Pre-Spawn Wild Brook Trout in Bald Eagle State Forest

Each year during the months of September and October, Pennsylvania’s wild brook trout begin spawning. The start of the spawn is different in every stream and is typically touched off by a change in water temperature. During the spawn, the male brook trout begin to change color. The orange on their fins and bellies becomes vibrant as they prepare to join females on redds. There is a lot of controversy around whether or not it is ethical to fish for brook trout while they are spawning. Some folks feel that fishing has little to no impact, as long as careful catch and release is practiced. Others believe that it is the worst thing a fisherman could take part in and avoid fishing entirely.

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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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