This post is for stream PA-1E. 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-1E is listed by the Pa Fish and Boat Commission as a Class A Wild Trout stream for Brook Trout only. This is one of the most unique wild brook trout streams I’ve ever encountered. It’s composition is varied in that it is generated from runoff drainages and natural spring upwellings in a high altitude, remote section of PA. The stream meanders through a strange landscape of wetlands, sparse woods and vegetation. It seemingly erupts out of the ground at it’s very head as a small, 2 foot wide stream. Further down, it’s joined by several small tributary streams. Several of which are spring fed, or erupt from the ground as a spring.
These natural springs exhibit the typical spring creek look, complete with water cress and sandy bottom just like their big cousins “down east”. I’ve seen small spring creeks like this in the wild before, but never this many in one place. I’ve only fished here in the cold, but I suspect these little sources of cold water provide excellent refuge in the warm summer months.
This stream is similar in one way to some other streams in this area (PA-1B & others to follow) in that there are a few beaver dams on the stream. Like I’ve mentioned before, that’s good and bad. It’s good because it houses some big fish. It’s bad because it A.) can cause temperature increase in the water, and B.) can prevent fish migration within the system.
The beaver ponds start pretty abruptly here. The first is a small one, not far down from the uppermost source of the stream. I was surprised to find brook trout all the way up here. So the ponds must not play too big of a role in fish movement, OR the fish are simply so dispersed that even when isolated they are able to reproduce and repopulate.
The above beauty came from that small beaver pond. Even when small, these are arguably the most beautiful fish on the planet. In the next beaver pond down the stream, I caught two more small brookies. These upper ponds are not very deep, and really aren’t that big. The lower one does have some deeper beaver channels dug in it, or possibly the remnants of the original stream channel, but I didn’t really see habitat that would hold large fish.
Further downstream however, there is one massive beaver pond. This pond has some very deep water in sections of it. While the reflection makes it hard to see in the above photo, there are channels in the section close to the bottom of the photo that I would estimate to be in excess of 10 feet deep! These ponds are always hard to fish with a fly rod. There isn’t a lot of room to cast, and even if you can cast, there’s no current to move the fly. In the spring, or summer, it may work for terrestrials or dry flies, but I’m not sure if the fish hold in the slack water portions then.
On the far side of this large beaver pond is where the main stream flows into the pond. The bend you see in the middle left of the above photo where there is foam on the water surface is a very deep pool where the current has carved out a bend in the ground. I caught a few nice fish in this pool.
The female in the above photo is an interesting looking fish. She was caught in late December, so she shouldn’t be full of eggs. Still, she looks like she’s either plump with eggs, or maybe just full of food! The colorful male came from the same pool, and he isn’t as engorged, but still healthy looking.
Up from that bend in the main flow, is some very nice looking water. There is good flow and some stream bed features that cause some nice deep pools and undercut bank. This time of year, the fish seem to hold in much slower current to conserve energy, so they were kind of podded up in the bend pool. At least as well as I could see. I actually couldn’t see the bottom of the bend pool, so I don’t know what was down in there. I wasn’t really equipped to fish this type of water on my first trip here, so I didn’t spend a ton of time prospecting the hole. I also wanted to explore more of the stream and was somewhat limited on time that day. When the days are longer and the conditions are better I’ll certainly be returning to this stream.
Further down from the big beaver pond section the stream changes character as it enters the woods. Here, the gradient increases, and the rate of flow along with it. This lower section looks like it will be good water for spring/summer months when the fish are holding in faster water for oxygen. I only explored another 100 yards or so downstream from this photo.
This stream is very intriguing to me. This is some of the best brook trout habitat I’ve seen in all my travels to date. It’s also very, very hard to get to. The lower route to the section below the photo is at least a 2 mile hike over some rough terrain with no trails. The upper section is even worse. To reach the upper section in the summer when the gamelands gate will be closed will be a 7 mile hike to this spot. That’s 7 miles through the woods with little to no trails to help you get there. That’s no trivial walk to the stream.
This all leads me to believe that this stream is rarely fished. I do know from speaking with the state forest manager here that someone else had enquired about the stream and access in the past. If you’re reading this, I’d love to talk to you!
In my opinion, of all the streams I’ve ever fished, and all the brook trout streams I know of, this stream holds the best potential for a unicorn eastern brook trout. In the photo above, there is a pool just in front of the small pine tree on the bank that is just absolute perfect brook trout habitat. I didn’t catch anything in this hole, which leads me to believe that either A.) it’s inhabitant is holding in slower water somewhere over the winter, or B.) it’s one of those holes with a big resident that chases everything out of his hole and he wasn’t interested in flies.
The stream also holds a fair amount of sculpins. Brook trout love sculpins. Especially big brook trout like the kind I’m after. My hope is to fish this stream hard in the spring with sculpins. There is one other big secret on this stream that I might discuss further in the future. It’s a feature that, as far as I’m aware, is unique to this stream throughout all of PA. As in, I’m pretty sure this is the only stream in the commonwealth with this certain feature.
All of these things combined give me great hope that the largest brook trout I’ve ever caught lives in this system.