most popular of all three rivers and gets lots of pressure. Here, the primary target is Browns, although Rainbows are also taken in its lower stretches. Where these rivers meet at Junction Pool in Hancock, NY the Main Stem (AKA “The Big D”) begins. With its’ grassy banks and huge boulders that occasionally spot the river bottom, the main stem is big water with huge, long pools that resemble small lakes. Trout are all wild in the Big D and its Rainbows are legendary in their blistering runs, often peeling off yards of backing. Large fish often sip small insects off the top in “chum lines” created by eddies and structures. Even when the fishing is poor, the views on the Main Stem are breathtaking and it feels great to be alive.

In my opinion, the Upper D is as good as any water you can fish in the West. It’s a beautiful system, with prolific hatches that pay off with hot fish, Browns and Rainbows. Fishing the Upper D isn’t a lay up though. Success on the Delaware is measured by your ability to make a thoughtful presentation and even then, you can get blanked. But the payoff is outwitting smart fish that will rip line off your reel as if they weren’t even hooked. The Rainbows of the Upper D are like wild Steelhead. And even the Browns are know for their aerial acrobatics. I have caught lots of memorable fish on fly rod but to this day, the most memorable was a 26” Brown taken on the Upper D on a size 10 dry fly.

As good as the Upper D is, it could be far better if it were not plagued by water flows. Unfortunately, like so many other good fisheries, releases from the two reservoirs (owned by NY City) are fueled by politics and greed with little regard for the delicate ecosystem. Thankfully, local TU Chapters working together with Friends of The Upper Delaware River(FUDR), are working with the Delaware River Basin Committee (DRBC) to develop a flow plan that better meets all party’s objectives. Having stated that, I would take this opportunity to wave a finger at TU National for not taking a bigger lead to save this incredible fishery. Not sure what that’s all about, but it has left me questioning where TU National’s alliances lie.