Jun 8, 2011

Penns Creek 2011

Me, Steve, Brendan and Dad on Penns Creek

I just got back from our 3rd annual family fly fishing trip & competition where we spent a few days fishing Penns Creek in Central Pennsylvania with my Father, Brother Steve and Son Brendan.  My brother and I started this little trip 3 years ago as we spent a few days fishing with my dad around his house in the Poconos, but last year we decided this little get together needed to move around to different locations and get away from the house so it we made it happen.  We enjoyed Penns Creek so much last year, we decided to head back there again this year.  Once again we stayed in the apartment at Penns Creek Angler which certainly serves it's purpose as a place to sleep, get showered and even relax when not on the water.

Green Drake - these things are huge!

Put the rod down for a bit and this Green Drake stopped for a rest
Last year's trip was just late enough for us to miss out on the famed Green Drake hatch and water levels running really low with hot dry weather.  This year we found a different Penns Creek with much more water then we needed and covered in Green Drakes.  I wasn't excited about the 1000cfs plus flows, especially seeing Penns offers difficult wading even at normal flows below 400cfs, but I was extremely excited to see the Green Drake for the first time ever and what a site it was.  Many of the Central PA trout streams are known for their prolific and variety of hatches and Penns Creek was no different.  At times we were just covered in Green Drakes as well as Sulphurs with some caddis and gray foxes thrown in for good measure.  With all these bugs hatching and creating just a mess for the angler trying to match the hatch, what was even more amazing was very few fish rising with any consistency.  There were a few that were consistent but knowing that there were many more fish in the water than what was showing up on the surface, I just kept nymphing away and picking up fish.

I've read so many different opinions about fishing the green drake hatch from suggestions on ignoring them completely to running up river with it and fish the heck out of it.   My normal fishing style is nymph until you die or until fish are rising consistently and you know what they are feeding on.  So we all pretty much nymphed away with the majority of our fish coming to net that way.  Matter of fact
most came on a stonefly nymph of some sort with a black stone being preferred, while a few came on green drake nymphs and a couple on a frenchie nymph made from partridge and turkey tail with a fire orange hot spot.

My dad and brother were using a typical indicator type setup for their nymphing.  I stuck to my Euro Nymphing setup of a 10' 4wt Greys Streamflex with my Jan Siman bicolor slinky style indicator.  My son was a different story.  Last years PC trip was his first time ever fly fishing and it started with a crash course in the yard the day before we hit the water.  He enjoyed the fly rod so much he kept at it last summer and once again he decided to use the fly rod for this trip but he didn't want an indicator.  His method resembled more of a high sticking method and it paid off for him as he caught the most trout out of the group, and he did so using all my gear.  Dang kids.

This little guy had a lot of fight in him

Brendan was the first one in the water on Day #1 and the first to hook up.  I was down river when he hooked up so I made it to shore and ran up river to get a picture of him with his fish and give him a high five.  It was a little wild brown that looked like a small toy football as it was short and chunky in the middle and narrow on the ends.  It had shoulders as it put up a good fight and I'm sure the raging water helped that fight.  We got him in the net and took two quick pics and back in the water he went.  Matter of fact, all the fish we caught were released to fight another day and at least one did as I caught him two days in a row.

First Fish of the trip

Brendan with the first fish of the trip

I hooked into a good fish for about a minute or two and then off he came but he still had my flies with him.  I guess I tied a crappy knot.  I was not happy but little did I know that this fish would make a difference in the end.  But that is okay I redemeed myself with a nice little brown to tie things up.

Later that evening my brother Steve lost 3 fish in a row.  Not sure what he was doing wrong, but I'm sure he wasn't setting the hook good enogh.  My dad was up there on the bank giving him the business, oops I mean instruction, and he hooked a fourth and finally landed that one.  It was his first ever Penns Creek trout - he got skunked last year - and no one up there had a camera.  Amazing..    My dad was 0-0 on day one but as Brendan put it "If he wasn't sitting on the bank playing Penns Creek greeter and in the water fishign he might have caught something!"  Well put son!

Steve and Dad taking a break on the bank

After a late night meal at the bar next to the apartment we got cleaned up, watched a instructional nypmhing dvd because it was obvious my dad and brother needed it, then off to sleep for an early wake up.  The alarm went off at 5am, I got up turned the coffee on and waited for the rest of the crew to start stirring.  I can be up and out in less than 20 minutes but that isn't the case with this crew.  We didn't make the water until 6:30am which was a little later than I wanted but still good enough.  We stuck to the same plan as the day before and spread out along a long run and fished away.  The water was still high but Brendan and I found a place to cross the night before so we headed across and back to working the same water as the night before.  I had watched a nice fish rise a few times just behind a rock the night before so I nymphed my way over to his hiding spot and just two drifts through there he smacked a stonefly nymph I had on  and the fight was on.  Not a hog by any shape of the imagination but he was a good one and turned out to be the biggest of the trip.  We banged a few more fish before the green drakes exploded around 9am.  We had little bug activity and then we were just covered up in Drakes.  It was really something to see.  Around noon we headed back to the aprtment to get some lunch and take a nap.

He should have stayed hidden the night before

Brendan getting his game on

That evening we were back on the same run nymphing away.  I hooked into a fish that turned out to be the same one I hooked the previous day.  Now that put a smile on my face.  The evening hatch was sulphur heavy but the drakes were lighter than the previous evening so I tried playing the dry fly game with no success.  I did get to watch two guys come in and hammer the fish on top using a large coffin fly.  By the time we left they had manage a dozen trout easy.  Lesson learned.

Feeling confident that he couldn't be beaten

Saturday morning was our last morning on the water and we planned to get out around 1pm, so we got up early again, packed the truck and hit the water.  At this point I was one fish behind my son, with my brother and dad way behind.  Brendan decided to leave me and move up river by himself and dad and I head down stream and Steve stuck to his comfortable spot in the water.  It paid off for all of us as we all caught fish, most of use caught trout but I promised my dad that I wouldn't mention that all he got was chubs.  Brendan was first to hook up and that put me two fish down.  I worked hard to catch up but I just couldn't.  I did roll one and land one but it wasn't enough to catch the kid.  Steve lost another but then landed his second PC brown trout and we got a picture of it this time because he made dad run up to the truck to get a camera while he was fighting the fish.  Good thing the truck was close by.

Steve with his second Penns Creek brown trout
We called it a trip around 1pm and got out of our fishing gear, repacked the truck and had a quick bite to eat before heading back to my dad's house.  There was a lot of snoring going on in the back seat of that truck and it was being done by the two youngest of our crew.  Dad and I were talking about catching an evening hatch near the house while these two were snoring away.  Amazing.

Lunch of champion wild brown trout fisherman everywhere

We landed over a dozen beautiful wild browns while losing about another half dozen or so.  We did get to see the famed Green Drake hatch which was worth the price of admission in itself.  We had plenty of laughs along the way and ran into a few characters, one of which was definitely my dad's doppelgänger .  We had way too many laughs and of course the country side is just incredible.  We did see deer, turkey and even a small hawk that my dad almost ran over as it struggled to lift its meal of dead squirrel from the road.

Dad almost getting taken out during the Kayak hatch!

With over 35 miles of creek to explore, I'm sure we will be back to fish Penns again in the future.  Matter of fact I suggested we make next years trip a week long as that will give us more time to explore all those wonderful Central PA streams surrounding Penns Creek and there are some beauties like Spring Creek and Big Fishing Creek that we have yet to explore.  I wish I lived closer.

Last fish of the trip
Dad presenting Brendan with the pin for catching the most fish

Got to finish off with a flower shot
They claim the only thing guaranteed when fishing Penns Creek is leaving frustrated and taking a bath during wading.  Well I didn't end up taking a bath, but my brother Steve did - twice.  I also didn't leave frustrated, but at times I was frustrated.  We did leave a little wore out from the wading, but nothing we won't recover from.  A good trip for me is not about numbers or even the fish itself, instead it is
about time on the water with friends and family so this one goes down as an award winner in my book.


  1. Sounds like it was a fun trip! Enjoyed the recap and great pictures to go along with it. I need to try that one of these days seeing as how I actually live in PA! lol

  2. Great post i love reading your blog nice work Jim keep it up


  3. Nice report. I'm toying with getting back on Penns this summer. Take the boys camping. Get some fishing in. I've never seen the Green Drake. Must be quite a sight.

  4. Kayak hatches, White castle, trout, and huge bugs makes for a great trip. Looks like you guys had a great time. The bug pics are great. I hope to see what half a million of those things coming off looks like one day.

  5. Really great post--I'll have to make a trip to Penns soon. Cool to see an annual ff trip with the boys, I'm slowly converting the guys in my family to fly fishing...