Nymphing on the Little Juniata

When the Red Buds Bloom, I think about two “T’s”, Trout and Turkey. Ok, I know Spring Gobbler is next week, but it’s hard for me to pick between the two “T’s” this time of year. So, for now it’s all Trout!

Above photo is our Guide, Adam Smith, with me and my Grandpa near the Little Juniata River in Blair County. Lately I’ve been practicing my Fly rod techniques on Laurel Hill Creek, near the King’s Covered Bridge, but I wanted to try a new trout stream.

The Red Covered Bridge is a great background for photos like the one of me and my Pups, above, but the fishing there has been tough.

My grandpa said he fished the “Little Juniata” many years ago and thought that would be a good place for us to try. The river is also know as the Little “J”.  We said goodbye to the quaint Red covered wooden structure and looked forward to fishing in sight of a series of old stone arch railroad bridges.

We didn’t have much time for a scouting mission on a new river, so we picked Adam Smith to be our fishing guide. Adam and his partners operate, Juniata Troutfitters, and they take anglers on full or half-day guided fly-fishing trips on the Little Juniata.

Adam lives near by and fishes the stream nearly everyday this time of year. His other team members do too, so they have the best info on stream conditions, water levels, and types of hatches coming off the water and best fly patterns to use.

Adam met us along a stretch of the Little “J” that flows along route 453 just southeast of Tyrone, PA. The trains come roaring by on a regular schedule and you must pay attention when crossing the double set of tracks.

After a short walk down the train tracks we passed under a big stone railway arch and that path led us right to the river.

I was anxious to get my feet wet and start casting, the river was just around the next bend in the trail.

Adam recommends using two flies on your line, about a foot apart. He tied a pheasant tail, bead head nymph, size 16 and a size 18 sulfur fly, to my fly leader. He also added a tiny split-shot above the nymph to help get the flies down near the bottom.

Adam gave me some great advice and instructional tips on my casting style and just a few minutes after stepping into the water, I had a nice strike. But, I missed that fish. That’s frustrating.  A few casts later the fish whacked my fly and I finally had my first “Fish On!”


Catching my first Brown of the day was a relief. I didn’t want Adam to think I was just a rookie with my fly rod. It was a colorful fish that jumped out of the water a few times. This Brown helped me understand how to drift the nymph and dropper fly rig through the current.

I’ve caught lots of Bass and Panfish with flies and poppers, since I was a little girl, but I never fished a real famous trout stream like this. It’s not like fishing Paul’s Pond here.

The Little J is a catch and release only stream, and most people use fly rods here, but spinning tackle is legal, too. Every trout I caught was carefully netted, unhooked and released back into the swift flow, without any harm.


Adam uses the new soft plastic net material to help the fish survive. The old nets were made of knotted cords that scraped off their scales. The modern nets have less impact on the fins and scales of the fish.

I had several fish on that fought for a few minutes, then got unhooked all by themselves. It was fun while it lasted. These fish fight hard and are tough to reel in to be netted, especially in the fast current. All the Brown Trout here are natives and no hatchery trout are stocked in the Little J by the PA Fish Commission.

The scenery along the banks of the Little Juniata is really beautiful and we waded upstream for close to a mile. It’s good to use a wading staff here, the fast water and slippery rocks can be treacherous.

At one point we had a group of canoe and kayakers, go right by us. The fish didn’t mind at all. I caught two more Brownies at this location just after the boaters passed through our spot.

It was a great evening on the water, I learned a lot about the Little “J”, what flies to use and how to drift the weighted nymphs through the deep fast water runs.

Adam took time out from his instruction and Guide duties to take a few photos of me with my Brownies.

Thanks Adam for taking these nice shots of me. My Pups was always upstream, using his zoom lens to catch our fishing action. He wasn’t able to get nice close-ups like the ones you shot.

This was my last fish of the day. I didn’t want to quit, but we had a long walk out through the woods. So we headed back to the vehicles before the evening hatch started up.

Thanks Adam, for taking this shot of Pups and I and for sharing your fly-fishing expertise. You taught me a lot and I enjoyed catching and releasing all these native trout. Remember that 7th Brown I had hooked…, the biggest one, you know, the one that leaped out of the water and got away…Pups and I may be back for him sometime.