Time: 9:30AM – 9:30PM
Location: Penns Creek and Elk Creek
I flew from Charlotte, NC to Philadelphia, Pa on Monday, May 28, Memorial Day. Jane returned to Denver, while I continued on the second leg of the eastern swing with three days of fly fishing in central Pennsylvania and a weekend attending my 45th reunion at Bucknell University. I anxiously followed the weather in Pennsylvania, and I was encouraged to see that the flows on Penns Creek diminished to the 600 CFS range. This level of water remained high, but my fishing companion, Jeff, assured me it was manageable. The weather projections forecast the potential for heavy rain on Thursday, but I remained fairly certain that at least two days of decent fishing were in my future.
I rented a car and drove from the Philadelphia airport to Whitehall, Pa., where I met my friend Jeff. We loaded the minivan on Monday night and scheduled an early departure for Tuesday. Jeff wanted to be on the water early before the sun burned off the clouds to produce challenging fishing conditions. I set my alarm for 4:30AM Eastern time, and I actually woke up a few minutes before the alarm sounded. I pulled on my clothes and grabbed my bag, and we were on our way before 5AM. As dawn emerged, heavy clouds filled the sky, and dense patches of fog shrouded the hills and valleys along our route. We were pleased to see this level of cloud cover, and optimism crept into our thoughts.
We stopped for a quick breakfast in Mifflinburg at the Old Turnpike, and we arrived at a parking space at the end of a gravel road near Penns Creek by 9AM. We were anxious to inspect the water, so we quickly climbed into our waders, and I assembled my Sage four weight. We hiked down a gravel road at a quick pace, and I finally stepped into the water at 9:30. By now the clouds burned off, and the sun began to elevate the temperature. The flows were in the 600 CFS range, and the olive tinged water provided decent clarity. Steady food on the surface would certainly catch the attention of the local stream residents.
Jeff directed me to the right braid around a small island at the end of the lane, and as we observed, two fish made their presence known. I tied on a male green drake dun, that Jeff graciously loaned to me, and flicked a short cast to the spot where the lower fish rose minutes earlier. On the fourth cast a mouth appeared, and I set the hook and temporarily connected with my first fish of the day. I moved on to the location of the second rise observed, and a ten inch brown accosted the green drake and enabled me to guide my first Penns Creek trout of the day into my net. It was only a feisty ten inch fish, but I was nonetheless pleased to enjoy green drake success.
Just above the point of the island a stone wall bordered the creek, and I tossed some casts to within a foot of the solid structure. The ploy paid dividends, when a smallmouth bass blasted the green drake. The warmwater species was no longer than eight inches, but it resisted admirably against the inevitable destination of my net. A bit farther upstream an eleven inch brown trout crushed the green drake dun imitation, and I was thrilled to experience early success, as the sun blazed and the temperature soared.
At 11:30 I exited the stream and circled to the lower end of the entry road below a long narrow island. I patiently surveyed the area, but rising fish were absent in the riffles of moderate depth. The structure of the stream in the area suggested that a dry/dropper approach might yield positive results, so I converted to a fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph, and salvation nymph. This trio of flies were mainstays in Colorado. Would they produce similar success in Pennsylvania?
Initially the answer was no, and I cycled through a march brown nymph and green drake nymph before settling on a 20 incher. I covered half of the attractive water in the right braid, before I approached some nice deep runs below a tree that projected ten feet out and parallel to the surface of the creek. Finally the 20 incher earned its keep, as it enticed a pair of nice twelve inch and thirteen inch chunky browns to my net. Another decent fish bumped the fat Albert and then drifted back for 1.5 feet and aggressively slurped the large yellow foam creation. I played the hungry feeder for a bit, before it escaped and somehow broke off the two bottom flies.
At 1:30 Jeff and I returned to the car, and we decided to explore some new water. By now the sun was high in the sky, and the air temperature and humidity were soaring, so my expectations for fishing success were minimal. We traveled west and north and checked in to our lodging at the Schafer cabins in Aaronsburg. Since we were in the neighborhood, we drove a bit farther west on route 45 to Millheim, and we stopped to sample Elk Creek. Elk Creek is a small spring creek tributary to Penns Creek, and it flows through the center of the small town of Millheim.
We limited our stay to an hour, and I covered .3 mile during this time. The stream displayed the characteristic milky olive spring creek color, but it was flowing high from the heavy rain a week prior. The high volume of water made it more difficult to identify the prime spots, and as expected fish were not rising during the middle of a hot afternoon. I persisted with a dry/dropper arrangement, and my only action was a foul hooked wild brown that resided in a small bank side eddy.
Jeff and I agreed that Elk was an interesting piece of water, but we departed and returned to the No Kill section of Penns Creek, in case activity heated up during the cooler evening hours. We consumed some sandwiches and snacks for dinner and then proceeded to the creek, where we fished until 9:30. We were disappointed to learn that no significant hatch or spinner fall developed, and therefore dry flies were mostly ineffective. We experimented with green drake duns and spinners as well as an assortment of grey foxes and sulfurs, and despite the presence of these aquatic insects, the fish did not respond.
During a one hour period I knotted a March brown spinner on my line and prospected some juicy sections in a side channel. This tactic rewarded me with the fish of the day, when an eighteen inch brown trout confidently sipped the spinner. I cast across the main current to a four foot wide band of slower moving water next to the bank, and a downstream drift worked its magic.
A five fish day on Penns Creek is quite good based on my experience, and a hefty wild eighteen inch bruiser was icing on the cake. My central Pennsylvania fishing adventure was only beginning, and we were zeroing in on the highly sought after green drake emergence and spinner fall.
Fish Landed: 5