West Branch Pine Creek is a 17-mile tributary of Big Pine Creek in Potter County. The stream begins just east of Cherry Springs State Park, and West Branch Road closely follows the stream from its headwaters clear to where it joins with Pine to form Berger Lake in Galeton.
The past year or so, I’ve driven past this stream numerous times on my way to other destinations. I’m not really sure why except that, when you live in an area of exceptional trout streams, sometimes even the simply good ones get overlooked. And West Branch Pine Creek definitely falls into that category: it’s a good trout stream.
Wild and Stocked
West Branch Pine Creek is a high gradient stream with lots of riffles and pocket water. It’s a smaller stream, ranging 20-30 feet wide in the lower five or six miles and half that size above where Lyman Run enters.
Above Lyman Run, West Branch Pine Creek is a Class A wild trout fishery with a mix of browns and brook trout. It offers 7 miles of skinny, brush-choked water that’s a challenge to fish once the foliage starts to fill out, which is really when it starts getting good.
Beavers have done a good job of restructuring the whole stream throughout a big stretch of the Class A water. How this will impact West Branch long term remains to be seen, and many streams in this region are experiencing the same shift. The headwaters of East Fork Sinnemahoning Creek, Little Kettle Creek, and the Allegheny River are also under siege by these oversized rodents, and I can’t tell yet whether this will provide lasting value or result in ruined waters should the beavers ever leave.
Upstream from the beaver ponds along West Branch Road, the stream becomes more fly fisher friendly. The mature forest provides a heavy canopy that keeps the stream cold and there’s not so much brushy undergrowth to contend with. It is small water, but there are fish throughout, and anywhere you find holding water, you’ll find trout.
West Branch Pine Creek downstream from its confluence with Lyman Run is primarily a stocked fishery. The PA Fish & Boat Commission stocks rainbows and browns here a couple times per year. The water generally warms up too much during the summer months for trout to hold over, although there are some very deep pools throughout where I’m sure they do.
I’d love to see what West Branch Pine Creek could be if not for the influence of Lyman Run. Lyman Run Lake is a top-release dam that has degraded the lower half of Lyman Run and, consequently, West Branch Pine Creek. If ever the DCNR decided to rethink many of the little reservoirs across this state so that they were bottom-release dams, we’d see a drastic improvement in literally hundreds of waterways across the state. In this water system alone, two lakes (Lyman Run and Berger Lake in Galeton) negatively impact Big Pine Creek. Imagine if these dams were redesigned to be bottom-release, feeding their respective streams with cold water all summer long?
It’s a pipe dream, I know, but imagine!
There has been talk floating around Potter County of turning West Branch Pine Creek into a whitewater destination for kayakers. Although it’s a small stream, its steep gradient offers some potential in this area. The only thing it lacks is volume. If they could find a way to create consistent flows year round, it’s certainly a possibility. As interest grows in outdoor recreation in northcentral Pennsylvania, I am ruling nothing out. There’s a deep desire among some very influential people here to further develop the resources in Potter and Tioga counties (in good and bad ways, in my opinion, but that’s a topic for another story) to increase year round attractions for tourists. As it is, the amount of traffic from non-anglers and non-hunters has boomed throughout this region in recent years. It would be nice if it resulted in something positive for outdoorsmen, but unfortunately that’s not usually the case.
(Photo: A downstream view from the bridge in Germania Station. As far as scenery goes, West Branch Pine Creek is absolutely beautiful.)
West Branch Pine Creek has some fly hatches and some of them are heavy. I’ve fished this stream several times this spring and have witnessed bugs in the air every time. Blue Quills, Quill Gordons, Grannoms, Hendricksons, March Browns, Sulphurs, Green Drakes, Slate Drakes and others are found here.
West Branch Pine Creek is the type of stream where you’ll rarely find a pool with 20 trout rising to a hatch. This is primarily pocket water and riffles and the trout are spread throughout the stream. When I’ve observed bugs in the air, I’ve done well just blind fishing a dry fly to match whatever hatch is coming off. In fast water, trout tend to be more opportunistic because they don’t have time to study your pattern. This is also perfect water for dry/dropper presentations. Drop a small nymph on 6-8 inches of tippet from the bend of the dry fly hook and you’ll pick up fish on both patterns.
There are a few freakishly large pools along West Branch, though, downstream from Lyman Run. They’re typically the result of huge rock formations that create a quick drop in elevation, or what you could consider a waterfall effect — except that they’re more like miniature waterfalls. The result is random huge pools that seem out of place on an otherwise small stream.
The lower sections of West Branch Pine Creek flow through a few commercial and residential areas. Most of these landowners permit walk-in only access to the stream as long as you’re mindful of where you park.
West Branch Road parallels the stream its entire length. As you head up the valley, you’ll see numerous turnouts where you can park to access the stream. There are a few short sections posted no trespassing, but most of the stream is open to fishing.
In a region known for some great trout streams, West Branch Pine Creek often gets overlooked. But if you’re looking to explore some new water with great potential for both stocked and wild fish, West Branch Pine Creek is definitely worth a visit.