Plan a trout trip to north-central Pennsylvania
My lure plopped into the head of the pool of a beautiful north-central Pennsylvania mountain stream. As trout habitat, the spot had everything going for it – depth, cover and an oxygenating flow at the head. On a Class A Wild Trout Stream such as this, that should translate into a larger trout at the end of my line.
My gold spinner glistened as I slowly retrieved it downstream – through the deeper water and close to a tangle of logs. I anxiously waited for the strike, but it never came. My friend, Andy Krouse, made a cast with his silver lure, but there were no takers. Our follow-up casts into the trouty-looking pool were also fruitless.
We moved into the pocket water immediately above the pool and Andy picked off a colorful 7-inch native brookie. My first cast also yielded a trout — this one a small brown that hit as I brought my spinner past a big rock.
Unfortunately, that was the story of the morning: big pool – no trout; smaller pools and pocket water – almost always a trout or at least a strike. Now, I am not complaining. We had miles of stream to ourselves and we were catching lots of trout, but it took us nearly five hours before one of us broke the 10-inch mark. That occurred when Andy landed a 10-and-a-half-inch brown while we were separated by a stream split. I caught a yellow-bottomed, foot-long brown during hour number six. Those were our two biggest trout of the day.
The trout fishing that I enjoy in my home area is difficult to top. When time is limited, avoiding a long drive gives one more hours of fishing by sticking close to home.
Even considering that reality, I still occasionally get the itch to visit the many wild trout streams to my north. I’ve made two such trips so far this year.
In late May, I made the two-hour-plus drive north to meet Andy in Galeton. We fished several Potter County streams during the morning and early afternoon. Although stream conditions were nearly perfect, we kept running into other anglers and ended the day after catching and releasing only a few dozen trout between us.
My second trip north, as described above in the opening paragraphs, occurred last month and was also with Andy. That outing was much more productive than our May trip.
On that second trip, Andy and I covered a couple of miles of mountain stream without seeing another angler or even a fresh boot track. You can’t do that on my home waters — the Little Juniata River, Bald Eagle or Spring Creek.
The sky was just beginning to brighten as we parked at a game lands parking lot and then walked upstream for 10 minutes through the towering trees before starting to fish. For six hours we heard only birds singing and the sweet gurgling of water tumbling over rocks. There were no cars, airplanes nor cell phone “dings” to remind us of civilization.
Louisiana waterthrushes, black-throated blue warblers and tiger swallowtail butterflies proved to be constant companions. Every bend in the stream brought a new “postcard picture” into view. The trout were plentiful, colorful and wild.
If you visit Elk, Potter, Cameron, Tioga, northern Clinton or Lycoming counties (collectively known as The Pennsylvania Wilds), it is more difficult to locate a stream that does not have trout than it is to find one with naturally-reproduced trout. Yes, the coal industry has left scars here and there, but if you get away from the ravages of deep and strip mining, almost all of the streams flow cold, clean and clear.
If you can locate one of the larger stocked streams — such as the First Fork of the Sinnemahoning River, Kettle Creek or Pine Creek — almost all of the tributaries hold wild trout. Some of the contributing streams are Class A. Access is usually not a problem because much of the region is made up of state forest and state game lands.
The interactive maps on the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission website (www.fishandboat.com) will help you locate the wild trout, and state forest maps (Moshannon, Sproul, Susquehannock, Tioga and Tiadaghton) will help you navigate to the streams.
I hear those north-central mountains calling and I hope to answer the call at least one more time before the end of summer. I really enjoy the solitude, the nature and the trout — a wonderful trio.