The state of Pennsylvania boasts of over 15,000 miles of designated wild trout fishing, each offering some incredible fly fishing opportunities that every fly fisher dreams of.
Pennsylvania is a gold mine for fly fishermen looking for new fly fishing waters to explore. While fly fishing in Pennsylvania you’ll be able to cast a line to everything from wild native brook trout to wild brown and rainbow trout, plus great lakes steelhead and smallmouth bass – what’s not to love.
But, as with every exploration to new fly fishing waters, a little inside information goes a long way and we have it all here for you. Join me as we take a look at the best places to go fly fishing in Pennsylvania.
14 Places for Pennsylvania Fly Fishing Opportunities
1. Lake Erie
Lake Erie has a very versatile range of fly fishing opportunities if you’re willing to work for it. It’s home to our favorite species, brown and rainbow trout as well as great lakes steelhead, and smallmouth bass.
While the brown and rainbow trout fishing opportunities on Lake Erie are excellent, there is a lot of hype in the fly fishing world about targeting smallmouth bass, and this lake has some huge ones and they are aggressive fish too.
The smallmouth in Lake Erie usually weighs about 5 pounds on average, but you’ll catch fish in the 6-8 pound zone there as well.
If smallmouth bass are high on your fly fishing catch list, it’s best to target them in spring as this is when they come into the shallows and sit at around 15-20 feet. Big flies, heavy sinking lines, and casting around structures are the name of the game with smallies as they are ambush predators and aggressive fish.
Lake Erie is so vast with 46 miles of coastline of Pennsylvania fly fishing water alone, so it’s not an easy place to crack. You have to keep in mind that wading may prove to be challenging in these parts.
It’s far more productive to catch fish off a boat on this lake as you can find the structures and drop-offs where fish hold that you can’t access from the beach.
Where To Fish On Lake Erie
If you want to fish from the shore and do some DIY fly fishing, you can head over to the Presque Isle State Park and fish the drop-offs that sit close to the shoreline.
Since the park is public land, you will have unrestricted access to these productive waters featured on the map below.
If you really want to experience the fantastic fly fishing this lake has to offer you should go out on a boat with a guide, as they will know exactly where the fish are and what they are eating.
You’ll find quite a few guide operations in the town of Erie and Tight Lines Sportfising come highly recommended.
Recommended Flies For Lake Erie
- Heavy streamers, zonkers, and wooly buggers – bass & trout
- Articulated streamers and big flies
- Range of nymphs & dry flies for trout fishing
2. Penns Creek
Penns Creek is arguably the best spring creek in Pennsylvania and perhaps one of the best spring creeks for brown and rainbow trout fishing opportunities in the country. If you’re looking for the best trout fishing in Pennsylvania or even one of the best trout fishing locations, Penns Creek is where it’s at.
Penns Creek begins from Penns Cave and moves through Bush and Penns Valley where it joins with other small streams that fill it up a little bit. It then gets another dose of cool clear water from both Pine and Elk Creek when it reaches Coburn.
The river is managed by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and while it is a wild trout stream, they also stock certain sections of it. The wild fish sections are classed as A water while the stocked fish sections are marked as B water.
The 13 miles of Penns Creek from Penns Cave through Pine and Elk Creek, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission rates the water as Class B as it’s stocked with both brown and rainbow trout.
The next 15 miles of Penns Creek is surrounded by the Seven Mountains and is rated as Class A by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. This is the catch and release trophy trout section where you’ll find wild fish in a setting that is as pretty as a spring creek gets and it has some outstanding fishing too.
The next part of Penns Creek running down through Buffalo Valley sees the water slow down and warm up. It is a stocked Class B section that does hold large brown trout but it’s not classic trout fishing water.
You will always find natural populations when trout fishing in Penns Creek, no matter where you fish but, for the purists who want to cast to wild browns and rainbows, Class A water is where it’s at.
Since this entire PA fishing area is spectacular and well-maintained, you will be set for a great fishing experience. Something that makes this spring creek special is that it runs like a freestone river with deep pools and riffles that hold trout and it has a ton of aquatic insects which produce monster trout.
You can check out our post here if you want more stream trout fishing tips.
Fishing The Class A & B Sections
Since Penns is a very popular fly fishing creek, the trout see a lot of flies, and with so much natural food to choose from, the fishing can be tough. This is especially in the Class A sections of this fishing creek and you will need to match the hatch exactly to have outstanding fishing.
If you fly fish the Class B sections, the freshly stocked rainbow and brown trout will rise to attractors and inhale streamers.
But, there will always be big stocked trout that have been in Penns fishing creek a season or two and are looking for something natural, so try to match the hatch for some great fishing on these sections too.
The Green Drake Hatch
Some of the best trout fishing you will have on this fishing creek is during the Green Drake hatch which happens for 3-4 weeks over the summer. These mayflies cover that water and this is when the biggest fish will fall for a fly. This is also when the creek is at its busiest with people from all over the country.
You can also avoid the Green Drake hatch and focus on other hatches of dry flies and thus avoid the crowds.
Where To Fish On Penns Creek
The best fly fishing on Penns can be found in the Class A catch and release section downstream from where Pine Creek joins Penns. See the map below for an idea of where to access the creek.
You’ll also find some great wild trout sections in Poe Paddy State Park and you can access them from the location indicated on the map below.
Recommended Flies For Penns
- Small stoneflies – Feb to March
- Blue Quills, Quill Gordons – March to April
- Blue-winged olives & Adams – March to May
- Sulfur Duns, March Browns, Gray Fox, Chocolate Duns – June to July
- Big Mayflies – Summer Drake hatch
- Eggs, scuds, sowbugs
- Big streamers
- Wet flies & nymphs
Fly fishermen can get caught up on Penns by trying to match the hatch all the time. While catching wild trout on dries is the ultimate experience, catching fish on nymphs and wet flies is also very possible, trout do get 90% of their food underwater after all.
3. Spruce Creek
Spruce Creek is a gorgeous limestone spring creek that is home to some of Pennsylvania’s largest brown trout. Bushes and trees run along its edges and cover the narrow spring creek making casting a lot more challenging and fun.
The great thing about this creek is that it’s a wild brown trout stream only, so you know exactly what trout species you’re targetting. The wild browns also getting pretty large and this is probably one of the best wild trout streams to fish in the state.
The water in the spring-fed creek stays cold all through the year, so the local trout population survives throughout the year. Pennsylvania’s private fishing clubs also stock the limestone spring creek with fish during slow fly fishing years, diluting the wild brown trout a tad.
This creek runs along Highway 45 for miles and flows out into the Little Juniata River. This makes access to the creek increidbly easy but a lot of the fishing is restricted as it is owned by private fishing clubs. You can pay the private fishing clubs a fee to fish their water though.
Public access is available along the section of the river owned by Penn State University. The university uses it to study wild brown trout but also allows us anglers to fish it.
Big wild brown trout are a challenge to catch as they tend to hide under cover, away from the sun and any birds of prey. This means casting into cover, around snags, and fishing deep pools in order to catch and release them.
The times when wild browns come out to play are early morning before dawn until the sun is up for a few hours, and then an hour or two before sunset and into the darkness again. But, if there is a wild hatch on the water, all the fish will take this opportunity to feed.
Where To Fish On Spruce Creek
As I already mentioned, the only public access water on Spruce is available at the Penn State University section which you can find on the map below.
Recommended Flies For Spruce
- Blue-winged olives, Blue Quill – Spring
- Green Drake – Late May
- Cinnamon Caddis – June
- Small Black Caddis, American Grannom – late winter
4. Big Springs Creek
Big Springs Creek is located in Southeastern Pennsylvania and despite being described as a big fishing creek, it’s actually a small to medium-sized trout stream. This is one of the more special trout streams in Pennsylvania as it is a limestone stream with crystal clear water that holds wild brook trout.
The native brook trout in this river grow up to around 20 inches, and that is not a brook trout to be missed out on, so a visit to this creek is a must when fly fishing in Pennsylvania.
The creek isn’t just home to huge brook trout, you’ll also find stocked plus wild brown trout and rainbow trout sitting in the deep pools. But one of the main reasons anglers visit this creek is for the brook trout fishing.
Big Springs starts near the Ritner Highway and follows Big Spring Road through the town of Newville and into the Conodoguinet Creek. It’s not a very long river but the entire river is crystal clear which makes the fishing tough.
Crystal clear waters give fish the advantage and this means you need to fish smaller flies, very long leaders, and thin fluorocarbon around 7-8x. This will help you fool the fish and stop you from spooking good catch and release areas.
Access to the creek is easy and you can pull off on Big Spring Road. The creek widens out around the town of Newville if you want a wider river to fish.
Where To Fish On Big Springs
The top of Big Springs is accessible via the map link below and is easy to get to and from there just follow the road down. You can probably fish the entire creek in 2 days as it’s not that long.
Recommended Flies On Big Springs
- Small Adams
- Green Drakes
- Small nymphs
5. Yellow Breeches Creek
If a catch and release fly fishing trip to Pennsylvania is what you are after, the 30-mile long Yellow Breeches Creek, which drains into the Susquehanna River, is a great place to throw a cast or two.
Yellow Breeches Creek is fed by multiple trout streams including Fishers Run, Mountain Creek, and Spruce Run. This keeps the waters cold in certain areas throughout summer.
Also known just as Yellow Creek, it is home to wild rainbow trout, and also has a large population of stocked brown trout and rainbows too. The stocked trout, however, generally die every summer when the river levels drop and heat up.
There is a catch and release fishing area where most of the fishing on this river takes place which you’ll find next to the town of Boiling Springs.
Since most of the fishing population are stocked fish, catching them isn’t tough — all you need to do is attach imitators and attractors and you will be good to go.
especially if you focus on the deep pools.
If you are fishing in the summer, make sure that you concentrate your fishing around springs bringing in cold water because the wild trout will hold in these areas and be more active.
Focussing on the deep pools is also a good idea as the trout try to find cooler water, especially during summer.
Where To Fish On Yellow Breeches
As I mentioned earlier, the top spot to fish on this creek is around Boiling Springs, which you can see on the map below.
You can also follow the river and look for tributary entry points and pick those as your hotspots.
Recommended Flies For Yellow Breeches
6. Little Juniata River
Popularly known as the Little J in Pennsylvania, the Little Juniata River is a tributary of the Juniata River. Although it may be smaller in size than its big sister, it is actually one of the best fly fishing rivers on the East Coast.
The best place to fly fish here is downriver of Tyrone. The water there is enriched with nutrients where numerous small limestone streams flow into it meaning the water is packed full of food for the big brown trout that call it home.
The towering cliffs in this section of the river offer breathtaking views and the surroundings are beautiful too.
There is another very cool section of the river for those of you who like to explore and get off the beaten track. This section flows through the stunning Logan Valley and features multiple tributaries running into it and it’s very much a freestone section of the river.
The brown trout in this river can go to impressive sizes, but they can be particular about the food they eat, as the story goes with almost all big browns. Make sure to fish long leaders and always match the hatch as these browns will not be fooled easily.
Where To Fish On The Little Juniata River
Below you’ll find a map link to one of the best spots on the Little Juniata, just down from the town of Tyrone. This is just below the confluence with Bald Eagle Creek.
Another great place to fish is below the town of Spruce Creek where Spruce Creek joins the river. Some of this water is club water though, so be sure to check the regulations.
Recommended Flies For The Little Juniata River
- Size 12-18 nymphs
- Woolly Buggers
- Green Drakes
7. The Allegheny River
The Allegheny River in Pennsylvania is located in the beautiful Allegheny National Forest and it’s famous for its monster trout. This river in Pennsylvania enjoys an all-year-round flow as it flows out of the Kinzua Dam making it a tailwater that is fishable all-year-round.
Although the river comes with plenty of amazing fly fishing spots, you may want to head over to the 9-mile long Trophy Section for the best fish populations and fish sizes.
All the trout in this river are stocked, there are no wild ones here but there are holdovers that have grown big and wise over a season on two. The brown trout in this river grow to around 18 inches on average but 30 plus inch fish are caught every year. If you really want to catch a brown of a lifetime, this is the river to head to.
If you want to succeed while fishing in these parts of Pennsylvania, you should keep an eye for the water levels because when they are low the fishing slows down, when they are higher wading is unsafe.
Access to the river is easy and it has tributaries running into it all the way down. So not only does it have the benefit of being a tailwater but last the nutrient additions of feeder streams too.
8. The Slate Run Creek
Slate Run Creek is a tributary of Pine Creek, located in remote Pennsylvania. Slate Run Creek is a freestone creek that has incredible pocket power, which holds both brown trout and wild brook trout.
While these aren’t the biggest fish you will reel-in in the region, you’ll have great fun while you are fishing as they love to eat flies and this river is left alone by most anglers.
Although it has a fantastic seven miles of flow, it cuts through a gorge that can make some parts a challenge to access. Nobody said it wouldn’t be a challenge to discover new fly fishing spots in Pennsylvania.
It is also important to remember that while fishing you are only allowed to fish with single, barbless hooks.
9. Falling Springs Creek
The small limestone creek located in Pennsylvania is loaded with shoals of big Rainbow Trout and wild Brown Trout. They can grow to incredible sizes of up to 18 inches long.
The water in this creek is crystal clear meaning you can spot fish as you walk up the bank. If you have been looking for a great spot for dry fly fishing, then this is the one as it is only about 25 feet wide.
This combined with the clean water means you can sight fish directly for the trophy you want to pull out of the creek.
This is quite a technical bit of water so you’ll want to use smaller flies and long thing leaders in order to be successful.
10. Letort Spring Run
The Letort Spring Run in Pennsylvania has such clear water that it’s hard to distinguish between the water and the bottom. It’s a relatively small creek that is less than 20 feet wide and it’s cold all year so you can fish it all summer too.
The Letort Spring has a small fly fishing section that is also a catch and release-only section, which means you can expect some incredibly large trout. Despite the fact the only fish species you will find here is the Brown Trout, you won’t worry when you’re hooked up to a monster.
Since the water is so clear, the river small, and the fish wise and large, hooking a fish here is a challenge. If you duff a cast, you’ll spook the pool, cast the wrong fly and they act like they never even saw it.
While this might frustrate some anglers, it’s also a great place to learn new fishing skills and grow your experience. Plus, when you do hook one, you will also learn how to deal with big fish in small water, which can be quite a challenge.
I love streams like this as it’s a one on one battle with a smart fish that you can see. It tests you to your limits and you’ll only grow from fishing it.
11. The Susquehanna River
The Susquehanna River is the longest river on the east coast. A part of it flows through Pennsylvania and it is a great source to fly fish smallmouth bass on. The months of June and July are the best to try dry fly fishing on its shores, as the Mayflies bring some amazing surface action. August, September, and October are also good times to visit here.
12. Little Lehigh Creek
The Little Lehigh Creek is a tributary of the Lehigh River that runs for almost 20 miles and is a crystal clear limestone spring creek, like all the creeks in the area.
Being a spring creek it stays cool throughout the year and is fishable in winter too. Consequently, it also supports aquatic life all year long, and the trout population booms and gets big because of it.
It isn’t surprising this location has some amazing dry fly fishing spots and you can fish dries all year long since there are some midge hatches during the winter too.
The top fishing spots on this Pennsylvania river are the T-510 and the T-508 bridges. These two locations are great for stocked and wild trout of decent sizes. However, at Little Lehigh, you have to make sure that you’re using barbless hooks while you are fishing.
13. Kettle Creek
If you are in the northern part of Pennsylvania, Kettle Creek is the ideal spot for a day of fishing. Although it’s quite small over its upper reaches, it gets larger farther downstream.
The lower segment has healthy populations of rainbow and brown trout and you can even find native Brookies in addition to the stocked browns and brookies too.
The best place to fish on Kettle Creek is the section starting below the SR 144 Bridge and going upriver for about 2 miles. This is a delayed harvest fly fishing only section.
The reason it’s such a hotspot is that this section stays cold for most parts of the year and it has more fish than others, especially in the summer when fish are looking for colder waters to hang out in. Plus, the fish here are looked after and released so they can grow to a reasonable size.
Fishing on this creek can be a little tricky as they get wise quickly. Match the hatch, use smaller flies and nymphs, and use thin but long leaders.
Planning on visiting New Hampshire this year? Then you need to take a look at our post here on new hampshire fly fishing for a full guide.
14. Ridley Creek
Ridley Creek can be perfect for a day fishing trip, especially if you are traveling from Philadelphia.
The creek has about 7 miles of stocked water that you can easily access by bike. Though it may not be one of the best fishing spots in Pennsylvania it is a great spot to have a good time with your family.
Just let the kids play at the banks as you reel in your day’s catch. This Pennsylvania fishing spot boasts decent fish populations during the prime fly fishing seasons and the fly hatches can be intense making for a lot of fun dry fly fishing.
Licensing & Stocking References For Pennsylvania
For more information about all the stockings in Pennsylvania please visit this Pennsylvania website as it gives you all the information of when and where fish are being stocked, making for an easy fun-filled day on the water.
Great Fly Shops In Pennsylvania
While you’re fly fishing in Pennsylvania, it’s always a good idea to go to a local fly shop to get some advice in the local hatches, and chances are you’ll need to top up your supplies at some point too. Here are some great fly shops to check out in Pennsylvania.
Good Fishing Guides In Pennsylvania
Going fishing with a guide is always a good idea, especially if you have never fished the particular river or stream you find yourself on while in Pennsylvania. Here are some great ones in the state.
Now that you have skimmed through all the amazing fly fishing destinations in the state of Pennsylvania, we hope you’ll have a great time there!
When going on your fishing trip, make sure that you bring along 4 to 6 weight rods that are about 9 feet long, the perfect size for trout fishing unless you decide to land a steelhead.
, where you will find amazing details about when and where the fish are stocked. You can read more about our fly fishing destinations here.