For years my home water was the Wissahickon. At the time I
lived in Philadelphia and was tickled that it was possible
to catch trout inside the city limits. The Wissahickon
Valley Park is huge – 1800 acres. Inside the park the creek
flows seven miles from Chestnut Hill at the north end to
Manayunk at the south. Forbidden Drive is a large road which
parallels the creek – mostly from Bells Mills to Lincoln
Drive – and is closed to motorized traffic save for the
city park service and the local constabulary. So you can't
drive your car along the creek. But you can walk, jog,
ride your bike, or ride your horse. I think of Forbidden
Drive as the world's largest fisherman's trail. It certainly
makes access easy.
By Dave Pearson, PA
The stream supports a good population of native panfish,
catfish, and carp. And the commission stocks trout three
times a year; twice in the spring and once in the fall.
The native fish have their fans, but most folks fish for
the trout. Me included.
Just about every Tuesday I drive from central Pa. to the
Philadelphia area to give guitar lessons. If I have a free
spot in my day, I'll stop creekside for lunch. If I have
a large enough spot, I'll wet a line.
This past Tuesday, I arrived at the Wissahickon at 6:30
in the morning. The thermometer under the car read 28
degrees. This was way too cold for spring.
I put on every bit of clothing I could find in the back of
the car and went to the stream. I started with a prince
nymph and a downstream swing. Nothing. So I turned the
other way and fished upstream. Really nothing, except
for ice in the guides. So I switched to a small bucktail
and fished a large deep pool with a long slow swing. Ah
Ha! There's some interest. I adjusted the retrieve a bit
and connected with a fish. Then another. And a few more.
All the while fishing my way downstream.
By midmorning it had warmed up considerably. I shed a few
layers and was working my way back upstream toward the car
when I ran into James. I was on the drive heading north;
he was heading south.
"Stopped counting – 'bout a dozen"
"Where are they?"
"Let 'em go."
"That a cane rod?"
"No, a four." I notice he is wearing a beat up cap
with the Sage logo and a Patagonia jacket. He's about
"Here" I hand him my rod. He gives it a wiggle.
"This is real nice."
"Go ahead and cast it."
"I don't want to beat up your line on the gravel."
Looks like this fellow left his license at home.
"Go ahead, I need a new line anyway." He strips out
some line and lays out a forty foot cast with practiced
"What kind of rod is this?"
"Never heard of 'em."
"He's a backyard builder from upstate...and a good friend
of mine." He lays out another cast.
"Got a Leonard at home...bought it new."
I revise my estimate of his age upward. He reels in the
line, gives back the rod, and offers his hand.
Turns out James was well into his 60's, a Vietnam vet, and
a staunch advocate of catch and release. Even in this put
and take fishery. There's only so many fish and a lot of
fishermen. Over the years James has been on many committees
to preserve and improve the Wissahickon watershed. He tells
me the Clean Water Act of 1971 made a huge impact on the
quality of the stream. Before the act, flyline would change
color (!) after it was fished a few times in the stream.
Many of the trees along the stream bank sport new wood duck
houses. James informs me that the Wissahickon now boasts
five mating pairs and more are on the way. Interesting.
This stream as I know and love it is as it is in part
because of the efforts of this man, and I didn't even
I thank him.
He shows me a couple of tricks for taking trout this time
of year, then watches as I fish a pool. After a time I catch
a couple more fish. He seems satisfied and wanders off south
on Forbidden Drive. I head north to my car. I don't want to
be late for my lessons. ~ Dave - (black gnat)
Dave Pearson lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania with his
loving wife, Gillian, and two dogs, Casey and Booboo.
His passion is small mountain streams. He teaches guitar
for a living. You may contact Dave at:
Hemlock Headwaters Archives