Outing Report: Yellow Bugs on the Yellow Breeches

A tiny but beautiful redside dace took a nymph and in turn could be food for the abundant trout — Yellow Breeches, Pennsylvania

On a beautiful Friday in mid-May PVFF members ventured out of the Potomac valley and headed north to our neighboring commonwealth to wet our lines on one of the iconic central Pennsylvania streams that flow into the mighty Susquehanna River.  Known for its many miles of fishable water, prolific hatches, and abundant trout, “The Breeches” has a storied place in the history of our sport. 

We met at the Barnitz United Methodist Church, whose grounds include a beautiful stretch of the stream, and where the congregation generously allows anglers to park. A few miles upstream from where Yellow Breeches runs through Mt. Holly Springs, this section does not get as much pressure as the catch and release stretch further down. The river holds stocked fish and a healthy population of wild brown trout, as well as the usual varieties of Cyprinidae. 

On his way to the stream, club president Andy Mekelburg stopped and caught breakfast for everyone at his local river, also known as Home Run Donuts in Hagerstown (look them up). Club members Denny Grizzle and Dirk Vandervaart and I were all impressed with the size and tastiness of the donuts that grow along the asphalt river of US Route 40 in Washington County.  

After a generous and delicious donut breakfast the four of us headed upstream to start fishing. We got lucky with perfect weather; in fact it was maybe a little too good for ideal fishing. But the water temperatures in the 50s made for excellent opportunities to entice the trout to eat what we were offering. Early on in the day there was very little surface action, but a variety of nymphs were working. Everyone caught fish in the various spots where we’d settled, despite competing with some friendly but much more successful local anglers who were using  PowerBait. 

For lunch we returned to the church, which has a nice pavilion with picnic tables. Over lunch we discussed the virtues of stocked and wild fish, and what, in each of our opinions, was more fun to fish for. I posed a hypothetical choice between catching a four-inch wild fish and fourteen inch stocked fish. The preferences were evenly split, with  two of us preferring wild fish and two preferring big fish. In the end though, we all agreed that catching fish is more fun than not catching fish whatever their size and birthplace. 

After lunch we headed back out for more fishing. With much of the river bathed in warm May sunshine fishing slowed in the afternoon. Later in the day sporadic rises of trout were seen, cast to, and fish caught on dries. The stream is known for its hatch of Sulphurs (Ephemerella Invaria), which generally happens late in the afternoon and early evening. Around 3:00PM I did see a couple in the air, and managed to entice a wild brown to take the parachute Sulphur that I’d tied in the hopes of making something of the hatch. 

We all enjoyed the variety of fish that were attracted to our flies. Between us, over the course of the day, we managed to net an impressive range of species before releasing them back to their watery home. Our haul included stocked rainbows and browns, wild brown trout from three inches to over a foot, fall fish, creek chubs, and dace. Overall it was an enjoyable outing. I look forward to many more trips to the Yellow Breeches, and recommend club members explore this beautiful and rewarding fishery. 

— By Seth Denbo