Keystone Select Waters, White Clay Creek

The White Clay Creek has been on my list of eastern Pennsylvania waters to fish for almost a year. Specifically, the Middle Branch White Clay Creek held my attention, as it was one of the first streams in the state to receive the Keystone Select trout stocking designation. When I’d read about this, I was excited to go there and never made it. Finally this past Saturday I decided that rain or shine, I was going to fish the Middle Branch White Clay. On Friday night I did some brief Internet research on the water and it was a bit confusing at first. There are actually three branches of the White Clay Creek, the East, Middle, and West Branches, and they all eventually merge into the Main Stem as the creek flows into the state of Delaware. The Keystone Select portion of the White Clay lies within the Catch & Release Artificial Lures Only section, which starts at the Good Hope Road Bridge and meanders one and a half miles southeast to the confluence with the main stem.

I decided to fish the White Clay on Sunday morning and got on the road to Chester County around 9:00am. When I arrived at the Good Hope Road Bridge, I saw two vehicles parked before the bridge and just off the road. Later I’d come to find that there is actually a good sized parking lot on the other side of the bridge up the road a bit that is much easier to access and a less muddy place to park. I’d read online that the Keystone Select water had been stocked within the first couple of weeks of March. I figured these hatchery fish were probably still going to be chasing bright flies. I tied up a 9’-6X leader on my Winston and used 6X fluorocarbon tippet to my first fly. I’m hesitant to go with 6X in these Keystone Select waters because in the event you do hook up with a bruiser, 6X may not get the job done. But I erred on catching more fish and used a #14 Flashback Rubber Legged Pheasant Tail Nymph for my top fly and a #18 Psycho Prince Nymph for my bottom fly.

 A beautiful clear run on Middle Branch White Clay Creek.

A beautiful clear run on Middle Branch White Clay Creek.

When I got to the water, I was surprised by how clear it was, and by the number of rocks in the stream. The White Clay is a classic freestone stream but on Sunday morning looked spring like. In the first 25 yards of water I didn’t see any fish. I looked downstream and saw three fishermen stacked on top of each other casting into a deep pool. I figured they were sight fishing to some trout. I walked down to some shallower riffle water that led into the deep pool and I was able to hook up with my first Middle Branch White Clay Creek trout, a small brown trout.

 My first ever White Clay Creek trout.

My first ever White Clay Creek trout.

 A view of one of the slower pools on the creek.

A view of one of the slower pools on the creek.

As I moved downstream and got beyond the pool with all of the guys, the stream flowed into some beautiful and complex runs and deeper pools. As I walked around the bend, I came upon a pool that I could see at least a half-dozen trout sitting in. I worked my line and indicator through this pool until I found the right lane. And then wham, I hooked up with several fish in this holding pool. It was good fun; a couple of these fish are shown in the video above. While I was releasing my third fish, an older fellow and his son stopped to look at the fish and chat. He explained that downstream 100 yards, he and his son had found an amazing trout hole that held a very large rainbow trout. Rather than rush down there, I was took my time nymphing the next 100 yards of stream. I did see a couple of very nice rainbow trout holding in a couple of the riffles.

 One of the rainbows I caught with my Psycho Prince Nymph hanging off of his lip.

One of the rainbows I caught with my Psycho Prince Nymph hanging off of his lip.

 Another state stocked White Clay rainbow trout.

Another state stocked White Clay rainbow trout.

When I got down to the hole the folks had talked to me about, sure enough, I could see a bunch of trout sitting in the slack water, and there was one trophy rainbow cruising about. I worked this hole until around lunchtime and was able to hook-up and land quite a few fish. At one point I did hook up with the trophy rainbow. I fought him for 3 minutes on my 6X tippet, but it was simply no match for the headshaking power of that rainbow trout. After another fisherman moved in above me, I decided I keep walking downstream. The next bridge the crosses the Catch & Release water is the London Tract Road Bridge. This is about the halfway point on the special regulations water. I walked down to the bridge and I didn’t see many fish on my walk. Just after the bridge however, there are several large pools, riffles, and runs that hold quote a few fish. In one of these riffles I hooked an additional three rainbow trout. I ended up walking all the way to the low-head dam warning signs. Just above the dam is a deep hole with large logs crisscrossing the bottom. When I got there, three guys were fishing intently. I walked up to get a closer look and I could see that there were large trout hiding down under the logs. I fished this lower section until the mid-afternoon and then walked back up to the London Tract Road Bridge. When I arrived back up there, a game warden was standing on the bridge with binoculars checking licenses. I chatted with him briefly.

Just below the bridge there is a large flat pool of water. There were two younger guys fly fishing and one of them explained to me that the trout in the hole were rising to dry flies and that they’d caught a couple on an Elk Hair Caddis pattern. As they moved on to their next spot, I looked at what dry flies I’d brought and there weren’t many. I only had a very small number of dry flies with me and none of them were caddis patterns, only large mayfly imitations.

 The first brown trout I caught on a CDC March Brown Mayfly pattern.

The first brown trout I caught on a CDC March Brown Mayfly pattern.

I decided to give it a shot anyways and was able to hook and land two beautiful fish, both brown trout, on a CDC March Brown dry fly. By late afternoon, the temperature had really dropped and my truck was the only truck parked up on the road. After missing a couple of early season risers on the dry, I was content with catching two and decided to call it a day. I enjoyed fishing the White Clay Creek and I’d like to get back there after the next stocking.

 Brown trout on mayflies in March, awesome!

Brown trout on mayflies in March, awesome!