The Little Schuylkill River starts a good distance above Tamaqua and meanders down to the town of Port Clinton, near Hamburg, where it joins the Schuylkill River. Over the past few decades the Little Schuylkill, with the help of concerned sportsmen and conservation groups, has made a major rebound from a severe mine drainage to a bonafide trout fishery with wild and stocked trout, many of which hold over very well. The fertile influence of several feeder streams has repopulated the river with a multitude of hatches and some true lunker trout can be caught here. If you haven’t fished the Little S lately you might be surprised with the quality of the experience the stream can deliver in it’s present state.
The Little Schuylkill River has had it’s share of hardships, but it’s success as a trout fishery is a testament to what the hard work of dedicated anglers can accomplish. For the longest time the coal industry abused this and most other rivers in the area. As a kid I can remember returning home from playing in the river with clothing black from the coal silt. It didn’t seem that long ago but to see the river in it’s present state you would be surprised. Various water quality projects and treatment plants have balanced the pH levels and the coal silt is mostly a thing of the past. One downside to the lower acidity of the water is that during the colder months the iron particles drop out of suspension faster than they did when the water was acidic which can cause an unsightly orange coloring of the stream bed. Hopefully recently completed remediation projects will remedy the situation.
This classic freestone stream is the Schuylkill River’s largest tributary. Nearly seventeen miles long with widths ranging from 10 to 100 feet with riffles, runs, pools, and pocket water to fish and explore. Temperatures hold up well with the cold fertile influence of it’s feeder streams. Canopied banks and good riparian drainage along combined with these feeders and a release from Still Creek Reservoir offer thermal refuge to trout even in drought years.
The special regs area starts in New Ringgold where Rt 895 crosses the river and continues downstream for about two miles to Rausch’s Bridge(Rausch’s Road). In this are you will find hatches throughtout the season starting with the Little Black and Early Brown Stoneflies followed up by Blue Quills and Quill Gordons, which are a sign of the improvement in the stream’s water quality. Hatches continue throught he spring with some Hendricksons, plenty of caddis, Blue Winged Olives, Grey Foxes, Light Cahills, Craneflies, Sulphurs, Cream Drakes, Slate Drakes, and tons of midges. When terrestrial insects become prominent along the stream banks the trout of the Little Schuylkill will key in on them strongly. Streamers can be productive, usually in the spring or fall.
In addition to three yearly stockings, the Little Schuylkill River holds wild trout from area feeder streams. Wild brook, brown, and rainbow trout can be caught up from above Tamaqua to just below Drehersville, usually near where a feeder stream enters the river. The current is swift in places, the bottom of the river can be slippery from moss and silt, and some areas have rapid depth changes so a wading staff is a very good idea especially if you are new to the river.
Preferred rods are soft to moderate rods in the 3-5wt range and a good disc drag reel to slow down the occasional lunker. Leaders of 9-12 feet are adequate and should be tapered down to 4-6x as the situation dictates. Early season you can usually get away with 2-4s for most of your fishing but once the pressure increases you may find yourself switching to 5x or 6x. 7x and smaller on the Little Schuylkill is not necessary. While you don’t have to be an expert caster to catch trout on the Little Schuylkill, a skip cast can come in handy for getting flies under tight cover and sidearm casting is another often used tactic for working tight cover for larger, smarter holdover fish. Delayed Harvest regs allow angler to fish from one hour before sunset until one hour after sunset. For those who can fish effectively in low light these times can be excellent for stalking larger trout with big dry flies. Anglers will often rush to the pools to look for rising fish but more fish can usually be caught in the riffles and faster runs when fish are taking dries. In the faster water Wulffs, Humpies and foam terrestrials can be used as the fish feeding there have less time to make a decision and eager to take a bigger meal.