If you look carefully at the map, you can see that we fished in two places that marked the upper and lower boundaries of the fly fishing only section of the Yellow Breeches in Boiling Springs. First, a disclaimer - the creek was absolutely blown out on the day we were here right after Christmas. A quick glance at the gauge readings tells you that the water was high and not going down very fast. But... Jim and I both had kitchen passes, it was supposed to be above 50 degrees with sun, and, most important, we had both purchased annual fishing licenses for Pennsylvania and needed to use them at least twice in the season to break even on the cost.
We had visited Big Spring Creek earlier in the year and Jim had been on the Breeches before so it did not take much persuasion to get me to go. I met up with him at the Wal-Mart in Leesburg, consolidated his gear into my truck and we headed north. It's a hefty drive from the DC area to get to this part of Pennsylvania - about the same as it takes to get to the North Branch - about 3 hours.
Since we had not seen each other since our good day on the River Valley Farms, we had plenty of lies to tell and plans to make associated with our attack on the fish in the Yellow Breeches. It's amazing how optimistic fishermen can be! I did a little bit of research before departing to meet Jim and discovered that the stream got its name during the Revolutionary war. Aparently, when the British soldiers washed their white trousers in this creek, they turned yellow. Hence, Yellow Breeches creek.
We rolled into Boiling Springs still telling lies and missed the turn to the parking area for the headwaters of the fly fishing only section. It took Jim a little bit of looking around to gain his bearings as we cruised past the lake. Once oriented, we made a U-turn and found our way back to the turn. The temperature was probably 45° as I hit the brakes to stop the truck in the parking lot. I was stunned as I looked around and saw the number of other fishermen here on such a bad day. Not only was it cold, but there was a hint to drizzle hanging in the dark clouds that threw a pall on the day. In short, the weather was going everything it could short of rain to prevent a enjoyable experience.
Jim jumped out of the truck and walked quickly over to the creek that leads from Boiling Springs Lake into the Yellow Breeches and reported that he was surprised that he could not see any fish holding there. Apparently, he could depend on the fish being in that small creek the other times he was here. Maybe it had something to do with the weather or maybe it had something to do with the five or six fishermen that lined the banks on the perimeter of the parking lot; fly lines zinging happily. Since we were here, we were going to give it a shot and we walked down the path to the junction of the creek with the Yellow Breeches itself. What lay front of us was a dismal picture.
The Yellow Breeches was totally blown out; running high and dark on this miserable day. I could see a path on the south bank but there was no way to wade across given the volume of the current. As you can see from the graphs to the right, the discharge volume was almost 3 times the normal level.
Under the assumption that we might be able to find a few trout huddled near the banks out of the mainstream of the current, I tied on a muddler, popped a few split shot about a foot above it, and flopped it out into the torrent of water with a prayer that the current would sweep it down the bank. Nothing. I decided to walk up to the bridge, cross the river there and see if I would have better luck from the other side.
I fished the area downstream from the bridge for about half an hour given the attraction of some deep cuts where the water channeled between the pylons of the bridge. There were a few spin fishermen on the other side of the creek working that half of the creek heavily. None of us were doing any good. I waded upstream of the bridge and fished the next hundred yards moving carefully against the heavy current. I could see a few likely looking holding spots behind rocks and a solitary skinny bush that had dripped into the creek. I hit them hard. Again, nothing. At this point, we had worked this section for about two hours so I suggested to Jim that we try someplace else.
After lunch, we drove the short distance from Boiling Springs down to the Allenberry resort and parked in their upper parking lot that was marked for fishermen. We walked down past the tennis courts and onto the creek at the edge of their property. As soon as I poked my head out from the brush that sheltered the creek from direct view, I was rewarded with seeing three other fishermen peppering the water below the dam. None of them looked very successful or happy.
Since that water was already taken, Jim and I walked down to the east end of the resort property and hopped in the creek there. Jim started up and I started down only to be caught in the heavy current. I'm grateful that I had my wading staff out and I used it to hold myself steady against the current and slowly moved back to the bank. At the bank, I found a calm section and was able to safely wade a little bit farther downstream to work the bend in the creek.
At this point, the homeowner (Gene Giza) whose property was across the creek from me wandered over and started a conversation. It turns out that he is a guide who sponsors a good website called fourseasonsflyfishing. He was not optimistic about our prospects with the water in the condition it was, but recommended we move upstream and fish the property next to his and then go up near the pavilion on the resort; fishing the south bank in both places. We took the advice, moved upstream and spent the next hour working that bank. Granted, it did look better than the other water we had experienced, but none of those fish were willing to give us a break.
Remember to refer to my rating explanations - these are based on what I look for - so RED for Physical Fitness translates to easy physically - you do not need to be in shape to fish this section. I prefer terrain that is tough to get into and out of.
Bottom Line: I really cannot make a judgment on any water, much less the Yellow Breeches, on such a miserable day so deep into the off-season. Even if this had been a good day, I think I would still give the Yellow Breeches an overall rating of yellow solely because of the intense pressure it experiences.
After getting home, I happened across a survey of Pennsylvania fishermen where the Yellow Breeches was rated the most popular trout stream in the state. In addition the Mid-Atlantic Budget Angler also makes the point that this is intensely fished and you need to be prepared for plenty of company. Clearly, I'll need to come back in the spring or early summer when the conditions are more favorable to actually catching fish.
Getting There: Get on 15N and take the exit for York Springs and get on 94 heading north. Turn right on Sheet Iron Roof Road which turns into Mountain Road and then Race Street right before the bridge over the Yellow Breeches. Continue over the bridge and turn right on Butcher Hill Road which leads to the parking area.
Google Local Coordinates: 40.147258,-77.123466
Secrets Revealed? No. This is a very public location that is documented in the Mid-Atlantic Budget Angler and here: