Updated: Dec 28, 2022
If not for a special regulations section, most anglers would never even know East Branch Tunungwant Creek exists, let alone has a healthy wild brown trout population. The section, designated Trophy Trout Project, draws attention to a lightly-fished stream that would probably fly completely under the radar if not for that one word, “trophy.” But it’s an apt description. East Branch Tunungwant Creek is a heck of a place to catch the wild brown of a lifetime.
East Branch Tunungwant Creek contains over seven miles of Class A wild trout waters that haven’t been stocked since the early 1990s. Personal experience has taught me that this medium-sized stream is a challenging, technical piece of work that can seem void of fish one day and then teeming with them the next.
East Branch Tunungwant Creek (pronounced “Tuna-waunt”) originates northeast of the Bradford Regional Airport and flows north into the city of Bradford in northcentral Pennsylvania. The Trophy Trout Project begins at the confluence of Pigeon Creek and extends downstream to the Main Street Bridge in the town of Lewis Run, a distance of about three miles.
The Trophy Trout Project can be accessed via two locations, the bridge on Main Street and the bridge on Droney Road, which crosses East Branch Tunungwant Creek about a mile upstream of Lewis Run. Downstream from the special regs section, the stream can be accessed via bridge crossings on Browntown Road, East Warren Road, PA-770, and Owens Way. US 219 parallels the stream on the western side of the valley, and turning east onto any of those four roads will take you directly to the water.
The designated trout water ends at Bradford where East Branch and West Branch converge to form Tunungwant Creek, known locally as The Tuna. The Tuna is a warmwater fishery, but a 1.2-mile section of West Branch receives stocked trout twice per year and is part of the Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only program. Although West Branch is a nice place to fish in spring and early summer, East Branch and all of its tributaries offer a far better wild trout fishery.
The habitat is excellent. Dense foliage crowds the stream, making it difficult to approach without spooking fish. There are plenty of productive pools and pockets with good structure, and almost anywhere you find deeper holding water, you’ll almost always find fish.
The same can be said of areas downstream from the Trophy Trout Project except that the structure gets a little more scattered. From Lewis Run to Bradford, you’ll find longer stretches of flat, unproductive riffles void of trout. But when you do find good holding water, you can bet you’ll be fishing over some big browns.
Streams in this region aren’t known for abundant insect life. I’ve observed sparse hatches of Hendricksons, Sulphurs, Light Cahills, and various caddis. I do best here with traditional nymph and streamer patterns, perhaps because the stream contains good numbers of large stoneflies, crayfish, and sculpin.
More important than the pattern used, though, is how it’s presented. Brown trout dominate the population. Even in the headwaters, brown trout outnumber brook trout by almost six or seven to one. Translation: bring your “A” game if you expect to catch fish. Hooking a trophy brown is a testament to doing everything right, from your approach to how you read the water and get your fly to the fish.
Something else I’ve noticed about the brown trout in East Branch Tunungwant Creek is that no two look the same. You can catch five of them and all five will have their own distinct appearance. Perhaps that’s just a tribute to the uniqueness of this special stream. Very rarely will you catch a lot of trout here, but it is a great place to catch one that you’ll never forget.