Friday, May 27, 2011


Are you like me? Do you find yourself growing tired of the fly fishing circus on the big famous brown trout rivers at this time of the year? Then come along with me for some peaceful relaxing wild trout angling in the headwaters of our very own Pine Creek, aka Tiadaghton, aka River of Pines. Not even once, during two very fruitful days of remote brook trout fishing, did I bump into another fisherperson along the stream up here in the remote hinterlands of Potter County. Rapture has finally arrived and it was exactly what my heathen soul needed.

The water levels were perfectly bank-full thanks to the plentiful rains we've had this spring along with the surrounding mature second growth forest replete with wetlands and springs, slowly metering out their accumulated liquid gold. The fish were fat and happy feeding on a smorgasbord of hatching caddis flies, sulphers, march browns and yellow stoneflies. It was incredibly easy fishing, almost too easy I thought, as the trout were committing suicide on the end of my fly line. I never did get a measured water temperature but my calibrated hand told me it was somewhere between 52-55F.


Eons ago, Pine Creek flowed in a northeasterly direction, hard against a wall of glacial rip-rapped rock and soil deposited by the retreating glaciers. As the glaciers melted a lake formed in the area of present day Ansonia (aka Big Meadows). Eventually the lake level rose high enough to breach it's rock wall dam and the ensuing flood waters flowed south carving today's spectacular Pine Creek Gorge on it's way to the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.

Then came the Native Americans and the lumbermen and the flatlanders. The Pine Creek Rails to Trails can be clearly seen in these photos running right alongside Pine Creek. When I first started camping at Colton Point 30 some years ago this right-of-way was still an active rail line. You would drift off to sleep at night listening to the low rumble of the trains as they made their way through the gorge. The last train went through in 1989 before they tore up the tracks and turned it into a rail trail. These shots were taken during mid-day from Colton Point State Park on the west rim of the canyon.

The weather was sultry and humid, and the black flies, mosquitoes and gnats truly vexing. Don't forget your Deep Woods Off as the biting insects are quite troublesome this year.

“My cousin came down from Boston a few summers ago, and he and his daughter walked from here to Tiadaghton. In the first mile-and-a-half, I think he said that they counted nine rattlesnakes, and they weren’t really looking for them! There are quite a few in the canyon.”      

  -Don Blackwell (fourth great grandson of Enoch Blackwell Sr.)

Pine Creek Watershed Conservation Plan

"You don't have to camp around..."

...but it's always worked for me.

This was the angling of my youth. High up in the headwaters of Pine Creek in the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania. It was here where I taught myself how to fly fish over 30 years ago -long before I had ever heard of, let alone fished, rivers like the Little Juniata or the Madison- and it was nice to see that not much has dramatically changed. Except maybe things are a little better now; the PFBC no longer stocks a lot of these streams that already have reproducing wild populations, the campgrounds have improved by adding hot showers and composting toilets, even the forest itself has noticeably grown a little over the past 30 years. Ok so lets keep it real, we do now have a litany of fracking tanker trucks, dump trucks and 18 wheel tractor trailers parading up and down the highways 24/7, not too unlike the cavalcade of clowns parading around on Penns Creek or the Delaware and Little Juniata Rivers. We stayed away from the highways and the big rivers alike.

Deep woods solitude. Like that found only in the deep glens of Potter County.

If you have brook trout present in a stream it's in good condition. If you have a reproducing brook trout population then it's in fantastic condition.

The smell of mosses on your hand.

Abundant groundwater feeds and surface springs supply good cold water inputs year around and support a healthy population of wild brook trout in these streams.

Sorry about ruining the shot by putting my hand in it, I didn't have my net with me.

A classic freestone pool deep in the woods of Potter County. There was/is a nice head of wild fish in this pool and it fishes as good as it looks. You could see them fining in the amber currents.

I never burn any bridges when I'm up here in Potter County.

Even the headwater streams have their own headwaters.

Canary in a coal mine.

It's been a good year for getting out and rediscovering the fine fishing in our smaller wild trout streams way back up in the mountains. Reminiscent of '03 and '04. Don't let this immensely enjoyable opportunity pass you by. It'll restore your soul and renew your faith in all that is right in the world.......that is until you get stuck behind a convoy of fracking trucks on your way back home.

 Soon to be renamed Anadarko Flats.

Thanks for looking.