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.
Derived from the Lenape word Tulpewikaki, meaning “land of the turtles,” this stream is a designated Pennsylvania Scenic River. You’ll find large amounts of rainbow and brown trout here, along with 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!
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 seem to get enough of, with 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.
Tulpehocken Creek is stocked by the state 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 70F degrees and stress the fish.
Click the map icons to get directions to fishing spots and real-time stream flow data.
You have plenty of choices where to fish the Tully. There are almost four miles of Delayed Harvest waters that 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 of the other sections, since the water is slower moving in this area. Above Rebers Bridge, the stream consists of pools and the water stays cool in this section for the entire year, due to the tributaries.
Tulpehocken Creek is accessible to wade fisherman, 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).
Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish 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 7-days. If flows are considerably above or below historical norms (yellow triangles on the chart) then fishing conditions may not be ideal.
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 with numerous species hatching from May through October.
You’ll see Blue Winged Olives hatch from March until November. In early March and April, you’ll also see Little Black Stoneflies and Little Brown Stoneflies. Sulphurs then hatch in late April through June, with Light Cahills also 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.
Below is a list of recommended fly patterns for the Tully.
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)
Dark Gray Caddis (#16-18)
Yellow Drake (#12-14)
Little Black Fluttering Caddis (#18)
Big Slate Drake (#8-10)
A 9-foot 4-wt fly rod with 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.
There are a number of area fly shops and on-line retailers that publish Tulpehocken 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.
Tulpehocken Creek fishing regulations are available on the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission website.
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, which is about an hour’s drive away 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, and they have their own fitness center, plus 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 that Tulpehocken Creek is sure to leave a lasting impression.
Feature Image by Wooly Bugged
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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