This weekend I decided to drive up to Big Spring Creek to go fly fishing on one of Pennslyvania’s famous springs creeks. I read that this stream is expecially known for producing large brook trout, and that was all I needed to hear to put it on my list. It’s also known as an extremely difficult stream to fly fish, and I’m always up for a challenge. Big Spring Creek has the combination of crystal clear water and wary trout, so you have to be very cautious on your approach.
When I arrived, I took in the scenary for a bit while putting on my waders. I’ve gotta say that it’s one of the most beautiful trout streams I’ve visited in the US. It has the look of a classic English chalk stream, and is full of life. I saw several birds, a water snake, turtles, and a few muskrat. The trout aren’t easy to spot here, and are well adapted to their surroundings.
The first fish I spotted was cruising at the bottom of a deep pool. I crouched down on the river bank and casted into my first drift. The trout took a subtle look, but stayed in its holding spot. A few more drifts by with my size 18 scud, and it was clear that it wasn’t interested enough. I tied on a second fly as my dropper and got a drift right in its path. I watched the fish move a bit, set the hook, saw the fish shake its head, and knew I was going to be in for a fight. There is a ton of underwater plant life here, and keeping this trout in control was difficult. Combined with a fairly light tippet, I was lucky to finally bring it to my net.
After safely releasing that brook trout, I was ready to catch another. I always think of the first fish on a new river as an icebreaker, especially on a stream that has a reputation like Big Spring Creek. It gives you that boost of confidence that you can figure out this stream and how to be successful. Fly fishing isn’t all about catching fish, but it sure feels nice on days when you do.
Now that my icebreaker was out of the way, it was time to explore the other stretches of the river. The interesting thing about Pennslyvania is that most of the land beside the water is privately owned. There are some exceptions whereby a landowner grants open privaleges to anglers to fish the waters, but you have to be sure of that. Given those limitations, I avoided fishing any stretches on private property. I followed Big Spring Creek Road out of Newville, and it runs the length of the stream to its source. The creek has several pull offs which are dotted along the road every half mile or so. There are walking trails at many of parking areas, and they vary in length. It’s not very hikable unless you enjoy walking alongside a road, so I’d recommend driving and pulling off to fish certain spots.
One of my first thoughts on this ridiculously sunny day was to find some shade. Cautious trout typically don’t pick their holding spots in shallow and sunny water, so I focused on deep pools with cover and nearby bridges. I didn’t see a single rise during the time I was there, so I used a tight line nymphing technique the entire time.
The second brookie came to hand after I let my fly travel on a long drift, partially under a nearby bridge. I had to stay in touch with my fly the entire time, and kept my line as taut as possible. I felt a hit and set the hook. As expected, the trout took off under the bridge downstream, and I know too well it’s often a losing battle when a fish gets downstream of you. Fortunately, I was able to gain control and bring it back upstream.
For my last stop of the day I visited a riffle section just below the final 100 yards of the catch and release section. This part of the river is also only about 100 yards from the source of the spring itself. It’s amazing to see the source of the spring and to watch the water flow right out of the rocks. In this section, I caught a healthy little rainbow trout, which was a bit of a surprise to me. I released the rainbow and decided to call it a day. I had a great day at Big Spring Creek and I’m sure I’ll be back to visit. In the meantime, I have a lot of other new water to check out!