A Creek With Almost Everything

After a cold front brought some rain to northern Pennsylvania, I visited lower Cross Fork Creek for the first time in several years. I parked at the dead-end road where a snowmobile bridge crosses the stream just upstream of its confluence with Kettle Creek. The stream was low and a bit off-color. For the first half mile or so of this catch-and-release water, fishing wasn’t worth the effort. There was little structure in the water to support a trout population, much less than I remembered from before. But Cross Fork is a scenic trout stream, one of the better wild trout fisheries in the region, and this little sister of Kettle is a pleasure to traverse even with a drought on the land. I strolled along with a seven-foot fly rod in my clutches, hopeful that some better water would be just around the bend.

The stream was better just around the bend; in fact, it seemed to improve with each new spring and tributary I encountered on the upstream walk. It even has a white pine “shit’er” on its greeny south bank. This cool, natural structure has been renovated since my last passage here, but it still has a perfect view of the water for an angler in need. The crapper is a wild convenience, indeed, replete with a plastic case to shield the toilet paper. Surely there’s no better throne in all of Potter County.

You’ve got to be an angling saint or a nature-loving sage to be careless of whether or not you find fish in your stream, and I was certainly no saint or enlightened philosopher at Cross Fork Creek. I looked for trout in this special regulations water (catch-and-release) and finally got a hook-up where the stream poured by an undercut bank. I was ready to abandon the tandem wet flies I’d been casting (Green Weenie and Partridge-and-Orange), when an unseen fish shot into the current and absconded with my tippet and two flies.

Encouraged, I proceeded to a large pool where I saw several rise formations at the surface. Switching to a dry Black Ant I made a long cast and observed a rise coming laterally from yards away. I struck too soon and felt the hook strafe a lip. Several casts later I had another hook up with a large brown, all too brief. I inched closer to the head of the pool. Finally I got a brown trout on the line and it came to hand, my only catch for the morning. That was it, enough, though miles of wild trout waters beckoned from the hills above.

A good place to take a break was just around the corner on Route 144. This creek even has its own village, with two restaurant/taverns or, as I call them, “fishing bars.” On my rating scale of 1 to 5 Beers, I rated Jeff’s Bar as a “1 Beer” watering hole today. The beer selections were average; the ambience was good, but the racist patron chatter was too much for me to stomach (typically I enjoy blue-collar conversations while imbibing cold beverages, but the bullshit here was hurtful). More enjoyable was Deb’s Place, the saloon across the street, where the folks were friendly, the refreshments good, and the ambience (including a big stuffed bobcat) comfortable. I particularly enjoyed listening to an elderly, bearded guy who carves iconic images out of rock and bone, especially from antlers and (his words) “raccoon dick.” I gave the place a 3 Beer rating on my fish-bar scale.

So the creek not only has its own bars, it even has another stream to fish in! Yeah, it has Kettle Creek, a larger water, into which it flows near Cross Fork village. I decided to sample the Kettle’s catch-and-release section with a longer, eight-foot rod that I had brought along for the occasion. The Kettle had a decent 62 degree temperature but its flow was minimal. The trout weren’t moving. I released a smallmouth bass and several chubs. After Cross Fork Creek, the Kettle proved anticlimactic this day, but so what.  A trout stream isn’t made just for a fisherman’s delight.

About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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12 Responses to A Creek With Almost Everything

  1. Keith on Puget Sound says:

    Although I’d say the fish look mighty nice, it was the Potter County Shitter that was most notable. It almost makes me want to take my Saturn cross country to see it for myself.

    • Keith, Exactly. My radar for the area picks it up immediately, but for some reason the state tourist brochures for “Pennsylvania Wilds” don’t even mention it. Very understated. If you’re ever in the area I’ll guide you to the site and its environs!

  2. Ken G says:

    There’s a private island out on the Fox River, only one I know of, that I have permission to wander. The facilities they built are a joy to use. I have no problem with a good tree squat, but there’s something special about an open air throne.

    Too bad you can’t know a 1 beer bar before you walk through it’s doors.

    • Ken, Last spring I found a tree stand with the petrified remains from an autumn squat. Some moron had no sense for aesthetic squatting as pictured by the Potter County throne. And yeah, 1 Beer bars are usually stumble-ins at a time when you’re pretty desperate.


  3. Bob Stanton says:

    An on the water crapper? Now there’s an stream improvement project I can get behind. I assume it’s a bring your own reading material facility though.

  4. sonofwalt says:

    Great reading as usual for a poet/birder who appreciates the fishing culture. You keep reminding me of places up north I haven’t been to in years. Gotta get by butt back to Cross Fork. Oh, and I really appreciate the bar reviews. That’s darn helpful.

  5. Mel says:

    Well, I have to say this post may be one of the funniest I have read in awhile! Great job, Walt! I have fished a few streams in my time, but, never one with a “shit’er” waiting for me to use and observe trout feeding from my perch.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Hmm, interesting observations, lets start with the fishing, you fished the wrong spots, used the wrong flies, and ill just leave it at that. Jeffs bar a ” one star” ..lol and Debs a three star ? Sounds like you were dissapointed that you didnt find throngs of other men dressed like they were modeling for Simms or Orvis while sipping craft beer and dreaming they are Brad Pitt in the movie “A River Runs Through it” , and talking in that very detectable flatlander talk ..” yes we were on the Kettle today, near the confluence of Cross Fork creek”….id stick to writing if i were you

    • If you had bothered to read more carefully, you might have noticed that the timing here is early autumn with low-water conditions. If you prefer other locations and think you’re a better angler, fine. As for Deb’s Place, had it been filled with the Orvis and Simms-wearing crowd, I wouldn’t have bothered waiting for lunch. Both bars can have great clientele. Personally I prefer talking to the local guys, folks who enjoy a bit of creativity, too, like the fella carving images from “raccoon dick.” To each his own.

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