Spring Creek simply in a class by itself

Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a five-part series.

Centre County’s Spring Creek is often rated as the top trout stream in Pennsylvania.

Several factors contribute to the popularity of this fertile limestone stream. Foremost among them is its exceptional population of wild brown trout.

Another is the ample availability of public access throughout most of its length. And Spring Creek’s proximity to Penn State University has introduced generations of students and their families to the outstanding trout fishing the stream offers.

Many of these folks regularly return to fish Spring Creek.

To ensure the quality of the wild trout fishery, most of Spring Creek is managed under “catch and release all tackle” (CRAT) regulations.

Fishing is permitted year-round, but no trout may be taken or killed at any time. Fishing may be done with artificial lures, flies or natural or live baits. Both spinning and fly tackle are permitted.

The CRAT regulations begin just east of State College, where a small bridge on Boalsburg Road crosses Spring Creek in Oak Hall and continue downstream about 16 miles to its confluence with Bald Eagle Creek in Milesburg.

For the first two miles downstream of Oak Hall, Spring Creek flows past a limestone quarry and through the village of Lemont, and stream access is limited in this area.

The first public stream access is at Spring Creek Park off Houserville Road, just downstream from Route 26. Houserville Road parallels the stream for several miles before intersecting Rock Road, which follows the stream to a tall limestone cliff aptly named “The Rock.”

At this point, the road winds away from the stream.

The next four miles of Spring Creek are part of a remarkable public access area known as the “Spring Creek Canyon.”

For decades, this area was owned by the Pennsylvania Department of Correction as part of the Rockview State Correctional Institution.

In 2010, the tract was turned over to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, Penn State University and Benner Township, and these entities combined to provide unprecedented access to the most scenic and productive area of Spring Creek via foot or bicycle with the establishment of the Spring Creek Canyon trail.

Parking and access to Spring Creek, and the trail can be found at The Rock, at Benner Spring via Shiloh Road from I-99 or Route 26, or at Fisherman’s Paradise via Paradise Road from Route 150 near Bellefonte.

Fisherman’s Paradise is a part of Pennsylvania angling history. Established in 1934 the Paradise was the first special regulation area for trout in the country, and it drew fly anglers from all over the country to fish there.

Currently, this 1.3-mile section of Spring Creek is managed as “catch and release fly-fishing only.” Fishing is permitted year-round, but no trout may be taken or killed at any time. Fishing must be done with artificial flies and fly tackle, and no wading is permitted.

Downstream of Fisherman’s Paradise, Spring Creek returns to CRAT regulations, and after a half mile of private property, there are several public parking and access areas before the stream enters Bellefonte.

Logan Branch, a significant tributary, enters Spring Creek on the outskirts of Bellefonte, and a short section of the stream is closed to fishing in Talleyrand Park in the center of town. Route 144 follows the stream to its mouth in Milesburg.

After the removal of an old dam back in 2007, many Spring Creek regulars now consider those last two miles of stream to be the best on the waterway.

With its superb trout fishery, miles of public access and legions of dedicated anglers who love this historic stream, Spring Creek should hold its place as Pennsylvania’s top trout stream for years to come.

Award-winning outdoor writer and photographer Walt Young, 66, is a lifelong resident of Blair County. Young began fishing and fly tying at the age of 12, and his passion for all things outdoors shaped a career path that has provided him the opportunity to fish throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. He has written and supplied photos for hundreds of magazine articles and newspaper columns about fishing, hunting and nature. Young was selected to participate in the first Fly Fishing Masters Tournament on the Outdoor Life Network. He is a highly skilled professional fly tier who won both the Pennsylvania and New Jersey State Flytying Championships multiple times.