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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Ice Water, Private Property & The Little Juniata River Railway

On Saturday morning I found myself up before first light driving toward Cambria County, Pennsylvania to fly fish Chest Creek for the first time. It took just over three hours to make it to the small town of Patton. As my GPS signaled I was getting closer to my final destination, I noticed the amount of snow on the ground was more than what I’d encountered just south along Rt. 22 near Gallitzin. The evening before when I’d researched Chest Creek, it hadn’t occurred to me that the overnight temperatures in Cambria County had been consistently low enough that creeks might freeze over. Sure enough, as I descended a long road down toward the creek, I could see that Chest Creek was frozen. I arrived at a bridge and got out to look at the water. Ice on both banks of the creek had reduced Chest Creek to a small channel of water that winded its way through snow-covered ice downstream. From what I could see, some areas upstream were entirely frozen over. I pulled my truck into a snow covered parking spot and decided I’d hike upstream to see if by some stroke of luck I might find open water that no one knew about. After pulling on my waders and rigging up my fly rod I slid down to the creek bank in the snow and tried drifting a double nymph rig in the small channel that cut through the ice. No luck. I figured the trout were tucked under the ice in deep pockets of water.

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