John with a nice brown trout from the town section of Falling Spring Branch.
John with a nice brown trout from the town section of Falling Spring Branch.

This year’s late-arriving spring can be summed up in a single, five-letter word: Rainy.

The Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association held its annual spring conference in Shippensburg from May 15-18. The weekend is packed full of exciting activities, craft improvement seminars, meetings, field excursions and a banquet where members are honored with Excellence in Craft Awards for their work over the past year. I’m on POWA’s Board of Directors, so my free time is pretty limited when it comes to the conference and there aren’t many opportunities for adventure.

My best shot was between sunrise and 5 p.m. Friday. And that was just a day after the greater Shippensburg area sustained torrential rains – which Todd and I drove through Thursday evening. Some parts of Franklin County were in epic flood stages Friday so we knew finding good fishing would be difficult.

Fortunately for us our friend John lives in Carlisle, went to Shippensburg University, and has a solid grasp on where to go and when. We started Friday by hitting a section of Falling Spring Branch outside of Chambersburg itself that, though a raging and swirling stained mess, was dropping remarkable fast.

John with a wild rainbow.
John with a wild rainbow.

John always catches handfuls of fish for every one I luck into, and Friday was no different as he and Todd both navigated the technical conditions and hooked into trout. We ended up hitting three different sections that hold populations of wild browns and brookies. Then we moved into town, met up with Tyler Frantz of Natural Pursuit Outdoors, had a quick lunch, and headed to the stocked stretch of the creek.

A few casts in, I hooked into my first trout of the weekend – a solid 11-inch brown. Tyler then connected with a pair of beauties in the next pool down. We fished for a while longer before John led Todd and me to the mountains in order to hit a couple of small creeks prior to our evening commitments. Tyler remained behind and fared better than we did.

Here is Tyler’s recap of the weekend, with a historical bent.

Every piece of water we passed raged over its banks due to the heavy rainfall. We even trekked to the outflow of a pond deep in Michaux State Forest thinking it would be fishable, but it wasn’t. We called it day from a fishing standpoint and moved on to our dinner at the Ironmaster’s Mansion in Iron Furnace State Park. The setting was beautiful and we learned about the park’s long history and its newer role in assisting hikers along the Appalachian Trail. In fact, the Mansion now serves as a hostel.

Todd prospects a pool in search of a Falling Spring Branch wild trout.
Todd prospects a pool in search of a Falling Spring Branch wild trout.

Saturday morning we made a quick run to Falling Spring again before heading to our lunch and breakout session with POWA’s supporting members. The fishing was uneventful despite the much-improved conditions. The rest of the day was a blur while fulfilling POWA obligations. The highlight, for me, was winning a behind-the-scenes elk viewing tour courtesy of the Keystone Elk Country Alliance. It’s set for the beginning of September, and I’ll write more about that in the future. KECA’s support of POWA is spectacular and much appreciated. Anybody in Pennsylvania who enjoys the outdoors should make a special effort to visit the state-of-the-art Elk Center in Benezette.

Todd and I were slated to return home Sunday, but we wanted to get in some more fishing before hitting the road. Tyler joined us at the famous Big Spring Creek outside of Newville, which greeted us with near-perfect conditions. We were able to target fish feeding in the clear water, and though few were willing to commit to our offerings, we all got several chases. John hit double digits in the upper section of The Ditch, and Tyler caught and released a nice brookie in the lower section. We moved downstream and covered more water as Todd and I raced against our predetermined exit time.

The clock eventually won, as it always does. We said our goodbyes, then made our way to the turnpike and pointed west.

Fished: Falling Spring Branch, Big Spring Creek.
Quest Total: 20, 21 of 40

POWA Spring Conference in Shippensburg
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