Brodhead Creek is the birthplace of American fly fishing, with a rich history filled with the likes of Thaddeus Norris, Theodore Gordon, and Ernest Schwiebert. But as time passes, history is often forgotten. Flooding, animosity towards private fishing clubs, and stocked trout helped remove the Brodhead from the consciousness of Pennsylvania fly fishers.
That has changed in recent years with the addition of new public water, and the first ever section dedicated to wild trout. Now, the Brodhead is making history again.
Brodhead Creek has good hatches from the end of April into the end of June, and in a good year it fishes well right through the summer and into the fall. It is blessed with a good population of wild brown trout, and when supplemented with stocked fish it usually provides excellent fishing, especially in May and June when hatches of Sulphurs and Slate Drakes bring fish to the surface just about every day. Anglers often catch a dozen fish (some larger than average) in an afternoon or evening.
Brodhead Creek was once a tremendous brook trout fishery, and was a destination spot for anglers from all over. Anglers stayed at the many inns and boarding houses in the Stroudsburg and Delaware Water Gap area and fished streams teeming with trout.
The most popular and famous place to stay was the Henryville House in Henryville, Pennsylvania. It sat alongside Paradise Creek, a quality, coldwater tributary of Brodhead Creek. Guests would fish the nearby sections of the Paradise and upper Brodhead watershed for some of the finest native brook trout in the region; Henryville House logbooks reveal anglers keeping their 40-fish limits, with some individual fish weighing more than 4 pounds. Unfortunately, this tremendous fishery was not going to last forever.
Unsustainable catch limits and the encroachment of industry delivered a crushing blow to the native trout population, and many anglers decamped for New York’s Catskills.
During the late 1800s, European brown trout were introduced to the Brodhead in an attempt to revive the fishery. The new fish flourished. From the turn of the century until 1955 the Brodhead was known as a prime place to pursue these trout, and anglers once again traveled from all over to fish this historic creek. That all changed on August 18, 1955, when the remnants of Hurricane Connie and Hurricane Diane overwhelmed the Brodhead watershed. The Brodhead flooded the towns of Stroudsburg and East Stroudsburg, and many residents perished when the waters rose swiftly and the Delaware River flowed backward up the Brodhead.
In 1956 Brodhead Creek was channelized and put under the supervision of the Army Corps of Engineers. The brute force of the floodwaters and the heavy machinery run by the engineers rerouted the Brodhead and forever changed both its look and its hatches. Even with channelization, flood events continued: The area was hit by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and suffered a 100-year flood in 2006. The latter event changed the course of the creek and inundated acres of public and private land. Severe storms in the intervening years have continued to change the stream, as the cobble-size rock in the Brodhead is easily moved. The stream is destined to further move and change as it battles the confinements placed on it by man.
What’s interesting is that the fishing and the hatches seem to quickly rebound after floods. Don Baylor is Stroudsburg’s resident entomologist and an expert angler. He has spent countless days collecting and analyzing samples of insects from the Brodhead and other Pocono trout streams. Don has noted that certain mayfly species like Baetis have many broods each year and repopulate quickly after heavy flooding. He also notes that certain species of mayflies such as Cornutas, Quill Gordons, and Pale Evening Duns were not really affected by the floods. Species like the Large Sulphurs and Hendricksons are more affected by the rolling rock and debris; they are present in lower numbers than in past years, but populations are improving.
As far as the fish go, Don and many other anglers are noticing rising numbers of wild fish in the creek. It seems that many people think the Brodhead is a put-and-take fishery due to the heavy stockings it receives. In reality, there are good numbers of wild fish, especially in its middle and upper sections. The bugs and the fish are proving that the Brodhead and its surrounding streams are bouncing back.
The upper reaches of the creek are posted with “no trespassing” signs by some of the oldest fishing and hunting clubs in the nation. Some consider it unfair that these clubs have limited the access to this water, but the groups have protected this resource for more than 100 years. In recent years the Poconos have experienced a building boom in which developers have bought land at an alarming rate. If these properties were owned by individual families or local farmers, the watershed most likely would have been overdeveloped and overwhelmed by the growing population. In other words, if those clubs weren’t there we would be fishing for sunnies and bass, not trout.
From the village of Analomink downstream to the Delaware River the Brodhead has about 8 miles of public water that is preserved in public greenways by Stroud Township. The upper section of the creek near Analomink is easier to access than in years past: parking can now be found at the new ForEvergreen Park on Cherry Lane Road.
ForEvergreen is a half mile from the intersection of Cherry Lane Road and PA 191, on the right-hand side just after you cross over the creek. This stretch of newly public water is the first section of the Brodhead to be dedicated to wild trout and will not be stocked by the state. ForEvergreen Park stretches from the cell tower at the upstream end of the property down to the area near the broken bridge (which came here from the old Penn Hills Resort). The area below the bridge is not technically park property, but anglers can fish their way down to the Cherry Lane Road bridge. This property has some deep runs and a few good pools but also has some flats that may be barren at times. Lower Analomink is still tricky to access, but once you find a place to park, you can easily get to the stream by following the railroad tracks and fishermen’s trails that follow the stream.
Parking near the Cherry Lane Road bridge off PA 191-447 is limited. Do not park in the post office lot near the creek; they will have your vehicle towed if they know you are fishing. Parking is available at the Analomink Hotel at this time. This local watering hole is located on the left side of PA 191 in Analomink if you are heading north from Stroudsburg, just before the sharp bend. You must park on the left-hand side of the bar, in front of the shed by the downed telephone poles that mark the parking lot. There is room for four to five cars; if there are that many there, you probably want to hit another area.
This section of the Brodhead is most likely what the creek looked like before it was channelized. Big boulders and steep gradient create great pocketwater mixed with a few small pools. These small pools are often deep and tricky to navigate, but with careful positioning they can be covered from one side of the creek or the other. They often give up nice-size wild or holdover fish taking advantage of the prime real estate. This section is a nymph fisherman’s delight, and in evenings throughout the season can have good hatches of various mayflies and caddisflies.
Analomink is difficult to wade due to its slanted rocks and swift water, so make sure you have cleats and a staff. It is also wise to look at real-time water data at usgs.gov. The best fishing is usually when the water is at normal or lower levels. If the Analomink stream gauge reads 150 cfs or higher, the water here may not be safe to wade.
As you move south from Analomink you will find what the locals call High Bridge, at the intersection of Routes 447 and 191. Years ago the High Bridge was used for dumping; now it is the start of Pine Brook Park, part of the Stroud Township Greenway. The parking area here is clearly marked (as in most of the Stroud Township parks) with a brown sign with the park name and fenced-in parking. This upper parking lot, which places you right next to the stream, is called Pine Brook Park North.
This section of creek is home to a large stream improvement project that was designed and installed by the Brodhead Chapter of Trout Unlimited. The deflectors in this area have survived many floods and have improved the trout habitat. Below the deflectors the stream is a bit deceiving. This section of shallow riffles has some deeper runs that can hold fish—if you can locate them along the banks.
In Pine Brook Park South those riffles enter a long pool with trout hanging out in the deeper water and under the cover of the trees along the opposite bank. This flat water is good dry-fly water but leaves a lot to be desired for nymph fishers. If you continue down from the long pool in Pine Brook South you can access some good water below the flat. It leads into a series of riffles and pools that also hold numbers of fish. I have hit good hatches in this section and find it productive for most of the season.
The entrance to Pine Brook Park South is roughly a quarter mile south of Pine Brook North. The stream is just a short walk along the gravel path out of the parking lot.
Continuing downstream, the line is blurred between Pine Brook and Brodhead Parks. There is no clear trail between the parks along the water but a little wading and trailblazing can get you where you need to go.
The section below Pine Brook is in the shadow of the old Diversey chemical plant. If you park in Brodhead Park, about a half mile down from Pine Brook South, you will see some long pools that almost always hold fish. Heading back upstream leads you toward the same water you can access from Pine Brook Park South. In the section below Brodhead Park, the creek starts to twist and wind through some logjams and odd little pools and runs. Fishing is not always consistent through here, but there are often wild browns as you get closer to the Big Wheel skating center and the Mill Creek Road bridge.
At Mill Creek Road there is a dam that is a common stocking spot and is often frequented by the baitfishing crew. No parking is allowed at the bridge so anglers must park in Yetter Park, which is on the south side of Mill Creek Road off of Roosevelt Street. Anglers may access the water near the bridge and upstream toward the dam by following the trail in Yetter Park to the right, which will lead you toward the bridge and to the holes upstream. Stokes Mill Road also runs along the creek between Mill Creek Road and PA 191. This area is often referred to as the Moose in honor of the Moose Lodge that has stood along the Brodhead for many years. The Moose has long granted access to fishermen and has always had a good relationship with fishermen and the local TU.
Anglers used the Moose parking lot for years, but now there is a township lot just upstream of the Moose that was purchased specifically for stream access. From the lot you can fish up- or downstream and have access to some excellent water. However, this spot is no secret, and the Brodhead is open to all types of fishing in the public water. The easy access from town may make it challenging to find available water in the beginning of the season. Not to fear: when the daylight starts to fade and the dry-fly fishing is prime, most of the dunkers-and-chuckers are long gone.
Below the Moose are the East Stroudsburg High School ballfields and Creek View Park. Access to Creek View Park is off of Appenzeller Road, a side street off PA 191 about a half mile south of Stokes Mill Road in Stroudsburg. In this section you will find some good pools and easy access as you walk the trails in the park or on the banks of the flood project. From here down to Dansbury Park in East Stroudsburg is where the Brodhead seems to change the most during high water. These pools will change in depth and location and sometimes the creek will cut a totally new course. The trick to finding fish is to look for healthy populations of insects near good water: If you don’t have bugs, you won’t have fish.
The rolling rocks often crush and lose their insect populations and a section may take a while to repopulate after a storm.
Below the bridges of US 209 and Interstate 80, the Brodhead makes its final push to the Delaware River. In this section the Brodhead runs through a steep gorge with little access. You can reach the upper end of the gorge from Glenn Park, on Collins Street off of PA 191 just south of Interstate 80 in Stroudsburg. From here you can work your way down the trail to the old power dam that was blown out in the 1955 flood. In this section the wading is difficult because the pools are deep and there is little fishable bank. This area is home to some nice trout, but also becomes marginal water in warmer months. When conditions are right, you may find some nice wild browns and possibly rainbows in this section, but this is a game of quality, not quantity. This section is difficult to wade and the tracks on the Stroudsburg bank are active. For this reason, do not fish this stretch alone.
Access to the lower gorge area is at the ballfield off of Paper Mill Road. Do not drive up to the mill; there is no parking there. You can fish your way up around the mill and then cross the creek to access the railroad to work your way upstream. Some anglers just walk the tracks up from the ballfield, but for safety reasons, crossing the narrow trestle is not recommended. Once you are across from the mill, there is some nice water including the pool just below the milldam. Above the milldam about a half mile is a long riffle that leads to a productive bend in the creek.
In the gorge you will find a variety of fish from trout to bass and even shad and stripers. This water may become marginal in warmer weather and sometimes is affected by releases from the local sewer authorities. They are the main reason for the odd smell that often permeates the gorge. The last couple hundred yards of creek below River Road are pretty flat, and the creek becomes smallmouth water as hits the Delaware.
This feature story is an excerpt from Keystone Fly Fishing: The Ultimate Guide to Pennsylvania’s Best Water (Headwater Books, 2017).