I have lived on Long Island for about 9 years now and as you can tell from the DownWind Outdoors website, the fall and winter seasons are pretty action packed with predator hunting all over the state. However, besides a little hiking in the northeastern states, my summers are pretty outdoors deficient. Since moving from upstate NY, a landscape that is peppered with great fishing waters, I have kind of left my fishing days behind. I decided to go back to my fishing roots and with a little investigation I have learned that Suffolk, Westchester, and Putnam Counties of New York State have some well stocked waters for trout.

For my first downstate fishing trip, I headed to the New York City Watershed or more specifically the West Branch of the Croton River in Putnam County, New York. The Croton River is really broken up into three separate rivers divided by the Boyd’s Corner Reservoir, West Branch Reservoir, and the Croton Falls Reservoir. Luckily, I convinced Jerrod and Andy to come down and we went out at daybreak to tackle the southernmost stretch of the Croton that runs about a mile from the Croton Falls Reservoir to the mouth of the East Branch of the Croton River. Many say this stretch to be the premier fly fishing waters in the watershed.

Brown Trout

A 21″ Brown trout from the Croton River, New York. A prime example of what the Westchester watershed has to offer.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation does a great job of stocking and protecting this section of water. In 1995, New York implemented a no kill, or catch and release only, regulation that makes for great growth of stocked trout and a fairly significant population of wild brown trout. In 2014, the DEC reportedly stocked the river with close to 1,400 brown trout. Since we are on the topic of the DEC, make sure you get your free NYC Watershed Permit which is required to access all the watershed properties. Click here to visit the permit site.

West Branch Croton River Map

After stepping off the road from one of the three pull offs, we were welcomed by a very well used trail that we were able to use all the way up to the dam at the Croton Falls Reservoir. Two things were a surprise to us, the calmness and cold temperature of the water from the deep reservoir. We are used to the rivers and streams of the Adirondacks that produce torrent white water consisting of various size rocks and boulders. Here, we were in knee high water that was flowing at a steady pace over a rocky bottom. That lack of water surface disturbance and shallow depth makes you feel a little vulnerable and puts you into ninja mode as you use every overhanging tree and bush to break up your silhouette.

Sulphur Dun

Sulphur Dun

When we first got there on an early September morning we were welcomed with a Trico and a very light colored Sulfur hatch. We had fish rising all around us but we couldn’t hook one for the life of us. We threw every size Trico from 22-26 and anything that matched the Mayflies but to no avail. The frustration really set in when the three of us watched a Mayfly, that we mimicked exactly in color in size, get scooped up by a brown as it skipped off the waters surface. Jerrod finally got a riser on a size 20 Griffith’s Ghat.

Fly fishing dropper setup

Beadhead pheasant tail with a prince dropper

The magic started to happen when we switched over to a beadhead pheasant tail with an prince dropper. It seemed behind every log and under every low lying bush we would have a taker or an attempter. We also had great luck with Iso’s in multiple color ranges and around the 16-18 size.

Rainbow Trout

Andy's Brown Trout

Jerrod's Brown Trout

Brown Trout

This was a great river with plenty of fish to be had. The DEC says it is mostly browns but we did manage to pull out the biggest fish of the day, a rainbow pushing the 12″ mark. Most of the browns we landed were in the 8″-9″ range but we did get into some 12″-15″.

A majority of the river was tight quarters and with my 5 weight 9′ St. Croix rod I found it difficult to avoid the low tree canopy. On my next trip to the Croton I will definitely be sporting a 7’10” rod as I have heard that the other sections of the Croton are even more confined. This trip was a welcomed surprise, finding such quality fly fishing waters on the doorstep of New York City.

Croton River

Season: April 1 – September 30

Minimum Length: – No kill

Daily Limit: – No kill

Method: – Artificial Lures Only

Hatch Chart

West Branch of the Croton River hatch chart

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