Pennsylvania Fly Fishing 4 min read

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing Bushkill Creek in Southeast Pennsylvania

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

December 3, 2019

bushkill creek in Northampton PA

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According to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Pennsylvania possesses nearly 16,000 miles of wild trout stream, about 5,000 miles of stocked trout streams, AND over 125 stocked trout lakes.

That’s a lot of fish.

So it makes sense that the names of the Creeks often get reused. There is a Big Bushkill Creek located in the Poconos, and there is a Little Bushkill Creek in Northampton County. Additionally, some federal maps refer to this Creek as Bush Kill, which contributes to the confusion.

But despite its befuddling nomenclature, Bushkill Creek is worth at least one visit by every serious fly fisherman. 

River Overview

Bushkill Creek is a 13 mile long limestone stream that is a tributary of the Delaware River. After passing through Jacobsburg State Park, it has its confluence with the Delaware River in Easton. The Creek wasn’t always known as Bushkill. Over the years, the Creek has been referred to by many names, including Lafever Creek, Lefrever Creek, Lehieton Creek, and Tatemy’s Creek, to name a few. 

The stream is stocked with brook and brown trout by the state in the upper reaches that run through Jacobsburg State Park, which is home to the only remaining old-growth forest in the Lehigh Valley. A large section of the stream flows through the park, which also offers plenty of other outdoor activities in addition to angling, including hunting, skiing, picnicking, and horseback riding.

The stream is accessible to wade fishermen. The trout in this stream can be tricky to catch though, so try to be as sneaky as possible in your approach.

Bushkill Creek Map and Fishing Access Sites

map of fishing spots on Bushkill Creek in PA

Get Directions to the Fishing Access Points shown above with the DIY Fly Fishing Map

Best Spots to Fish Bushkill Creek

Some of the best fishing on Bushkill Creek is in the section that runs through Jacobsburg State Park. Located at the foot of Blue Mountain in Northampton County, Jacobsburg State Park can be reached from PA 33 at the Belfast Exit, near Nazareth, PA. 

There is plenty of parking provided by the park, and many trails to lead you to your destination. Remember that non-hunters should wear blaze orange during the hunting season. Jacobsburg is a beautiful state park, so do your part when you visit in keeping it pristine by cleaning up after yourself.

The 1.1-mile Catch-and-Release – Artificial Lure Only section located in downtown Easton, PA also provides for excellent fishing.  This section is rated a PA Class A wild brown trout stream and receives no stocking.

The Bushkill through Easton is one of the larger limestone streams in the state, averaging 60 feet wide.  Despite flowing through an urban industrial setting this river reach has the highest density of wild brown trout in the river.

Stream Flow and Current Conditions

Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish Bushkill Creek. The USGS stream gauge near Tatamy, PA provides a good indication of current conditions.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 may not be ideal.

Bushkill Creek ab Rt 33 bridge at Tatamy, PA

  • Gage height: 8.57 ft
Gage height Graph

Best Time to Fish Bushkill Creek

The season for Bushkill Creek is standard Pennsylvania trout season. The Bushkill fishes well year-round since it is spring fed.  The consistent input of spring water keeps the stream cool all summer and slightly warmer in the winter. There really is no bad time to fish the creek.

Best Flies for Bushkill Creek

The hatches on the Bushkill are similar to that of other limestone streams in the Lehigh Valley with blue-winged olives, caddis, sulphurs, crane flies and tricos being the most prevalent. The trico hatch is the big draw and can create blizzard like conditions most days throughout the summer.

Fishing tiny dry flies during the trico hatch can be a bit maddening but fun if you are into that sort of thing.  Another option is fish small (#22) nymph patterns such as a Zebra Midge or Pheasant Tail during the hatch.  These will often get the fishes attention more easily rather than trying to compete with all the natural adult tricos on the surface.

Need flies? 

The Fly Crate offers a great selection of dry flies, nymphs and streamers that will catch fish just about anywhere.  Premium, high quality, hand-tied flies at a great price!

fly fishing flies from The Fly Crate

The Fly Crate Commits 2% of Sales to Aid Disabled Veterans

Gear Recommendations

A 9-foot 4-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs on Bushkill Creek.  A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 4X to 6X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.

Bushkill Creek Fishing Reports

Area guides that can provide a Bushkill Creek fly fishing report and link to the most recent PA Fish and Boat Commission survey are listed below.

Fishing Regulations

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.

Bushkill Creek fishing regulations are available on the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission website.

Trip Planning Tips

The nearest airport to Bushkill Creek is Lehigh Valley International Airport, which is only about nine miles away from your destination.

You could also travel to Trenton-Mercer Airport, Reading Regional Airport, or Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport, all of which are located near the stream. You can travel to any major or municipal airport in Southeast Pennsylvania and arrive at your Creek after a few hours of scenic driving.

If you are looking for reasonably priced lodging in the area, Days Hotel by Wyndham Allentown Airport/Lehigh Valley, is a short twenty minutes away from the stream. They offer a free continental breakfast and an indoor pool.

If you would rather stay at a campground, Driftstone Campground is a mere half hour drive from the stream.  Enjoy the gorgeous scenery, but don’t let it distract you from your mission!

Bushkill Creek might not be unique in its name, but don’t be fooled! This is still a special stream that every angler should visit.

Looking for more places to fish? Visit our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in Pennsylvania.

Feature Image by John Best