Kamloops Rainbows on Big Moores Run

Yesterday I continued my late spring fly fishing tour of Pennsylvania. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to fish a private stretch of water on Big Moores Run in Potter County, Pennsylvania. I was out of bed and on the road by 2:30am on Saturday morning and headed up Rt. 322. I enjoy driving early in the morning because it is quiet and there are no distractions. I typically listen to the Orvis Fly Guide Podcast Series when I have a long drive. Tom Rosenbauer is a wealth of knowledge and I’ve learned more than my share of tips and techniques from him and his guests. It was a trip down memory lane heading north as I drove the same route as I used to take with my father when we would go to my uncle’s deer hunting camp in Sproul State Forest when I was a teenager. I used to think Snowshoe was the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania, that is until I drove to Big Moores Run. This drive takes you along Wykoff Run and eventually along the First Fork Sinnemahoning Creek. I lost cell phone service just over 3 hours into the 4-hour trip. I arrived at Big Moores Run around 7:00am.

 A set of riffles on Big Moores Run.

A set of riffles on Big Moores Run.

I met up with Roy who owns the 700 acres that encompass a portion of Big Moores Run. He took me down and showed me the stream and explained how he had stocked it once a couple of decades ago with Kamloops Rainbows and brown trout and how over time they naturally reproduced in the stream. He explained that 40 years ago Big Moores Run and many of the other surrounding Pennsylvania mountain streams had such a large population of wild trout that catching 30 or 40 fish in a couple hours was common. But he said that in his years living there, the population is still decent, but it isn’t what it once was. This echoes the 2015 report from Trout Unlimited and the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture stating that 34% of brook trout in Pennsylvania have disappeared from historical watersheds. We have to protect what we have or it won’t be here for our children to enjoy.

 A wild Kamloops Rainbow from Big Moores Run.

A wild Kamloops Rainbow from Big Moores Run.

The setting at Big Moores Run is amazing. The stream probably never gets any wider than 20 feet and in some places is as narrow as 6 feet. The stream has some great mayfly and stonefly hatches. In early June the Grey Foxes, Slate Drakes, and Green Drakes are coming off. That’s a fly menu that will excite any fly fisherman. After saying goodbye to Roy, I got the waders on and rigged up my Winston, Boron IIX 9’-5wt. I used a 9-foot leader and 5X fluorocarbon tippet. I walked upstream and noticed grey fox nymph casings floating in the water. I tied on a Psycho Prince nymph and dropped a Grey Fox nymph about 15” off the hook bend. I first targeted a spot where there was a nice deep run that cut under the bank on the far side of the creek. I cast my line to the head of the current seam at the start of the bank cut. I watched my line come through the drift and then I saw a big silver flash and I set the hook. I saw a big rainbow come up off the bottom and start shaking its head. As this fish started pulling on my line all I could think about was how aggressive and strong the Kamloops Rainbow breed is. Incredible. As I was fighting this fish, I saw that it took my first fly, the Psycho Prince and then suddenly further down the bank I watched another large trout dart out and grab the Grey Fox dropper. For a few seconds I had two trout that were in the 16-18” range on my 5X tippet fighting like crazy. I caught this on GoPro and you can watch it in the YouTube video that accompanies this post here.

Through the morning I methodically worked my way upstream through each riffle, run, and pool. I was amazed at the number of wild young Kamloops Rainbow, brown, and brook trout in the stream. I drifted nymphs and dry flies and caught dozens of these next generation trout. Like one would expect, a majority of the larger fish were in the deeper water. At one point I was fishing an area where Roy had installed some railroad tie deflectors on the opposite bank. The railroad ties created good water disturbance and also made for a great place for fish to hide. In my first drift through I had a large rainbow take my line and I fought this fish for 10 minutes in a section of creek that wasn’t more than 8 feet across. The fish would run under the railroad ties to try and break my line. It was quite a battle trying to match wits with these trout, as they were smarter than your average hatchery fish. And while I’ve learned this lesson the hard way, when you are playing these large wild fish, you cannot “horse” them. If you want to land them, it is critical that you are patient, let the rod do the job, let them go on their runs, put side pressure on them and tire them out. If you try and muscle them into submission, they will break your line every time.

 The large wild brown trout I caught upstream.

The large wild brown trout I caught upstream.

In the afternoon I explored the upper reaches of Big Moores Run and finally caught my first brown trout. I was fishing a Caddis Fly nymph and put a cast in a pool that sat underneath a large tree stump. The minute my fly hit the water, two large brown trout swam up to the surface aggressively searching for what made a splash. I cast a second time and put a dead drift through the pool. Wham, one of the brown trout crushed my nymph and a several minute fight ensued. This wild brown trout was in the 20” range and had beautiful markings down its sides. On my trip upstream I also hooked into some large Kamloops Rainbows that were acrobatic. I hooked one fish below a small waterfall that must’ve jumped a foot or two out of the water on several occasions.

It ended up being an incredible day of fishing. I lost count of how many fish I caught. I left the stream around 7:00pm to get home at a reasonable hour. I didn’t see any Slate or Green Drakes while I was on the water, but I did see some pockets of Grey Foxes hatching. There were also some large Stonefly casings in the water throughout the day. One other highlight of the day was seeing a large male elk that had the very beginnings of his autumn horns. I said hello and snapped a couple of pictures. If I had to do over, I might have fished this stream with a shorter rod. The problem is that you need a rod with more backbone to handle the harder fighting fish so I guess it’s a trade off. I can’t wait to get back to northern Pennsylvania to explore other trout streams.