Wild Trout can be some of the most challenging fish that swim Pennsylvania’s streams. When an angler overcomes these challenges, the reward is beautiful and breathtaking. These fish are absolute jewels. Scott Grassi of the Keystone Anglers Guide Service mines for these jewels with great success. Scott lets us know about some of his favorite waters and techniques that lead to his success.
How long have you been fishing for Pennsylvania’s Wild Trout?
I have been fishing for Pa Wild Trout for a little over 30 years, with 20 plus years as a fly angler. As a teen I fished for stocked and native Brook Trout in the mountain streams around State College, Pennsylvania. As I got older I set my sights on the Wild Brown Trout that inhabited the Limestone waters of Central PA. Those early years were an education and I learned a lot about Wild Trout behavior and habits.
What do you love about catching Wild Trout?
I love fishing for Wild Trout mainly because they are a challenge. They aren’t easy to catch and you can’t go out and catch them consistently without putting in the work. They make you earn your success and that’s the way it should be.
What makes them different than fishing for stocked trout for you?
Wild Trout demand a natural drag free drifted fly where their stocked brothers will feed on a host of non natural foods including cheese, dough balls, power bait, etc. Wild Trout are born with a survival instinct that stocked trout have yet to learn. Not only does this make them super wary but it also enhances their fighting ability. They do not want to be caught and they do everything in their power not to be! The bigger the fish the more tricks they seem to have to getting off your hook. Lastly, a Wild Trout will have more natural and pronounced colors and spots. They are just plain beautiful where as the stocked fish have less marked colors and/or spots.
Are there specific streams/rivers that aren’t a secret that you would recommend to those looking for Wild Trout fishing in PA?
I do most of my guiding on The Little Juniata River and Spring Creek near Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. I have fished The Little J since I was kid and it holds a special place in my soul. I grew up 30 minutes from the river and I would have to pass it up to go to many of the other fabled central Pa waters and I just couldn’t do it.
I enjoy sharing my love for the river with anyone and everyone that is accepting. The fly fishing is phenomenal and the fishing pressure is at a level where you can get water to yourself at most times of the year. The Little J has a very diverse bug life and many great hatches. We do well on many caddis and mayfly imitations.
Spring Creek is another favorite of mine and it’s loaded with Wild Trout. If you walk you can always find some open water to fish. It has a pretty predictable hatch schedule and the fish always seem to accommodate! Some of my favorite patterns are Pheasant tails, Hares Ears, Walts Worms, and Scuds.
Another one is Penns Creek. I fished Penns Last year for the first time ever. We had a pretty successful outing with several beautiful Wild Trout brought to the net. Like the previous two, Penns Creek has an array of bug life with The Green Drake taking center stage.
What do you look for when dissecting a stream to tell you that the water is likely to hold a good population of trout?
When I’m looking at a stream or river I need to see moving water. Riffles assure me that the water is well oxygenated thus should support a trout population of some sorts. I also look for bug life. Look at the stream side vegetation, rocks that stick above the water, or spider webs for newly hatched insects. Turn over rocks to see what kinda bugs are clinging to the underside. Don’t forget to look for crayfish which are a staple of a Wild Trouts diet. Sometimes observing the water can reveal flashes of a feeding Wild Trout or quite possibly a surface feeder feasting on insects or terrestrials. All of these are tactics I have used to find good Wild Trout water.
You mention on your website that June is dry fly time on your waters. What makes dry flies effective during June?
Well May-June is really the heart of the dry fly season for us. You can catch Wild Trout most of the year on dry flies if you wanted to but these particular months showcase some of the more spectacular hatches of the year in Pa. I’ve been asked what my favorite hatch is and my honest answer is whatever one is happening when I’m fishing. They are all a ton of fun and entertaining. BWO, Grannoms, Sulphurs, Light Cahills, March Brows, Hendrickson, and Slate Drakes just to name a few.
One hatch to mention which happens in the Fall not in June is the October Caddis. This is the last great hatch of the year and can be pretty awesome to fish.
Are Wild Trout streams in Pennsylvania worth fishing throughout the summer in July and August?
Yes and no….We have some spots that have underground springs that keep the water relatively cool but we are constantly monitoring the water temperatures and if it starts to be consistently above 65 to 67 degrees we stop fishing for the Wild Trout. But until then a popular technique of ours, and many others, is working the over hanging river side vegetation with terrestrials such as ants, beetles, grasshopper, and mouse patterns. We get some unbelievable top water strikes!
How does your selection of spots on a stream change as the weather gets warm?
One tactic we use when the weather starts to get more summer like is to only fish the first few hours after daybreak. The water is cool in the morning giving us a window to fish before the sun comes up and starts to warm up to unfriendly temperatures. I like to fish the riffles and runs looking for fish that have moved up from the deeper water to feed. These fish will usually retreat to the deeper water when the sun gets high in the sky.
Wild Trout streams can be very fragile. What do you and your clients do to make sure fish are handled properly especially over the summer months?
Great question and I touched on some of that in my above answer. Fishing only when the water is at safe enough temperatures. No matter the time of year we have a policy of allowing any caught fish to revive for a few minutes before we get a few quick pics. We use deep well competition nets for that specific reason and we have never had any issues with fish dying.
What are the biggest mistakes you see anglers make when chasing Spring and Summer Wild Trout?
Some common mistakes I see are people getting too close to fish. Wild Trout in the Spring are wary and Wild Trout in early Summer are ultra wary! You need to go light on your tippet, stay back and use smaller flies.
How can someone reach you for your guide service?
Our website is KeystoneAnglersGuideService.com
Our Facebook page is @keystoneanglersguideservice
Our Twitter page is @KeystoneAngler,
Our Instagram page is @keystoneanglersguideservice
And my personal Instagram page is @gmoney5381
Each one of these platforms have my personal and business contact information on them.
What is a day on the water like when trout fishing with you?
We cater the trip to meet the clients needs. Some clients have never fly fished before so they need some fly casting instruction before they start fishing. Some are already experienced fly anglers and they hit the ground running so to speak. So it really depends on the clients skill set.
We do try to schedule trips around hatch activity though because it’s so fun for beginners and experienced fly anglers alike. If there is no visible surface feeding we will usually nymph with one or two of our productive flies. Some clients enjoy throwing streamers so we have that option as well. We fish at the pace of the client. We strive for a productive and enjoyable day.
Thanks Scott for the great interview!