Welcome to Paradise

Luckily there was no pearly gate to pass through, just a sign that read “Welcome to Fisherman’s Paradise,” a warm welcome to Spring Creek on a cool October morning. Luckily for me, an entrance to one of America’s most storied fly-fishing waters (near State College, Pennsylvania) did not require a life-time of good behavior or superior angling skills. Simply stated, I was on a pilgrimage, a first-time visit, to a very popular fishing site. Ironically, perhaps, the Paradise and lower sections of this limestone creek produce one of the finest wild trout fisheries in the state and country.

all trout pictured on this post (except for 1 that’s indicated) are from the Allegheny River on 2 visits that sandwiched my trip to Spring Creek…

The human history at the creek is staggering. It’s been fished by notables ranging from Theodore Gordon to several U.S. Presidents. The mile-long Fisherman’s Paradise was one of the first American experiments with special angling regulations. Located in the mid-section of this 16-mile creek, it remains a fly-fishing only water, where wading is prohibited. Its wild brown trout have seen just about every pattern of nymph, scud, sculpin, and tiny dry fly imaginable. And to think that Paradise could be easy and unchallenging? Not on a blue sky autumn day, not in low, clear water with a high pH and a great variety of aquatic insects.

Spring Creek, near Bellefont, PA…

Well, Paradise isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The stream suffered horrible abuse with chemical pollution in the mid to late 1900s but, luckily, it’s coming back, thanks to the dedicated work of conservationists and civic organizations. I’m glad it’s here on Earth. I wouldn’t want to travel too much farther to attain its pleasures.

The Paradise and its surrounding park were comfortable enough, with easy access and good casting from its open banks. I saw some mammoth, tight-lipped browns. I did not see the ghosts of famous fishermen from the past, nor angelic casters we might recognize from glossy magazines or videos, nor even a school of Orvis-clad couples rigging up at their SUVs. Oh, an angler fished here and there; a group of folks was selling hot dogs for a worthy cause but, over all, my wife and I enjoyed the relative peace and quiet.

Riparian zone, Fisherman’s Paradise…

The stream was on the rebound and becoming a healthy ecosystem once again. It is said to have more wild trout per mile than any other water in the state. I sampled the canyon above the Paradise (its water paralleled by a popular hiking trail) and found it scenic and wild, considering that the creek was flowing in a populated and rapidly developing county. I attempted to reach the Benner Spring Hatchery section to fish below it into the canyon but somehow missed the turn. If I visit again, that’s where I’m heading.

the Bob Stanton caddis did the trick with a lot of these Allegheny browns…

Back at Paradise, the trout began to rise for midges but the hook-ups were few and far between. I finally landed a leaping brown that made my day, erasing the problems of conflicting surface currents and whatever mental conflicts I may have entertained concerning paradisal expectations. It was time for lunch, so Leighanne and I retreated to a brewery in State College.

nectar of the trout gods…

The food and drink were excellent but they couldn’t block a conversation at a nearby table. A professorial character was extolling the virtues of technology to a captured audience of three. “Think of this,” said the intellectual. “Someday the entire universe will be reproduced inside of your computer. The. Entire. Universe.”

I thought about what I heard. And yawned. And took another swill of IPA. Hell, I thought. Didn’t William Blake foresee all that– the world in a grain of sand– 200 years ago? The more things change… yeah. But the lunch was good, and necessary.

We soon headed back to Paradise, with Spring Creek flowing through.

this Spring Creek pool held some monstrous, restive browns…

Paradise brown…

the Paradise above…



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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18 Responses to Welcome to Paradise

  1. Brent says:

    Some nice, well-defined banks there, and substantial water flow despite the dry spell. I guess Paradise is a relative concept in these days!

  2. JZ says:

    Nice right-up on a very well known righteous stream. Its amazing to me, that even under sustained constant pressure, these fish still thrive. A rich food source of cress bugs and scuds are a trout’s go too food source. The browns grow quick with that abundant nutrient.
    I always try and find time on this water throughout the year Walt. Fished it twice in the early season and caught a few decent sized resident browns. Glad to see your hitting the creeks and catching a few while taking in the fall colors. I finally got out and hit a small brook trout stream, Rattling creek in Dauphin, up near Lykens. Caught some natives on a tight rocky stream that you could almost jump across. It was a perfect day spent with that 5 1/2 ft one piece stick of mine that I like. Take care Walt..

    • JZ, You’re right, the fish do well with all that food supply and dependable water source. Thanks again for your thoughts here. I’m glad you’re finding time to fish those fine autumn streams. The colors are at their peak right now.

  3. plaidcamper says:

    Well, I guess we shouldn’t place too much faith in promises of paradise… but accept the good times that come along, and appreciate small mercies like not being the captured audience of a pub bore. Anyway, a decent pint of IPA is a small slice (sip) of heaven.
    Another good one – thanks, Walt!

    • Thanks Plaid! I guess paradise was never meant to be a stable concept, rather something in constant flux, to be lost/regained forever. And yes, an IPA nectar is good medicine when afflicted by tavern bores!

  4. Bob says:

    Next time your headed to Spring Creek maybe we could meet up and I can show you around. P.S> – I like beer!
    And JZ – I used to live in Dauphin and loved visiting Rattling Run, especially this time of year! thanks
    You brought back some nice memories.

    • Bob M., Thank you for that offer, which I’ll keep in mind. I could use some friendly guidance at the stream and at the brewery! And since you guys know Dauphin and Rattling Run, I’ve got to check the map and get a better picture!

  5. Bob Stanton says:

    I took a visit to Fisherman’s Paradise four years ago after a Lucinda Williams concert in State College the night before – a social call, no angling – and the locals were playing the water with size 24 trico imitations, to little avail. I did run into a guy who went to the same high school as myself, oddly enough. A cool place to visit, given it’s history. Glad to see the “bleeding heart” put to use, especially on the Allegheny where I too have used soft hackles successfully. With this rain, perhaps we can get a trip in soon!

    • Bob, Your Bleeding Heart fly is a damn good pattern, and I remain thankful for it. The Paradise is a good place for gatherings of various sorts, and a place to be humbled by the use of tiny flies. Meanwhile, hoping we can get together on the stream before long!

    • Anonymous says:

      Mr. Stanton – do you have the recipe for the ‘Bleeding Heart’ (what I believe is the name for the soft hackle Walt is referring to in this blog?
      It looks straightforward enough with the exception that a red ( I’m guessing glass) bead is inserted – I’m thinking after the hackle is wound and tied off – then the body and rib tied off ‘behind’ the bead. But please, any recipe and tips on tying would be greatly appreciated.

  6. Ah, good old Billy Blake. Someone had top teach Byron and Shelly what it was all about!

  7. loydtruss says:

    Absolute gorgeous browns taken in a storied stream that is suited for a perfect fall outing. Does Leighanne do any fly fishing with you? Cathey made one trip with me this year where she landed some nice bluegills, brought back some great memories. Thanks for sharing

    • Thanks Bill. No, Leighanne doesn’t fly-fish but supports me with her presence and expertise with nearby breweries. Often she’ll take a chair to the streambank & catch up on her reading or crochet work. Glad that you guys share some memories taken from the water.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Apologies for commenting on an ‘older’ blog but, I tried to post and it didn’t go through initially. So if there are any groans with regard to this comment, I’m going to blame Walt as I feel he has encouraged me to post.
    My initial post commented firstly on the level of the table where the ‘nectar of the Gods’ was resting. I think there was some serious need for some spacers under one or more of the feet supporting that table. A secondary comment started to express concern for your partner as I believed they were in attendance. But upon further observation I noticed that there was a distinctive glass with a very attractive taper that indeed had a dark libation of some sort in it. Concern abated.
    In all seriousness, I’ve never fished the area but that Spring creek looked really nice! I might have to copy that soft hackle fly as it looks like a really good choice to try when trying to fool these brilliant fish with the brain the size of a pea!

    • UB, Brains the size of a pea can make my own go begging at times, especially on those tough spring creeks of ours. The Stanton soft-hackle, a Bleeding Heart, is a fine pattern there & elsewhere throughout the season. If you want the recipe, Bob can probably supply it for you. As for the spacer that seems lacking underneath the table at the bar, I think you’re seeing something amiss in the angler sitting in front of the glass, the contents of which alleviated the deficiency right away. Or something like that. Thanks for the observations, Marion!

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