Pennsylvania Fishing with Bill Ryland

When selecting people for interviews, I sometimes just get a sense that this person is going to be a fantastic person to discuss fishing with. I got that feeling when looking at Bill Ryland’s Instagram @billymacmilly. As you will see from his answers and the fishing photos he shared with us, this young man is a very a talented angler with a bright future in fishing.

First of all, you are crushing it from a fishing perspective based on your Instagram page. How long have you been fishing?

I’ve been fishing for as long as I can remember. I’ve grown up on two connecting farms which both contain bass, bluegill, crappie, and catfish. It was always something I would do over the summer while we were off of school. Once I got to high school I got away from it because of football and baseball. I really only got back into it around the end of summer in 2013. 2014 is when I started getting pretty serious and putting a majority of my free time into being around the water.

Where does your love of fishing come from?

I think my love for the sport comes from three different things: competition, friendship, and independence. There aren’t many sports that allow you to constantly meet and learn from new people like fishing. You could fish one body of water your entire life and meet somebody new and learn something you’ve never known. I’ve always been an open minded person, so the learning aspect of fishing almost comes natural.

I’ve been in sports since I was about 5 or 6 years old. So, I’ve had a pretty competitive nature ever since I was young. And the independence thing is because I always was sort of a loner and thoroughly enjoy my time to myself. Fishing was always something I could do if nobody was available or if I just wanted to get out and enjoy the nice weather.

I believe my research turned up you are from Pine Grove, not too far from me. So, I have to ask you about one specific lake, Sweet Arrow Lake. I was there once and caught a 6 inch largemouth and a turtle. I haven’t returned. Should I reconsider a return to fish for bass on Sweet Arrow? What is your opinion on the bass fishing at this lake?

The thing about Sweet Arrow is you literally never know what you’re going to get from it. I’ve had days where I’ve caught over 40 fish and two days later not even get a bite. It’s definitely somewhere to check out early in the year. Mid April into early May is the best time to make the trip.

A big reason for it being such a tough lake is because people in this area feel the need to keep everything that is legal size. There comes a point in the year where you’ll only catch 11 3/4″ fish all day and if you’re lucky get one that’s pushing 15″. It’s frustrating because it could be a great lake if there was a slot limit or even just 5-6 years of catch and release only. I’ve caught fish in the three to five pound range there, but it is a very, very rare occasion for that to happen.

Bill with a First Place Limit of Blue Marsh Lake Bass
Bill with a First Place Limit of Blue Marsh Lake Bass

You recently won a night tournament on another notoriously tough lake to fish in South Central Pennsylvania, Blue Marsh Lake. How was the fishing that night?

Blue Marsh will always be a tough lake no matter who shows up there. When our schedule came out and I saw that we were going there at night, I honestly wasn’t looking forward to it. I showed up with an open mind and low expectations. I was relieved when we were told it was only a three fish limit with a minimum of 15″.

We pulled up to the first spot and my boater lost a fish about 2 pounds or so. That got me more focused knowing we were around them. I didn’t get a bite until about an hour later. A short in a lay down. After that we went down the bank about 200 yards and I caught my first keeper on a 1/2oz black/blue Missile Jig Mini Flip with a Yamamoto Flappin Hawg trailer.

After it got dark I switched up to a 1/2oz War Eagle Jig because it had rattles. I kept the same trailer and color. My first flip with the new set up I felt a bite the second it hit the water, so I reeled up and laid the wood to her for my second keeper.

After going down the bank for awhile my boater said he wanted to go check a spot where he had caught some smallmouth before. We pull up to this spot and it was like nothing I had ever seen. Fish were feeding everywhere. Bait was flicking on the surface, every few minutes we’d hear big fish coming up and splashing back into the water like little freshwater whales. So, at this point, I picked up the first moving bait I could get to. It was my chatterbait rod. I threw that 3/8oz black and blue bladed jig with a Yamamoto Zako trailer as far as I possible could towards the blow ups.

On my third cast or so I felt a very subtle tick. I set the hook and felt nothing at all, so I reeled as fast as I could to catch up with it. By the time I did, the fish was practically under the boat. I hooked him probably 20-25 feet away from the boat. I got it pulled up and tired out and swung it onto the driver seat. That 3.16 pound smallmouth ended up being the winning fish. Not just for lunker, but also for my overall bag. I won by less than a pound. We had 10 people fishing that night and only six keepers were caught. Three by me and three by another guy.

Bill Ryland with Some Nice Leaser Lake Largemouth
Bill Ryland with Some Nice Leaser Lake Largemouth

A recent pic of yours had you on Leeser Lake with an impressive day. This is actually on my bucket list of lakes to try to get to this late summer and fall. Why or why not should I make it a point to fish this lake?

Leaser lake has turned into one of my go to lakes that are close to home. It’s only about an hour trip for me. It is a place I enjoy so much because I can do what I like to do and that’s flipping a jig around wood and bushes. I honestly think everybody should go there once at least just to check it out.

Another great thing about it is that it is catch and release only unless you get a culling permit like our club does. It’s full of 2.5-3 pound fish that fight super hard. They bite hard and dig like big smallmouth.

I think you could go there and catch them on anything from a drop shot to a squarebill to a whopper plopper. I really don’t think there’s a “best way” to catch them. I just am most comfortable and have the most fun with my 7’3 MH Enigma Aaron’s Edge rod with an 8.1:1 Daiwa Tatula with 20 pound Sunline flipping the standing timber and submerged bushes. Just remember though, take extra jigs if you’re fishing that way. You will lose a handful!

The 570 doesn’t always get a lot of love for its bass fishing. What do you consider your favorite bodies of water to fish in the 570?

The 570 or northeast PA is definitely not known for its bass fishing. It’s predominantly know for trout fishing. There are two places I frequent and a few others I’ve gone to once or twice that I never went back. The first, is obviously Sweet Arrow Lake in Pine Grove. It’s only a 15 minute drive and if you time it properly, you can do pretty well. My other frequent place is in Landingville, PA. I honestly don’t even know the proper name for the place. I just know there are some good fish in it and not many go there.

I’ve been to other places such as Lake Wallenpaupack and Harvey’s Lake and I really don’t have any desire to go back. Maybe we were there at the wrong time, but I don’t see myself making a trip to those places anytime soon.

Bill Ryland with Two Big Upper Chesapeake Bass
Bill with Two Big Upper Chesapeake Bass

How about beyond the 570?

My favorite place to fish by far is the Upper Chesapeake Bay. I just love how diverse and opportunistic it is. You can go there and pretty much use any technique you’d like. You can go and skip dock, throw squarebills on rip rap, throw a shakey head, punch mats on the flats, or anything. The potential to catch big fish there is just remarkable. You never know what you’re going to get, but you can flip into a lay down and potentially catch a 6-8 pound fish.

Another great thing is, if you’re struggling with the largemouth, there’s nothing stopping you from going up the Susquehanna River and catching some smallmouth. Which brings me to my second favorite place to fish. I am a brown fish fanatic. I love going to the Susquehanna River, on the Pennsylvania side, and catching big, beautiful smallmouth. It’s great because you can flip a jig on current breaks and catch a 4 pound largemouth and a 4 pound smallmouth in the same hole. Or you can go out deeper in the current and chuck a jerkbait around.

My third favorite place is probably Cayuga Lake in New York. I was just there for the first time a few weeks ago and it opened my eyes to a different type of fishing that I honestly didn’t know I’d like until I did it. We fished heavy grass flats in 8-16 feet of water and I think it was the most fun I’ve had on a new body of water. The fish bite and fight hard. They just never seemed to give up. I didn’t get to throw a jig, but I really got to be a big fan and believer in bladed jigs that weekend.

You obviously are very talented angler. What are your goals for the future in fishing?

I honestly don’t really know what I want out of my future with fishing. Right now, my main goal is to get my own boat and start traveling more to different bodies of water and finding fish on my own. I’m always on the back deck now and I’m grateful for the people who have taken me out and taught me so many things. But I’m just at the point now where I want to be that guy giving out the useful info to somebody who may just be getting into the sport or just want to learn more.

I think once I get comfortable with my own fishing on my own rig at the club level, I’d like to move up to bigger tournament fields. Maybe in the future compete in some Costa series events or BASS Opens. I don’t want to rush into anything though and make myself go broke because of prematurely going after something. I would like to do something within the fishing industry. Whether that be tournament angler or on the product side, I know I would truly enjoy that. I’m only 24 years old now and I know there is time to see what my future holds for me. I just know whatever it is, I’m excited for it.

You have met a number of pros like Ike, Aaron Martin and Ish Monroe. Who are the pros you look up to the most?

Well, my favorite angler is Ike. I know it’s cliche because so many people say him, but for me it’s more than just on the water stuff. For me. He’s an inspiration because he is a guy from the north eastern part of the country that has succeeded at the highest level. When most guys are from down south where they can fish year round, us northerners are often iced over by Thanksgiving.

It also helps that he is a metal head just like myself. It’s tough finding people in the fishing world that share my love for heavy guitar riffs, breakdowns, and guttural vocals.

I look up to a lot of the younger guys like Brandon Palaniuk, Adrian Avena, and Jacob Wheeler. Mainly because they’re successful guys who aren’t much older than I am.

You just started representing a company that I love, Nate’s Custom Baits. Tell me about all the companies you represent and what you like about each.

I am on the Enigma Fishing pro staff to start. I honestly believe they are the best rods on the market. I’m not just saying that. I bought two just to try them out and I was blown away. They’re the lightest rods you’ll ever hold. They’re strong and true to their action which is tough to find in most rod brands. A medium heavy Enigma rod is a medium heavy. A lot of other companies will take a medium action rod and say it’s medium heavy. You feel the difference on your very first hook set. I recommend everybody at least check them out.

I am also with Woo! Tungsten. That one is a fairly new partnership, but I know one thing. They make some outstanding tungsten products for easily the best price point. The weights don’t cut your line or hinder your catching abilities.

Last, the most recent, Nate’s Custom Baits. Funny story, my friend was asked about joining and when he told me I just kind of joked around saying to get me in as well. I didn’t actually think it would work, but it did and I am super excited to work with Nate and help his company grow even bigger. It’s impressive how far he’s come in only a year. There is going to be some big things coming from that guy without a doubt.

Thank you Bill! I am confident that whatever you choose to do with fishing will be filled with many amazing days on the water.