Allegheny National Forest & The Back-Up Brookie Stream

The rain continued this week. After flooding last week, the streams of central and eastern Pennsylvania desperately needed a break. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. Going into Friday I knew it was going to be impossible to find anywhere that was fishing well for the weekend. I studied the storms as they moved across the state and I noticed that a majority of the weather systems were moving south of the Allegheny National Forest. This giant green area on Google Maps has been in my travel plans for a long time. Deciding to go there this weekend ended up being less about a choice and more about necessity. And so Friday evening I decided I’d chase wild brook trout on Saturday. The big question was where. I wanted to stay as far south as I could to limit driving time. I focused on State Game Lands 44 and 54, which are located in Jefferson and Elk Counties. The brook trout streams in this area are tributaries to the Little Toby Creek. The southern most tributary that is surveyed for wild trout is Jenkins Run. I decided I’d head here first but then found a back-up stream further north called Vineyard Run. This stream was rated Class A and was easily accessible off of 7thAvenue. I headed off to bed early and set my alarm for 3:30AM.

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Brothers In Trout & Savage River Tributaries

One of my favorite things about writing the Wooly Bugged blog is the people it’s brought me in touch with. I’ve met some genuinely good human beings that I hope to keep friendships with for a long time. Earlier in the spring of this year a fellow by the name of Matt Willison reached out to me on Instagram and told me I needed to come down and see the Savage River in western Maryland. One of Matt’s close friends, Brad Burbas, eventually reached out to me as well and we all struck up a new friendship through social media. I specifically remember one weekend where I’d traveled to western Pennsylvania and fished the Casselman River down into Maryland. Brad saw me post some pictures and asked when I’d be down to meet my “brothers in trout.” As things often go, my paths went other directions in the spring and early summer and I never got down to fish the Savage River or its tributaries. 

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Centre County’s Class A Wild Brook Trout

I think I can officially say that I’ve caught the “brookie bug.” It happened more quickly than I expected. I’ve now been on five adventures across Pennsylvania chasing these colorful native fish and I still haven’t had enough. On Saturday I focused my sights on a familiar area, Centre County, Pennsylvania. I was student at Penn State’s Main Campus around the turn of the millennium. This is around the time I first picked up a fly rod. During this time, the iPhone didn’t exist yet and Pennsylvania Wild Trout lists were not available in seconds via a PDF in Google. This was a simpler time where I was happy to get out on the Little J or Penns Creek for a few hours with a college friend and hope to catch anything on a dry fly. Who knew there were so many brookies in streams just a few miles from campus.

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Blue-Line Brook Trout in Sullivan County, Pennsylvania

For several months now subscribers to my blog and YouTube channel have been asking me to do more wild trout fishing. A week ago I decided to give everyone what they’ve been asking for, a series of content focused on wild trout in Pennsylvania. One thing is for sure, the Keystone State is not lacking for opportunities to catch wild trout. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission maintains an annual list of wild trout waters where natural reproduction is occurring. You can find this list by quickly typing “PA Wild Trout Water List” in Google, and you’ll find a PDF that is kept updated by the agency. This list is over 100 pages long and each page has over 40 bodies of water listed. No matter how you slice it, that’s a lot of wild trout water. One thing that is important to note is that many of those streams are not public. You cannot find a stream on this list, locate its physical location and fish it. You’ll need to first determine that the stream is publicly accessible. If it is not and you are able to locate the owner, then you can ask for permission. I’ve taken this list and started to cross-reference it with maps of state game and forestland in an effort to find public access to wild trout water. This can be a painstaking process and as you’ll read later, just because water looks accessible on a map, does not mean it is easily accessible.

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