Fly Fishing: Central Pennsylvania’s Hidden Gem
Central Pennsylvania is a trout fisherman’s paradise, people travel to these rivers just to fish. Loaded with stocked and wild trout. Former president Jimmy Carter makes an annual trip from Georgia to fish Spruce Creek in Huntington County.
This prime fishing habitat is a shrter trip for Jacob Sparrow. He's a student at Penn State. His three favorite spots in Central Pennsylvania are Spring Creek, the Little Juniata River (commonly referred to as ‘the Little J’) and Penns Creek. He says his top spot is the Little J.
“The Little Juniata is a gem for central PA. It’s got the most beautiful scenery I think of any creek in the area. The fishing is phenomenal you’ll get days where you get great hatches of bugs sitting on top of the water where all the fish are feeding. It makes for a very fun type of fishing.” Sparrow said.
Fly-fishing isn’t the only way to target these fish. Conventional fishing is also popular. The main difference between them is how you get the lure or bait to the fish.
Fly-fishing uses wieghted line while conventional fishing methods use the wieght of the lure to cast.
These flies are used to imitate different types of baitfish, crawfish and aquatic insects that might be on top of or below the surface of the water.
There are three different categories of flies: dry flies, nymph flies and streamers.
Dry flies are typically smaller flies used to imitate different insects sitting on top of the water. Nymph flies are made to imitate insects under the water. Streamers are typically fished towards the bottom of the stream and are used to imitate larger prey such as bait fish and crawfish.
Materials used to tie flies include different animal furs and feathers from different game birds such as duck, pheasant and turkey.
Many people choose to buy their flies because making them yourself is very time consuming. It also requires time to master the craft. Sparrow says he ties his own flies because the process is part of the whole fly-fishing experience and it’s something that makes fly-fishing unique.
He says it takes time to figure out what colors and patterns to use. Making the fly so it flows through the stream as naturally as possible is of utmost importance. It took Sparrow about a year to really get the hang of it and he is still to this day learning new techniques.
Sparrow will typically spend anywhere from five minutes to as long as 40 minutes on each fly. He usually spends between two and three hours per week tying flies.
The reason the fishing is so good in many of these creeks is they are madeof a limestone base, the water seeps through it making the water very clean, making a great habitat for trout. The limestone base allows the water to never get under 32 degrees and rarely get above 69 degrees. He says fishing is possible all year round, even in the dead of winter or in the hottest days of the summer.
Sparrow says the best time of the year to catch trophy trout is in the winter.
“During the winter those bigger fish, they have to keep eating they have to keep feeding. Whereas the littler fish aren’t necessarily eating as much just because their metabolisms are different. So the big fish they have to keep eating, they have to keep working hard to find food. So there is a better opportunity of catching a larger fish during the winter for sure.” he says.
This is what really drives him to go fishing in the dead of winter. Routinely going out on the water when the real feel temperature is near or just above zero. The coldest trip he remembers making was when the real feel temperature was about 12 below zero.
Sparrow usually targets brown trout, but there are three separate species of trout in Pennsylvania. The other two are rainbow and brook trout.
All three can be found stocked and wild.
Brown trout is considered the most prized of the three in central Pennsylvania. These are "wild" because they were introduced to the streams and have reproduced on their own. They can grow to be two feet long.
Brook trout are native to Pennsylvania. Native brook trout are not known for their size, but for their beauty. Much of their population is stocked by the state. The brook trout is the state fish of Pennsylvania. Rainbow trout are rarely found wild in Pennsylvania, with almost all the population being stocked.
Central Pennsylvania offers some of the best trout fishing in the country. Jacob Sparrow says he has become hooked.
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Most trips go smoothly, but this one took a turn for the worst.