It's not too late to get into some prime fishing. Here are our picks for June trout fishing in Pennsylvania
For many anglers, trout fishing means carrying on a tradition of visiting favored streams the first couple weeks of the season in April. High water, cold temperatures and crowded conditions are often part of the mix. But it's often a social gathering of sorts, one where catching trout is only one component of the effort.
By the time late spring arrives, trout fishing venues look much different: the air is warmer, the water flows are lower, the surroundings are greener, and in most places, there are fewer anglers.
For some waters, particularly stocked freestone streams, come late May on into June the trout in these habitats are living on borrowed time. If the spring is a wet one, which favors strong flows and cooler water temperatures, good trout fishing can extend well into the summer.
Mountain freestone streams that are stocked, especially smaller ones that benefit from a protective canopy of trees, tend to remain cold into early summer, and provide good sport in spectacular surrounding. The headwaters sections of many of these streams (as well as feeder streams) often support native brook trout, furnishing another summertime option.
Limestone streams — both ones originating from limestone springs as well as those that pick up limestone water along their course — benefit from cooler temperatures well into the summer, even throughout the entire season in some cases.
What follows is a look at a collection of such waters, ones chosen to appeal to a wide range of anglers, including fly fishers, spin fisherman, and live bait enthusiasts.
Central and eastern Pennsylvania are blessed with numerous limestone streams that boast strong populations of stream-bred trout (brown trout in most instances). One of the largest and best is Penns Creek, shared by Centre, Mifflin and Union counties.
Penns Creek's fabled Green Drake hatch — which typically occurs late May or early June, depending on the weather of the year — draws anglers from across the country, so plan on having plenty of company, at least in the areas of easy access.
Rick Nyles, owner of Sky Blue Outfitters, keys in on the Green Drake hatch, as well as other hatches found on this extremely productive stream.
"About the time the Green Drake hatch is winding down the Sulphurs are starting," Nyles said. "The Sulphur hatch usually lasts until late June. There is also a Light Cahill hatch in June."
Nyles notes that in addition to many mayfly species, various stoneflies and caddis call Penns Creek home. During late May and early June, he recommends having the Coffin Fly and March Brown spinner to key in on evening spinner falls. For subsurface efforts, he suggests golden stonefly nymphs. His advice is to use large for subsurface flies that are big enough to appeal to Penns Creek's wild browns. The brown trout average 12 to 14 inches in this stream, and some fish are much larger than that. Another thing to keep in mind is that Pheasant Tail nymphs, he says, do a good job of suggesting the nymph stage of the Sulphur.
While Penns Creek features over 35 miles of water managed for trout (some portions of which are stocked) most anglers prefer the middle 11 miles that are classified as Class A wild trout waters, un-stocked water whose fishing potential is fueled by wild browns.
This stretch starts at the town of Coburn, where two limestone feeder streams join Penns — Elk and Pine creeks. Weikert marks the lower end of this 11-mile stretch.
Access to this stretch of Penns Creek varies, providing options depending on your preference. But there are plenty of trout throughout.
Roadside access is found along Tunnel Road, below Coburn. Hiking/biking trails parallel much of this stream section as well. The Poe Mountain Tunnel, which was closed temporarily due to safety concerns, has been refurbished. It was reopened last spring. The abandoned railroad tunnel, which now carries the Mid-State Trail, is used by anglers to access a portion of the Class A water.
This 11-mile section of Penns Creek is managed via two special regulations programs, a Catch and Release/Artificial Lures Only program, and another that includes a slot limit for part of the year.
Within the first seven miles, from the confluence of Elk Creek down to the start of the Catch and Release project, from the opening day of trout season through Labor Day, anglers can keep two trout between seven and 12 inches. The remainder of the year all trout must be released. There is no tackle restriction here — all trout-fishing methods permitted statewide are allowed.
The Catch and Release, Artificial Lures Only project water starts approximately 650 yards downstream of Swift Run and continues for 3.65 miles downstream to approximately 550 yards downstream of Cherry Run. All trout caught within these parameters must be released. Both fly and spinning gear is permitted, with only artificial lures/flies allowed.
Centre County's Spring Creek provides excellent late spring/early summer trout fishing.
Nearly all of Spring Creek is managed by way of some type of special regulation. This helps keep its abundant population of wild brown trout intact.
Over 16 miles falls under Catch and Release/All Tackle regulations. There is also a Catch and Release/Fly Fishing Only project near the state Bellefonte Hatchery.
"Sulphurs are the big hatch during the early part of the summer on Spring Creek," said Rick Nyles. "During cloudy days, Spring can fish well throughout the day. But if it's clear out, the better action will be early and late in the day."
Spring Creek also experiences a Light Cahill hatch now, as well as a variety of caddis. It's a productive limestone stream, with its share of weed growth, so expect to be cleaning moss off your nymphs if you choose to fish close to the bottom.
"A black ant can be a good search pattern, during the summer, at times when not much is happening on top," noted Nyles. "Also, skittering a big fly across the surface, like a Stimulator, can get their attention."
Spring Creek's Catch and Release/Fly Fishing Only project is located near the state Bellefonte Fish Hatchery. It extends from the hatchery upstream 1.3 miles, and includes the fabled Fisherman's Paradise water, one of the first special regulations trout waters in the nation. No wading is permitted in the lower end of the project. The boundary is clearly marked along the trail that leads upstream. The project water ends at the Stackhouse School Pistol Range.
The trail leading upstream of the Bellefonte hatchery leads to the state's Benner Springs facility. Spring Creek can be accessed from that location as well. It's about 3 miles from one access to the other, an area commonly referred to as the "canyon section." As in Penns Creek, Spring Creek has no shortage of trout, so hiking back is not necessary simply to find fish.
Access to Spring Creek is good from the Bellefonte hatchery down to the town of the same name. Numerous turnouts are found along Spring Creek Road. A portion of Spring Creek within the town of Bellefonte, the Exhibition Area, is closed to fishing. Anglers can also get to Spring Creek between Bellefonte and Milesburg, where it joins with Bald Eagle Creek. Later in the summer the lower end of Spring Creek, from Bellefonte to the mouth, can be especially productive, as fish move into this section due to the cooling influence of Logan Run, which joins the larger creek in Bellefonte.
Apart from the C&R Fly Fishing Only project, and the Exhibition Area, Catch and Release All Tackle regulation apply to 16.22 miles of Spring Creek, from the Boalsburg Bridge down to the mouth. All legal methods of fishing are permitted, but all trout must be released.
The Allegheny National Forest contains a wealth of trout streams, from large well-stocked ones like those of Tionesta and its three branches, to tiny headwaters streams that support native brook trout. It also has medium-sized mountain streams, ones well stocked with trout, that flow through heavily forested surroundings. Salmon Creek falls into the latter category.
A tributary of Tionesta Creek, Salmon Creek's origins include a layover at Beaver Meadow Lake, a small impoundment in the national forest that has a campground and day-use area.
A few miles below the lake Salmon Creek gains size as it slips into a steep, forested valley, picking up numerous feeder streams along the way. A Forest Service road, Salmon Creek Road, parallels and in places, hugs the stream, while in others the road is several hundred feet above the creek. As such, the Salmon Creek angler can choose between easy-to-get-to spots, or venture back into areas where it's unlikely he or she will see any other anglers.
Around 8 miles of Salmon Creek flow along Salmon Creek Road, from the place where the road crosses it, so where it joins Tionesta Creek at Kelletville. Just prior to this merger another good-sized stream, The Branch, flows into Salmon.
Though Salmon Creek tends to stay cold, it doesn't support wild trout (though many of its feeder streams, such as Four Mile Run, do). It does benefit from a late spring stocking of brook and brown trout, however, which this year is slated for May 23. This is in addition to two previous stocking in April.
Salmon Creek averages 20 to 30 feet wide. It has a nice pool-to-riffle ratio. Some of the deeper pools attain depths of 4 to 5 feet. Expect to find some instream laydown trees, victims of bankside erosion, that provide trout cover. There's plenty of room for fly casting, though many of the folks that visit the stream prefer ultralight spinning gear, which is ideal for the log-jam areas. The water in the creek tends to clear quickly after spring rains.
Primitive camping is permitted in much of Allegheny National Forest, including the Salmon Creek valley. It's an ideal place to combine camping with an early summer trout trip. Salmon Creek has no special regulations. It's a put-and-take stream, so harvest this time of year is encouraged.
Salmon Creek can be access from its upper end by turning west on Guitonville Road, off state route 66, just south of Marienville. Turn north off Guitonville Road, on to Salmon Creek Road. From the lower end of Salmon Creek, pick up The Branch Road from State Route 666 near Kelletville, then turn south onto Salmon Creek Road.
Like many trout streams in the state, Buffalo Creek in Butler and Armstrong counties represents the kind of stream that provides good springtime action, sport that often extends into the summer, especially if flows remain at least moderate.
A tributary of the Allegheny River, Buffalo's best habitat is found within the nearly 4 miles that make up its Delayed Harvest/Artificial Lures Only project.
Much work has been done over the year by the Arrowhead Chapter of Trout Unlimited to improve the conditions within this stretch, including stream stabilization and current deflectors.
Stocked by both the state and the TU Chapter's cooperative nursery, Buffalo Creek receives plenty of trout, especially within the special regulations water, which flow from Little Buffalo Run down to a half mile above Craigsville. If conditions and personnel permit, it's float stocked in areas away from the road.
Buffalo Creek has a fair population of insect life, including mayflies, though it's not uncommon for hatches to be sparse, and they may not be enough to really get the trout feeding on top. All-purpose nymphs such as Pheasant Tails work well. Since many of the trout are rainbows, don't visit the stream without a collection of egg patterns like a Blood Dot or Glo Bug. If the water's roiled from recent rain — and it does discolor quickly — streamers and Woolly Buggers produce well. Spin anglers will fare well with small spinners and spoons, particularly when the water is up and dingy.
The lower end of the project water is paralleled by Bottom Creek Road, though the stream is down in a somewhat secluded valley. Nicola Bridge crosses the creek upstream. Fenelton Road runs along it for a mile or so above Nichola Bridge, with numerous turnouts. Another bridge crossing is located at Morrow Road, with the best water being at the bridge pool and above it.
Anglers can use fly or spin tackle, teamed with artificial lures and flies, on DHALO projects. No trout can be kept until June 15. From June 15 through Labor Day three trout, of a nine-inch minimum, can be creeled. Transue's Tackle, in nearby West Kittanning, can provide tackle and current information for fishing Buffalo Creek.