The weather could not have been finer– a bluebird sky, a slight breeze comfortable while wearing a T-shirt and a fishing vest. This was the weekend I’d been looking for– with songbirds in the sycamores and willows, with tiger swallowtails wafting over the sparkling riffles, and with Sulphurs and Green Drakes hatching over hungry trout.
The Kettle Creek water registered a cool 52 degrees on Saturday morning. A dry fly was ignored at first, but at the B&B Pool, everything changed. I had switched to an emerger and quickly netted a strange-looking rainbow trout with heft. Oddly enough, the trout had some physical characteristics of a brown, or so I thought, and so I called it my brainbow trout.
I was ready to engage the many wild brook trout in this stretch of water, but I waded into a knot of bait and spin-cast fishermen so made a handy detour around them. Watching a high-flying eagle soaring toward a western hollow, I followed it, in a sense, and entered the big woods.
The small tributary in the hollow is a Class A Wild Trout stream. Hardly anyone knows of its existence. I’ve yet to see another sign of human presence there. The forest understory is relatively clear, and it’s fun to cast a fly rod over the stream. Even so, the 8-foot rod I carried was considerably longer than I preferred.
Most of the little pools held a small brookie or two. By the time I reached the mountain’s shoulder, I had lost track of how many speckled fish had risen to the fly (a Stimulator seemed irresistible).
Upon returning to Kettle Creek and finding a sporadic hatch of Green Drake mayflies, I tied on a large imitation called the Grey Fox Variant and continued to catch and release wild brookies. The native fish seems to thrive here despite some stocking of hatchery trout and the steady pressure of bait and spinning anglers not averse to bringing home their limit.
The forest has returned to the mountainsides along much of the creek. More and more anglers are returning some or all of their catch. Downstream, habitat improvement projects have been completed by sportsmen and conservation groups. The end result is a 40-mile stream that’s starting to resemble the way it looked and fished back in its glory days of the nineteenth-century.
The entirety of the Kettle Creek watershed in northern Pennsylvania had been known as one of the finest brook trout regions in the country. Its wild fish grew to sizes well above a foot in length, with occasional specimens reaching 18 inches. Although a 12-inch native trout might be considered an outstanding fish today, I had moments on the Kettle when I thought I saw the glory of the stream that was.
Sunday on the Kettle was a mirror image of the day before. I was upstream from the previous site and there I got my fix for wildness by ascending another small feeder in a roadless area of scenic beauty. I used a 7-foot rod and, once again, had many brook trout rise from the pools and undercuts and riffled waters. This stream is managed as a “Brook Trout Enhancement” water. All other tributaries, plus the Kettle itself, are managed as such from here on upstream to the sources of the watershed. There’s no closed season here for native trout, but the fishing is strictly catch and release.
The farther I walked into this wild area, the better the dry-fly fishing became. Back on Kettle in the late afternoon, I saw no other anglers. A few bugs were hatching, and my dry fly imitation of choice was the Grey Fox Variant, as tied by the late Art Flick.
I had one recurring thought that acted as a weekend theme– given the excellent weather, plus the hatching flies, the hungry trout, and the scenic setting– there was no place anywhere that I would rather be fishing. There was no place anywhere, at least for today.