Piece of Outdoor Heaven
Kettle Creek, Pennsylvania
by Brad Wilson

Potter and Clinton Counties

History

The Kettle Creek watershed drains 246 square miles of Tioga, Potter and Clinton Counties in North Central Pennsylvania. In all, 67.3 miles of class A trout waters exist in the upper Kettle Creek watershed. Recently Kettle has seen a decline in fish population and density. This caused concern among many and actions have been started to correct the several reasons for this decline in fish population. The main reasons are lack of stream habitat as well as high water temperature. So, to fix this problem several groups like the PA Fish and Boat Commission, Trout Unlimited and Kettle Creek Watershed Association have planted trees along the stream for shade as well as bank stabilization and added several stream improvement devices like jack damns and log deflectors. In the upper section of Kettle is Ole Bull State Park, first opened in 1925 as a picnic area on a 1/2-acre track of cleared land. It wasnt until the 1930s that the Civilian Conservation Corp built the original damn for the swimming area, as well as the pavilion and camping areas. Ole Bull Park is named for Ole Bornemann Bull, a famous  Norwegian violinist who toured the United States in the 1850s. In 1852 Ole Bull purchased a large piece of land in Potter County and attempted to make a series of Norwegian settlements. This never managed to happen due to severe hardships. The colony disbanded and moved to Michigan and Wisconsin. The lumbering industry soon followed Ole Bull into the area. By the turn of the 20th century, two railroads, one on each side of Kettle, were hauling logs to sawmills in the Cross Fork area. In the 1920s the Commonwealth purchased huge tracks of land no longer useful to the lumber companies and after many years of hard labor and concerned civilians the forest surrounding Kettle has been brought back to life. In recent years one big boost for Kettle and the surrounding hillsides was the Growing Greener Program, funding the Trout Unlimited/Kettle Creek Watershed Association partnership with over one million dollars in grants for assessments and restoration in the watershed.

 

The Fishing

Back in the 1880s the Kettle Creek watershed produced native brook trout in the 20 range every season and therefore was a very popular outdoor destination for the rich and famous. It wasnt long before the stream was void of any natives. Brook trout of that size made their last stand in 1918-1920. The trout population declined because of its popularity, the massive logging and subsequent forest fires that swept the area around the turn of the century supposedly damaging the watershed forever. Granted the Kettle Creek Watershed isnt what it used to be, but what is now days? I will tell you this, the area is an outdoor lovers paradise and the fishing in Kettle can only get better due to concerned outdoor lovers and the state of Pennsylvanias generous grants to improve the area.

The upper section of Kettle is accessible only on foot, and it is protected brook trout water. So, be sure and read the signs or refer to your fishing rules manual. This area can be reached by traveling on 44 east in the town of Oleana. A few miles down the road (Pine Hill Road, 44 east) the road will cross over the stream. Park at the bridge and walk up stream, but be sure to respect landowners property. From this point the upper reaches of Kettle can be reached as well as the wild browns and native brookies. Please take your time in releasing these wild fish for future anglers to enjoy. This section is tight in most spots, so a 7 rod is ideal for these conditions. I use a 4-5-wt weight forward floating line with a 7-9 leader. Keep in mind most of these fish are wild, so keep it low and slow. Hatches are pretty general for the area. Early March to mid-April you can find the little black stone fly, size #16-18. Most times though the water is still cold for rising trout, but there are exceptions every spring. The most prevalent insect is the tan caddis, size #14-6, and this hatches from April to late September, so make sure to have lots of caddis imitations with you (larvae and pupas included). Come late May terrestrials are the name of the game. Try size #10 green weenie or a size #12 black ant, they can be deadly. This section of the stream is the most scenic and the stream is perfect for sustaining wild fish. There are some real nice wild fish in this area, as well as some stocked fish that move their way upstream in the warmer months. Make sure to release all wild fish carefully. Doing this can only lead to better fishing in the future!

 

Moving below Oleana on Route 144 south, the stream picks up flow from Little Kettle and doubles in size from the upper section. Here a 9 5 wt should be fine for the rest of the stream. Most of this area down to Ole Bull Park is 50% fast and 50% slow runs. Depending on water flows, the majority of good fishing is where the stream is making a sharp turn or in shaded undercuts with some cover. From Ole Bull Park down to the regulated area the stream remains pretty much the same. From the end of the regulated area (the 144 bridge) downstream to Cross Fork the    stream changes slightly and theres more water to fish, as well   as more hiding spots for fish including some nice deep pools. In the town of Cross Fork there is an area for the handicapped and kids only. This section can be reached at the bridge in Cross Fork.

 

Cross Fork can say they are the one town where John Waynes side kick, George Gabby Hayes, performed in the once booming town of 2500 individuals. Now there is a country store/bar, two hotels/inns, a fire company and a few hardy, permanent residents. In this area Kettle picks up flows from Cross Fork Creek (another nice wild trout stream). From Cross Fork downstream to the next tributary that enters Kettle Creek the stream is changing to more slow runs and less fast water. The next tributary that enters Kettle is Hamersley Fork (wild trout), so in the warmer months this stream offers up cold water to sustain some hold over trout. From that point down to the 167 acre Kettle Creek Reservoir the stream remains the same, that of mostly fast water with some decent dry fly water. Some fishermen might want to change from stream fishing to giving Kettle Creek Reservoir a try. This body of water is best known for its trout and bass, but it also offers up brown, bullhead, sucker and pan fish. Also dont forget about the other great Wild Trout water in the area around Kettle Creek. Two I mentioned earlier are tributaries to Kettle they are Cross Fork and Hammersley Fork; both have Native brookies and some wild browns.   Other area streams are within minutes of Kettle Creek.  Slate run is just over the hill from Kettle as well as Young Womans Creek. Both of these are regulated fly fishing only water. Slate is entirely fly fishing only but Young Womans is open to other types of fishing in some areas. Another good stream is the East Branch of the Sinnemahoning Creek (Potter County). This is good dry fly water plus it has a decent population of wild fish that make this stream a must fish on your list! 

Other Areas of Interest

This area is known for its outdoor scenery and with that comes many outdoor activities that are available.

Ole Bull Park has 24 sites with electric hook up in area two. Area 1 has 19 sites with electricity. All sites include a picnic table, fire ring and level gravel pad. Water hydrants, modern restrooms and a sanitary dump station are available. No pets are allowed in this park. Another area campground is at Kettle Creek State Park. This is downstream several miles from Ole Bull Park. Kettle Creek Park consists of 1,793 acres along Kettle Creek in Western Clinton County. The park is set in a valley surrounded by mountainous terrain and wilderness. The park has 41 sites (all with electric), sanitary dumping station and is open from the first Friday in April to mid-December. Overlooking the scenic reservoir, the rustic upper campground has 27 sites (12 with electric) and is open from the first Saturday in April to mid-October. There is also horseback riding on an equestrian trail, 22 miles long and starting at Beaverdam Run and raveling through the Sproul State Forest. Some really amazing scenery! I cant leave out the mountain bike rider. There is a five-mile trail that starts at the day use area and travels onto state forest trails and roads before returning to the park.  Now after you get all hot and sweaty from the many heart pounding activities, cool yourself by taking a swim in the Kettle Reservoir and catch some rays on the 250 sand beach.

Kettle Creek Park is open throughout the winter, so you can enjoy the area all year round. You can delve into ice fishing, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and sledding/tobogganing, all in the park area. Not to mention the scenery in the mountains during the winter can be breathtaking. There are also several top-notch ski resorts in the area, and numerous trails for snowmobiling.

So, if you want great fishing along with breathtaking scenery you have to make plans to visit this little piece of outdoor heaven. It just keeps getting better!

Contact information for Kettle Creek State Park:

Phone 570-923-6004

E-mail Kettlecreeksp@state.pa.us

Ole Bull State Park: 814-435-5000, e -mail: olebullsp@state.pa.us

LODGING: Kettle Creek Lodge, LTD.

Susquehannock Forest Cabins, Lodge phone # 814-435-1019

Cabins phone #814-435-6577 * Fax #814-435-6641 

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