Wild trout just waiting to be found
Copies of Landis' book, "Trout Streams of Pennsylvania: An Angler's Guide," are available from most major bookstores and online booksellers. Suggested retail price is $21.95.
In the meantime, here are a few wild trout streams in Western Pennsylvania that Fish and Boat Commission biologists say are worth a visit:
Bens Creek, southeastern Cambria County -- The 2.7-mile stretch from the headwaters to the Portage Water Authority holds a mix of wild browns and brooks.
Buck Run, southeastern Fayette County -- The 1.7-mile section from the headwaters downstream to a point 1.8 miles above the mouth holds wild brook trout.
Beaverdam Run, northeastern Somerset County -- The 3.8-mile section from the pond outflow on state Route 1035 downstream to state Route 1018. holds wild rainbows.
Camp Run, southeastern Westmoreland County -- The 4.1-mile section from the headwaters to the mouth holds wild brook trout.
Cherry Run, northeast Venango County -- The 3.3-mile section from the headwaters downstream to the bridge in Plumer Borough holds wild brown trout.
Dwight Landis has never sailed uncharted waters like Christopher Columbus, settled unmapped territory like Daniel Boone, or walked on the moon like Neil Armstrong.
But he is, most definitely, an explorer.
Landis is author of "Trout Streams of Pennsylvania: An Angler's Guide." Now in its third printing, the book is the result of Landis' penchant for locating and fishing small freestone trout streams on public land.
"I like the challenge of trying to find wild trout," Landis said. "Where are they?"
Some of the streams he fishes and writes about are on state forest land; others are on state game lands. Some run parallel to paved roads; others are farther off the beaten path. Some are relatively well known; others are named on maps, but otherwise ignored.
All share one common trait, however -- few people bother to fish them.
"Unlike some of the big-name streams in Pennsylvania that everyone seems to go to, these kinds of freestone waters tend to be very uncrowded," Landis said. "Most of the times when I'm on these streams, I don't see anyone."
Pennsylvania has thousands of miles of streams with natural trout reproduction, said Dan Tredinnick, press secretary for the Fish and Boat Commission. Some are classified as "wilderness" waters, which means they have native fish and are especially scenic. Others are "Class A" waters, which are the best of the best in terms of things like water quality and native fish populations.
Some get more fishing pressure than others, he said, but rarely if ever do they see the crowds that stocked trout streams do.
Part of the reason for that is the misconception that native trout streams only hold small brook trout, Landis said. That's not necessarily true. Landis has come across wild brooks and browns while fishing many of the streams in his book. While few of those fish were huge, 13- and 14-inchers are not "extremely unusual" either, he said.
The key to being able to find those fish is to simply get out and look around, Landis said. Most streams on state forest land hold wild trout. You may have to walk past some shallow, unproductive water to get to the better spots, but a state forest map, online resource like topozone.com or a DeLorme Gazetteer can put you on the right track, he added.
The headwaters of a lot of streams lead to beaver ponds that hold plenty of brookies, for example.
"If you're looking for fast fishing, beaver ponds can be hard to beat," he said.
There's a bit of weather-related luck involved in fishing freestone streams, Landis said. In years of drought, fish populations can go down significantly. If anglers hit things just right, though -- when flows are a bit high, but short of flooding -- the fishing can be fantastic, Landis said, particularly if you use flies like an elk hair caddis, parachute Adams, or black ants and beetles.
"Trout on freestone streams tend to be a little less selective than those on limestone streams. Which is part of the fun of it," Landis said. "Easy fishing is fun."