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.