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Tulpehocken Creek Overview

The Tulpehocken Creek is an excellent tailwater where the trout growth rates rival the best US trout streams. Tulpehocken Brown & Rainbow trout are known for being challenging & running absolutely HOT when hooked. The ’Tully‘ is one of the best streams in PA for year round quality fly fishing.

Tulpehocken Creek is an outstanding tailwater fishery located just outside of Reading, Pennsylvania. The dam creating Blue Marsh Lake was erected by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1978 is managed as a flood control project and also is used to regulate salinity in the Delaware River Estuary in summer months with unusually low water. The bottom release dam also happens to discharge cool and fertile water from depths of up to 50 feet which keeps the Tulpehocken Creek cool enough for trout to survive. In fact, the trout in Tulpehocken Creek thrive in the almost 4 miles of water below the dam, with heavy brown and rainbow trout averaging between 12-14 inches. The Tulpehocken Creek (the "Tully") is also influenced by two tributaries which help cool the lower stretches of the stream during the hottest summer months. Plum Creek enters the Tully just below Rebers Bridge providing cooling waters and, for small stream enthusiasts, an interesting diversion to the Tully during certain times of the year or when the Tully is not fishable due to high water. Cacoosing Creek provides an even greater boost of cooling water to the Tully beside the Paper Mill at the junction of Tulpehocken Road and Paper Mill Road. The Cacoosing adds a good volume of 55 to 60 degree water to the Tully and also can provide a fishing alternative if the Tully is running high. Tulpehocken Creek is float stocked with brown and rainbow trout every year. Tully holdover brown and rainbow trout average 13 to 16 inches with a few over 18 inches.

The Tulpehocken Creek is larger than most southeastern Pennsylvania streams with sections of the stream exceeding 120 feet wide. Wading on the Tully is generally pleasurable compared to most streams of this size. As always, care should be exercised in unfamiliar water or during periods of high water created by heavy discharges from Blue Marsh dam. It’s important to check the flow rate from the dam before venturing to the stream. The flow information is updated daily as a part of the stream conditions page of our web site or simply call us at (610) 678-1899. Keep in mind that levels can change quickly and without warning. Please pay attention to conditions on stream to avoid getting caught in a dangerous wading situation.

Most popular outfits for the Tully are 4 or 5 weight rods from 8 to 9 feet in length. In the summer months when Trico activity is at its peak a more delicate 3 weight comes into favor. Long leaders and light tippets are almost always the rule. Leaders of 10 to 14 feet are commonly used tapered to 6x, 7x, and even 8x during the summer when micro aquatic life is the standard fare. Some local regulars fish leaders tapered to 8x, even with nymphs?!

Caddis are the staple in the diet of the Tully inhabitants. A wide variety of Caddis species will attract even the largest brown and rainbow trout to the surface from May through October. Blue Winged Olives, Sulphurs, Light Cahills, Yellow Drakes, Cream Drakes, Caenis and Tricos are the major mayfly attractions on the stream with Sulphurs and Tricos providing the most consistent activity. Some stoneflies are present on the Tully and can present surprisingly good subsurface fishing during March and April. Midges are always present on the stream and even offer dry fly fishing on sunny days throughout the winter. Terrestrials are also consistent producers during the summer and fall. The complete hatch chart for Tulpehocken Creek is available at this site and in our shop.

The upper reaches of the tailwater fishery are accessible by an access road off of Palisades Road which leads to a parking lot at the dam, the stilling basin, and a parking lot a picnic area. The first of six deflectors marks the beginning of the special regulations area which extends downstream for 3.8 miles. The deflectors were erected by the Tulpehocken Chapter of Trout Unlimited primarily to control water flow but also provide great habitat for trout in this stretch. The TU Chapter also placed a few fish houses in this section which also provide some cover. Each deflector or gabion has been numbered by the local fisherman who frequent the stream and anglers often compare notes on which deflector is holding the largest trout each year. A deep glide just below the first deflector provides outstanding holding water where good numbers of larger brown trout rise eagerly to caddis emergers and caddis adults. Deflectors two through six all provide productive holding water for Tully trout. Try fishing the glides just below each deflector or around rock placements or fish houses also constructed by our dedicated TU chapter.

The water works section is located at the end of Water Road beside the Western Berks County Water Authority which owns and operates a water treatment facility on the southern bank of the creek. This section of the Tully is characterized by a series of medium gradient riffles, some pocket water, and long flat glides. The water works receives a great deal of angling pressure every year, and for good reason. Many holdovers are caught in this stretch and access to the water is very easy.

The palisades flat and palisades riffle lies just downstream from the water works and is one of the most popular and productive stretches of the Tully. The palisades flat is a long deep glide that can be very productive or very frustrating. Fish in the palisades flat have a long time to inspect your offering which can present additional, sometimes insurmountable, challenge for already selective and finicky trout. The palisades riffle is actually a series of pools, riffles, pocket water, and ledges which extends downstream about 200 yards. Fish rise freely to caddis in this section and can also be found sipping Sulphurs at dusk in late May. Don’t overlook any water in this section. We often watch in dismay as anglers wade through shallow pockets and ledges where large holdover brown trout we’re caught and released the evening before.

The section of the Tully above Rebers Bridge offers a series of slow riffles and pools with good numbers of rainbow and brown trout. This section is easily accessible from the parking area off of Rebers Bridge Road. The pools above Rebers Bridge offer some of the best summer Trico activity on the stream. Fish often feed in pods and become competitive and careless while feeding on the tiny mayfly spinners.

The section of the Tully just below Rebers Bridge is characterized by riffles and pocket water and is influenced by the cool waters of Plum Creek. Good numbers of rainbow and brown trout are also found here. In times of exceptionally hot weather or low water conditions fish will congregate below Plum Creek and often venture up this small tributary. This section is also easily accessible from the parking area off of Rebers Bridge Road.

The refrigerator hole was named for the unique man-made structure that provides cover for Tully trout. Hopefully the refrigerator which adorns our stream wasn't deposited by a newly converted fly fisherman that no longer kept the fish he caught and therefore no longer needed it. This section offers good fishing to Caddis, Sulphurs, Midges & Tricos.

The paper mill flats is where the locals go to get a quick gauge of stream activity. If the trout of the paper mill flats are not rising, many anglers pull out their strike indicators and expect to prospect with caddis pupa and beadheads. This is rarely the case however, the trout in the paper mill flats are usually rising even in the dead of winter. Bank stabilization of this stretch is the current focus of our TU chapter. Erosion in just the last 10 years has sent 15 feet of bank downstream and threatens the walking path within the Berks County Park system. In addition to siltation downstream, this erosion has widened the stream significantly and much of this stretch is only ankle deep. Significant warming occurs in this section in the mid summer months. The Tulpehocken Chapter of TU could use your help in this and other upcoming projects. Please contact us and we will connect you to the appropriate chapter members coordinating these projects.

Just below the paper mill flats the Cacoosing Creek enters the Tully with a burst of 55-60 degree water and helps to form the paper mill pool. Some of the largest trout caught on the Tully are found in this pool near a bridge abutment and in the riffle where the Cacoosing enters the stream. Parking access is found at the junction of Paper Mill Road and Tulpehocken Road across from the paper mill. Fishing in this stretch can also be productive year round with dry fly and subsurface patters. Beadhead Caddis, Caddis pupa, Sulphur nymphs, and small Black Stonefly nymphs are consistent subsurface producers. Caddis adult and emerger patters are effective hatch matching patterns in addition to good Cranefly, Sulphur, Light Cahill, Yellow Drake, and Midge fishing at different times throughout the year.

The Van Reed Road overpass, better and affectionately known as "the road to nowhere", provides good parking and stream access. Alternating riffles and pools provide good cover and harbor excellent caddis and Trico populations. Unfortunately one of the pools in this stretch has become known as the poachers hole. Please practice and advocate catch and release on this and all streams that can support year round fisheries. Any unlawful activity should be reported to the fish commission. An easy way to do this is by taking down the license plate number of violators vehicles and submitting the information to the local enforcement agent. A series of slower pools and gentle riffles leads from the road to nowhere to the Red Bridge pool which marks the end of the special regulation area of the Tully. This is a very picturesque section of the stream marked by the long wooden Red Covered Bridge that gives this stretch its name. The first Caddis hatches of the year appear in this section of the stream. This stretch also produces consistent Cranefly, Sulphur, Light Cahill, and Yellow Drake fishing and seems to be improving every year. A parking area is located just below the Red Bridge and also contains a picnic area, a pavilion, and rest rooms.

Two additional miles of unregulated fishing is available below the Red Bridge. Fishing can be good in the early season in this open stretch but warms significantly during the summer forcing most trout upstream or to hold near the few springs feeding the stream in this stretch. Large smallmouth bass are also caught in this area of the stream.