JEFF KNAPP: Salmon Creek has lots of room to roam
Salmon Creek flowed full, but still quite clear, despite the recent rain. It wasn’t raining this day, though. Instead, the occasional precipitation was in the form of snow, horizontal snow in fact, struggling with a strong wind to reach the ground. It was quite a change from the 80-degree temperatures of two days before.
I cast a brown Rooster Tail spinner into the pool, in a small spot between two uprooted hemlocks that lay across the stream. A nice brook trout rose up from the greenish depths and took a tentative nip at the lure, just enough to transmit a slight tap, but not sufficient to sting the fish.
A half-dozen casts later it — or a twin to the first fish — again did the same thing. I quickly nipped off the spinner, tied on a No. 12 bait hook, squeezed on a couple BB-size split shot and dressed the hook with a red worm. The brookie ate the worm on the first cast, resulting in a solid hookup.
The Salmon Creek visit was just one component of a weekend trip my friend Art Hamley and I made to a handful of trout streams in northern Clarion and Forest counties. The objective of the excursion was to not only fish for stocked and wild trout, but also to do a little scouting for this fall’s grouse and woodcock hunts. The thump of a grouse drumming from the adjacent hillside — which we experienced several times — is always a welcome sound, proof positive of brood stock that will hopefully experience a successful upcoming breeding season. The discovery of streamside alder thickets while fishing can lead to productive sport on woodcock come autumn.
Salmon Creek begins its journey to join Tionesta Creek at the outflow of Beaver Meadows Lake, north of Marienville. Trout stocking begins a few miles below the lake. The vast majority of the creek flows through the Allegheny National Forest. Stocking continues to Salmon’s junction with the Tionesta near Kelletville. Stockings consist primarily of brook trout, though browns are slated to be included in a late-May planting.
Several of Salmon Creek’s tributaries support populations of native brook trout. This includes Little Salmon Creek, The Branch, Two Mile Run, Four Mile Run, as well as at least one unnamed tributary.
My favorite portion of Salmon Creek is the lower half, from where it flows under Forest Service Road 145 (aka Salmon Creek Road) to its mouth. This entails roughly nine miles of stream. While the stream is certainly popular with anglers, there’s plenty of room to move around. It’s about 15 feet wide at the bridge, quickly picking up volume and width as feeder streams add to the flow, Little Salmon Creek in particular. It averages 25 to 30 feet wide in the areas we fished, about four miles upstream of the mouth. It’s a fairly easy creek to wade, the streambed not being particularly slick.
Salmon Creek has a moderate level of gradient. While riffles are common, it’s not a whitewater torrent. There are pools and runs that provide excellent holding water; undercut banks and laydown trees are common. The creek valley is relatively open, and while there are areas of brush and alders, much of the valley is enshrouded in hardwoods and hemlocks. Salmon Creek Road runs parallel to the stream on its east side along this entire reach, making access relatively easy. Still, there are places where the road rises above the streambed; anglers seeking seclusion can often find it by working waters along these stretches.
Primitive camping is permitted within most of the Allegheny National Forest and is a popular activity along Salmon Creek, one typically combined with fishing. Salmon Creek was stocked preseason and will be stocked in-season once in April and May.