Pennsylvania has a long rich history as the Keystone State. It is also filled with fishing opportunities. Robert Fravel is a angler, blogger, and lifelong PA resident that took some time to discuss the fishing the State has to offer, especially the waters in the Southeast.
We share being lifelong PA residents. What do you love about fishing PA?
For me, Pennsylvania is special because it offers such a wide array of angling opportunities. If you’re into large lake fishing for bass, muskie, carp or cats, Raystown Lake and Lake Wallenpaupack are within a day’s drive for most keystone anglers. If you like chasing steelhead, the Lake Erie tribs offer some excellent steelhead fishing. And if you are a trout fisherman, PA is about as good as it gets. The Yellow Breeches and Penns Creek are both world class trout waters, and there are thousands of miles of unnamed mountain streams containing hungry brook trout. No matter what type of fishing you prefer and no matter where you are in Pennsylvania, there are plenty of angling opportunities available.
You have been fishing for a long time but fly fishing for you is a more recent pursuit. What got you started fly fishing? And why have you become taken by this fishing method?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a fly rod in my arsenal but whenever I would go fishing I would opt for my spinner or bait caster – simply because that was what I was more comfortable with. It wasn’t until a few years ago when I went on a fly fishing trip with some friends to Elk Creek in the mountains of western North Carolina that I really started paying close attention to the nuances of fly fishing.
Up to that trip I really had not had much success fishing for trout. But in preparing for that trip I read as much as I could on fly fishing, specifically for trout. Turns out that my studying paid off because I caught a ton of trout during that 4 day trip, and from that point on I was hooked.
Nowadays I fly fish 95% of the time I am on the water. I fell in love with fly fishing for two reasons: 1) it is a very active method of fishing. You are constantly casting and mending the line to compensate for the current and obtain the perfect drag free drift; and 2) Every time I go out fly fishing I learn something new. Whether that is a new casting method…if the fishing is slow, I will sometimes spend a few hours trying to fine tune my roll cast or steeple cast – believe me, they both need work…or being able to recognize a new aquatic insect. Books are a great resource for learning about fly fishing, but for me personally I learn more through my successes and failures on the water.
What has been your proudest moment as a fly fisherman so far?
Without a doubt my proudest moment came when I caught my first trout on a fly that I tied myself. The amount of pride you feel when you land a fish on a fly that you created is a feeling that is difficult to explain to people who don’t fish. I was fishing on Tohickon creek in late spring. I was nymphing with a dropper rig using a green weenie as the top fly and the bottom fly was a questionable zebra midge pattern I tied the week before. I was fishing a small riffle in no more that 2 feet of water and within a few minutes a 9 inch brown trout ate my midge. I had a giant smile on my face for the rest of the day.
You were a whitewater rafting guide on the Lehigh River. Did you spend much time fishing it?
During the 4 summers I spent as a whitewater rafting guide on the Lehigh, I can honestly say that I never fished it. I would frequently see people fishing while I was working, but never actually got around to wetting a line. However, this past spring I spent a day fishing the river in the Lehigh Gorge area. I had limited success, but more than anything else I left that day feeling slightly intimidated. The Lehigh is some seriously big water, and can be quite dangerous to wade especially after significant rainfall or a dam release.
Trout and bass appear to be your main pursuits. What are your favorite waters to fish and what makes them special to you?
My favorite stream is without a doubt Monacacy Creek in Bethlehem. It is a phenomenal wild trout fishery right in the middle of a highly developed urban environment. I fish the Monocacy regularly during every season and it always fishes well. And for being a stream that sees a lot of angling pressure, the fish are surprisingly eager to take a fly. Second on my list would have to be Lake Nockamixon. I don’t fish it as much as I used to, but I have made some wonderful memories fishing or lounging on the Nock’s shores with family and close friends.
One of your blog posts from this year pointed out that we share another thing in common, a dislike for PA’s first day of trout season crowds. What month is your favorite time of the year to be fishing for trout?
October through January. In October you get to see the spawning colors of Brook and Brown trout and there are not nearly as many anglers on the water as there are in spring and summer. Once you get to the late fall and winter months, there are almost no anglers on the water. When I head out in the winter, I typically have the stream to myself and it is wonderful. There are still fish to be caught in the winter, you just need to make sure you are dressed properly and adjust your fishing methods.
Smallmouth bass can be a blast to catch on the fly rod. What are your favorite flies for catching PA smallies?
Smallies are so much fun on the fly! I usually have success on any type of cork popper or a Woolly Bugger.
In reading the articles on your blog, Pennsylvania Rod and Reel. I really enjoy your writing style. Can we expect more blog posts this coming year?
Thank you, I appreciate that. I do have a number of blog posts in the hopper, although I have been hard pressed for time lately. I did a fair deal of exploring different waters in more remote sections of the state this year, you can expect posts detailing my explorations and fishing experiences in those areas.
I do hope Robert will be posting more soon. As you can see from the interview, he does a great job articulating the fishing opportunities Pennsylvania has to offer. So make sure to check out his blog as well as see what he is up to on Instagram.