It’s amazing how fast a fly-fisher’s mind can come up with a justification for buying something.
When I pulled “Fly-Fishing Guide to the Upper Delaware River” off the shelf at my local chain bookstore and started thumbing through it, I knew right away it was a must-have reference book. My excuse for plunking down the $24.95 plus tax? “It’s a lot cheaper than hiring a guide.”
I’m sticking to that story.
“Fly-Fishing Guide” by Paul Weamer, published last year by Stackpole Books, is a no-nonsense, pool-by-pool and pulloff-by-pulloff description of the places one can fish on the West Branch, East Branch and main stem of the Delaware River.
As a read, most of the book is actually kind of dull. The format for each access point is exactly the same: its name, a brief paragraph describing the parking, then a paragraph about the river itself immediately upstream of the access, a similar paragraph about the river downstream, and finally driving directions beginning at Route 17. There are even GPS coordinates for each spot.
But as a guide, it’s brilliant. Weamer provides information it would take years of frequent visits — or perhaps dozens of expensive guided outings — to learn on one’s own. Here’s a sample, from the “Upriver” part of the entry on the Airport Road access on the East Branch:
“The angler’s footpath leads to a riffle at the head of the small pool. The riffle has a nice back eddy to the left and holds plenty of fish. Trout can be found throughout the riffle and pool. There are two smaller riffles and pools above the riffle at the end of the footpath. Both of them are worth spending some time nymphing or studying to find rising fish. Another large pool, with the crumbled remains of an old bridge on its banks, lies upriver and is good dry-fly water.”
And so it goes, from Downsville, where the East Branch emerges from the dam that forms Pepacton Reservoir, 34 miles to where it meets the West Branch in Hancock.
If you’re planning a trip to the Catskills, information like that is priceless. The West Branch gets the same treatment from Cannonsville to the junction, and so does the main stem, from Bard Parker where the branches meet all the way to Callicoon.
There’s more to the “Guide” than where-to. Weamer’s chapter on “The Fish and How to Catch Them” would make a nice little book all by itself. It describes the techniques that work on the Delaware’s fussy wild browns and rainbows and nicely illustrated fly patterns.
There’s a chapter on the great springtime hatches and another on the fishing in the summer, fall and winter.
There’s an explanation of how this network of dam-controlled tailwaters came to be, how it works today and what issues affect its future.
Every now and then the reader will come across a real gem, like a brief interview with one of the first people to discover, back in the 1950s, that the then-new Pepacton dam had unexpectedly created a dynamite trout fishery downstream by impounding and parceling out frigid water all season long.
Weamer writes with a very nice touch, and even though the “Guide” is designed more to be consulted than read, it’s a nice book to spend some time with. Stackpole’s customary nice layout and printing add to the enjoyment.
There are some anglers — not to mention guides — who don’t like to give away their hard-earned knowledge of a river and its secrets, and resent others who do. I don’t know if Weamer has gotten any flak from Delaware regulars, but he’s done a great service for those of us with limited time who live a good distance away from the rivers.
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