ramblings of a catskill fly fisher

The other side of the river

Posted 1/10/24

Almost all of the fly fishing stories that I have written for the River Reporter have been about the famous rivers of the Catskill Mountains. While that region is steeped in history and tradition and …

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ramblings of a catskill fly fisher

The other side of the river


Almost all of the fly fishing stories that I have written for the River Reporter have been about the famous rivers of the Catskill Mountains. While that region is steeped in history and tradition and is considered the birthplace of American fly fishing, there are other rivers perhaps not as famous, but that are still good places to fish. 

On the east side of the Hudson River, more specifically in Westchester and Putnam counties, there are over 20 reservoirs that make up the DEP’s East of Hudson, New Croton watershed. Prior to the completion of the Ashokan Reservoir and the West Delaware reservoirs, the Croton system was the main source of drinking water for New York City. 

Every one of those reservoirs has a bottom release of cold water. While small compared to Catskill releases, they all provide decent fishing for brown trout, including one for brown and rainbow trout and one for wild brook trout too. 

Some are managed as wild fisheries with special regulations; others are stocked with yearling trout and fall under statewide size and bag limits.

Probably the most famous is the Amawalk Outlet, which flows 2.7 miles between the Amawalk Reservoir and the Muscoot Reservoir. It has a three-fish-per-day bag and a 12-inch size limit. Only artificial lures can be used. 

I’ve written about the Amawalk extensively in past columns. See here, for example, from the March 13, 2109 edition of the paper. 

Of all the rivers in the DEPs Westchester/Putnam water supply system, the most remote and pristine is the West Branch of the Croton River. It flows 2.3 miles between the West Branch Reservoir and the Croton Falls Reservoir. The West Branch is accessible only from Route 6, just downstream of the reservoir, and from Drewville Road just upstream of the Croton Falls Reservoir. 

Not so long ago, the West Branch was managed with special regulations; the take of trout was limited and artificial flies and lures were the only baits permitted. Growth rates were always slow in the West Branch, so biologists have changed the regulations to five trout per day, nine inches or larger—and all legal baits are permitted. 

The West Branch is managed as a wild fishery with no stocking. Allowing harvest prevents overpopulation and stunted trout. Anglers who walk inland from either end will not likely encounter other fishermen. 

The West Branch serves as a spawning stream for the Croton Falls Reservoir, so in the fall there is a run of large brown trout. Anglers can fish for these spawners but must use artificial lures, and no fish can be harvested from October 1 to March 31. 

The one-mile section of the West Branch of the Croton River between Croton Falls Reservoir and Muscoot Reservoir is managed by special regulations. Trout cannot be taken, and  artificial lures are the only baits permitted. Brown-trout yearlings are stocked in April and again in May to augment the wild population. 

Word has it that this section of river is very popular with local fly fishers. 

The East Branch of the Crown River flows right through the Village of Brewster. It begins as the outlet of the East Branch (Sodom) Reservoir, flowing 2.4 miles before joining the Diverting Reservoir. This section of the East Branch is also managed by special regulations. The bag limit is one trout per day and the fish must be 14 inches or larger. Artificial lures and flies are the only legal baits. 

Both brown and rainbow trout yearlings are stocked annually because natural reproduction is limited. One legal-size trout can be taken all year.

While all the rivers described here have been outlets of New York City reservoirs, there’s one interesting exception, and that is the Stone Hill River, which is the inlet to Cross River Reservoir. The lower reaches of the Stone Hill River immediately upstream from the reservoir flow through Ward Pound Ridge Reservation, which is owned and managed by Westchester County Parks. That section is stocked with brown trout yearlings. Most interesting about the Stone Hill River is that the upper reaches support a self-sustaining wild population of Eastern brook trout, all within 20 miles of the Manhattan skyline.

The fact that this rare species is found in the Stone Hill River is a tribute to its remoteness and the quality of the habitat.

When the new trout stream fishing regulations went into effect in the fall of 2021, all rivers unless otherwise specified were open to fishing all year, with the provision that from October 1 to March 31, no trout can be taken and only artificial lures can be used. With these regulations now in effect, anglers should keep in mind that almost every one of the outlet streams described here have a fall run of brown trout. While these fish cannot be harvested, anglers willing to fish at this time of year will have the opportunity to hook a very large trout; perhaps a fish of a lifetime on the fly.

The rivers I mentioned in this piece are only a few of the outlet streams associated with the DEP’s reservoirs in Westchester and Putnam counties. Anglers interested in fishing this area should check the DEC’s “Guide to Stream Trout Fishing in New York City Reservoirs in Westchester and Putnam Counties.” In addition to a NYS fishing license, a New York City DEP watershed permit is required.

fly, fishing, catskill, mountains, hudson river,


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