Of all the places Steve Svarka has traveled to cast his line, he said he still prefers the Northern Pennsylvania mountains.
“There’s just something about our hardwoods you can’t beat,” he said.
Svarka is one of the teachers at the Kinzua Fly Fishing School at University of Pittsburgh at Bradford. He and the thirteen other experienced casters for the past 25 years have helped people get into the sport then develop their skills.
He gave plenty of reasons for getting your waders wet in Allegheny National Forest. Perhaps chief among them is that although there are plenty of remote places to have space to yourself, many of them are still accessible by road and don’t require a long hike into the backcountry.
ANF features about 500 miles of streams among its half a million acres of ground. Many of them drain into the Allegheny Reservoir, where you can fish by boat if that’s more your style. A full list of boat launches can be found in the 2019 visitor’s guide from the Allegheny National Visitor’s Bureau at visitanf.com.
No matter your preferred method of fishing, the national forest has pristine waters and plenty of trout thanks to stocking efforts, conservation and a lack concrete and asphalt. ANF has been under management of the U.S. Forest Service since 1923 after it was depleted for its timber in previous decades. Beautiful forests have since sprung up in this region of the Allegheny Highlands.
Svarka said it was important to continue conservation in the area and that fly fishing is a great way to help protect ANF and its waterways.
“We enjoy putting people into fly fishing because I think the more numbers we have the more power we have to keep our waters clean,” he said. “We need a balance, but we have to be careful we don’t ruin some pristine spots.”
Opening day for trout in Pennsylvania is Saturday, April 13. In McKean County, Svarka recommended finding Kinzua Creek. It’s stocked from the Route 219 bridge near Westline, about two miles from where it enters the dam at Red Bridge, he said. It’s also stocked three miles or more to Guffey.
Brook, rainbow and brown trout are stocked in Kinzua. Brown and rainbow can be found in the south branch of the Kinzua, as well as in Chapel Fork.
“Naturally, opening day there will be a lot of people out, but after a few weeks you can find spots in ANF where you can be alone most of the day,” Svarka said.
You can also find bass, pike, walleye and muskellunge (muskie) throughout ANF and in the reservoir. The Allegheny National Forest Visitor’s Bureau suggests checking out summertime delayed harvest spots in Kinzua creek near Tallyho, and a section of Marvin Creek near Smethport. In Smethport you can take non-motorized boats out onto Hamlin Lake.
There are plenty of options for lodging in ANF. The visitor’s bureau has listed hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, campsites, vacation homes, resorts and other locations, all searchable by map as well.