This post is for stream PA-1F. I won’t name streams on my site (sorry, don’t ask) to prevent them from being “spot burned” or unwanted attention drawn to them.
Stream PA-1F is classified as a Class A brook trout stream. It’s nestled deep in a State Gameland property with no road access through most of the year. Since it’s hunting season in PA right now, the access road is open, which allows you to get to the upper headwaters area of the stream via vehicle. The hike down to where it flows into a large lake is about 1-1/2 miles.
I fished the stream on the tail end of the spawning season, and purposefully avoided stepping in the stream through my entire trip. I crossed in 3 places making sure to step on large rocks to avoid disturbing any redds. My goal in fishing this stream was to find out if brookies inhabited the large beaver pond I had spotted on the stream earlier in the year while fishing the lake.
Interestingly, and somewhat surprisingly, the pond is indeed full of native brook trout. This stream appears to be very acidic, flowing through a lot of evergreen woods. The water is stained a dark brown color from all the pine tannins in the water. I need to purchase a field water testing kit to test the water parameters on these streams, but this one was visibly low pH and likely low alkalinity. Typical of most of the streams in this region of Pennsylvania, the geology is of inert quartzite. Throughout the stream, I saw a great deal of very light colored sand substrate indicating that the majority of the geological makeup of the drainage is sandstone/quartzite.
The stream has some decent habitat up through the woods, but no large, deep pools. The best habitat is the beaver pond which thankfully occurs all the way down at the end of the stream before it enters the lake.
None of the fish I caught were of any great size, however, I lost or missed a few very nice fish. I saw what was likely a 11 or 12 inch fish swing at my streamer. All of the fish I caught were in the beaver pond. I did observe a pair of post spawn fish further up the stream, and I missed a few small fish in a few other smaller holes upstream of the pond.
We haven’t had a lot of precipitation this year, and it’s evident on this little stream and the lake it flows into. Regardless, it had a respectable flow for this late in the year, and the water temperature was a very acceptable 48 degrees.
I’m always stunned by the variation in appearance in fish from the same drainage. These fish were from the same hole, same sex, and relatively the same size, yet vastly different in outward appearance. I would imagine it’s a combination of genetics and food preference, but I’m not a biologist.
I’m intrigued by beaver ponds whenever I find them. I know they’re a double edged sword in that they provide habitat, but also cause a warming of the water. I think the elevation and shaded canopy of the upper stretches of the stream likely mean that this pond holds trout all year. Again, this pond occurs at the end of the stream, so I think in this case, it’s a benefit to the system. It also acts as a barrier to prevent other species from entering from the lake.
So could this stream house a unicorn? Unlikely. While the beaver pond clearly holds some decent sized brookies, and I saw some very respectable upper class fish, it’s simply too infertile. This recipe is pretty typical of the streams in this region. The temperature and habitat are likely good, but the chemistry is not. Additionally, because this stream is isolated from any larger system, it’s unlikely a brook trout could grow large enough, fast enough to reach unicorn size. It’s still an amazing place, and nothing beats catching 8 to 9 inch wild, native brook trout in their original home water.
I will likely visit this beaver pond again in the future. The bigger fish I saw are intriguing, and I’m always interested to see how these streams fair from year to year from a population standpoint.