The Magic of Urban Trout

It has been a few months since I have had much time to write. That in part is because 2017 allowed many opportunities for me to fish, hunt, and explore. Now that the busy holiday season is past us, allow me to share a few thoughts I wrote down after working dries over wild Lackawanna River trout on a hot summer day.

 

As the old adage goes, trout live in beautiful places. We all have our preferred places in which to catch trout. I’m not talking about favorite streams, but rather the places that are so unique/beautiful/wild that a stellar day can be had without touching a fish. A few of my favorites include the expansive Pine Creek Gorge, tiny and tumbling Trout Run in Lancaster, the ever-evolving Tioga River (bonus points for sentimentality), and a few gorgeous creeks found somewhere in Susquehannock State Forest that you are going to have to discover yourself.

However, circumstance has led me to fish many ugly trout streams over the past years. I have even developed a bit of an affinity for a few of them. There is something inspiring about gorgeous trout thriving amongst concrete, garbage, and sewer outflows (an underrated winter target, by the way).

My first urban trout fishing “crush” was Logan Branch in Centre County, a stream that will hold a tender place in my rod-hand forever. After afternoon classes at PSU, I would frequently drive Route 150 into Bellefonte, hang a right after the train tracks, and park in an abandoned lot. After prying my way through a chain-link gate, I would pass an empty guard house, climb down a spalled concrete wall, and proceed to battle wits with wild brown trout as gorgeous and wily as any in the state. The right bank was a slope of railroad ballast, and on the left was a concrete wall. Sometimes, I would use the concrete wall as a backboard, casting so that my nymphs would bounce off and drop into the water tight to the wall where they could tempt the hogs hidden up under. I usually did pretty decent in that stretch, by finicky limestoner standards. Rumor has that some very large browns reside in Logan Branch, although I never found them. It always fascinated me that the entire stream channel was more-or-less man-made, but I never met another fisherman.

Logan Branch

Urban fishing even has a few unique advantages over wilderness fishing. For example, night fishing is much easier with ambient light to see by. One bored fall evening on a whim, I headed to Spring Creek through Bellefonte to try my hand at “the Night Game”. A quick Google Maps recon mission found several places I could park and explore, and I was off. With no experience on this stretch of Spring, I was able to use street lights to find a gentle riffle perfect for swinging streamers. Soon after, a healthy brown trout smashed my marabou streamer and I broke my nocturnal trout virginity.

If you are an angler who thrives under the pressure of an audience, urban fishing is perfect for displaying your skills. I myself am not in this group, but I do find it satisfying whenever I am able to exhibit the beauty and challenge of fly fishing to passerby’s, particularly when they are young children. If an onlooker were to ever be fascinated enough with my demonstration to pick up a rod for themselves, it would give me more joy than any trout ever could. Occasionally, an angler is even able to dazzle spectators with a catch. This past Labor Day, my fishing buddy Marshall pulled a large rainbow out from beside a Tulpehocken Creek bridge pier, and fought it to the net while curious pedestrians offered congratulations from the bridge above.

A “Troll” of a Rainbow

When I fish trout streams in the midst of civilization, I am always impressed by the resiliency shown by such a delicate species. Given half a chance, trout can overcome unavoidable pollution issues that humans produce, and turn otherwise useless waters into valuable and easily accessible recreation areas. This should inspire you to take greater care of your trout streams. Join a local Trout Unlimited chapter, respect private property that you may be fishing on, or pick up any trash you may find streamside. The next time you cast a line in an urban fishery, I hope you will realize that even the ugliest streams can provide great fishing, and will be encouraged to do your part in helping foster clean waters and expanding trout fishing opportunities, even where they may not be expected.

 

-Ethan

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