Fly Fishing in Northern Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania has just about every type of freshwater fishing you could want. Many of the rivers and streams that run through the state are cold enough to hold trout for most of the year. On top of that you’ve got solid smallmouth fishing across the state as well as ample opportunities for largemouth.
You also have Lake Erie that borders the northwestern part of the state. In here you can catch pike, perch, walleye, smallmouth, steelhead and an assortment of other freshwater fish.
Fishing in Pennsylvania
Depending on where you’re fishing, you’ll need to make sure you’re dressed appropriately and have the right gear. Wintertime, especially in northern and northwest Pennsylvania can get extremely snowy. You need to dress for the weather this time of year or you will struggle being out in the elements.
Summer can get hot and humid but usually in spurts. Most of the time it will be comfortable. This is especially true if you plan on wading the rivers. Check the weather forecast beforehand though. As temperatures and humidity are known to reach uncomfortable levels.
There are also plenty of hills and mountains in the state parks that roll through the state too. If you plan on fishing and hiking into these areas, then you’ll need to have proper gear. The most important thing is that you bring comfortable hiking or wading boots.
We were up visiting my wife’s family in Northwestern Pennsylvania. It was March, so it was technically spring even though it didn’t feel like it. The steelhead were running, and my brother-in-law invited me to tag along with him a few mornings.
We left early in the morning while it was still dark out. I munched on my cold pizza breakfast as he drove me down to some local spots that he knew.
We were a couple miles from Lake Erie, but he assured me that the steelhead can travel even further.
We tossed little bead head jigs that looked like wooly buggers beneath indicators and let them flow with the current. Recent rain had turned the water off color but was clear enough we felt comfortable the fish could see our baitfish patterns.
Most of the morning was spent catching smolts. Which looked to me like rainbow trout. These little guys would bolt out of eddys and from behind rocks to swallow up our hooks before a big steelhead could get to it.
I never thought I would get upset consistently catching 9-12” fish but there I was cursing each one once I felt their small fight.
After waiting and even seeing some steelhead swirl at the surface I finally hooked into one. My indicator darted down, and I set the hook hard. It ran and pulled and zipped drag off my reel. My forearm began to burn as I worked the fish closer to shore so I could net it.
I pulled it from the water, holding it underneath its gills with my free hand wrapped around its tail. It was a large fish that had some weight to it.
I lowered it back into the water and watched as it swam away back to its pool as if it didn’t have a care in the world.
After that fish they seemed to come in much quicker.
I’m not sure how many steelhead were laid up in the bottom of this pool, but we were alternating casts into this spot and bringing out a fish with each cast. A hard thump and the indicator would drop below the surface. And a steelhead would emerge.
Each one had bright sides that would shimmer and a pink racing stripe that ran horizontally.
After a morning of catching these fish, it was nearing lunch and I was getting antsy for some wings and a cold beverage. We decided on one more fish a piece and I was the last to go.
I cast out and let the little jig move through the current. I waited for a strike that didn’t come. I let it hit the tail out of the pool and I casted again. Odd since we had caught so many in a row, but maybe the pool was finally spooked.
As I thought that, the indicator shot under the water so fast it created a pop. I set the hook and was immediately met with resistance. It felt like I had hooked into a boulder at the bottom of the river.
The fish slowly swam around the pool, not allowing me any chance to reel him in. It bulldogged me. Line clicked off the reel like the second hand on a clock. It was several minutes before I was even able to get it high enough in the water to get a look at it.
After several rounds of me reeling him close to shore and then the fish running away, I finally was able to grab the tail and pull it from the water.
It was an absolute brute of a fish. Long and thick with a sagging belly and small little hook at the end of its jaw.