Sample wild trout action on lower SGL 42 streams
By Kevin Phillips
The Right Fork of Mill Creek, Left Fork of Mill Creek and South Fork of Mill Creek are streams in Westmoreland County that flow on State Game Land 42 as wilderness trout waters. These specially managed fisheries provide opportunities to enjoy catching Pennsylvania’s state fish in a wild, mountainous area.
A stream or stream section that’s managed as a Wilderness Trout Water offers a wild-trout fishing experience in an unspoiled, remote setting where disruptive activities by man are minimal.
The Right Fork, Left Fork and South Fork all begin on the west side of Laurel Ridge and the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. The Right and Left forks flow in isolated areas, and while the South Fork is outlying and unfrequented, it is not as secluded.
These are major tributaries in the Mill Creek Watershed. Mill Creek is a popular fishery that skirts the town of Ligonier.
Four parcels constitute State Game Land 42, with the lowest parcel harboring streams of the Mill Creek Watershed. This southernmost property is a six-mile drive from where state Route 711, the Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway, goes through Ligonier.
Lower State Game Land 42 is located within Westmoreland, Cambria and Somerset counties and is loosely boxed in on three sides by Route 711, state Route 271 and U.S. Route 30.
To the best of my knowledge, in order to fish the Mill Creek Watershed on the game land, hiking is necessary. While traversing this upland expanse, spectacular mountainous views are possible.
There are numerous elevations that easily exceed 2,700 feet. Other noteworthy sights include aesthetic rocky outcroppings that complement the forest floor and valley walls with incredibly steep sides.
There is a big parking area just off Kissel Spring Road. From this spot, a 35-minute walk on a game land road leads to a bridge that crosses the South Fork. Descending toward the stream, water can be heard well before it can be seen. The Right and Left forks also offer this experience.
Three quarters of a mile upstream from the bridge, the South Fork abruptly increases in size to average 15-feet wide. This section flows in a dark, narrow valley. One stretch in particular is tucked in a ravine.
A special stretch of water begins where the creek suddenly widens. Here numerous nice-size trout dwell in a long chain of deep pools.
Below the bridge, the creek flows about a mile before exiting the game lands. This length of stream noticeably holds more water and is a little bigger. Fishing this part of the creek is relatively easy; the banks are not too choked with plant life.
A convenient access road near the water can be taken advantage of before and after an excursion. The highlight of this section is a pretty waterfall that creates a deep pool where brookies congregate.
Brook trout thrive in the South Fork. Seven- to 9-inchers provide lots of excitement, and the future of the fishery looks good. While exploring the upper reaches last summer, I saw numerous tiny fish.
One motionless puddle alone held at least a dozen first-year trout. Because of an abundance of attractive places to target and a dense trout population, a lengthy outing can occur on a short stretch of stream.
On Laurel Ridge, there’s a grass parking lot that can be used before hiking to the Right Fork. This location is two and one third miles from the creek and about three miles from where Route 30 crests Laurel Hill Summit. From 30, the lot can be reached by first turning onto Ridgeview Road.
From the parking area, the trek to the Right Fork begins by going left onto an access road. After five minutes or so, a fork appears. The road to the right eventually descends a super-steep grade that mellows 75 feet from the water.
Ascending this grade on the return hike is an accomplishment and a real workout.
The Right Fork is teeming with trout. Brookies exceeding 7 inches are abundant and hooking a 9-incher is no surprise. Wild browns turn up around the border of the game land.
The Right Fork flows in a narrow, scenic valley and is heavily characterized by pointy rocks, dense moss and fallen trees. The final mile and a half of creek on the property averages close to 15 feet wide and boasts a long, relentless string of plunge pools.
A convenient, unofficial passage along the creek is a pleasure to use.
On the east side of Laurel Ridge, there is a parking site that’s a short drive from Boy Scout Road. From here, the Left Fork is about a 3½-mile hike. Parking closer is possible, but this spot is perfect for an initial visit.
Using mountain roads, a communication tower on Laurel Ridge can be reached. Continuing on, a field and a deer enclosure is a short walk from the tower. Three tenths of a mile from this location, go right onto a new road.
The entrance may be semi-blocked by mountain laurel, which thrives on this passage. The road skirts a secluded meadow and continues to a forgotten intersection. Go right and descend the valley to the Left Fork.
Great fishing action is possible on the Left Fork, plus the stream supports a nice population of trout in the 9-inch range. Between the border of the game land and an area about three quarters of a mile upstream, the creek shines as a fishery.
The Left Fork is a big, mountain run that flows in an isolated valley. It is only 2.1 miles long, but more than half of this distance ranges from 15 to 20 feet wide.
A little less than a mile upstream from the property line, the creek begins morphing into a rocky, tumbling stream that’s aesthetically appealing. The valley bottom of the Left Fork truly provides a wild-trout fishing experience in an unspoiled setting.
Lower State Game Land 42 is more than a place to go trout fishing, it’s a destination for a trout fishing adventure.
State Game Land 42
Streams: Left Fork, Right Fork and South Fork all flow through State Game Land 42 in Westmoreland County as wilderness trout waters.
Location: SGL 42 is in Westmoreland, Somerset counties
Left Fork: The Left Fork is a big, mountain run that flows in an isolated valley. It is only 2.1 miles long.
It supports a nice population of trout in the 9-inch range.
Right Fork: The stream flows in a narrow, scenic valley and is characterized by pointy rocks, dense moss and fallen trees.
Brookies exceeding 7 inches are abundant.
South Fork: Brook trout thrive in the South Fork. Seven- to 9-inchers provide lots of excitement.
For more information: For more information, call the PGC Southwest Regional Office in Bolivar at 724-238-9523.