JEFF KNAPP: It's easy to identify upstream reaches
February 11, 2014 10:40 AM
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Throughout the night, the rain beat its steady cadence, with a frequent crescendo, against the roof of my northwestern Pennsylvania cabin.

The following springtime morning brought clear, sunny skies, but I felt sure the overnight deluge had blown out many of the nearby trout streams — many, but not all.

At 9 a.m. I was along the banks of a hemlock, spruce and pine-lined run. The streamside grass was beaten down, evidence of the flow’s height of only a few hours prior. But already the run had dropped to a fishable level. The water was cloudy, but far from muddy.

By lunchtime I’d caught and released a couple dozen brook trout, mostly natives of the typical size with the exception of a couple that stretched out in the 9- to 10-inch range. Satisfied, I hiked through the woods to the truck.

Driving back to camp I couldn’t help but swing by a couple bridge crossings over larger streams, reaffirming their high, muddy status, as well as the presence of disgruntled anglers attempting to fish the frothy brown flow.

In this case, a mountain, native brook trout stream was the venue, which is indeed a classic setting for small stream trout angling. But it’s certainly not limited to such. Certain sections of stocked trout streams can also offer good sport when the spring rains seemingly wipe things out.

The upstream portions of stocked trout streams, given their comparatively short watershed length (at that point) drain off quickly; also those portions often flow through forested rather than cleared land, thus less sediment is washed into the stream to discolor it.

Given the wealth of information on the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s website (, it’s an easy task to identify the upstream reaches of stocked streams.

The agency lists the boundaries of sections of approved trout waters, which can be found via the stocking listings on the website (they are listed per county under the heading “adult trout stockings”).

For many streams, multiple stream sections are listed. The section with the lowest number is the most upstream section that’s stocked with adult trout.

The actual latitude/longitude coordinates are provided and linked to Google Maps. By simply clicking on the highlighted link you’ll open the Google Maps site, with your position of interest shown on an aerial image. Armed with this, it’s convenient to assess the type of area the stream flows through, i.e., forestland or developed/agricultural.

Another great Internet resource that can assist a person in evaluating smaller trout stream sections is the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s new State Game Lands Mapping Center on its website ( While designed to show the many features of state game lands, the program is of great benefit to anglers as well.

By utilizing the many layers and base-map options, one can easily determine items such as topography and access, significant factors for determining the gradient of the stream, as well as how hard you’re going to work to fish it. While there’s added information specific to game lands, the entire state is shown.

These Internet resources are convenient. But anglers need not be computer savvy or have Web access to scope out potential small trout streams. Approved trout streams are listed in the annual Summary of Rules and Regulations.

Armed with this information, and a book of topo maps like the DeLorme Atlas or Sportsman’s Connection All-Outdoors Field Guide, you’re well on your way to figuring out where the “upstream” sections flow.

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