Summer on Big Tionesta
Maybe folks no longer call Tionesta Creek the “Big Tionesta.” That is what it was often referred to when I was younger to differentiate it from the West Branch, East Branch or South Branch. All of these branches meet at Barnes to form the Big Tionesta, or if you prefer, Tionesta Creek.
Tionesta Creek drains the heart of the Allegheny National Forest.
The West Branch seeps from a spring at Hearts Content. I have watched small, wild brook trout rise to insects there. Trout stocking begins a short distance downstream. Where it slows out of Chapman Dam it is noticeably larger than where it flows into the lake behind the dam. By the point where it joins the South Branch to form the Big Tionesta, it has drained most of southeastern Warren County and clearly it is the largest of the three branches.
I grew up fishing the small runs that feeds the West Branch.
Some of my early fishing memories also happened toward the head of the East Branch Tionesta Creek. It is formed by springs in southwestern McKean County, west from Kane. It flows northwest, then just before entering Warren County it turns to the southwest and meets the South Branch just east from Barnes. The confluence of these two branches can be seen from the Route 948 bridge.
The South Branch flows out of Elk County beginning with the confluence of Martin Run and Wolf Run north of Russell City. It flows west through the northeast corner of Forest County, then into Warren County onward to its confluence with the West Branch at Barnes.
Both the South Branch and the East Branch are well stocked with trout.
Tionesta Creek can be floated before the low flows of summer starting at the access on the West Branch in Sheffield. Another popular put-in spot at just below the bridge at Henrys Mills.
With the odd weather we have been experiencing this year, who knows how long, or when, float fishing will be possible on Tionesta Creek.
Summertime fishing on Tionesta Creek should be excellent this year, assuming we get tolerable fishing conditions.
So far this year, nearly every time we have had a couple of dry days to allow the water flows to come down I have had to mow the lawn. This has not left much time for fishing. Then when I have gotten out fishing, the fish have not been hitting. Not well, anyway.
But we should be able to assume that there will be some good fishing conditions at Tionesta Creek this summer.
I will share what, if I were not in a business that rules out keeping secrets, would be one of my best fishing secrets. This almost secret is a lure made by Rebel called the Teeny Wee-Crawfish, and the deeper-diving version called the Deep Teeny Wee-Crawfish. Since trying this lure several years ago while working on a magazine article about fishing creeks like the Big Tionesta or Brokenstraw Creek, I have never found a reason to use any other lure on creeks of this nature, this nature being a mix of trout and smallmouth bass.
Generally I have not had much success using lures that look very much like actual natural fish food. But this little lure that looks so much like a real crayfish in both shape and color it might pinch. It is available in various colors, but underwater most of the colors are quite representative of actual crayfish.
The Rebel web site lists 11 colors for the Teeny Wee-Crawfish. All of the colors are done as lifelike representations of the actual shape and shades of crayfish. The color I usually use is called Ditch, which is primarily brown. I prefer Red Crawfish in muddy water. There are no colors I would hesitate to use.
The first time I tried this lure was at Brokenstraw Creek. Fishing with two friends, I caught so many smallmouth bass and brown trout that I felt a little ashamed. Unfortunately I had only one of these lures in my small tackle box. I have not made that mistake since. I would hate to lose the only Teeny Crawfish I had in my possession.
Unfortunately, so much of my favorite water of Brokenstraw Creek is no longer available.
Fishing at Tionesta Creek seldom yields as many smallmouth bass as Brokenstraw Creek, but the chances for larger fish are better.
Since working on the article about creek fishing for smallmouth bass and trout I have kept the small tackle box I put together for that project as a special kit for micro-light lures to be used in creeks with ultra-light spinning tackle. It has been part of some great fishing.