New guidebook details Pennsylvania’s best fly-fishing waters


This year, March certainly made its entrance like a lion — no, make that a polar bear.

After some unseasonably glorious weather during the last week of February, the first two weeks of March served up brutal winds and frigid temperatures capped off by several inches of snow early last week. As much as I appreciated the opportunity to break out my fishing tackle and enjoy a few days of great fishing for both bass and trout, the return to winter forced me to resume indoor diversions such as tying flies and catching up on my reading.

One book that has helped me pass the winter (and its unwanted reprise last week) is “Keystone Fly Fishing,” published by Headwater Books and written by a host of experienced Pennsylvania fly-fishermen and fly tiers. The headmaster of this work is publisher, writer, editor and accomplished fly angler Jay Nichols. Over the past 15 years, Nichols has had a hand in producing most of the better fly-fishing and fly-tying titles published during that time, many of which I believe will be considered benchmarks of the sport for years to come. He is also a skilled photographer whose images of streams and close-ups of fish, insects and fly patterns have enhanced many of those books, including most of the photos in the “Keystone Fly Fishing.”

Compiling relevant, up-to-date, angling information on the numerous fly-fishing waters in a state as large and diverse as Pennsylvania is no small undertaking. It is, however, an effort that is both worthwhile and necessary, not only for resident anglers but also the thousands of non-residents who travel here each year to enjoy the resources of the Keystone State. To provide the most comprehensive and intimate knowledge of a given waterway, “Keystone Fly fishing” divides the state into eight distinct regions, each of those written by an expert angler from those areas.

Gary Kell of Warren authored the Northwest region that includes Allegheny River, Oil Creek, Clarion River, French Creek and Tionesta Creek. Longtime guide Karl Weixlmann of Erie covers the Erie region with reports about steelhead fishing on the Lake Erie tributaries such as Walnut Creek, Elk Creek and the other streams that make up Steelhead Alley, along information about the great fishing opportunities in Presque Isle Bay for largemouth and smallmouth bass, northern pike, bowfin and many other species there. Guide and rod builder Ben Turpin of Saylorsburg wrote about the waters of the Northeast region, such as Brodhead Creek, Lehigh River, the Delaware River and its West Branch and the streams of Hickory Run State Park.

Henry Ramsay of Birdsboro wrote about the waters of the Southeast region, which include Little Lehigh Creek, Schuylkill River, Quittapahilla Creek and Tulpehocken Creek. Along with being a guide, writer and photographer, Ramsay is an extremely talented fly tier and fly designer as shown in his own book “Matching Major Eastern Hatches: New Patterns for Selective Trout.” Mike Heck of Dry Run, another of Pennsylvania’s top guides and fly designers, wrote the section on the Southcentral region. This area includes many of the fabled streams of the Cumberland Valley such as the Yellow Breeches, Letort Spring Run, Falling Spring and Big Spring Creek, along with streams on the other side of the Susquehanna River like Clarks Creek and other Dauphin county waters.

Dave Rothrock of Jersey Shore is a guide, casting instructor and superb fly tier who specializes in productive nymph patterns. He also does double duty in the book, writing both the section on the Northcentral region and streams such as Sinnemahoning Creek, Kettle Creek, Pine Creek, Slate Run, and Loyalsock Creek, along with the section on the Central region that focuses on many of the popular waters of our area, including the Little Juniata River, Penns Creek, Fishing Creek and Spring Creek. Outdoor writer and Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commissioner Len Lichvar of Boswell covers the waters of the Southwest region, including Bobs Creek, Yellow Creek, Chest Creek Laurel Hill Creek, Loyalhanna Creek and the Youghiogheny River.

While Pennsylvania is rightly known as a top destination for fly-fishing for trout, fly anglers have the opportunity to cast to a variety of other species, and one of the most popular of those is smallmouth bass. Brian Shumaker of Mount Holly, who operates his own guide service specializing in smallmouth bass and other warmwater species, contributes a short primer on fly-fishing for smallmouth bass along with information on the bass fisheries on the Susquehanna River and Juniata River.

While separating the coverage to the nine regional experts who did most of the writing is one of the book’s strengths, dozens of other anglers throughout the state were consulted to contribute a wealth of additional information regarding specific waterways. I believe all that extra insight and opinion makes “Keystone Fly Fishing” a valuable resource.

I gave several interviews providing input on the trout streams of Blair County and the smallmouth fishing on the upper Juniata River. Other local anglers who contributed include Dave Allbaugh, Kevin Compton, George Daniel, Tom Doman, Bob George, Paul Rebarchak, John Stoyanoff, Creg Strock, Ed Weamer and Brian Wolfkiel.

At $29.95, “Keystone Fly Fishing” costs less than a tank of gas and should be the definitive where-to guide for Pennsylvania anglers for years to come. I have been blessed to spend more than my share of time on the water over the past 50 years, yet there are still so many streams I’ve yet to fish. The magnificent pictures and informative text of this worthwhile book has already helped me compile a short list of waters where I plan to cast a line in the next season or two.