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Lack of Rain Cuts Fishing in Much of State

July 14, 1991

CARLISLE, Pa. (AP) _ Get a few dozen fly-fishing fanatics together in early July and you’ll usually hear tales of big fish and fast action on some of Pennsylvania’s best trout waters.

The anglers swap tips on which beetle and ant patterns are working and which streams are the most productive. They marvel at the solitude they find now that most bait anglers have put away their rods and reels for another season or have moved to the rivers and lakes in search of bass.

They chatter happily about what is usually some of the best fly fishing of the year.

But at a recent fly-fishing show here, a few miles from some of the best trout streams in the eastern United States, the experts were subdued. Some of them had not been fishing for weeks and the withdrawal pains were severe.

They whispered about fishing conditions the way they might discuss a dying friend. The sportsmen, from across Pennsylvania and neighboring states, shared information about streams they were familiar with.

By and large, the news was not good. The drought has prematurely ended the trout fishing season in some parts of Pennsylvania and interrupted it in much of the rest of the state.

Lack of rain has also made summer bass fishing on the Susquehanna River a trickier-than-usual proposition.

″What you really need is four or five days of soaking rain,″ said Jerry Stercho, co-editor of the Mid-Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide. The problem is especially severe in the northern tier counties.

″Kettle Creek you can almost step across,″ Stercho said, referring to a popular Potter County stream that can usually be fished through July.

A woman answering the phone at the Cross Fork Tackle Shop along the creek confirms the assessment: ″It’s very low, it’s very warm. That’s bad news.″

Low water is bad news because it limits where the fish can go, makes them easier targets for predators, and cuts down on oxygen levels. Warm water is harmful because trout can not tolerate temperatures much above 75 degrees.

The combination is especially lethal; minor fish kills have been reported on a number of streams.

Even some spring-fed streams, which stay cool through the heat of August, are unfishable in places because of the lack of water. Such is the case with Fishing Creek in Columbia County and the Yellow Breeches near Carlisle.

Trout in those streams are moving from low-water spots and gathering in deeper holes.

A careful fisherman can catch trout in these deeper holes, but ″it’s more hunting than fishing,″ said Walt Young of Lemont.

Despite the lack of rain, good fishing is still available on the east branch of the Delaware River, Spring Creek in Centre County, and the Letort in Cumberland County.

The Letort, steeped in fly-fishing history and tradition, is only about three inches lower than normal.

″It’s virtually unaffected,″ said Kathy Weigl, who operates the Cold Spring Anglers shop with her husband. ″The fishing is excellent.″

And if those streams are too far away, there’s aways bass fishing. In the East, boating access on the Susquehanna is limited because of low water. But bass thrive in warmer water and someone willing to wade can find good smallmouth bass action in the evening.

Bob Clouser, who guides bass trips from his shop near Middletown, Dauphin County, said that while business is down a little, he’s not about to complain. Bass had their best spawn, or hatch of eggs, in 20 years, Clouser said. That means better bass fishing in future years.

END ADV for Release Weekend July 13-14

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