I doubt that many of you will be traveling to and fishing the Smokies to fish this month although I
hope you do.  January and the first part of February is probably the coldest time of the year and
you will have to pick out the better days to expect much success fishing the freestone streams.
By the end of February, everyone will be doing their best to force the bugs to hatch and the trout to
respond even though they will probably have to wait a few more days to see any surface action.
That considered, I thought I would write about some fishing trips we have made to various other
destinations. Don't expect these articles to win any awards, just tell you about some things I
hope you will find interesting and a few that I look back on with a gleam in my eye.

Fly Fishing Penn's Creek, Pennsylvania - Part 2

I've already mentioned the large amount of food available for the trout in Penn's
Creek. I will elaborate and put it like this. Penn's Creek has as large of a variety of
aquatic insects as any trout stream we have fished and that is most all of the trout
streams in the United States. Other than the higher PH level and good water
chemistry, I think the main reason for this is the diversity of the stream flows and the
composition of the substrate and surrounding terrain. You would think spring
creeks wouldn't have many stoneflies but Penn's Creek does. Usually where you
have a large amount of burrower mayflies (the big drakes) that prefer slow moving
water with soft bottoms, you don't have a large number of clinger mayflies that
prefer fast water and a rock or gravel substrate but Penn's Creek is an exception to
that. To put it simple, it is an aquatic insect hatchery.

The significance of this is that the large amount of the many different types of food
available for the trout makes selecting a fly tough for the angler. Multiple hatches
are very common. For two or three months during the prime seasons multiple
hatches are almost always occurring. In addition to the aquatic insects there are a
lot of crustaceans, sculpin, terrestrial insects and other food available for the trout.
Matching the hatch is difficult. In fact, you may be trying to match the hatch when
the trout are feeding on something that isn't hatching or in the case of non-insects,
something that don't hatch. In my opinion, this is the thing about Penn's Creek that
occasionally drives anglers nuts - including yours truly. It is also one of the things
that makes Penn's Creek the fine trout stream it is. It often offers a tough challenge
but if you are able to figure it out, you can catch a lot of nice trout. If you don't think
that is the type of fly fishing that suits you, then I suggest you fish a heavily stocked
stream. Catching the wild trout in Penn's Creek on a consistent basis is a tough
challenge for the best anglers there are. I've already mentioned that during the
huge Green Drake hatch, the trout can still be difficult to catch at times. They often
can be caught during the hatch on imitations of other aquatic insects.

There is another factor involved with fishing Penn's Creek that is built-in. The trout
are wild brown trout. They can be tough to catch consistently - period. They prefer
to feed in low light conditions. In fact, the best times to catch them during the Green
Drake hatch is at night during and after the spinners fall. From the time the sun has
set up until 10:00 to 12:00 P. M. is the best time to fish the hatch. Trying to catch
the larger brown trout on a dry fly is tough anywhere. However, I will say that your
odds of catching them on the surface at Penn's Creek is as good or better than
most streams that have large brown trout. The larger browns rarely feed on the
surface in most trout streams.

It is fun to fish the Green Drake hatch, but if you are only interested in catching fish,
then there are plenty of other times during the year that you can do that. It is
amazing to me that almost any time other than during the Green Drake hatch the
stream is only lightly fished. I guess that is because the locals have so many
choices as to where to fish. During the Green Drake hatch you may hook another
angler's hat if your are not careful.

I won't be writing a separate article on Elk Creek a tributary of Penn's Creek, but I
certainly don't want to leave it out. It flows into Penn's Creek at Colburn. You can
fish the stream from that point upstream. It is a beautiful small, clear spring creek
that has a large number of wild trout in it. Angie and I enjoy fishing it and usually
spend some time there as well as Penn's Creek. It flows through private property in
many cases but there are plenty of places you can access the creek. We fished it
one day right in the middle of the Green Drake hatch. I guess no one thought about
the fact it has a hatch of the big mayflies. I think we caught as many trout there as
anyone did on the big stream.

I am not going to get into the details of the hatches on Penn's Creek like I normally
do. Just consider that if it hatches in the Eastern United States it is most likely there.
Seriously, it does contain most of the Eastern species of mayflies. We are working
on a hatch chart for Penn's Creek for our
"Perfect Fly" website. By the way, we now
have over
twenty hatch charts completed so far and will be posting one on Penn's
Creek very soon.

We have visited Penn's Creek many times and during several different years.
There have been days we have caught only a few trout. I haven't been skunked yet
but I have come close to it. We have caught some very nice trout and at times, a lot
of them. I remember Angie hit a hot streak one afternoon that lasted until dark. The
last video I shot of her catching a fish was after it was completely dark and was not
very good of course. She caught about 12-15 in that short period of time, all of
which were over 12 inches with a couple measuring 16 inches. I have yet to top
that. That was a lot of fish, all of which came from two different runs that led into
large pools. The trout were feeding from the top of the runs to the very end of
them. If we didn't spot them taking a fly from the surface, we heard them.

A few Green Drakes were hatching  when we first started about 4 or 5:00 PM  that
afternoon but she caught the trout on a hook size 14, March Brown spinner. We
had captured some of March Brown duns in our insect net the day before (along
with about ten other mayfly species) and had carried them back to our motel room.
We shot video of them the following morning after they changed into spinners
during the night. They were smaller than most March Brown mayflies. They were
very difficult to see on the water in the low light conditions and I didn't have a
chance to check it out with a skim net because I was running the camera and she
was catching one trout after another. I am sure it was spinners the trout were
feeding on but it was not the large Green Drake spinners for sure.

Penn's Creek is a very fine trout stream. If you get the chance to fish central
Pennsylvania, I suggest you include Penn's Creek. There are more streams to
cover in the area and we will continue with them tomorrow.  

Copyright 2008 James Marsh