State College Pennsylvania

The town of State College, home to Penn State University, is a place where you can fish for trout in amazing streams and take college level courses in fly fishing at the same time. State College, founded in the mid-1800s as an “AG” school, over time became home to Penn State University. Even though the name of the school and its post office appellation changed in the early 1950’s, the town has retained its original name.

Fly fishing has long been a part of the University’s tradition. George Harvey, an early pioneer of physical education and competitive sports, began teaching fly fishing courses in the mid-1930s. By the late 1940’s his classes became part of the school’s curriculum; to this day, fly fishing classes are offered as for-credit.

A short distance from campus is Spring Creek, a wild, trout filled, limestone stream. There are several other fine streams for both students and sportsmen to fish within reach of town, including the Little Juanita River, Penn’s Creek, Fishing Creek and Spruce Creek. Great efforts have been made to successfully restore these waters from industrial pollutants with the assistance of several conservation groups. Sport fishing groups include the Spring Creek Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Fly Fishing Club at University Park.

If traveling with friends or family not interested in fishing, State College offers all the rich cultural, social and athletic activities you can expect to find in a university town, such as the performing arts, film festivals and art fairs. Outdoor activities consist of hiking, golf, mountain biking and boating. During the season, Beaver Stadium, home to the Penn State Nittany Lions, is packed with fans.

There are several ways to reach State College, including:
  • Fly to Harrisburg International Airport and drive for approximately 1 hour
  • Fly to Pittsburgh International Airport and drive for approximately 2 ½ hours
  • Fly to Philadelphia International Airport and drive for approximately 3 hours
Fishing Waters
Fishing the Little Juanita River, or the “Little J” as locals like to call it, is another river story with a happy ending. As late as the 1960’s, local mills were dumping raw sewage, ... morechemicals and runoff from local mills into the river. In the early 70’s, Bill Anderson, retired from a career in industry and opened a fly shop near the river. As a man of vision, he started the Little Juanita River Association and the results have been nothing short of miraculous.

Today the river benefits from the Association’s conservation efforts that have cleansed the water, repaired erosion sites, acquired rights-of-way and land for public access, achieved enactment of a no kill policy, upgraded tributaries to Class A trout water, and after careful study, obtained 13 miles of Class A wild trout fishery designation, ending the hatchery stocking program on this section of river. Now, thanks to a favorable ruling by the Huntington County Court, anglers have gained the right to fish the river’s entire 32-mile length.

Initially, the river is little more than a marginal creek supported by a limited number of streams. Past Tyrone, near Grier School, it makes its way through limestone cliffs and is fed by cold limestone streams that form into a bona fide, limestone river. Referred to as the narrows, this section is not only scenic but also contains a high population of trout, estimated in 2010 by the State Fish and Boat Commission to have reached nearly 3,000 trout per mile. The 13-mile stretch between Tyrone to Little J’s confluence with the Franktown Branch River, is the longest continuous, designated catch-and-release-only water in the state.
Game Fish Opportunities:
Fishing Creek is apparently a popular name in Pennsylvania. You can find one in at least 6 counties in the state. That may explain why anglers near State College refer to their stream ... moreas the Big Fishing Creek. Starting near Green Gap and running for nearly 40 miles through Clinton County, this limestone creek is home to both wild and stocked browns, brook and the occasional rainbow. Eight freestone and limestone creeks feed into the Creek helping to maintain cold, trout friendly temperatures.

There are portions of the stream between its headwaters and Eastville, where during the summer water levels diminish or disappear entirely and flow underground. In these shallower waters anglers can expect to find small browns and brooks. Near Tylersville the stream picks up, receiving an average of 10,000 to 15,000 gallons of 50-degree water per day. Known as the “Narrows,” this section is filled with deep pools, rifles and pocket waters. 

Easy access off SR 2002 and abundant trout combine to make this section a favorite for anglers. Many are also drawn to scenic beauty with overhanging tree lined shores and steep slopes that rise from the banks. The Creek is well managed with a catch-and-release stretch bordered on either side by Trophy Trout sections. Regulations in the two Trophy sections limit anglers to artificial lures and 2 fish per day of 14 inches or longer.

Some parts of the creek are stocked with brown, brook and rainbow trout by the Fishing Creek’s Sportsman’s Association although healthy wild populations co-exist. To date the largest brown caught in the creek weighed over 8 pounds and exceeded 28 inches in length. Most browns average between 14-16 inches. A 2011 study of the upper creek habitat and its tributaries, by Point Park University and the Sportsman’s Association, found that conditions in this section were optimal.
Game Fish Opportunities:
Nestled in a picturesque section of the Appalachian Mountains, Penns Creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna, starts at Penns Cave. This limestone cave, a frequented tourist attraction, ... morereleases an estimated 1 million gallons of cold water each day. Historically home to mills and used for transport by the logging industry, the creek was spoiled by dams and the demands of commerce. 

Thankfully, today only one dam remains and it’s for the sole purpose of accommodating people who want to tour Penns Cave by boat. The first 5 miles down from the cave are privately held and hard to access. Access improves from Spring Mills down to Coburn although the water here tends to warm due to heavy farming. Most favored is the run below Coburn, where the Penn gathers energy from the cold waters of Elk and Pine Creeks.

Below the confluence of the three creeks, the Penn doubles in volume and size and widens out to 40+ feet. This 7 mile run through to the Poe Caddy Campgrounds is designated as an All Tackle Trophy Trout Project Area where the fish count is 2,300 per mile. Near Poe Paddy the Swift Run Creek enters and not long after that, Cherry Run. This 3.9 mile known locally as the as the Project, is designated as catch-and-release only and is considered some of the best water in the state. Wild browns here range from 12-16 inches and are found much larger.

Remote and enveloped by an Appalachian range, this scenic area is full of thick growth and teems with wildlife. The water is filled with deep pools, broad rifles and large boulders. Here a mile long hike is required to get to the creek but that means the pressure tends to be modest. Night hatches are voluminous and provide some of the best times to fish.
Game Fish Opportunities:
Trout Unlimited describes Spruce Creek as the place to go if you want to “wrestle with hogs … truly gargantuan browns and bows.” Much of their excessive girth is apparently due to ... morethe ample feeding they receive from resident landowners who routinely feed them pails full of fish pellets. The landowner’s generosity however is fed by their desire to lure fishermen willing to pay to fish. Because the creek is almost entirely owned by individuals or private clubs, public access is quite limited.

Thankfully, there is a half-mile stretch just above Spruce Creek Village that is owned by Penn State and open to everyone. This section is named after George M. Harvey, the Penn State professor who pioneered fly fishing as a college level subject and spent much of his life studying the waters in this area. It was during his studies around Falling Spring Run that he discovered the importance of tricos, which prior to this time, were not considered important to hatches.

Near the Village this limestone stream divides into two separate braids; the western channel is narrow, rarely more than 10 feet across. Shaded by a heavy canopy of trees, the shore is lined with overgrown shrubs that provide perfect shelter for big browns. The eastern braid has large pools, chutes and rapids, where the browns are smaller but easier to catch.

Perhaps Spruce Creek is best known as the place where former Presidents have gone to fish. A favorite of President Eisenhower, he is said to have spent many relaxing hours here while President Carter continues to visit.
Game Fish Opportunities:
The tale of Spring Creek is a bit unusual in today’s world, simply because it has a happy ending. Between effluent and numerous toxic spills during the last century, this freestone ... moreCreek’s waters became severely compromised. Declining water quality and stocking of brown trout led to a decline in native brook and by the 1950’s browns dominated the stream’s main stem. By the 1980’s the state stopped stocking and declared the Creek catch and release only, fearing people would become ill from consuming contaminated fish.

Since then, improvements in wastewater treatment and increased regulation have cleared the Creek’s water to the point that many experts consider it the best it’s been since 1900. In fact, the Creek, which begins near the town of Boalsburg and ends at Bald Eagle Creek, is now considered one of the top wild trout streams in the state. It has even achieved the distinction of being deemed a Class-A fishery by the state, meaning it contains over 36 pounds per acre.

Spring Creek provides a good home for trout due to the constant flows of cold groundwater it receives from its neighboring watershed. It also benefits from its karst geology, that provides it with high pH levels and abundant supplies of crustaceans, baitfish, sculpin and aquatic insects. Browns today average 10-14 inches but some of the better-educated fish can exceed 20 inches. 

The stream is easy to wade in most places with lots of access points. The upper section is largely private but the best fishing is below the Benner Springs Hatchery where flows increase and habitat improves. From the Heritage Fisherman’s Paradise area, downstream to the confluence with Bald Eagle Creek, Spring Creek provides outstanding trout fishing opportunities.
Game Fish Opportunities:
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