Pennsylvania Fly Fishing Blog
Published by Dave Kile [dkile
] on 09/20/2015 (11814 reads)
Fall fly fishing in the the region offers plenty of great opportunities. The cooler weather offers anglers some solitude of fly fishing while many are caught up with other fall activities. A little bit of preparation can be a rewarding opportunity for those who can make the time.
Reproduction plays an important part of the trout lifecycle during the fall months for both brook and brown trout. Brook trout, native to the US, usually begin to spawn during late September through October. Brown trout typically start spawning in October through late November. I have seen this go later too.
During the spawn coloring on the trout will intensify especially in the males. Females will often create gravel beds for the fertilized eggs called redds. It very important to be careful of these sections on streams when you see redds and not to kick them up when walking. Probably best even to leave trout overtop redds alone and give them a chance to protect the eggs.
Often the water in the fall is low and gin clear. Spotting trout on a redd is pretty easy to see as in the photo to the left. The trout will sit over top of a small group of rocks that they have knocked around and they often will have a little more cleaned up look as if someone kicked up the spot. Take a little time before marching into the stream to check on the conditions. Good advice for any day.
As the trout begin to change so does the entomology or insect life in the stream. Activity will be different from region to region, stream size, earlier summer water temperatures, and geology. The fall provides a more limited selection of insects and often anglers enjoy bringing a more modest selection of flies and imitations. Some of the more popular collections include: Slate Drakes, BWO, Caddis, midges and terrestrials. Typical nymphs and streamers are very successful smart choice as well.
I like Dave Weavers suggestions for even looking for rainbows behind the redds feeding on eggs. Some small simple egg patterns can produce some pretty good results for these rainbows. The most common color for natural trout eggs are cream, pale orange and pink.
The full and fast spring streams can take a new characteristic once September arrives. Low clear water can create a challenge for some anglers, but stealth and patience can provide many rewards.
With summer holder over trout and newly stocked trout in many streams there should be ample opportunity for solitude and fish in autumn. Check out the PaFlyFish forums and stream reports to learn more about what is happening in your area.
Published by David Weaver [Fishidiot
] on 09/01/2015 (926 reads)
In a recent stream report I indicated using a "stonecat" fly. For many PA FFers, this is an unusual pattern and not typically associated with trout fishing. Local river folks who fish bait for smallies, however, are very familiar with this critter.
The term "stonecat" is actually a misnomer and refers to a madtom found in western PA. The fish we have in the Susky/Potomac watershed is actually the marginated madtom. However, local folks have always called marginated madtoms "stonecats." Afishinado will tell you that locals in his home stomping grounds around Wilkes Barre call 'em "catties." They're a popular live bait.
Marginated madtoms are a shy, mysterious, largely nocturnal little catfish and many river anglers have never seen one. Bait fishermen often get them by seining weedy riffle areas at night or carefully feeling for them under rocks with their hands. Bass eat 'em like candy and, in my opinion, really key on the image of a stonecat. I love 'em, and stonecat flies are go-to patterns for summer bass for me, especially in clear water.
The fly I was using is one of a series of flies I've designed utilizing paint and craft felt. Like many of my personal patterns, it is realistic and detailed.
A much easier stonecat pattern would be tan or light brown sculpin wool for the head, a tan fur or chenille body, and a long tail of tan marabou. Tie a dumbbell weight Clouser style under the head so the fly swims hook upward and trim the head flat. Rubber band whiskers add a nice touch. The key, however, is to keep the fly very slender and very long.
Marginated madtoms are usually 2-5" in length and have a paddle like tail with a black edge; body is usually pinkish yellow on the ventral, light brown on the flanks, and olive over the back. You want a fly that swims with lots of motion and gets deep. I tie medium and very heavy versions.
The image above is an illustration I did of marginated madtoms based on a group of specimens I caught in central PA. Note the slender body, rounded tail that blends into the body like an eel, yellow fins, and square head with short whiskers.
You can follow the comments in the forum here on Stonecats.
Published by Dave Kile [dkile
] on 08/20/2015 (4658 reads)
A new stream mapping app has been just released by Gogal Publishing designed to help outdoor enthusiasts better enjoy our regional waterways. Streams Map USA for iPhone and iPad are apps that provide a complete set of regional maps to locate, evaluate conditions, navigate and manage thousands of different streams.
The first release of the Northeast Region covers all of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and the rest of New England. I had chance to use Streams Map USA and kick it around with a few places that I like to fly fish.
I found the screen easy to view, due to a new idea that Gogal Publishing is using in varying stream colors, instead of just the singular blue line that we always get on every map. A clever idea to help differentiate the main stream and its tributaries I liked the multiple choices of base maps, which included: Road, Satellite, Hybrid, USGS Topo, and OpenStreetMap.
I was quickly able to search for some known streams. The app is very detailed with results based on state or county level. When searching for Muddy Creek, I soon learned there were over a half dozen Muddy Creeks and branches located in Pennsylvania. Who knew?
Personal waypoint locations can be created, named and stored. The use of my iPhone’s built-in GPS identified my current location and provided an indication of miles to either the waypoints or streams. For example, this also can be used to mark the location of your car before heading out for long day fishing on the water or a canoe trip.
Too often I am in an area where there is either no or poor cell coverage. What I liked best was the “browse and store” functionality for offline use. This enables use and GPS navigation - even with no cell service.
For turn-by-turn navigation, it was as simple as selecting one of my waypoints and tapping Go. The Streams Map USA flipped me over into the Apple Maps, then let me select my current location and started my route to Muddy Creek.
In addition, the Streams Map USA incorporates the USGS Water Information System for water levels and gages. I simply tapped on an USGS Station and tapped the info icon to discover the current conditions for that site displayed within the app.
Both the Northeast and West Coast Editions of Stream Map USA are now available on the AppStore for the introductory price of $8.99. A third edition is also well under way, which will cover the eastern coastal states from Maryland to Florida. This edition should be available in mid-October 2015. Gogal Publishing is hoping to have the entire US completed by mid-2016 and Android apps out shortly.
Published by Dave Kile [dkile
] on 08/04/2015 (1973 reads)
The PFBC will be implementing a new stocked trout program in 2016. We believe that this program will provide exciting new angling opportunities to anglers across Pennsylvania.
In this program, approximately 10 percent of the larger 2- to 3-year-old-trout in the PFBC hatchery system that are stocked each year will be allocated to eight waters currently managed under Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only regulations. These fish, which will measure from 14” to more than 20” in length, will be stocked at a rate of up to 250 trout per mile, which is comparable to the numbers of fish of this size in Pennsylvania’s best wild trout waters. By contrast, the current stocking rate for 2- to 3-year-old-trout statewide in the catchable trout program is about 5-10 per mile.
The eight streams will be distributed broadly across the state so that at least one water is located within a reasonable distance of all of Pennsylvania’s anglers.
Currently this program is unnamed, and we are seeking the public’s help in naming the program. There are a number of names that have been considered by staff, but you may have other better ideas. We ask that you either vote for one of the names below, or write in a name that you would like to propose.
PFBC staff will review all of the proposals and a name will be selected prior to the next Commission meeting on September 28 and 29, 2015. Both the program name and the names of the selected waters will be released at the September meeting. We look forward to hearing from you.
Please select one of the program names below or write in another name that you would recommend. The voting/nomination process will close on September 4, 2015.
Premium Stocked Trout Program
Trophy Stocked Trout Program
Lunker Stocked Trout Program
Blue Ribbon Stocked Trout Program
You can vote here.
Published by Dave Kile [dkile
] on 07/29/2015 (10254 reads)
By Brian McGeehan
As a Montana fly fishing outfitter – the majority of my time from November through April is spent helping our guests plan trips for the following season. Montana is a very large target with a huge variety of fisheries so it can be a daunting challenge to folks visiting for the first time. When Dave Kile asked me to put together a guide for planning a trip our way I decided to break it into two parts do to the breadth and diversity of what Montana has to offer and what different people want out of their trip.
One of the aspects of trip planning in the Big Sky state is that we have such a huge variety of different rivers, streams, still waters and spring creeks. Each type of fishery has different peak seasons, different character and different tactics that are best used. This post will focus on anglers that want to do the majority of their fishing unguided. Montana is arguably the best state in the west for planning a DIY trip for several reasons. Thanks to the stream access law, anglers in Montana have access to private land along streams and rivers. This means that as long as an angler gets to the river corridor from a bridge or other public access point you can fish on private property without trespassing. Secondly, we have a lot of public land in Montana and surrounding areas like Yellowstone Park so finding water to access legally is pretty easy. Finally, the huge variety of fisheries means that there are a lot of smaller waters that are ideal for wade fishing.
Madison River, Montana
Where to fish?
Pick up any coffee table fly fishing book that showcases famous waters around the world and Montana rivers will be heavily represented. Anglers from around the world are familiar with the Yellowstone, Madison, Missouri, Bighorn, Beaverhead, Gallatin and many others. Where do you begin if you are planning on fishing on your own? DIY anglers need to be cautious about planning their trips around the most famous rivers which are generally also the largest. While the Yellowstone is one of my all time favorite rivers in the world – it is also a huge fishery that is very difficult to wade in most stretches of the river. Even smaller rivers like the Beaverhead can prove frustrating since it is a meadow style river and at higher flows is next to impossible to wade fish without a boat to hop from run to run (but at lower flows is manageable). Some large rivers like the Madison have sections that are wading friendly and other sections that are very challenging to read without prior river knowledge. Other fisheries are very hard to access without permission from ranchers and offer very little private access. Although this is not an exhaustive list, here are a few locations that an angler fishing without a guide should consider. They all offer good public access and manageable wade fishing.
The Bighorn is a very large river, but at lower flows (spring and late summer) there can be very good wade fishing. This is also a very easy river to float and if you plan in advance you can rent a drift boat for a reasonable price. The Bighorn has astronomical fish counts and the trout are big – most in the 17-19” class. The downside is that it is also relatively crowded (at least by Montana standards) since most of the fishing is done in the section just below the dam at Fort Smith.
The Gallatin is a small mountain freestone river with high trout counts. It starts just inside of Yellowstone Park and flows for about 30 miles through the Gallatin Canyon which is mostly public forest service land with easy road access. Fishing from boats is not permitted and the river is very easy to “read”. There are numerous pull offs along the canyon section and the fishing isn’t very technical. Most of the trout are less than 15” but the population is very healthy. The only time that wading is difficult is during the run off period in late May and June.
Rock Creek is located about 45 minutes from Missoula and is similar in size to the Gallatin. Like the Gallatin there is ample National Forest land with public access. Trout are medium sized but the river is beautiful and finding public water is not a problem.
The Ruby River near Sheridan is a small mountain stream that turns in to a medium sized meadow river. The Ruby in the National Forest offers lots of public access for smaller trout. Below the reservoir it enters ranch country and the only access is from bridges and a few state owned parcels but fishing can be good for decent sized trout at the lower access areas.
The Upper Bitterroot and its tributaries offer good public access and a some National Forest fishing but avoid run off.
Upper Madison River
The legendary Madison River has some locations that are best floated but there are a few areas that attract out of state wade anglers. The first is the section between Hebgen and Quake Lake – this is an especially good fishery in the spring and fall. The next section is the wade only area from Quake Lake to Lyons Bridge with good access at Reynolds Pass and Three Dollar Bridge. Finally there is an access point to another wade only area called the Channels at Valley Garden. The Channels can be tough to get around, however, do to dense willow stands along the banks. The Madison from Lyons Bridge to Ennis and then again from Ennis Lake to Three Forks can be non descript and difficult to read and fish without a boat.
Backcountry Streams and Lakes
For those that like to backpack – there can be terrific alpine lake fishing in remote wilderness areas. The most expansive area for hiking and fishing is the Beartooth Plateau near Red Lodge that offers thousands of mountain lakes and a few good streams. Other smaller ranges also offer good fishing for the adventurous angler. Most alpine lakes are stocked periodically by air but all streams and rivers in Montana are wild trout by law.
Montana Backcountry Stream
Yellowstone National Park
Although only a small portion of Yellowstone Park is in Montana, the Big Sky state is the main entrance to the park at locations like West Yellowstone, Gardiner and Cook City. Yellowstone is wade fishing only by regulation and offers lots of great streams and rivers. Generally spring and fall fishing is best in the West and South side of the Park and summer fishing is best in the Northeast section (with numerous exceptions). Although there is ample road access – anglers that are willing to hike will be rewarded with lightly pressured trout.
Livingston Spring Creeks
The legendary spring creeks near Livingston include DePuy, Nelson and Armstrong. These are on private ranches and require advanced reservations. Rod fees are $100 in peak season and $75 in shoulder seasons. These technical waters are easy to wade and have thick hatches. They are similar to Pennsylvania limestone streams in many ways. Plan on booking rods a year in advance (or more) for dates in mid June to July for the PMD hatch. DePuy has the most rods per day and is the last to fill up. You need to reserve a year in advance or more for Armstrong or Nelson for mid summer dates.
When to Come
This is one of the most commonly asked questions that we receive from anglers planning trips to Montana. If you are planning on fishing on your own it is probably a good idea to avoid run off when the snowpack is bringing levels up. This is a great time to book a guided trip but fishing on your own is much tougher in late May and mid June if you don’t have a boat and don’t have intimate knowledge of the rivers or access to private water. DIY anglers can have great luck in the spring before run off in late April to Mid May. Another nice window is just after runoff in late June and early July. Mid August is tougher on the public waters because the fish have seen a lot of flies but is a great time to target the back country if you like to hike. Late September and October is also great for fishing on your own since the waters are lower and you can fish some of the public waters in Yellowstone and outside the park for fall run browns.
Brian McGeehan is a Pennsylvania native and has been guiding Western rivers in Montana, Wyoming and Colorado for 19 seasons. He is a licensed Montana outfitter and owner of Montana Angler Fly Fishing based in Bozeman, MT. Brian will follow up with some more advice in a follow up post “Part 2: Planning a Guided Fishing Trip to Montana”. Here is a quick map to some of the streams.