A brown trout haven in Pennsylvania
I recently had the opportunity to spend several days in the vicinity of State College, Pennsylvania to fish the Spring Creek. A few friends wanted to take a road trip into PA for trout fishing, but it was early July and most trout waters would be too warm. We chose Spring Creek because it is spring-fed and at the time still at a reasonable temperature and flow. I could not have been more impressed with the water and the fishing.
Spring Creek has 20+ miles of great catch and release (C&R) trout water for both fly-fishing and spinning, although there is one section of the special regulation water at Fisherman’s Paradise that is fly only, and a smaller portion of that area is bank only fishing (wading is not permitted). There are numerous access points along the Creek, stretching from Houserville to Milesburg providing a variety of fishing experiences.
The appropriately named Fisherman’s Paradise is where we started – most articles that I had read identified this as the logical introduction to Spring Creek. It has numerous parking options, both at the main access point as well as on either side of the entrance to the Bellefonte State Fish Hatchery nearby. A fire road leads from the main parking area following along the Creek and then a trail leads to the area referred to as Spring Creek Canyon, which is much more rustic and wild. Access to the Creek in this stretch is pretty regular with many areas that are very wadeable.
Another easy access with ample parking is a mile downstream of Fisherman’s Paradise (water flow is south to north on the Spring Creek) at 328 Spring Creek Road. While also wadeable, the flow was not as robust as at Fisherman’s Paradise and aquatic plants made the fishing more challenging. Having to make an upstream presentation in a small channel of water is not my favorite form of fly-fishing.
Approximately 4 miles upstream of Fisherman’s Paradise is another access point near to the Benner Spring State Fish Hatchery. The parking here is much more limited, with two laybys on either side of the road near the entrance to the hatchery. The Spring Creek Canyon Trail continues its parallel of the Creek here, but I personally found the access moving upstream of this point to be difficult and the stream bed less wadeable than the other points that I had visited.
The highlight of the visit was fishing the Spring Creek in the town of Bellefonte, which is approximately 4 miles downstream (north) of Fisherman’s Paradise. Wade fishing is permitted (but not from shore) along a quarter-mile section of Spring Creek bounded by the W. Lamb Street Bridge and the W. High Street Bridge, with ample parking provided off W. Lamb Street, east of the bridge. I cannot remember fly-fishing for trout in the middle of a bustling village and it was very enjoyable. There are also plenty of brown trout in that short stretch of water.
There are two fly shops in State College – Flyfisher’s Paradise and TCO Fly Shop. It is worth dropping in on one or both to get insight into which flies are working best at that time. The advice I received for early July was to fish a bead head green weenie or a sow bug pattern, as well as terrestrials. The green weenie was the most productive, but my largest brown emerged from under cover of a submerged tree limb to pound a floating beetle pattern.