Monday, March 19, 2012

Fishing in 'God's Country'

Fishing in ‘God’s Country’

 I could have stuck around home and fished for freshly stocked trout in the warm weather…..with a 100 other fishermen. I just couldn’t see the fun in it being among the crowd of spin casters and fly fishermen on Oil Creek or the Neshannock Creek special regulation areas. Instead I loaded up the conversion van and headed to Potter County in North Central PA., ‘God’s Country’ as we call it here; untouched, unspoiled, untamed. This mountainous area where I was to visit is where Kettle Creek, Cross Fork and a few wild small tributaries meander through the dense forest. Sure there is only fly fishing allowed in the Catch and Release areas this time of year but I was sure not too many fishermen venture this far north in the middle of March to fish.
 After all these years I still get excited, like a kid, going on one of my trout expeditions. I had all my fishing gear packed in the van Friday evening. Saturday morning I woke up before the alarm. I filled a cooler with refreshments, grabbed some cigars and my satchel of clothes and put them in the van. With a cup of hot tea and a smile on my face I was heading East on I80 before the sun rose. The crescent moon was a spectacle in the dark sky above the foggy morning roadway.

It was near 9am when I reached my destination. There wasn’t a soul around. A gray squirrel scurried up a bare tree as I pulled up to park. A few song birds chirped somewhere out within the forest. The air was a bit nippy as the sun hadn’t reached above the mountainside just yet. Dry leaves crackled underfoot as I walked towards the narrow wooden bridge. I gazed over the bridge rail waiting for my eyes to adjust to the wavy current as I looked through my polarized sunglasses. The movement of fish hanging in the current soon became visible. The little kid in me started to get excited all over again!
 Back at the van I dressed warm though knowing the near 70 degrees noon weather was to come. I wore my thick fleece pants beneath my 3mm boot foot waist waders knowing the mountain creek water won’t warm as much as the air temperature. With a slight breeze about and knowing the tight casting conditions, I elected on the 3 weight Demon saving the Wonderod for later in the day or tomorrows adventure. One last swig of water, I grabbed my vest, the cigars, and headed to the vacant mountain stream.
 It wasn’t long before I had a spunky rainbow flexing the 3 weight in a big arc. I was surprised at the energy of the rainbow in the March cold water conditions. Though he took the Woolly Bugger without too much of a tug as it was swinging, he fought eagerly. His body was firm with good girth as I held him within my grip.
 After a couple of more takers, and energetic fights, the other fish wised up and quit hitting the streamers I offered.

 I decided to work 2 nymph patterns. It took a few combinations and changed in depths before another bend in the rod. This guy wasn’t happy at all that the dark GRHE was just an imitation of a drifting nymph. During the struggle he came completely out of the water twice in fanciful twists trying to shake the hook free. He stayed as frisky from the hook set until I released him back into the cold water.

 As time passed I fished alone. Occasionally someone would stop and look over the bridge asking if I was “catching any?” and “how is the bite?” each time I would tell them I caught a couple but the bite was slow. Each time I never encouraged them to come on down and give it a try. Each time I made sure I didn’t hook into any trout by either pretending to tie a new pattern on, relighting my cigar or haphazardly cast out with a bad drift. Each time they would walk back to their vehicles and left.
 As the noon day sun made its presents felt stoneflies began to emerge and dance about the water. There weren’t any risers but a stonefly nymph worked just fine!
 When no one was around I went back to the van and took off a layer of clothes before heading up stream for a bit. I caught two eager rainbows hiding beneath a downfall but couldn’t find anymore hungry trout within the short walk upstream. About 2:00 I ate a quick lunch and headed to a section of Kettle Creek I like to fish. 

 On Kettle Creek the water was high and moving fast. I fished streamers and nymphs for about an hour before giving up and heading to the 144 bridge and access area. It took awhile but I finally got a good hook up on my 4wt Stream Rod. He felt heavy as he fought tooth and nail in the deeper water and under current. Three guys on the bank watched as I got him handled and settled down before the nymph hook popped out of his lip. The rainbow was the biggest of the day and I decided to release him quickly after the good struggling fight.  

 Soon after that, one of the bank side anglers joined me and we tried to lift another trout in the general area but failed to do just that. In the parking area we drank a beer, to finish up the day, before going our own separate ways.

 After a well needed nap I headed into the big town of Cross Fork to Jeff’s Bar for the St. Patrick’s Day Dance. After a few beers, a few new found friends and a few more beers; I knew it weren’t going to be an early rise Sunday morning for this gent!



  1. Great stuff and fish. I miss Potter County. My dad and I have talked about doing our spring fishing trip up that way this year but looks like we are headed back around Penns for one more year.

    I'd love to pick you brain on this area for lodging and fishing if you are willing. No need for any secreats spots. HAven't fished potter since late 90s probably. Last time I hunted there as well.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. i would be glad to share my knowledge of the kettle and cross fork. i've been going up there every year for the past 15 i'd say. usually go up the 3rd week in may and father's day weekend.
      phill, owner of kettle creek fly shop, said the water temp of kettle is already 51 degrees. if the water stays this way hatches should be coming off early and therefore there may not be many spring hatches the first day of trout.

  2. jim, you can e-mail me at

  3. Imagine my surprise today when I went to Blogger and saw your listing of Potter County fishing experience! I fly-fish and tavern stop in "God's Country" all the time, and have fished there for wild trout for some 25 years or so. Just posted Rainbows in the Rain from yesterday on the Allegheny. I'll be following your posts and progress. Glad to find you here!

    1. Walt, glad to have you checking in now and than. I try to fish at least once a week somewhere in PA depending on the weather. It's fun to hear others that fish the same streams and enjoy the stories!