Serendipity & West Virginia’s Elkhorn Creek

Last January while fly fishing the Monocacy Creek, I reached down to scoop a wild brown trout from the water with my net and simultaneously watched my wading stick fall from my hands into the rushing water. It floated downstream ten yards before slowly disappearing under the water. I spent fifteen minutes looking for my lost wading stick before giving up and chalking it up to the third one I’d lost in the past six months. I could’ve never known that losing that wading stick would lead me to fly fishing one of the most unique streams I’ve ever had the chance to fish, the Elkhorn Creek in West Virginia.

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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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Mysteries & The Wild Brown Trout of The Codorus Creek

After spending a lot of time indoors over the Thanksgiving holiday, I was itching to get out and wet a line on some local trout water in southeastern Pennsylvania. I knew I’d have most of the day Saturday to fly fish, so rather than make a long trek out of town, I decided to fish a stream that had been on my list of waters to revisit. The Codorus Creek is a freestone tailwater of Lake Marburg in York County, Pennsylvania. The state classifies this body of water as a Class ‘A’ Wild Trout Stream. I first ran across the Codorus Creek back in July of this year when I was out fishing the East Branch of the Codorus Creek. I’d fished a majority of the accessible water on the East Branch and was looking for another creek. The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission online app mentioned the stream so with limited time I decided to stop by and take a look. When I first laid eyes on the creek, I was struck by how good the water depth was. I was equally surprised by how cool the water temperatures were in the middle of the summer. I fished the stream for maybe an hour that afternoon but never brought a fish to hand. The place intrigued me and I swore I’d be back and so Saturday was the day I’d go back.

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Penns Creek & The Things They’d Never Believe

I had a small window of time to fish on Saturday, maybe a half-day. I didn’t have time during the week to spool my smallmouth reel with new line so I decided I’d stick with targeting trout. There were heavy rains on Wednesday but the USGS webpages were showing that many of the streams in central Pennsylvania would be at optimal late summer flows through the weekend. I decided that I was up for a challenge and early Saturday morning I was driving in the dark on my way up 322 towards Centre County to fish Penns Creek (“Penns”). If you’ve read this blog since the beginning you’ll know that Penns has always been a thorn in my side. Our history goes back almost 20 years. I think the fact that Penns is a stream that has never given me large numbers of fish is what keeps me coming back. It has a mysterious side to it and as I’ve always described it, this “Jekyll and Hyde” body of water has a way of humbling a fly fisherman. When it is kind, the rewards can really be something.

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