Fly fishing Spring Creek in central Pennsylvania is famous, and for good reason. I’ve fished there a number of times throughout the years and was not disappointed. It has one of the strongest wild trout populations of any river in the Eastern US.
Table of Contents
- Where Is Spring Creek?
- Fly Fishing Spring Creek: Why Go?
- Types of Fishing in Spring Creek
- Spring Creek Fish Species
- Fly Fishing Species
- Best Spots for Fly Fishing Spring Creek
- Best Flies For Fishing Spring Creek
- Spring Creek Fishing Season
- Spring Creek Fishing Report
- Spring Creek Fishing Guides
- Fly Fishing Gear
Spring Creek made a miraculous transition when pollution caused the state to make it catch & release only, to prevent people from getting sick from eating the creek’s trout. Without stocking or severe fishing pressure, wild brown trout quickly took hold.
Now, Spring Creek is a remarkable wild trout fishery. Its history and notoriety precede it. Spring Creek is worth visiting even if only once.
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Where Is Spring Creek?
Spring Creek runs through the limestone hills of central Pennsylvania. It originates near a small village called Boalsburg, flows through the city of State College, and ends where it enters Bald Eagle Creek.
It’s the geology of the area that makes Spring Creek and the surrounding waters so special. The porous limestone bedrock feeds the streams nutrient rich cold water year round. The nutrients promote strong insect and crustacean populations, while the cold water keeps trout healthy all year.
Spring Creek’s location is much of the reason why fishing there is so well known. It’s one of many famous trout streams in the area. Many influential fly fishers cut their teeth in the area, including Joe Humphreys and George Harvey.
Fly Fishing Spring Creek: Why Go?
Fly fishing Spring Creek is a great experience for a variety of reasons. Foremost, it gives an angler an idea of what a stream can be like when managed correctly. It’s a wild fishery, not stocked, and yet the river is just full of fish.
It’s also historic ground, and for any experienced fly fisher it gives the chance to walk in the footsteps of some of the greats. Even if the fishing is slow (and I’ve yet to have a bad day there), you’ll be fishing in a very special, beautiful place.
Types of Fishing in Spring Creek
Casting flies is of course the primary draw to Spring Creek, but it isn’t the only option.
Fly Fishing Spring Creek
Fly fishing is excellent along the entire length of Spring Creek (where publicly accessible, of course). In the special regulation section at Fisherman’s Paradise, regulations are fly fishing only and catch & release.
A fly rod is often the best way to present an artificial imitation of what the trout in Spring Creek feed on.
Spin Fishing Spring Creek
Spin fishing, with bait or lures, is legal outside of Fisherman’s Paradise. All fish must still be released, regardless of where you fish in the stream. So, it’s a good idea to consider that bait and treble hooks increase mortality.
Casting spinners, small jerk baits, and jigs can be effective when spin fishing Spring Creek. I also once saw an angler there hammering trout simply drifting pieces of white bread.
Spring Creek Fish Species
Spring Creek holds abundant slimy sculpins, tessellated darters, and blacknose dace, but below are the three species you’re most likely to catch.
Brown trout were introduced in the watershed sometime in the 1800s, and they quickly out-competed the native brook trout. They’re now the main draw to the river.
Brown trout in Spring Creek are wild fish and have exceptional colors. The average is about 10 inches, with some specimens reaching 20 inches, although that’s very uncommon. There are literally thousands of them, though, and they rise willingly to strong hatches.
Rainbow trout in Spring Creek are a mix of wild fish and hatchery escapees. There’s some debate about the wild nature of the small rainbows, and it’s generally assumed that large ones, some exceeding six pounds, are escaped from the hatcheries. They’re less abundant than brown trout.
White suckers are native to Spring Creek and often reach 18 to 20 inches. They’re often caught accidentally by anglers nymphing for trout, but can be targeted as well. The spring spawning run is the best time to fish for suckers.
Best Spots for Fly Fishing Spring Creek
There are many miles of fishable water for fishing at Spring Creek. Exploring is a great idea, but here are some accesses to try.
The parking at Benner Spring off Rock Rd. offers access to a couple miles of good trout water. This stretch has more tree cover than some other parts of the river, and a good roll cast is often important.
Fisherman’s Paradise is some of the most famous water for Spring Creek fishing. It’s catch & release fly fishing only, and it gets a lot of pressure.
The fish can be very picky at times. The grounds are well maintained and wading is not permitted, but it isn’t necessary either.
In the town of Bellefonte, there’s plenty of casting room, as long as you pay attention to pedestrians. It’s an urban setting, unlike Fisherman’s Paradise or Benner Springs. There are some large trout there, though.
Best Flies For Fishing Spring Creek
These are some important flies to have in your fly box when fishing Spring Creek.
Scuds are extremely common in Spring Creek because of the alkaline limestone spring water. Trout feed on them year round.
Having scuds in grey and olive, sizes 16 to 12, is almost necessary.
Hump’s Cress Bug
Joe Humphreys designed the Humps Cress Bug for fishing in this area. Cress bugs, like scuds, are abundant in Spring Creek. Bouncing this fly along the bottom will pick up trout most of the time.
During the spring sulfur hatch, trout will often get very surface oriented. When the hatch is on during those warm evenings and the river is boiling, try a Parachute Sulfur.
The first strong mayfly hatch of the year is the little blue-winged olives. These bugs are typically a size 18 and often hatch in the month of March during cloudy, misty weather.
They usually get the trout looking up and carrying a little BWO Comparadun is a good idea.
Designed by local guide Domenic Swentosky, the Bunny Bullet is the perfect streamer to imitate slimy sculpins. These fish are abundant in Spring Creek and make up a significant food source for the stream’s trout.
Spring Creek Fishing Season
Spring Creek is open to fishing year round. As long as the water isn’t too warm to safely catch and release trout, the fishing can be good.
Winter streamer fishing or nymphing with scuds and cress bugs can produce some of the largest fish in the river. Hatches become strong right at the start of spring, and the dry fly season lasts through the summer. In August, the water may get too warm for safe trout fishing.
In the fall, there are some decent hatches on some days, but fishing nymphs, scuds, and eggs is usually more productive. Streamers will also produce. Try to avoid fishing near spawning trout from October through December.
Spring Creek Fishing Report
The last time I fished Spring Creek was in the middle of winter. It was cold and snowed heavily on the last day, but the fishing was very good. I caught numerous browns and rainbows, mostly on small nymphs and cress bugs.
Spring Creek Fishing Guides
Here are some of the best guides for Spring Creek or fishing near Spring Creek.
Domenick, writer of the popular blog “Troutbitten,” guides Spring Creek and other local waters. He has special expertise in fishing the mono rig, so if you’re interested in learning that methodology, he’s a good guide to hire.
Sky Blue Outfitters
Sky Blue Outfitters offers a variety of guided fly fishing trips, including on Spring Creek and surrounding waters. They even offer overnight packaged trips with lodging, food, and guided fishing.
TCO Fly Shop
The most prominent fly shop in the region books trips with a bunch of guides. Most of the guides can do trips on Spring Creek.
Spring Creek is a remarkable fishery loaded with wild trout. With the put-and-take mentality that is so common in the Eastern United States, such a stream is a breath of fresh air.
Fly fishing Spring Creek is a great experience. It’s the perfect training ground. The fish are discerning and numerous. There are also many different water types, from pockets to deep runs and pools to shallow riffles. It’s a great place to practice the craft.
I was blown away by Spring Creek from my very first visit, and I love going back and experiencing it as well as exploring other waters nearby. I highly recommend making the trip.