New book reveals the fly fishing secrets of Pennsylvania waters – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
You could fill a library shelf with all the books, revised editions, essays, articles and treatises — dating to the 1600s — about fly fishing in Pennsylvania. And there’s still more to say.
With water pouring down both sides of the Appalachian Mountains, the Keystone State is laced with more streams than the Fish and Boat Commission can assess. Great angling diversity is available on Pennsylvania’s 86,000 miles of limestone spring water, freestone creeks, major river systems, bottom-release tailwaters, mainstem tributaries, stocked streams, native trout hideaways, Great Lakes feeders and ocean estuaries. It has to be a chore for one ambitious writer to cover it all with the insight of an experienced local angler.
That was the idea motivating publisher, author and fly angler Jay Nichols of Cumberland County. He recruited eight talented Pennsylvania fly fishing writers to detail the waters, prominent hatches and preferred tactics used in their backyards. Nichols augmented their work with his own informative photography, access maps and even a fly pattern index, and published all 586 pages under his Headwater Books imprint.
Billed as “the ultimate guide to Pennsylvania’s best water,” “Keystone Fly Fishing” divides the state into regional sections including hundreds of chapters revealing the secrets of individual streams, indexed by name. Nichols’ editing allows each writer to speak with a distinctive voice and outlook. The result is an easy read and informative resource likely to be embraced by generations of Pennsylvania fly anglers.
“I believe that Jay Nichols’ take on this, utilizing regional authors, is unique and provides at its core accurate and indepth coverage,” said Lenny Lichvar, Fish and Boat Commission member for the southwest district. As the author of more than 50 pages of the book, he covers popular waters and open secrets throughout the region.
For accessibility and fishability under just about any condition, Lichvar said he recommends the 38 miles of Laurel Hill Creek in Somerset County as one of the best waterways for new and moderately experienced fly anglers. In spring 2016, on a Post-Gazette motor coach fishing trip to Laurel Hill, Lichvar donated his time as a fishing coach. In rain-drenched, high and muddy waters, he was one of the few who caught trout.
“From a fly fishing standpoint, Laurel Hill Creek fishes well in the early season from April through June, and much of it runs through public land and open private land,” he said. “It has two special regulation areas, it’s mostly easy to wade and has casting room.”
Westmoreland County’s Loyalhanna Creek, he said, falls into the same genre of easy fly fishing waters.
While researching for his section of the book, Lichvar said he “rediscovered” Little Mahoning Creek, a beautiful and “very productive” if under-utilized stream in Indiana County.
To the north, nationally recognized steelhead writer Karl Weixlmann covers 13 Pennsylvania tributaries of Lake Erie (more than you thought?), as well as Presque Isle Bay and his lake water “surf fishing” technique.
The area between the Great Lake basin and the state’s southwest is sometimes overlooked by fly anglers who rightfully revere the mountain waters to the east. But with decades of insight and an easy writing style, former Forest Service worker for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and fly fishing coach Gary Kell reveals dozens of productive waters.
“Most of this area is part of the Allegheny River drainage, and the bulk of the streams I describe are on public lands,” Kell said. “Tionesta Creek is almost all within Allegheny National Forest, a half-million acres with many, many streams. The larger waters are more well-known — Oil Creek, Clarion River — and they hold good populations of brown trout, bass and other fish.”
Kell said his favorite fishing is for holdover browns in the region’s many tributary streams. Work farther up the drainage, he said, to find healthy populations of native brook trout.
“I think the approach that Jay took was right on the button,” Kell said. “You get pretty straightforward information on the streams that you can rely on. It also mixes in where to go, how to get there and preferred patterns and techniques.”
“Keystone Fly Fishing” provides the detail needed by veteran fly anglers without talking down to the less experienced and those who prefer a bobber and bait. Class A cold-water wild trout havens are covered, but most of the book’s waterways hold stocked trout and some are better suited for warm-water game fish.
Make room for another valuable resource on the Pennsylvania fly fishing shelf.