The Allegheny River likely gets its name from the Lenape word “oolikhanna,” which means “best flowing river of the hills” or “beautiful stream.” Fast forward hundreds of years, and the description is still accurate.
Of course, not every fly fisherman visits the Allegheny River strictly for its beauty. Brown trout measuring up to thirty inches can be found in this river.
The Allegheny River also provides plenty of challenges, due to its fluctuating water levels.
While fly fishing in the Allegheny River can be tricky, it is sure to be a memorable and rewarding experience.
The entirety of the Allegheny river is around 325 miles long. It runs northwest from its headwaters below the middle of Pennsylvania’s northern border in Potter County, into New York, before zig zagging back to western Pennsylvania.
In downtown Pittsburgh, the Allegheny River joins the Monongahela River. By volume, the Allegheny River is the main headstream of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.
For fly fishermen, there are two river reaches of interest: the upper Allegheny near Coudersport and the tailwater below Kinzua Dam.
The upper Allegheny includes a Delayed Harvest - Artificial Lures Only (DHALO) section which extends 2.7 miles downstream from Pond Road (see map).
The tailwater section is managed under special regulations and is approximately nine miles long. This area is no longer stocked with brown trout, but there are number of tributaries in this section that are including: Hemlock Run and Browns Run. You'll also find a thriving population of wild brown trout here.
Don’t underestimate the holdover trout that make their way into this section! For the most part, they have adapted and share the same characteristics of wild trout.
You can also find stocked rainbow trout in this area. Many of the trout in this section exceed eighteen inches in length.
Angling adventurers should be alert to the fluctuating water levels in this river. When the water level gets too high, it is impossible to wade.
But if the water gets too low, trout fishing can be extremely difficult. If you’re patient enough to wait until the water conditions are just right, you’ll be rewarded!
Allegheny River Map, Fishing Access Sites and Boat Ramps
Best Spots to Fish the Allegheny River
The upper section of the Allgeheny is listed a one of PA's Best Fishing Waters for stocked trout and has a reputation for turning up some truly large trout. This includes the river reach that runs from Colesburg through Coudersport, Roulette and Port Allegany.
Route 44 provides access to the DHALO waters above Coudersport. The river below Coudersport is accessible off Route 6 and side streets.
The tailwater section below Kinza Dam is the best area for trout fishing on the lower river.
Access is provided on both sides of the river, from the Kinzua Dam all the way to Warren. On the north side, Hemlock Road provides access. If you are on the south side, you can get to the river via Pennsylvania Route 59.
If the water level is low enough in the tailwater section (below ~1200 cfs), you should be able to wade. Alternatively you can float the tailwater section via a number of public boat ramps and canoe and kayak put-ins (see map).
Stream Flow and Current Conditions
Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish the Allegheny River. The USGS stream gauge near Port Allegany, PA provides a good indication of current conditions in the upper river. The gauge at the Kinza Dam provides flows for the tailwater section.
The graph below shows the stream flow (discharge) for the past 7-days. If flows are considerably above or below historical norms (yellow triangles on the chart) then fishing conditions maybe not be ideal.
Allegheny River at Port Allegany, PA
- Water Temp: 30.92 ° F
- Flow: 151 ft³/s
- Water Level: 2.66 ft
Allegheny River at Kinzua Dam, PA
- Water Temp: 35.24 ° F
- Flow: 1470 ft³/s
- Water Level: 8.15 ft
Best Time to Fish the Allegheny River
The upper Alleghany fishes well year round. The lower river gets too warm in the summer and trout hunker down in deep holes or head for the cooler water of the river's tributaries.
The best season to visit the Allegheny River might be the fall. Not only is the foliage beautiful, but it is also the best time to hook a large brown trout as they get aggressive in preparation for spawning. This is a great time to swing some large streamers.
Wintertime is more difficult, but even on the coldest days, midges are ever present, if that's your thing.
Spring is also a great time to fish the Allegheny River, but, again, you’ll need to pay attention to water levels, especially below Kinza Dam.
Fly Box - What You'll Need
The early bird gets the worm, and in this case, the early bird also catches the most fish. Start early in the morning to get the best results.
During high water periods, it is a good idea to pound the banks with streamers. When the water is low, stick to nymphing pocket water.
Regarding general fly patterns, here is a list of a few recommended patterns:
Black or Olive Bead Head Woolly Bugger Streamer(#4,6)
White Zonker (#4,6,8)
Natural Tunghead Pheasant Tail (#14)
Soft Hackle PT Nymph (#14,16,18)
A 9-foot 5-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs. If you prefer fishing streamers a 9-foot 6-wt or even 7-wt makes life a little easier. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.
Allegheny River Fishing Reports
There are a number of area fly shops and on-line retailers that publish Allegheny River fly fishing reports. A few to check out are listed below.
Pennsylvania requires all anglers 16 and older to have a standard fishing license, and a special permit for trout fishing, which can be obtained online or in most sporting goods stores in the state.
Allegheny River fishing regulations are available on the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission website.
Trip Planning Tips
There are two major airports near Warren County, Pennsylvania. One is Chautauqua County-Jamestown Airport, located in Jamestown, New York. It is around 25 miles from Warren.
The other airport is Bradford Regional Airport in Pennsylvania, which is around 32 miles from Warren.
If you don’t mind a scenic drive, you can travel to any major or municipal airport in northern Pennsylvania and arrive at your destination within a few hours.
The Budget Lodge is a great option for anglers looking to be comfortable and stay in their budgets. The Days Inn is also a safe bet; they have clean rooms and an on site bar, open Monday through Saturday.
Still, you might want to ditch a roof over your head in favor of a more adventurous outing. There are many campground areas located in the Allegheny National Forest, which is not only closer to your destination, but also provides breathtaking scenery and flourishing wildlife.
Feature Image by David Fulmer