Low Water & Wild Trout on Cumberland Valley Creeks

Christmas weekend 2016 just wrapped up and the air temperatures have been relatively mild for late December. Highs reached the mid 40s on Saturday and Sunday and they’re supposed to get as high as 50 degrees by this Wednesday. Today I decided to take a trip to Boiling Springs to fly fish the Yellow Breeches Creek (“the Breeches”). I arrived at the Iron Furnace parking lot at 10:30am and got rigged up. There was one guy fishing “the Run” and three other guys were walking back from the Breeches. Even from twenty yards away, it was apparent the Run was at a below average flow for this time of the year. When I’d driven by the Children’s Lake in town, I could see the water line around the perimeter was down considerably. After I was set to start fishing I headed straight to the Breeches and skipped the riffles on the Run. I started fishing just below where the Run dumps into the Breeches. I had a my 5wt Winston with me and I was fishing a #16 Beadhead Hare’s Ear nymph with a trailing #20 Black Midge nymph on 5X fluorocarbon tippet. The water levels were very low.

 Looking upstream on the Yellow Breeches Creek.

Looking upstream on the Yellow Breeches Creek.

I only needed to use one #6 Dinsmore split shot to get to the bottom. In fact, in many places you probably could’ve fished without a split shot. I worked every pocket of water that looked like it could hold fish, from the top set of riffles, all the way to the dam at the Allenbery Resort grounds. I didn’t have a single pause of my indicator. Part of the issue I believe was that the mild temps had a few guys out early on the water and that section of the Breeches gets hit hard. I may have been working through water that ten guys had already drifted nymphs through for the previous four hours. And again, the water was so low that the fish have limited places to be. I had stopped in at TCO Boiling Springs prior to heading out and Alex Kolivras had mentioned that he thought all the fish were laying in the slow deep water in the Allenbery section. I believe he’s probably right, or in the deep water below the Allenbery dam. Either way, a majority of the fish are not spread out well.

I finally had a chance to see the Allenbery property and the construction that’s going on. It appears they’ve refurbished several of the buildings and it also looks like they are reseeding the entire backside of the property. Regardless, there were no longer no trespassing signs showing. I worked my way downstream below the Allenbery dam. About seventy-five yards below the dam I caught the shimmer of a rainbow trout turning to take a nymph off of the creek bottom. I set up on the fish and put a couple of good drifts through the water he was in. I briefly hooked up on the midge and lifted him off the bottom only to have the hook come out.

 The Allenbery Resort property where it appears they are reseeding all of the grass.

The Allenbery Resort property where it appears they are reseeding all of the grass.

By lunchtime I was frustrated with the lack of action. I decided to head back up to the Run and give that a shot before moving locations. When I got back up to the Run I stopped to look below the bridge that sits across from the Iron Furnace. There were at least a half dozen decent sized rainbow trout sitting in the current. I worked my way to the side of the stream and tried to sneak some nymphs in the water quietly but the minute my line hit the water, they scattered. I’m sure these fish were cast to for most of the morning as well. I threw a few casts in the water above the bridge and I did end up hooking and landing what appeared to be a small wild brown trout on a #18 Yellow Egg pattern.

 The small wild brown trout I caught in the Run on an egg pattern.

The small wild brown trout I caught in the Run on an egg pattern.

After limited success I decided to eat a sandwich and drive over to Big Spring Creek (“Big Spring”) to finish my day. When I arrived at Big Spring I first stopped to take a look at “The Ditch.” I took the water temperature and it came in at 48 degrees. When I saw the creek bottom, it was thick with heavy vegetation. So thick, that the bottom wasn’t visible in many places. Rather than mess with getting stuck in that, I drove down to the next PA Fish & Boat Commission lot across from T351.

 Looking downstream on Big Spring Creek towards the PFBC parking lot, opposite T351.

Looking downstream on Big Spring Creek towards the PFBC parking lot, opposite T351.

There were two cars in the lot when I pulled in. One of the fishermen was walking down the road to leave; the other was just starting out. I rigged my line with a #16 Pink Scud with a #20 Black Midge behind it. I headed upstream and in the third riffle, I hooked up with a small wild rainbow that took the scud. As I moved upstream I came across a large school of brook trout. After observing them for a bit I realized they were spawning. There were quite a few there so I let them be and kept moving. I was unable to hook any additional fish upstream and decided to head downstream along Big Spring Road below the Hourglass Bridge. I fished a half dozen riffles and deflectors. I was unable to hook up with another fish but was successful in spooking a few. As the daylight was fading I moved down to one last riffle and put several drifts through. On my fourth drift I saw my indicator dart under the surface and I set the hook. I saw a beautiful colored good sized trout break the surface. I believe it was a brown trout. I fought him for a few seconds and thought for sure this would be my first sizable trout on Big Spring. Unfortunately he threw the hook after breaking the surface again. I stayed and fished until almost dark and left in time to still be able to see the road on my walk back to the parking lot. My truck was the last in the lot. I took off my waders, broke down my gear, and kept dreaming about landing that last fish. One of these days it will happen. Did I mention we desperately need water? Pray for rain, a long soaking rain.

 The small wild rainbow trout I caught on a Pink Scud.

The small wild rainbow trout I caught on a Pink Scud.