By Joe Ackourey
I can still remember the first time I fished Bowman Creek. I was six years old when my dad took me to the Fly Fishing Only stretch located in Wyoming County, Pa. I caught my first trout on a Black Wooly Worm that day and I’ve been hooked ever since.
Bowman Creek is a freestone stream that originates from Mountain Springs Lake, which is nestled in amongst the 2000+ ft. high North Mountain Range in Luzerne County. From there it eventually empties into the North Branch on the Susquehanna River in Wyoming County, some 26 miles away.
From its origin, Bowman Creek flows down through 44,000 acres of public state game lands, most of which is completely accessible from the old railroad bed that parallels the stream. The headwaters of this stream have a decent population of native Brook Trout most of which range between four and seven inches in length. Bowman Creek is quite narrow up there (10 ft.- 15 ft.) with plenty of brush and tree cover awaiting your fly. I recommend a 6 to 7 ft., 4-wt. fly rod when fishing this stretch of water. As Bowman’s meanders down through this mountain range, it quickly picks up volume from its many tributaries. Most of these tributaries hold some native brook trout and a size #10 Cream Elk Hair Caddis will do the job nicely.
As Bowman’s flows down some 10 miles or so from its origin, you’ll come to the small town of Stull. From Stull downstream to the town of Eatonville is where Bowman’s Creek becomes heavily stocked. The Pa Fish and Boat Commission stock this section of Bowman Creek at least three times a year with mostly brook and brown trout. A daily limit of 5 trout with a minimum size of 7 inches may be harvested from opening day of trout fishing to Labor Day. Most of this section is a put-and-take fishery with exception of the 1 mile Catch and Release Fly Fishing Only stretch found in Wyoming County.
By far the best fishing on Bowman Creek comes from the Catch and Release Fly Fishing Stretch. This stretch starts at the bridge on S.R. 292 and ends at the confluence with Marsh Creek. This special regulation area has beautiful tree cover and is riddled with pocket water and pools. The size of the stream ranges from 25 ft. to 45 ft. across. Good fishing can usually be found from late March through November on this special regulation stretch, but the best fishing will be had in May and June when the super hatches are in full swing. Bowman Creek has an abundance of aquatic insects and the major hatches include the early black and brown stoneflies size 12 to 14, blue quills size 16 to 18, quill gordons size 12 to 14, hendricksons size 14, American grannoms size 12 to 14, march browns size 8 to 12, sulphur duns size 14 to 18, blue winged olives size 14 to 24, slate drakes size 10 to 12, and Tricos size 22-24.
Bowman Creek can sometimes fish poorly in early spring; it all depends on the snow pack in the mountains and how fast that snow melts off. It has been determined that, like most northeastern freestone streams, Bowman Creek suffers from acid spikes during spring runoff. But, efforts are now underway to combat those acid spikes that seem to shock the fish and the other aquatic inhabitants. Our local TU chapter has helped organize the Bowman’s Creek Watershed Association and now there are several lime dosing stations set up along some of the tributaries that feed Bowman Creek in hopes to lessen the effects of acid precipitation during spring runoff.
By Joe Ackourey
A good fly fishing buddy of mine first introduced me to this urban brown trout fishery back in the late 80’s. Our journey took place somewhere within the 4.9 mile Special Regulation Area listed as Class “A” Trophy Trout Artificial Lures Only water, located in Northeast PA’s Lackawanna County. I was sort of in disbelief that there could be any wild brown trout thriving in this urbanized river given the fact that most of my fly fishing experiences revolved around fishing in secluded natural wooded mountain streams, rivers and tail water fisheries throughout Pennsylvania and New York’s Catskill rivers and streams.
The Lackawanna River is a freestone stream that originates as two separate branches. The East Branch of the Lackawanna River which is located in Wayne County and the West Branch of the Lackawanna River which is located in Susquehanna County. At their headwaters, both branches are fed by a cluster of glacial lakes and ponds as they flow south for several more miles before they converge at the Still Water Dam in Union Dale.
In mid April and mid May the PA Fish and Boat Commission will stock Rainbow and Brown trout in this Upper main Lackawanna River. This 6 mile stretch is a heavily wooded all tackle put and take fishery with several holdover trout. This stretch of water starts about a mile or so below the Still Water Dam down stream to just about a mile or so above the town of Simpson. Access to this section can be gained fairly easily from the D&H Rail-Trail that parallels this upper section of the river. This section of the upper main Lackawanna River is quite narrow (20 ft.- 30 ft.) with plenty of brush and tree cover awaiting your fly. I recommend a 6 1/2 ft. to 7 1/2 ft., 4-wt. fly rod when fishing this stretch of water. As the Lackawanna meanders down through this mountain range, it quickly becomes urbanized as it flows literally through the larger towns of Simpson, Carbondale, Mayfield and Jermyn where it almost doubles in width (40 ft.- 60ft.) as it picks up volume from its many tributaries.
As the Lackawanna flows down some 17 miles or so from where the east and west branch converge, you’ll come to the small town of Archbald. From Archbald downstream to the town of Olyphant is where the Class “A” Trophy Trout Artificial Lures Only waters are located. This Class “A” Trophy Trout Artificial Lures Only section is approximately 4.9 miles in length and is not stocked by the The Pa Fish and Boat Commission. Access can be easily gained by the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail that parallels most all of this special regulation stretch. A daily limit of 2 trout with a minimum size of 14 inches may be harvested from opening day of trout season to Labor Day, but catch and release is the unwritten rule among most all anglers in this section.
The Class “A” Trophy Trout Artificial Lures Only waters are beautifully tree covered and riddled with pocket water and pools. I recommend using a 8 1/2 ft. to 9ft. 4wt. or 5wt. fly rod in this section. Good fishing can be found from late February through December on this special regulation stretch. The best fishing will be had from April through the end of July when the super hatches are in full swing. The Lackawanna River has an abundance of aquatic insects such as Mayflies, Caddis flies, Stoneflies and Midges, also freshwater Crustaceans such as Crayfish, Sow Bugs and Scuds. The major hatches include the Early Black Stoneflies #12 to #14, Blue Winged Olives #18 to #24, Blue Quills #16 to #18, Black Caddis #18, Hendricksons #14, American Grannoms #12 to #14, March Browns #10 to #12, Tan Caddis #14 to #16, Green Caddis #16, Sulphur Duns #14 to #18, Yellow Stoneflies #8, Light Cahills #14, Tricos #22 to #24 and Midges #22 to #28.
Water temperatures in this Class “A” section are kept quite cool especially in the hot summer months. This is due to the influence of several bore holes/seepage’s where mine drainage flows into the Lack at around the 50 degree mark year round. If dry fly action is what your after, then careful/quiet wading is a must. You will rarely see consistent splashy rises on this river, so train your eyes to look for the rain drop size rises or head and dorsal fin rise. Most of my success in this Class “A” Trophy Trout Artificial Lures Only section has come from high sticking nymphs on the bottom. Nymphs such as the Bead Head Hares Ear #12-#18, Bead Head Pheasant Tail #12-#18, and Bead Head Copper Johns #12-#18 to name a few, will produce very well for you year round.
White Fly Hatch
By Joe Ackourey
Fly Fishing for trout has always been a favorite of mine, but as water levels on the Susquehanna River begin to drop, its pretty hard to pass up the opportunity for some awesome Smallmouth Bass fishing this river has to offer. There’s know doubt that the southern part of the Susquehanna holds an excellent population of smallmouths, but lets not forget about the northern branch. The northern branch of the Susquehanna has produced some fairly large smallies on the fly for me. From the Luzerne County line up to the PA/NY border this river is riddled with islands which form the perfect combination of fast water and pools, the perfect habitat smallmouths thrive in.
To catch these smallmouths, a 9ft. 6wt. fly rod will do the job nicely. As far as what flies to fish with, clousers do very well tied in the following colors: chartreuse/white, gray/white, blue/white and orange/brown. Other patterns that have worked very well for me are the beadheaded woollybuggers tied in the following colors: black, orange, olive and brown. Also don’t forget those crayfish and hellgrammite patterns, they’ll usually produce fish when times are slow. Catching smallmouths on the Susquehanna River using dry flies is another story, particularly when fishing the renowned White Fly hatch (Ephron Leukon).
Several years ago a good friend and fly fishing buddy of mine talked me into going fly fishing on the Susquehanna River. He said we’ll be fly fishing for Smallmouth bass and Channel Catfish using dry flies. I thought to myself I’ve caught Smallmouth’s on dries before, but Channel Cats; you got to be kidding! Heck, when I hear anglers talk about Channel Cats on the Susquehanna River, what immediately comes to mind are those Y sticks stuck in the ground at the rivers edge holding up spinning rods. And those stinky slimy baits that are used to lure those Channel Cats in; such as Night Crawler’s, Leeches, Shiners and Chicken Livers to name a few.
Anyway, it was an evening trip late in July during the peak of the renowned White Fly (Ephoron Leukon). I’ve read about this hatch in detail but I never had the opportunity to fish it. I can recall sitting in front of my TV watching the local news reporters standing on the bridge in Wilkes-Barre reporting this White fly hatch extravaganza. The hatch gets so heavy at times; the dying spinners carpet the bridges going over the river creating very slippery driving conditions. At that point the city of Wilkes-Barre is forced to close the bridges going over the river to prevent any further accidents. City officials won’t open the bridge until the spinners are done falling and sweepers complete the cleaning of the bridges.
I read that the hatch should start after sunset about the third week of July and lasts until the second week of August. That evening the hatch started about twenty minutes to a half an hour after sunset, we started to see some White Flies skimming the surface flying up river looking for a mate. It seemed that that’s when the Smallmouths and Rock Bass began to feed, revealing themselves by leaving a tiny ripple on the surface. Within half an hour we connected with eight or nine Smallies using a White Compara Dun #10 but soon after that the hatch got so heavy our one fly on the water was insignificant to literally millions of White Flies on the water. So we watched the hatch until it ended, by that time it was getting dark. My friend suggested we head down to this back eddy were he knew the dying White Flies would accumulate. When we got there the spinners were at least1/2 inch deep with more on the way. At that point I realized that Smallmouths weren’t the only species of fish to take advantage of this White Fly hatch. Amongst the carpet of dying spinners there were these moving wakes of gulping and bubbling swirls. It was an awesome sight to see, there was a pod of about a dozen or so gigantic Channel Catfish cruising in a zigzagging motion gulping as many dying White Flies as possible.
We presented our White Fly imitation to the gulping cats with little success. But when I tied on my White Deer Hair Moth patterns I immediately connected. Catching one of these Channel Cats on dries is nothing more than a timing issue and a bit of luck. Basically what you need to do is single out one of those cruising Channel Cats and gently but very accurately lay your imitation in its path. More often than none these cats seem to overlook your fly, probably because of the mass of dying spinners, but when you finally connect its one hell of a battle and worth the wait.
That evening we hooked and landed 3 Channel Cats which ranged from 23 to just under 26 inches and one granddaddy that measured over 31 inches in length. When you hook into cats this big you’re in for a long battle. Since that trip I make it a point to have at least a half a dozen or so moth patterns and White Fly imitations in my fly box and several evenings open during this two week or so White Fly Madness. So give the North Branch a try, there’s plenty of access points: Wilkes-Barre, Falls, Harding to name a few.