American Fly Fishing

By Tom Gilmore

Bowman Creek flows through the North Mountain range in Pennsylvania’s Luzerne and Wyoming Counties. Though popular with anglers from the Scranton–Wilkes-Barre region, this productive little freestone stream gets very little attention from fly fishers who live outside the immediate area. Other than right after a trout stocking, you will have most of the stream to yourself.
   From the headwaters downstream some 10 miles to the tiny hamlet of Stull, Bowman flows through the 44,000-acre Pennsylvania State Game Lands Number 57. An old railroad bed, converted into a narrow one-lane gravel road, provides ready access to this stretch, where Bowman averages about 15 feet wide and boasts an ample supply of small, brightly colored native brook trout, stream-bred browns, and total solitude.
   The stream gathers clean, cold flows, and wild trout, from numerous mountain tributaries. In fact, the Bowman Creek watershed is 90 percent forested, and the Bowman’s Creek Watershed Association (the creek is also called Bowmans) has documented that 12 of the creek’s 19 tributaries have wild trout. Browns, brookies, and rainbows all reproduce in the drainage, prompting the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission to manage eight Bowman Creek tributaries as Class A wild trout waters—a designation for streams that support a population of wild trout of sufficient size and abundance to support a long-term and rewarding sport fishery. The commission does not stock these streams.
   Fishing often starts in mid- to late March, with hatches of Early Black and Brown Stoneflies. From mid-April into early May, the stream produces solid hatches of Quill Gordons, Blue Quills, and Hendricksons. Late May brings out Sulphurs and—my favorite hatch on this stream—Slate Drakes (Isonychia bicolor). I first learned of the great Slate Drake hatches on Bowman Creek from author Charlie Meck, a Pennsylvanian who has penned several excellent state fishing guidebooks and numerous articles. The story that clued me into Bowman’s Slate Drake hatch was “A Fly for All Summer,” in the June 1972 issue of Pennsylvania Angler. Slate Drake hatches and spinner falls occur on Bowman from late May through most of July and then again in the fall, lasting until the first heavy frost.
   I love to fish Bowman Creek in the fall; it is chock-full of fish, both stream-bred and freshly stocked, as part of the state’s effort to provide a quality extended season. Generally I am treated to rising fish and miles of water to myself, not to mention being immersed in one of Pennsylvania’s most scenic valleys and surrounded by the Endless Mountains, which come alive with fall foliage colors. Indeed, the first time I fished Bowman was on a Saturday one early October. The state had been scheduled to stock the stream the week before, but didn’t do so owing to ongoing stream-improvement work under way by the local Trout Unlimited chapter. It had been a very hot summer, and we were experiencing a severe drought. Despite the hot weather, extreme dry conditions, and the lack of a fall stocking, I found plenty of holdover and wild trout rising to Tricos, Slate Drakes, and Blue-Winged Olives. I saw only one other angler the entire day.
   The state stocks the stream from Pennsylvania State Route 29 in Noxen downstream for about 10 miles. Above Noxen and Stull, you will find wild browns and native brook trout. Most fly anglers target the catch-and-release, fly-fishing-only section, which runs from SR 292 downstream 0.8 mile to Marsh Creek. This heavily stocked section, which usually has lots of holdover trout and a few wild browns, is accessible from Jenks Road starting at the SR 292 bridge. The entire stream, from its headwaters in the northeast corner of Luzerne County on North Mountain downstream some 26 miles to where it enters the Susquehanna River, contains trout. For more information, consult Trout Streams and Hatches of Pennsylvania by Charles R. Meck or Fly Fishers Guide to the Big Apple by Tom Gilmore.


The full version of this article is available in print, PDF, and through our free APP.