nearly in the center of the East Coast of the United States and just inland from New York
and New Jersey is the beautiful State of Pennsylvania. Steeped in history, Pennsylvania
served as one of the core states during the formation of this Nation and is blessed with a
wide variety of interesting opportunities for exploration. If your interests lie in areas
of culture, history, or nature, it would be hard to top a visit to this region.
|Other pursuits not withstanding, the Central and South Eastern
Pennsylvania Regions are blessed with another, perhaps more significant feature, to those
reading this article
an outstanding array of fly-fishing opportunities. If you are
smitten with the "fly-bug" and visit this area of Pennsylvania, you will have a
chance to cover fly fishings fabled spring creeks and freestone streams which harbor
our cold water species, and lakes, rivers and ponds which hold warm water species. The
major fly rod species inhabiting this areas waters include, Brook, Brown and Rainbow
Trout and Smallmouth Bass. Generally, public access to this fishery is ample and can be
sampled easily, with several major International Airports and a system of roadways serving
South Central PA Streams
Lets begin our journey with a look
at five streams located in the South Central part of the State. This area includes Berks,
Lancaster, York, Dauphin and Cumberland Counties and covers the Southeast Quadrant of
The "Tully" is located in Berks County near the city of Reading approximately
one and half-hours drive northwest from Philadelphia. The stream is a tailwater fishery
created by the formation of an impoundment at Blue Marsh Lake. The outflow from the bottom
of the dam produces cool water year round, which enables Rainbow and Brown Trout to
thrive. Access to the "Tully" is excellent with a series of public parking areas
set up for recreational users.
|Major hatches include Caddis, Tricos and Sulfurs. Fish will feed very
selectively when hatches occur. Between hatches, prospecting with streamers and
terrestrials will produce. An average Tully trout is about twelve inches in length, with
the chance to take larger fish very good. Because of the close proximity to somewhat dense
human populations, this stream is fished very heavily; however, a park and trail system
lines the river giving it a feel of seclusion. In fact, it is not unusual to encounter
Whitetail Deer and Blue Heron while fishing this stream.
Clarks Creek is another tailwater stream emanating from the impoundment of the stream by
Dehart Dam and it is located in Dauphin County, northeast of the State Capital of
Harrisburg. It is primarily a freestone stream with a classic riffle and pool
configuration and flows through a combined conifer and mixed hardwood forest. The stream
features Brown, Rainbow and Brook Trout and is stocked by the state. Hatches on Clarks
consist of the classic freestone mayfly hatches with Hendricksons and March Browns being
the primary contributors. In May and June, Inch Worms are available in large
concentrations and the trout feed actively on imitations of these insects. As with most of
the streams in Pennsylvania, Caddis are found and terrestrials will work when hatches are
The Yellow Breeches is renowned for the long lasting contribution it has made to fly
angling in the U.S. Since Colonial times, this stream has played a part in producing trout
for local piscators. In fact, the name of the stream is based on the fact that British
Soldiers in Colonial times would have their white trousers stained yellow by tannic acids
when wading through the stream.
|The Breeches is
a limestone stream flowing through Cumberland County east of Carlisle and it eventually
empties into the Susquehanna River below Harrisburg. Some notable hatches on the stream
include Caddis, Hendricksons, Sulfurs, and other mayflies. In Mid-August, a significant
event on this stream is the arrival of the Whitefly hatch. Evenings toward dark produce
strong hatches of this minute mayfly and seem to garner the attention of most of the trout
in the stream. Fishing can be both exciting and also frustrating during this event as the
stream becomes more crowded that usual. The Yellow Breeches may be fished year round, and
special regulations apply in the most productive locations. Check with local fly shops for
information about this stream before donning your waders.
Letort Spring Run:
The Letort is a beautiful spring creek located in Carlisle in Cumberland County. Small in
size, it is large in stature due to the place it has occupied in the evolution of
fly-fishing in this county. Noted angling authors Vince Marinaro and Charles Fox used the
Letort as a laboratory in developing many of the fly patterns and techniques employed in
bringing trout to fly. This stream also played a major part in the evolution and
development of terrestrial fishing in the U.S. and continues to produce some surprising
Brown Trout each year. The Letort can be a very challenging stream to fish and will
require the angler to be both precise in presentation and diligent in approach. The water
is small, rich, clear and filled with aquatic vegetation making trout wary and selective.
This mighty river emanates from branches both in Pennsylvania and upper New York State,
and finds its way after traveling many miles, south to the Chesapeake Bay near Havre
de Grace, Maryland. The name Susquehanna was given to the river by Native American Indians
and is translated to mean "from the smooth flowing stream." The section of this
river, which flows through South Central PA, provides excellent water and habitat for
Smallmouth Bass. Wading the river and fishing the pocket water can produce fine catches
both above and below the surface. It is advisable to hire a guide for first time
Susquehanna fly fisherman as this is a very large river and many hours might be wasted in
locating fish. Guides will put you on fish quickly and also provide flies that will
produce. If you have not sampled Smallmouth Bass on a fly rod, you need to try it. It is
not uncommon to catch twenty-five or more fish in an evening and some may be sizable. In
August the large Whitefly hatches are very thick on the Susquehanna, and bring some of the
wary old-timers to the surface. A three to five pound Smallmouth on a number twelve
Whitefly is about as good as it gets!
We will now focus on the streams located
in the central part of the state. These streams are located in the counties along the
spine of the Appalachian Mountains. The geography contains alternating valleys in which
some of the best streams in the state are found. There are several excellent waters to
fish in this area and the stream types are varied. Spring creeks, freestone rivers and
mountain streams provide habitat for our three primary species of trout. Most of these
streams are within a four-hour drive of Baltimore or Philadelphia and only two hours from
Harrisburg. Let's look at four prominent water of the Central Pennsylvania Region.
Rising out of the ground in Centre County is one of the best and most remote rivers in the
state. Penns is a limestone stream that is abundant in nutrient and habitat. It is
the home of some of the states best hatches and features a variety of fishing
conditions. Eventually, Penns empties into the Susquehanna River near Selinsgrove,
PA, but before doing so it runs through some very remote and rugged country. Penns
is a stream of multiple personalities. In areas around Coburn, PA, it looks like a meadow
stream similar in character to the Chalk streams of England.
|In the area from Poe Paddy State Park to Weikert, it turns into a sizable
freestone stream with plenty of structure to create fast runs and pockets. It holds a very
nice population of both Browns and Rainbows and has some of the classic mayfly hatches.
The predominant insect hatches include Caddis, March Browns, Gray Fox, Tricos, Isonichia
and the Green Drake. Fishing the Drake hatch in late May is somewhat of a festival. This
hatch of large mayflies not only gets the attention of the trout, but also that of legions
of anglers bent on capturing large fish with large dry flies. It can be both exhilarating
and challenging, but definitely worth the trip. Again, due to the size and complexity of
this water, it is advisable to hire a guide to help improve your measure of success.
This limestone creek is located in Centre County in the area of State College and
Bellefonte. It is a classic limestoner with riffle and pool configuration and due to its
nutrient content can appear slightly colored, as do many of these limestone creeks in the
area. Hatches on Spring Creek include the classic mayflies and caddis hatches, and
terrestrials can play a major part in feeding the Browns and Rainbows in the stream.
Hendricksons and Sulfur hatches are strong in most areas of this stream, and fishing
Sulfur imitations in the Fishermans Paradise area in Mid to Late May can produce
some vary exciting dry fly activity. Streamers and nymphs should not be overlooked if
surface feeding is slow. This stream has the ability to produce some very fine trout and
raise some eyebrows with its productivity. It is definitely worth a try!
Spruce Creek is a gem. It is a small valley stream of limestone nature running southwest
of the town of State College, PA. Spruce is neatly tucked up against Mount Nittany on most
of the eastern side and is mostly open on the west bank.
stream flows through private land most of its length before emptying into the Little
Juniata (also a very productive stream) at the village of Spruce Creek. Although public
access is limited, there exist a few public areas and these are fished heavily. Local
guides have made arrangement with some of the landholders along this creek and access may
be gained by using a guide. This is worth the investment! Browns and Rainbows predominate
Spruce Creek and it is not unusual to catch and release fish in the twenty inch and above
category. These fish are healthy and full-bodied and provide excellent sport on the fly
rod. Past U.S. President Jimmy Carter frequented Spruce Creek while in office and
continues to visit and fish this area. Hatches on Spruce include March Browns, Gray Fox,
Sulfurs, and Caddis. Green Drake activity is present but not reliable, but imagine the
thrill of taking a 24" Brown on a number 16 Sulfur with a 5x or 6x tippet! As an
added bonus, a trip to Spruce might be followed by a day on the Little Juniata for a
superb two-day outing.
There are several opportunities throughout this area in Central PA to fish small mountain
streams for native Brook Trout. These trout will not be large, but they are very
opportunistic in their feeding habits. Small rods and light lines enhance this type of
fishing, and the color and markings of a native trout are incredibly beautiful. Generally,
these fish may be taken on attractor patterns such as the Royal Coachman, Mr. Rapidan,
Royal Humpies or Stimulators. A good place to prospect for Brookies is in the Bald Eagle
State Forest in the area of Penn's Creek. Cherry Run is a likely spot to search for fish
and it is located near the state parking area for Penn's above the town of Weikert.
Equipment, Tackle and Flies
will not need to pack an arsenal of equipment to get the job done on these waters. Most of
the fishing will be done in medium to short range; so heavy rods are not required. Even
for larger trout and Smallmouth Bass, a typical choice would be a 5 or 6 weight rod. The
lone exception to this might be the need for a short rod when fishing the mountain streams
for Brookies. My choices include a good graphite rod, nine feet long, rated for a 5-weight
line. I would include a small rod
76" for a 3-weight for mountain trout
and possibly another 9 footer for a 3-weight if fishing late in the season.
|This late season rod would be useful for fishing the Tricos, midge and
small Caddis hatches of summer. Lines would be floating, weight forward or double taper to
match my rods and leaders would be down to 5x or smaller. Leader length is dictated by the
conditions, the rule is when waters are low and clear, you should lengthen the leader and
use a finer tippet. For Tricos and Midge fishing, I prefer a 14 leader, tapered to
7x and use a fluorocarbon tippet. A good single action reel with smooth drag is required
and you should have 100 yards of backing on the spool. If fishing below the surface, split
shot will be adequate to sink the fly. Wading equipment should include breathable waders
for spring and summer conditions, along with wading shoes with good felts. Many of these
streams have slick streambeds and felt soles will give you better traction and help to you
to avoid an inadvertent dunking. Flies required will depend on the time of the season you
visit and you should be prepared to match various stages of the appropriate fly's life
cycle. Future articles will focus on specific streams and include hatch charts, and I am
happy to answer individual inquiries regarding your specific needs. Local fly shops and
guides are eager to provide up to the minute details about what the fish are eating.
Getting Here and Other Useful Information
This Region is fortunate to have an
excellent system of available airports and highways. Access from anywhere on the planet
(or at least most anywhere!) can be through Newark NJ, Philadelphia PA. or Baltimore MD.
PA. International Airport (MDT) is the nearest location to these streams, and service to
Harrisburg from most of the East Coast International Airports is available.Auto rentals
are available at all airports and directions may be obtained from the rental agents. Hotel
and Bed and Breakfast accommodations are abundantly available for overnight stays. Fly
Shops and Professional Guides are also abundant throughout this area and it is a very good
idea to seek current information from one of these sources.
you are interested in booking a trip with a guide, it is advisable to plan ahead. As is
the case everywhere, usually the best guides have a full calendar of client bookings. Many
Guides can provide transportation and equipment, so if you do not have your tackle along
on you trip, dont let that be a deterrent to sampling some of the best fly fishing
opportunities this country has to offer. If you have read, heard or actually been
fortunate to have experienced the excellent angling available in these locations and are
compelled to plan a trip, keep in mind that with todays travel options, you are only
a short flight away in most cases. A six-hour flight and four-hour drive is a small price
to pay for this adventure. If you need further information or would like some help in
arranging a trip, please contact me via email at email@example.com. I look forward to hearing from you!
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