Pennsylvania Fly Fishing 4 min read

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing Tulpehocken Creek in Southeast Pennsylvania

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

April 5, 2024

Tulphenhocken Creek rainbow trout

Pennsylvania might be able to boast over 16,000 miles of wild trout streams, but there is still a definitive shortage of good tailwater trout streams in the state.

Tulpehocken Creek is the exception.

This stream is a designated Pennsylvania Scenic River, derived from the Lenape word Tulpewikaki, meaning “land of the turtles.” It has many rainbow and brown trout and excellent aquatic insect hatches.

While Tulpehocken Creek is an excellent tailwater fishery, the trout aren’t going to make your angling adventure TOO easy. You’ll need high-quality imitations of natural food to fool the inhabitants of this stream!

About Tulpehocken Creek

Fly fishing Tulpehocken Creek in Pennsylvania.

Tulpehocken Creek (the “Tully”) is a 39.5-mile-long tributary of the Schuylkill River in Pennsylvania. Historically, the Creek has served as an important transportation route in the early days of the United States. The dam discharges cool, fertile water that trout can’t get enough of, most averaging 12 to 14 inches.

The stream rises in Lebanon County and flows east in a winding course, passing through Myerstown, Berks County, and joins the Schuylkill in Reading. This is a larger creek, with some sections about 120 feet wide. The Creek contains riffles, pocket water, and sections of flats. There are slower-moving pools and riffles if you move downstream.

The stream is fed by two tributaries, Plum Creek and Cacoosing Creek, so it generally stays cool throughout the summer. Both creeks are excellent smaller fisheries and worth checking out on days when the water is too high to fish Tulpehocken.

The state stocked Tulpehocken Creek with rainbow trout and fingerling brown trout. Nobody claims that fly fishing Tulpehocken Creek is easy, but if you arm yourself with the right imitations and pay attention to the stream levels, you’ll have a much easier time conquering this stream. Because this is such a quality stream, it is a very popular angling destination. Due to the pressure trout experience, it’s important to limit fishing during summer days when the water temperature can exceed 70 degrees and stress the fish.

Tulpehocken Creek Map and Fishing Access Sites

map of fishing spots on Tulpehocken Creek in PA

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

Best Spots to Fish Tulpehocken Creek

You have plenty of choices where to fish the Tully. Almost four miles of Delayed Harvest waters run from the Blue Marsh Dam downstream to the covered bridge on Tulpehocken Road.

The area downstream of Water Works is another popular area to fish, but it is trickier than some other sections since the water moves slower. Above Rebers Bridge, the stream consists of pools, and due to the tributaries, the water stays cool in this section for the entire year.

Tulpehocken Creek is accessible to wade fishermen, but you should be diligent about checking the stream levels before you visit. The ideal flow for wade fishing Tulpehocken is 350 cfs (cubic feet per second). 

Stream Flow and Current Conditions

Be sure to check the stream conditions before fishing at Tulpehocken Creek. The USGS stream gauge near Reading, PA, provides a good indication of current conditions.

The graph below shows the stream flow (discharge) for the past seven days. If flows are considerably above or below historical norms (yellow triangles on the chart), fishing conditions may not be ideal.

Tulpehocken Cr at Blue Marsh Damsite near Reading

  • Temperature: 60.26 ° F
  • Streamflow: 181 ft³/s
  • Gage height: 2.99 ft
Temperature GraphStreamflow GraphGage height Graph

Best Time to Fish Tulpehocken Creek

The best time to fish Tulpehocken Creek is in the spring, but you can also have good luck fly fishing in early fall.

Caddis are the main attraction on the Tully and numerous species hatch from May through October.

Blue-winged olives hatch from March until November. Little Black Stoneflies and Little Brown Stoneflies hatch in early March and April. Sulphurs hatch in late April through June, with Light Cahills hatching in June. Other plentiful hatches at Tulpehocken Creek include Tricos and Terrestrials in the summer and fall.

Midges are always present on the stream and even offer dry fly fishing on sunny days throughout the winter.

Best Flies for Tulpehocken Creek

Regarding fly patterns, here is a list of some of the best flies for Tulpehocken Creek:

  • Blue Wing Olive (#18-22)
  • Little Black Stonefly (#18)
  • Pale Olive Caddis (#18)
  • Crane Fly (#16-18)
  • Green Caddis (#16-20)
  • Yellow-Tan Caddis (#14-16)
  • Black Caddis (#12-14)
  • Brownish Gray Caddis (#14-16)
  • Sulphur (#14-16)
  • Dark Gray Caddis (#16-18)
  • Yellow Drake (#12-14)
  • Little Black Fluttering Caddis (#18)
  • Big Slate Drake (#8-10)
  • Trico (#22-24)
  • Terrestrials
  • Midge (#18-24)

Gear Recommendations

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

Tulpehocken Creek Fishing Reports

There are several area fly shops and online retailers that publish Tulpehocken Creek fly fishing reports. A few to check out 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.

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

Trip Planning Tips

The nearest airport to your destination is Reading Regional Airport, with the airport less than minutes away from the stream. Another nearby option is Lehigh Valley International Airport, about an hour’s drive from Tulpehocken Creek.

If you are looking for affordable lodging options in the area, we’ve got you covered. The Days Inn by Wyndham Reading Wyomissing is close to the Reading Regional Airport. It has its own fitness center and free breakfast.

Of course, Pennsylvania campgrounds are pretty irresistible. Quinta Las Cabanas Grove is a beautiful campground that offers breathtaking scenery and a friendly staff. 

While it might not be a fabled tailwater fishery, we promise Tulpehocken Creek will leave a lasting impression.

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

Feature Image by Wooly Bugged