As serious anglers and weekend anglers, many of us overlook the great angling opportunities that exist just off the beaten path from our normal waters. The fall and winter months are a great time to explore the angling adventures that we may overlook most of the year. While the weather is turning colder every day and most have put down their rods to take arms in search of four legged critters to hunt, there is no better time to take a long hike in the woods in search of Wild Brown and Brook Trout. However the excitement this time of year in the fishing world seems to revolve around Steelhead Trout, the savoy angler should not overlook the feast that is going on in small wild streams that are not only scenic, but hold native (non-stocked) species of beautifully colored Brookies and Browns.
A Wild Trout Steam is defined as a waterway that has the habitat to support natural reproduction without the help of fisheries management stocking programs. Although in our state (Pennsylvania) there is no true “native” trout species. The Brook Trout is the state fish of PA, but it may have been an oversight to call this species a trout since it is acutally a member of the Char family. Brown Trout were introduced to the local waters back in the 1800′s from European settlers, and since then, there are still a few streams that have the habitat to support a thriving population that exists solely on natural reproduction. These streams and the inhabitants are considered native or “wild” trout. The species of wild trout are more colorful than their hatchery raised cousins that inhabbit the majority of Pennsylvania’s trout stream. Wild trout are traditionally smaller in size because of the very small waters which they live, but certain area’s will hold trout upwards of 20+ inches in the ecosystem and forage are prime. Wild Trout usually require a hike in the woods to find. Our state has number of steams designated as “class A Wild Trout” and they are usually located in heavey wooded and mountain areas where people cannot easily access. This seclusion along with a typically cooler climate than other areas will protect a stream and keep the ecosystem in balance.
Wild Trout streams are located in some of the most scenic and beautiful areas that the state has to offer. A hike can last all day in rough terrain and it is important to plan ahead, have a hike plan, maps, gps, proper hiking gear, and survival items to ensure you have a safe and successful trip. It’s always a good idea to have a hiking partner as well… the buddy system can be a very important safety factor in the search for Wild Trout.
Although getting to the fish may be difficult, the reward for your efforts is that wild trout are not all that hard to catch! Wild trout are very skiddish so it is important to sneak up on your spot and make perfect short casts into the areas where they hold. It is also very important to wear earth tone clothing… you need to blend into the background because these streams are usually spring fed and very clear. These beautiful fish have survived all these years by avoiding humans, so they are crafty, but the bait selection and tackle is very simple. Small 5′ ultra light rods and spinning reels combined with 4 lbs florocarbon line should be all you need in the set-up department. I like to use a #8 hook, splitshot or or wrap, and a piece of night crawler! That’s it!… very simple. Purists may prefer to use more fancy bait such as flies… if this is the case, I would recommend small stone flies, hare’s ears, or a host of other natural presentations that correlate to the stream, or time of year you are fishing. Being that I am not a expert on entomology (study of bugs) I prefer to keep it simple! Whatever suits your style, Wild Trout fishing can be a adventure to remember and promises to be a worthwhile experience.
In conculsion, all must remember just how fragile these streams are. It’s important to not leave our “human footprint” in these areas because they are precious and should be taken care of by all who visit them. Never is there more of a case for “catch and release” ethics to be practiced. It only takes one angler to keep fish from these streams and they can be destroyed for generations to come. If you are interested in finding “Class A” steams, please consult your local Fisheries office or website to obtain maps and names of known wild streams. Take care of them because they are of the quality that should be protected…. Skinard