Fly-fishing on one of Southeast Pennsylvania's best trout waters.
I fished the previous evening on the Paper Mill section of the 'Tully' with nothing in the net to show for my effort. The next day I arrived to a spot known as the Water Works at 7am. The road to water’s edge is mostly paved, except for the last one-third that is gravel down to a circular with pull-off spots for parking. There is access from a wooden stair at the upstream section of the circular as well as a trail from the downstream section. During my quick recon the evening before, I had witnessed quite a few trout rising to a hatch in between the two access points. When I returned the next morning, a trico hatch was full on and the water was boiling with rising fish.
I started fishing a trico pattern, which I cast upstream of the rising fish and followed its drag-free drift through the boil – over and over for the better part of 20 minutes with no takers. Given that the stream was thick with trico spinners, I reasoned that my fly was not small enough, but I did not have a smaller size of that pattern. So, I switched to a dry/dropper set-up and fooled a fish to check-out the dry, then found it to be foul hooked on the dropper below when I reeled it in. This is going to happen from time to time and while I am not proud of it, I had a rainbow trout in the net and it was released seemingly unharmed thanks to a barbless hook.
A serious rain squall passed through and I retreated to my car for a reset. At that point I decided to check out the Rebers Bridge section to pass time until the rain let up. Upstream of the bridge I found the water more wadable but also slower. There were fish rising repeatedly under several overhanging willow trees, many of which I did not cast to for fear of landing my fly in the tree. At the least risky locations, my trico fly again was ignored by the rising trout. I was not surprised because there were a ton of trico spinners being dragged downstream and my offering looked unnatural on this aquatic ‘conveyor belt’.
With two hours left of fishing and a break in the rain, I returned to the Water Works site. The trico hatch was even more robust and the fish were frantic. There were four different pockets with rising fish that had me very excited and I decided I would keep to dry flies. I could see the different water columns leading to those pockets pushing tons of trico spinners downstream to the gulpers. So, knowing that my trico patterns were too large, I kept trying different offerings of my smallest dry flies.
What finally got attention was the oddest fly in my box, which I can only describe as an upside down, or reverse, grannom caddis with a green body. I was in my last 30 minutes of being on the water and I was finally getting an enormous amount of attention with this fly. Most times, the fish made a big splash of refusal, but I got some great hookups as well. The best was a big slurp by a brown trout that may be my personal best – not just in Pennsylvania, but possibly in the U.S. to date. It was pushing 16 or 17 inches, which Meck suggests is the upper limit in size for brown trout in this water. I was thrilled!
In short, the ’Tully’ is excellent tailwater trout fishing in Pennsylvania, but not without challenges. Be sure to have studded boots or felt soles and a wading staff and check in with the folks at TCO Outfitters in Reading before hitting the water.
Note: I am not being compensated for my mention of TCO Reading. I am simply a happy customer!