When people think of New York City, the words “fly fishing” typically aren’t the first to come to mind. However, NYC’s three major watersheds (Croton, Catskill, and Delaware) totaling nearly 2,000 square miles leave a lot of water to explore right on the doorstep of the Big Apple—with plenty of sizable fish! Here we’ll cover a few key places to start fly fishing around the NYC area, tips, and tactics. Don’t worry, even with traffic or MTA closures, all of these locations will still put you under or around an hour and a half of travel time!

Credit: Brandon Dale

East Branch Croton River

Of all of the locations on this list, this is by far the most frequented cold-water fishery near NYC, and for good reason: it has the potential to fish really, really well for trout.  When you pair this with the fact that the scenery will make up for a fishless day, it’s a no brainer that the East Branch of the Croton is one to add to your “to fish” list. The East Branch of the Croton River has a few access points with parking, but the major one is at the Sodom Bridge Road in Southeast, NY (80 Sodom Road, Southeast, NY10509).

Here you can expect to catch trout, with the primary species being rainbow and brown trout and the occasional stocked brook trout. This section of the Croton is stocked annually, but there are a decent population of wild, naturally reproducing brown trout that have gained fame for how large they can become. Before you go, check out the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) fishing guide to be up to date with local fishing regulations and get your free NYC Watershed DEP Access Permit that are required to fish. Fishing with subsurface flies such as pink-bead head Walt’s Worms, Pat’s Stoneflies and small perdigon style flies usually do the trick, although when the fish are being picky, I’ve had success on small midge patterns. Due to its proximity and ease of access to NYC, the East Branch gets a lot of fishing pressure that makes the fish selective and wary, especially on weekends. But rest assured, it’s still worth going! Go early, take a hike, and explore some spots that don’t have other anglers. There are great fishing spots all along the East Branch and finding them is half the fun! Most NYC-based anglers, myself included, consider this to be one of our main “homewaters” (a local waterway that we fish often, care deeply about and work to protect for the future). Take a visit, and hopefully, it’ll start to feel like your homewaters, too.

Credit: Brandon Dale

Muscoot River

The Amawalk Reservoir Outlet-Muscoot River is truly a gem. This river is located near the town of Katonah, NY, and it represents the true potential of when good environmental land stewardship is supported by good conservation policy. The gist of this river is that years ago, it had a small, but notable, population of wild trout that were reproducing at healthy levels. However, bank habitat erosion was negatively impacting the wild trout population. Thanks to several conservation groups along with the DEC to support habitat restoration work projects over the past five years at Muscoot, this stream has recently been recognized as a “Wild Trout Stream,” by New York state, highlighting a pinnacle of a healthy and sustainable ecosystem. With this designation, catch-and-release practices are highly encouraged when fishing the Muscoot River and this area is for artificial lures only. The same tactics for flies should work here as in the East Branch—a focus on presentation and stealth will likely yield many wild fish! Similarly, this place can get busy on weekends, but it is a much smaller stream that allows for miles of roaming among the thickly wooded banks in search of eager wild brown trout and solitude. Major parking can be found at the Wood Street bridge (55 Wood Street, Katonah, NY 10536).

Credit: Brandon Dale

Connetquot River

Head East from NYC to Long Island and you’ll encounter another local legend: The Connetquot River. This river got its claim to fame due to its incredible trout hatchery that supplies a regular stocking of very, very large trout (rainbow, brook, and brown trout) throughout the river system. Notably, this is a spring-fed creek that has a sandy bottom, with crystal clear waters, making sight fishing a particularly enjoyable way to approach this river. This is a river that is great for beginners, as a lot of the casting is open and clear, with a very high density of fish. Rest assured, if you’re an experienced angler, you, too, will have a blast sight casting to more than 20-inch fish with small dry flies.  The river is managed by the Connetquot River State Park through its Fly Fishing program with $25 daily access permits for fishing, and reservations are required. This river is fly fishing only and has a distinct set of fly tackle requirements that can be found in the program details above. While a visit here entails more planning, you won’t at all be disappointed after hooking into your largest trout ever after having spent all day seeing hundreds of fish. Location: 4090 Sunrise Hwy, Oakdale, NY 11769.

Credit: Brandon Dale

The Bronx River

The Bronx River provides an excellent warm-water fishery for a plethora of species such as bluegill, largemouth bass, shad, crappie, and carp. The best part about this river system is how accessible it is! The Bronx River Pathway is a trail system that parallels the river for over 10 miles of access! With that, it provides an excellent fishery to spot and cast to wary carp, eager bluegill and bass, and the occasional catfish! For flies, try small wooly buggers, foam ants, and squirmy-wormy flies which should catch all of the major species here. This is a great spot to do a bike-and-fish day, as well, as you can bike along the path while looking for the next fish to target. As with any urban fishery, use caution when fishing in areas of high foot traffic, watch out for pedestrians, and practice catch-and-release. Parking lots can be found all throughout the pathway, but the start is here: 1820 Midland Ave, Bronxville, NY 10708.

Jamaica Bay

I’d be remiss to not mention the premier saltwater fly fishing opportunities that exist 10 miles south, all with the best view of NYC: Jamaica Bay. The bay has a seemingly unlimited array of fishing opportunities. From shore, there are several flats that can be fished during low tides for cruising striped bass, bluefish, and flounder in the summer. If you have a boat or kayak, there are numerous options for fishing various underwater structures and deep channels that cut through the bay. The best advice for this area would be to pick an area and spend some time learning it. Fish it at high tide, low tide, cast far, and watch the birds: they’ll tell you where the bait is… and the big fish! Major flies include candy eels, clouser minnows, gurglers, and game changers in white. Going with a guide once or twice will also hasten your learning curve, but any day on the Bay is one you’ll always remember and appreciate.

Credit: Brandon Dale

Central Park

Of all the places listed, this is my absolute favorite. There really is truly nothing like being able to hop onto the subway, a bike, or bus to go fly fishing in the heart of the Big Apple: Central Park. I’ll answer the big question first: Yes, you can fish in Central Park. As with all good things in life, there are of course rules to ensure people are safe and the resource is protected, so this is strictly catch-and-release and barbless hooks only. I could go on forever about how great this fishery is – smallmouth and largemouth bass, bluegill, catfish, crappie, and yellow perch can all be found—but the crown jewel of the park are carp, common and mirror carp. Similar tactics can be used here with wooly buggers, foam ants, and squirmy-wormy flies, but I’ve had lots of success with breadflies. The carp here are very skittish, and they oftentimes require a long, precise cast to reach, so targeting carp here isn’t for the uncommitted. You’ll be glad you went to all of these other locations first to prepare, because between tourist, squirrels, turtles, and trees there will be lots of casting challenges and caution needed! But it is worth all of the effort! When you do connect with one of these giants, the joy of landing one of these beautiful creatures with the backdrop of the midtown skyline will stick with you forever.