It’s hard not to be in awe of Pine Creek in Pennsylvania.
For starters, Pine Creek is roughly 90 miles long, making it much more of a river than a creek. And that’s just for starters!
Pine Creek also has a diverse and vast quantity of aquatic insects, and a good population of stream-bed brook and brown trout.
With its breathtaking scenery and magnificent hatches, one thing is clear: Pine Creek deserves a spot on your fly fishing bucket list as one of the best places to fly fish in PA.
Fly fishing Pine Creek in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania
Pine Creek is a tributary of West Branch Susquehanna River, spanning across Potter, Tioga, Lycoming, and Clinton counties in Pennsylvania. Not surprisingly, it is the largest tributary of West Branch Susquehanna River, with the largest watershed of all the tributaries.
Despite its might, fly fishing at Pine Creek has its difficulties. At certain times of the year, the water temperature reaches the low seventies, making it inhospitable for trout. But there is good news! Most of Pine Creek’s tributaries have colder water, so during the hot weather you have plenty of alternatives to fly fishing the mainstream.
Above Galeton, Pine Creek is around fifty feet wide and the water is much cooler. Pine Creek is dammed at Galeton, which doesn’t do the trout any favors, as the dam contributes to the warm water problem.
But at Ansonia, Pine Creek receives water from Marsh Creek and flows to a magnificent canyon that is roughly fifteen miles long. Once you get below Slate Run (another great fly fishing location), the stream is teeming with riffles.
When the water is cooler, you will find stream-bed brook trout and brown trout. You could also find smallmouth bass and a variety of panfish. Your success rate will depend on when you decide to fish and which part of the creek you choose to tackle. If you make the right choice, you are sure to fall in love with Pine Creek.
Pine Creek Map and Fishing Access Sites
Best Spots to Fish Pine Creek
Pine Creek is fairly easy to get to by car and foot, and there are many helpful road markers as you approach.
You can access the creek from Pine Creek Rail Trail, a collaboration of the local area townships and counties to convert the old railroad tracks to walking and bike trails.
There are many access points to this 62 mile trail, so you can plan your journey depending on which part of the creek you want to tackle.
If you are visiting in the summer months, you’ll want to stay away from the mainstream and access one of its many Class A Wild Trout tributaries, such as Cedar Run or Slate Run.
Unfortunately, not all tributaries are created equal. Babb Creek, for example, is thought to contribute mine acid to the stream. To help with the acid problem, Babb Creek has a limestone grinder in it.
Other Class A Wild Trout streams that are tributaries to Pine Creek that are worth exploring include:
Pine Creek Watershed Class A Wild Trout Streams
Little Pine Creek
Stream Flow and Current Conditions
Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish Pine Creek. The USGS stream gauge near Cedar Run, 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 maybe not be ideal.
Pine Creek at Cedar Run, PA
- Streamflow: 639 ft³/s
- Gage height: 2.23 ft
Best Time to Fish Pine Creek
Technically, you can fish Pine Creek all year round, although winter time can be tough depending on the conditions, as the water freezes in some places.
Springtime is the ideal time to fish Pine Creek, because of the hatches, but it can get crowded, especially on weekends. But if you want to pay Pine Creek a visit in the spring, you will be rewarded.
Best Flies for Pine Creek
Pine Creek has great insect diversity, along with its fair share of mosquitoes, so you might want to pack some bug spray.
In March, the Little Black Early Stoneflies hatch. Once you get into April, you’ll find Hendricksons, Quill Gordons and blue-winged olives. By May, Green Drakes, March browns, Sulphurs begin to hatch.
Autumn offers less people, larger brown trout, and beautiful foliage. If you do want to visit Pine Creek in the summer, you’ll want to stick to the tributaries on the hottest days to give the trout that remain in Pine Creek a rest.
In the summer you will also see Light Cahills, Pale Evening Duns, and Slate Drakes. By July and August, the Trico hatch begins. You’ll also see plenty of caddisflies and terrestrial insects during this time.
Ventures Fly Co. offers a great selection of dry flies, nymphs and streamers that will catch fish just about anywhere. Set includes 40 high quality, hand-tied flies (see list below) and waterproof fly box.
- Adams Dry Fly
- Elk Hair Caddis
- Blue Wing Olive
- Royal Wulff
- Griffith's Gnat White
- Stimulator, Organge
- Chernobyl Ant
- Rubber Leg Nymph, Brown
- BH Pheasant Tail Nymph
- BH Prince Nymph
- BH Hare's Ear Nymph
- Barr's Emerger Nymph
- Zebra Midge Nymph, Black
- Wooly Bugger, Black (Size #8x2)
- Wooly Bugger, Olive (Size #8x2)
A 9-foot 5-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs on Pine Creek. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 4X to 6X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.
Pine Creek is accessible to wade fisherman when the water level is low enough, but you’ll also see people in canoes and kayaks.
Below are recommendations for essential gear to make the most of your time on the water.
Quality rod, reel, line and rod tube at a reasonable price. Backed by Orvis 25-yr guarantee, a brand you can trust.
High performance nylon leader, great for fishing Dry Flies, Nymphs and Streamers.
Excellent knot strength, stretch and suppleness make this the finest nylon tippet. 3-pack of the sizes you'll need the most.
Heavy duty, waterproof, yet breathable. If you are tough on waders, these are for you. Backed by Simms Wader Warranty. If they leak, they got your back.
Most durable, yet comfortable, boot on the market. Excellent foot and ankle support. Great for rocky rivers. Lightweight and designed for all-day wear.
Sweet pack with ample storage. Unique harness system reduces neck strain. Sleek tapered face improves visibility - you can see your feet when wading!
Durable and lightweight. The carbon fiber frame floats. Hooks don't get stuck in the rubber mesh bag . Extra length makes it easier to net fish. Simply the best nets on the market.
Tough, waterproof and priced right. Hold 900+ flies in slotted foam. If you need more storage - you have too many flies!
Simple, sharp nippers at great price. Clip on retractor keeps this must have gear at your fingertips.
Strong with a fine tip. Perfect for removing split shot and hooks. Simply the best fishing pliers.
The 580 Glass polarized lenses are super clear and somehow relaxing on the eyes. Game changer.
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Pine Creek Fishing Reports
There are a number of area fly shops and on-line retailers that publish Pine Creek 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.
Pine Creek fishing regulations are available on the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission website.
Trip Planning Tips
Pine Creek, Pennsylvania is located near the town of Wellsboro. There are two major airports near Pine Creek. One is Elmira/Corning Regional Airport and the other is Williamsport Regional Airport.
You can also fly to any of northern Pennsylvania’s major or municipal airports and get to Pine Creek via a scenic, two to three hour drive.
There are many rustic lodges around Pine Creek that cater to fly fisherman. Rough Cut Lodge, for instance, is a stunning, pet-friendly locale where you can enjoy a relaxing campfire and a wonderful view of the stars.
If you are looking for a more budget conscious option, Pine Creek Vista Campgrounds offers a beautiful, reasonably priced solution.
Feature Image by Nicholas A. Tonelli