Taking its name from the sound of the waters, Kettle Creek is a fast roiling freestone stream that widens and deepens along its 67-mile length.
Most of the stream is Class-A rated wild trout water, and the annual fly hatches are the stuff of fly fishing legend.
On Kettle Creek, the big wild browns and brook trout prowl the riffles, pools and runs in search of food, and few of them are fussy eaters.
You can also find large rainbows depending on where you are, and even though they are hatchery raised they still thrive along Kettle Creek.
If you are making the pilgrimage to fish the great trout streams of North Central Pennsylvania, then you need to make sure one of your stops is along Kettle Creek.
Fly Fishing Kettle Creek in Potter County Pennsylvania
The headwaters of Kettle Creek form around its Billings Branch tributary, and run all the way south of the Route 433 Bridge to Kettle Creek Lake. There’s a Catch-and-Release - Flyfishing Only (CRFFO) section near the SR144 Bridge for a couple miles, which keeps Kettle Creek full of fish even in the hottest part of the summer.
Upper Kettle Creek fishes especially well in the mornings and evenings, and many anglers find success at night, too. The bulk of the wild trout in Kettle Creek keep to the upper reaches between the Billings Branch and the 433 Bridge.
The lower river (closer to Kettle Creek Lake) has fewer wild trout for the taking, but there are plenty of stocked browns and rainbows that are fairly easy pickings. Landing a wild brown or brook is more challenging here, but it can be done with patience and the right flies.
Additionally, Trout Unlimited and the Kettle Creek Watershed Association have planted trees along the banks to add some stability along the lower river, and the shade keeps the water cooler even during the heat of the day.
Amy Wolfe of Trout Unlimited explains the PADEP Exceptional Value water quality status that has been bestowed on the Kettle Creek Watershed and what that means for the fishing (hint: it's really good)
Click map icons to get directions to fishing spots and real-time USGS stream flow data
Class A Wild Trout streams abound in the Kettle Creek watershed and are a testament to the exceptional water quality in the area. These streams contain a mix of wild brook and brown trout and are a blast to explore. Class A tributaries to Kettle Creek are listed below. Use the search function of the interactive map above to locate each stream.
Little Kettle Creek
To fish the headwaters for wild brook trout, take SR3001 to get the closest access to the creek. For anglers looking to land some wild browns, take 44 East out of Oleana. It’s also called Pine Hill Road, and it crosses Kettle Creek not too far outside of town.
Browns and brooks are plentiful here, and the hatches are usually excellent early in the season. Downstream of the confluence with Little Kettle Creek the stream effectively doubles in size, and from Little Kettle to Ole Bull Park it’s a combination of fast and slow runs with plenty of fast rifles.
The good folks from Project Healing Waters help some vets hookup with some nice fish on Kettle Creek
Looking to make the most of the CRFFO section? Head south from Ole Bull State Park on Rt 144 to the next bridge for some colder pools and slow runs. The CRFFO section receives less pressure than the general regulation section, especially as you get further from the parking area at the Rt 144 bridge.
Be sure to check the confluence of Hammersley Fork and south to Kettle Creek Reservoir, as this has some of the best variety of fast and slow moving sections to keep the action fast and furious or slower and more relaxed as suits your fancy.
Match your technique and flies to the water and hatches, and you will not leave Kettle Creek disappointed.
Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish Kettle Creek. The USGS stream gauge near the confluence with Cross Fork 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 maybe not be ideal. That's not to say you can't catch fish, you may just have to work a little harder.
Trout season on Kettle Creek seems to have a great hatch during each month, so if you visit from April to August you should find the fish to be in their typical big hatch feeding frenzy.
You can fish certain sections of the creek year round, but the best season to be there is spring and early summer.
Keep in mind that summer is also going to be peak angler season, and you may see some stiff competition for parking and space along the banks if you do visit during one of the larger hatches.
So long as you plan ahead and come prepared to hike a short way to find your own water, you should do just fine regardless.
As for flies, here’s a list of hatches by month:
March- April: Little Black Early Stoneflies, BWOs, Blue Quills, Quill Gordons
May-June: Hendrickson, Red Quill, American March Browns, BWOs, Sulphurs, Light Cahills, Pale Evening Duns, Brown Drakes, Green Drakes, Slate Drakes, Caddisflies (spotted sedge, cinnamon sedge, green sedge)
July-August: Same as May-June, usually mid-month to mid-month
All Season: Midges
Pack your 9-foot rod rigged with a 4- to 5-weight line and a 9 foot leader w/4-6x tippet. Bug spray is a must, as the mosquito population can get thick in the late summer and early spring. Sections of Kettle Creek can be waded, but some banks are less than stable, particularly after spring thaw or heavy rain. Pack breathable waders, as the summer heat and humidity even in the northern central region of PA can be extremely dense.
There are a number of area fly shops and on-line retailers that publish Kettle Creek fly fishing reports. A few to check out are listed below.
Kettle Creek is managed under Pennsylvania Boat and Fishing Commission (PFBC) general fishing regulations. A 1.7 miles section (from a sign located 500 feet downstream of the SR 0144 Bridge to a sign located 1.7 miles upstream of the lower boundary) is managed as Catch-and-Release - Fly Fishing Only which is open year-round.
State College has the closest airport, unless you prefer to make the long drive from Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, or Allentown.
You can find traditional accommodations near State College, Oleana and Salamanca to suit your taste and budget (Fairfield Inn, Wyndham, etc.). You can also try the Kettle Creek Lodge and Cabins right on Pine Hill Road, just a short hike from Kettle Creek itself.
The rates are extremely reasonable for the budget minded angler or hunter, and bookings are highly sought after during peak fishing season in the summer.
Worst come to worst, you can always hit the RV parks and campgrounds in the area and rough it for the course of your stay.
Be sure to give local vacation rentals a look as well; many private and local listings offer real bargains depending on the timing of your trip.
Feature Image by Nicholas Tonelli
Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and find new places to fish. He created DIY Fly Fishing to help you do the same.
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