Summer into Fall: Fly Fishing the Legendary Spring Creek in Central Pennsylvania
By RAY HUNT
On a warm and muggy Sunday in late July, Central Pennsylvania’s Spring Creek is exceptionally quiet. It’s about 10:30am, the temperature is 85 degrees and the humidity matches at 85% as well. When the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic arrested much activity during the Spring, scores of anglers peppered the stream to fill the days. But now the flows are down, the water temperature is up in the mid-60’s, and now it’s generally much easier to fish most of the famed stretches of this beautiful stream as the number of fishers is down considerably.
Spring Creek flows north from Boalsburg, PA (just southeast of State College) about 20 miles, to its confluence with Bald Eagle Creek in the town of Milesburg. Fishing here is all catch and release, and the trout, predominantly Browns, are big. A study done almost thirty years ago by the Fish and Game Commission estimated the number of Brown Trout, 14 inches or longer, at approximately 5,000 per mile on Spring Creek. The number has come down, but Spring Creek is still the most productive fly fishing stream in the state, and one of the best in the country. It’s fed by the limestone streams of Logan Run, Slab Cabin Run, Cedar Run and Buffalo Run. It’s spectacularly pretty, and each of these feeder streams offer solid fishing as well.
Probably the most infamous section for fishing Spring Creek is “Fisherman’s Paradise.” It runs from State College to the historic town of Bellefonte, PA. Along the Paradise stretch there are several areas to put in, and picnic tables easily found streamside which make any outing a memorable event. Along Fisherman’s Paradise the stream depth varies between one to three feet deep. In the summer vegetation grows off the bottom and which holds a myriad of bugs that these Browns graze on year-round, and can make for some frustrating moments when one’s line gets snagged in the muck.
So, on this quiet Sunday, I’m fishing a stretch of Fisherman’s Paradise locals call “The Pines.” Some riffle but generally meandering for about a half-mile. Below the riffle area I spot a pool in a curl of a cut bank. I’m using a 5-weight rod, with a 4x, 7.5-foot leader, with a 4-foot length of 5x tippet. Nothing hatching so I’ll go the nymph route, which on Spring Creek is the common method of fishing year-round. My point fly is a size 16 BH Prince Nymph, followed with a 10-inch tippet tied to a size 18 Zebra Midge. Two 0.4g “Dinsmores” (oval split shot) placed 8 inches above my point fly to weight the line (and the rounded shape of the Dinsmores help keep it clear of snags in stream vegetation). Here we go….
Within the half hour I’ve hooked two beautiful Browns. The first is 13 inches, the second is 14 inches. After some lively wrangling, and with each trout netted, the temperature has now climbed to 92 degrees and the humidity is, well, I really think it’s time to call it a day and find a picnic table!