Catskill Mountains State of the Rivers 1-19-2021

Each year spring time river conditions happen due to the snowfall and winter conditions months earlier. Here we are a few months before the season. Actually to be exact it is 72 days away.

Currently the 2021 season is lining up just right. We have decent snow pack in the hills, the rivers are above average flow and the reservoirs are all at or above historic statistical averages.

What’s this mean?

Going into a season having full reservoirs is crucial to the longevity of a season. More water means happy fish and more water also spreads out the fishing pressure across a system. More water also means that some spots will only be accessible by drift boat. Which is the age old debate of the wade angler vs the oarsmen.

Below is a snapshot taken just now of the NYC Environmental Protection gauges, measuring the Catskills and Westchester Reservoirs.

Reservoir Levels NYS NYC Fly Fishing

Snow Pack

On the higher elevations around our rivers we have a stead 4”-8” of ice and snow.  It has been cold and cloudy for at least going on a month now.  Days in the 30’s are beginning to feel “warm.”  The snow and ice is locked in tight and not going anywhere soon. 

The current snow pack is good for now, however if we want a prolonged season we will need another good snowfall before March is over.  The positive is that the snow base is already in place to hold any fresh accumulations. 

River Conditions

I drove around above the reservoirs this weekend as well as the East Branch, West Branch and Beaverkill.  All of the rivers are juicing!  The trout have to be happy with this big water.  

The only side note about the rivers is I noticed that the tributary mouths have almost all been washed out. Some of these streams are major breeder streams as seen in the RFID chip tagging study. Without access to these small feeders the trout reproduction success falls.

This past fall the rivers were very low. It was early October and I had just departed the West Branch Angler. We were throwing streamer when all of a sudden halfway down monument pool we came across hundreds of brown trout on their Redds. We pulled over and had lunch while admiring this spectacle from a safe distance.

I have seen fish spawn in the river over the past decade however not in this amount. Is this because they can’t enter the tributaries due to the stream mouths being blocked?


The resovoirs and river levels are good for this time of year. We could benefit with a heavy snowfall in mid to early March. The spawning streams need to be tweaked to allow access before riparian growth begins in the spring. It’s about to get to single digits next week.