Tag: Penns Creek

A recent Trout Unlimited article posed a question like, which lower 48 state has the most miles of trout streams? Montana?  California?…. nope, Pennsylvania!  We have to admit, when we first read the Trout Unlimited’s Guide to America’s Greatest 100 Trout Streams and saw that PA had the most trout streams of any state listed, we were surprised.  We’d traveled to Philly and Pittsburg, but, never to anywhere in PA that was trout country.  When we finally started fishing our way through the state, we were amazed.

Our first stop in PA was near Carlisle (PA) on the LeTort Spring Run.  The LeTort is a famous trout stream rich in history.  It’s also apparently not the trout stream it once was and fishing was very hard.  In fact, we spent an entire day and never even saw a fish.  They were all embedded deep in the cress beds that line the bottom of the stream, happily eating the cress bugs that live in the beds.  Nothing was rising…. nothing was venturing out of the cress beds…. so, no fish on this stop.  BUT…. our guide, Jake Villwock, self confessed Spring Creek Junkie, called us a few days later and said “come back!  I’ve found a spot to fish!”.  Unfortunately, we’d already traveled up into Connecticut.  However, we had to come back to the LeTort, since it was the ONLY river we’d not caught fish on.  So, we came back in 2017, fished with Jake and caught our LeTort trout.  As tough as the LeTort was, we also fished Yellow Breeches and Big Spring several times, finding many more trout than the LeTort shared with us.  Not to be missed in this area was the Boiling Springs Tavern, our favorite spot for a post-fishing beer or hanging out with Appalachian Trail hikers.

After our initial 2016 swing through Carlisle, we went to Connecticut and then New York before heading back into PA.  Our next stop was in Slate Run (PA) to fish Cedar Run and Slate Run.  This stop became one of our Ramble favorites of our entire trip.  We had the pleasure of meeting Tom and Deb Finkbiner, owners of Wolfe’s General Store/Slate Run Tackle Shop, who befriended us and showed us such incredible hospitality.  We also were blessed to fish with Julie Szur and Brookie (her beautiful dog) who showed us “Run & Creek Fun“.  In addition to fishing for gorgeous native brookies in the two Runs, we fished Pine Creek, which is a gem of a fishery due to the efforts of the Brown Trout Club, headed by Tom.

From Slate Run, we drove down out of the Pine Creek valley, and up the next valley over to Kettle Creek.  We didn’t find a guide for Kettle Creek, but a local fly shop was enough help in putting us on fish in several locations around the area.  We stayed in the local state park which was right on Kettle Creek.  We ventured to several different tributaries of Kettle Creek with great success as well.  When we needed a bit of local flavor, we went into Cross Fork to Debs Cross Fork Inn for wings and beer.  Awesome!

Then came our time in and around State College (PA), home of Penn State University.  Montana State U calls itself “Trout U”, but I think Penn State has the right to use that moniker as well.  There are trout streams in every direction and we tried to fish them all.  We found ourselves on Spring Creek, Fishing Creek, Spruce Creek, Penns Creek and the Little Juniata…. and those were just the TU Top 100 streams!  We also discovered several other fisheries that were equally deserving of Top 100 status nearby.  Our guides along our State College area journey were Lance Wilt, JD Vera and Andy Wagner who were great.  Andy was a gem taking us to visit The Shanty along Penns Creek and then to “Disneyland”, better known as Spruce Creek.  We sampled Otto’s burgers, PSU ice cream (a must), Spruce Creek Tavern fries and many other spots here.

Our final TU Top 100 stop in PA was near Scranton to fish the Lackawanna River.  This is truly an “Urban Oasis” fishery as it flows through Scranton and its suburbs.  We fished the river in town, but you’d never know it, as you are surrounded by high banks on both sides and a beautiful tree lined river.  If you pop up over the high banks, you might find a restaurant, a lumberyard or anything.  We simply spent our time walking up river back to where we parked our cars.  After fishing the Lackawanna, our guide Adam, recommended we head to Smilers for lunch and he was spot on with the recommendation.  Great little neighborhood bar and grill in Dickson City (PA).  Oh, and if you stop by A&G Outfitters (Adam’s shop), make sure to say “hi” to Fly Dog Lucy!

We hope you enjoy the music video above of our time in the Keystone State.  We were surprised, amazed, humbled, and blown away by the fisheries and the people we met there.  If you haven’t fished in PA before, we highly recommend it.  On our Ramble, we were blessed to spend a full month in PA fishing its streams, enjoying its beauty, sampling its food and drink and meeting its gracious people.  We promise we’re coming back again…. and again.

We’ve been blessed this entire trip in meeting and being befriended by so many people…. From Jimmy and Kathy Harris and Ron Thomas in Helen, GA to Tom and Deb Finkbiner in Slate Run, PA…  to all our guides we’ve enjoyed and who’ve taught us so much about fishing and the incredible places where their local trout live…  to the musicians who’ve shared their songs and stories with us…   all of the fly shops and their staffs who’ve put us on the flies and fishing spots for fun and successful fishing.  While you might think our journey is about fishing the TU Top 100 Trout Streams, it really isn’t.  As Andy Wagner, our guide on Spruce and Penns Creek says, “fishing is just an excuse”… an excuse to get together with old friends, make new friends, break bread together and be a part of a community of people who share your same “excuse”.   This has been our biggest “aha” moment of the trip and it was really brought home when Andy took us on a side trip at Penns Creek.

There are many fishing, hunting and “sportsmen’s” camps dotted along the streams we’ve fished in Pennsylvania.  After we’d spent the morning on Penns Creek, Andy took us to one of these camps which is known as “The Shanty”.   Imagine a small, one room cottage with no electricity, no running water, no phone and the nearest road is at least 1/4 mile away.   Inside is a wood stove, a sink, two sets of bunk beds, a sofa, a few chairs, a propane stove, a kitchen table, several kerosene lamps, some books and other items.  Food, supplies, water (beer), propane, wood, etc… all have to be brought in via lawn cart along a path left by the railroads that runs along Penns Creek.   That is the “physical” characteristics of “The Shanty”.   But kind of like “its not about the fish”, its really not about the physical characteristics of this camp.  Its about the people who built it and the people who now occupy and care for it and its history.

Thanks to Andy, we were honored to have met one of those people, Jeff Zim, a retired teacher and school principal.  Jeff shared the history of The Shanty from when it was originally built to its current set of characters who inhabit it.  The real history of the camp is in the hearts and minds of the people who’ve been fortunate enough to have stayed there, shared a drink and a cigar on the porch and fished with Jeff and the “Shanty Posse”.  It’s in the stories experienced and shared.  Barb and I were privileged to have spent a while sitting with Jeff and hearing some of those stories.  Most of them didn’t involve fishing at all, but the characters who share our community “excuse” of fly fishing.

Many of Jeff’s stories included one of his primary “posse” members, Bob Ranck.  We laughed so hard at some of the stories centered around “Ranck”.  What seemed to emerge from all the stories was that Bob got it more than the rest of us, meaning he really knew and lived the saying  “it’s not about the fish”.   From all the stories it was clear, “Ranck” was a character.  I wish we’d have had a chance to meet him as well and he could have been there to share his side of the stories being told.  They were priceless!

Places like this, and more importantly, people like this are so very special.  Barb and I want to thank Andy for bringing us up to The Shanty and introducing us to Jeff.  HUGE thank you to Jeff for opening his heart and his stories to us.  It meant the world to us both.  And even though he wasn’t there in person, he seemed to be there with us in spirit… a special thank you to Bob Ranck for creating this incredible place and keeping a warm and welcoming front porch for passers by to become friends.


Our final river to fish in PA this year was Spruce Creek.  We had the incredible pleasure of fishing it with Andy Wagner of Livin on the Fly.  The day before we fished Spruce Creek, we took a very special trip to Penns Creek with Andy.   He promised if we worked hard fishing Penns he’d take us to “Disneyland” (his name for Spruce Creek).  He spoke of big fish, easy wading and spectacular scenery.  He wasn’t kidding!!!

He forewarned us that when the Spruce Creek fish hit, we’d have to be ready for a fight, but to fight back.  In my first few casts, an over 20″ brown took my fly and the fight was on.  I lost.   In a few more casts, a 20″ rainbow hit and schooled me.  Slow learner?  Perhaps…. but not Barb.  Soon she was landing a gorgeous 21″ brown that she fought hard and long.  It just continued from there…. Disneyland for sure.

In his interview, Andy talks about Spruce Creek as a fishery and how its become this amazing fishing stream.  He also discusses why his “local” water, Penns Creek, is so very special.  Andy is a guide who not only knows his fishing tools and techniques, but more importantly, is intimately connected to the places and people where he guides and fishes.  Being able to not only fish these beautiful trout streams, but to “see” them through his eyes and mind, made fishing with Andy incredibly special.  If you come to central PA, make sure to grab Andy for a trip to Disneyland, Penns Creek and all the local waters.  In the meantime, enjoy our interview with Andy from the banks of Spruce Creek.

We had the pleasure of fishing with the founder and owner of Outcast Anglers, Lance Wilt along with JD Vera who is working with Lance this spring.  JD runs a guiding operation in the Central Patagonia region of Chile.  We fished three different “creeks” in the State College PA area with them:  Spring Creek, Fishing Creek and Penns Creek.   We had a blast and caught fish each day, including a few big ones!  Please enjoy Part 1 of their interview in which you learn about how they got into fly fishing in the first place.  Both are very interesting stories… one from a very local perspective and one that spans from Patagonia to Minnesota.  Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 coming soon!