The Wild West Branch of the Deleware

A wild West Branch rainbow trout.

Wild rainbow and brown trout make the West Branch of the Delaware a premier fishing destination.

The West Branch of the Delaware River begins as a modest-sized trout stream that flows into Cannonsville Reservoir in New York State. It meanders through Deposit, New York, eventually forming the boundary line between New York and Pennsylvania. The river then flows southeasterly, meeting the East Branch at the town of Hancock, New York, to form the main stem of the Delaware River.

Anglers come from far and wide to fish for native brown and rainbow trout in the clear water of West Branch of the Delaware River.
Anglers come from far and wide to fish for native brown and rainbow trout in the clear water of West Branch of the Delaware River. photo: John Punola

The West Branch is home to wild rainbow and brown trout, and is maintained and regulated as a special trout fishing area—no trout are stocked in this area by Pennsylvania or New York State.

Neither trout species is native to the river. The rainbow trout arrived, rather accidentally, in the early 1870s when a shipment of juvenile trout from California, destined for an upstate New York hatchery, stalled near Callicoon, New York. The Erie Railroad trainmaster, Dan Cahill, feared the juvenile trout would perish in the hot weather, and ordered that the fish be dumped into Callicoon Creek, a major tributary of the Delaware River. The juvenile rainbows quickly found their way into the Delaware River, where they thrived. Today, fishermen on the West Branch of the Delaware catch the descendants of those rainbow trout from nearly 150 years ago.

A drift boat is the perfect platform for trout fishing on the West Branch of the Delaware River.
A drift boat is the perfect platform for trout fishing on the West Branch of the Delaware River.

The brown trout’s introduction to the Delaware was a bit less accidental. With populations of native brook trout in steady decline in the late 19th century, New York State ordered fertilized brown trout eggs from Germany. When the eggs arrived, they were delivered to a state hatchery in Caledonia. From there, the brown trout were taken to area trout streams where they quickly adapted…

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