Fly Fishing Central Pennsylvania: Little Juniata River

Name: Little Juniata River
Region: Central Pennsylvania
County: Blair, Huntingdon
GPS Coordinates: 40°34′17″N, 78°8′17″W
Approximate Length: 32 miles
State Fishing Designation:
Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only
Little Juniata River – 0.7 mile; from the first bridge on SR 0220 just northeast of Bellwood downstream to the confluence with the first unnamed tributary entering from the west just south of Fostoria

Catch & Release All Tackle /
Little Juniata River – 13.7 miles; from the railroad bridge at the east (downstream) border of Ironville downstream to mouth.

Class A
– UNT To UNT To Frankstown Branch Juniata River downstream to Mouth

Note: Designations are accurate as of this published article (02/10/2016). Please check for current designations.

Hatch Chart

Blue Quill (16-18)  
Black Caddis (16)  
Blue-Winged Olive (14-22)        
Quill Gordon (12 – 14)      
Grannom (12)    
Green Caddis (14)    
Sulphur (14 -16)    
Cahill (14)    
Tan Caddis (14- 16)    
Green Drake (8-10)    
Brown Drake (8-10)    
Slate Drake (12-14)      
Trico (22 – 24)      
White Mayfly (14 – 16)      
Midge (24-18)                  


The Little Juniata River flows south from Tyrone to Petersburg. Upriver from Tyrone, the river can seem marginal at best. The only exception to this is where the main stem of the river picks up productive tributaries, such as Tipton and Bells Gap. Downriver from Tyrone, the river narrows and becomes surrounded by large limestone cliffs. Past this point, the river becomes a limestone river, with at least ten limestone springs being added to the river as it flows. These increase the insect population and make for a large trout population. Limestone helps to keep the flow of the river moderate, and provides moderate temperatures.

If you want to fish the river from Barree to Spruce Creek, the only access is on foot. On this section of the river, which is four miles long, there are 15-foot deep pools, heavy hatches and productive riffles and lots of wild trout. From Barree to Petersburg, the river is wider and contains fewer trout. Be careful wading in the lower end on this section, because pools can be deep.

Overall, the river is sizable and ranges from 30 to 60 feet wide. There is a moderate drop of fifteen feet per mile. The river contains many decent-sized pools, with some ranging 100 or more yards long. The Little Juniata keeps you on your toes because of its variety. You’ll encounter shallow flats, gentle riffles, deep pools and rocky rapids.

Fishing Notes

Winter fishing can be slow but doesn’t stop completely. Look for midges in the long slow sections and go deep with big nymphs. Early spring can be exceptional if flows cooperate. Mid-April, Grannoms come on the scene, mid-morning, fast and furious in high numbers but are short lived. Consider yourself lucky to witness the hatch. Blue quills and olives make for great days. May is peak season and Sulphurs rule the day. Lot’s of water and plenty of opportunities through the year. Spruce creek is a great bail-out for unexpected high water on the Little Juniata.

Wading in the river can be treacherous, and anglers can expect to fall at least once a fishing season. There are seemingly endless boulders that are hidden by water and are covered in a slippery film. Take note that some fast-water sections are impossible to wade or even cross.

Local History

The history of the Little Juniata River has been “fishy” in the past. Up until 1968, the river was a deep brown color, the result of an effluent upriver. Between 1968 and 1996, the river was the victim of several toxic spills that seemed to threaten its existence as a formidable trout stream. Thankfully, the river has survived.

It appears as if the spills that have affected the river were insecticides that found their way into the water. One of the most recent spills that occurred in 1996, was not traced back to a source. A biological survey conducted in 1996 discovered that an unknown event occurred between Honest Hollow Road bridge and Ironville. It directly impacted the insect community for at least 10 miles downstream. Those who frequently fished the area, took note that mayfly hatches were not as they used to be. The cause of the contamination was never found, but the river is on its way to recovery.

In colonial American times, early settlers used the river to float freight downstream on boats known as “arcs.” Shipments were placed on the river in Birmingham, when the water was high enough to clear the rocky stream bed. Because of this, the Little Juniata is known as a commercially “Navigable” river.

Area Highlights

If you’re looking for something to do in the area other than fishing, there are a few options. In Tipton, a town on the Little Juniata , there is DelGrosso’s Amusement Park; also known as the home of the “Hot Rides and Cool Sides!” DelGrosso’s Amusement Park can keep you and your family entertained when your fishing permit is expired. If you happen to be visiting in the summer, check out their water park to help you stay cool.

If you’re into trains, check out the Alto Model Train Museum in Duncansville. This museum displays model trains from the early 1900s to current day. It also operates 8 model train layouts of different scales and sizes. Got kids? There are hands-on train activities for children.

If you appreciate the finer things in life, such as a nice wine, check out Oak Spring Winery in Altoona. They offer tours, a wine shop, gift baskets, tastings and even an area for private parties.

Even the historic town of Altoona offers great sights. It’s surrounded by the amazing beauty of the Allegheny Mountains. While it offers amazing scenery, there is also a historic district, and railroad museums for railroad aficionados.


There is no shortage of lodging options if you’re looking to hit up the Little Juniata for fishing. In Altoona, there are plenty of chain hotels, such as Econo Lodge, Hampton Inn, Motel 6, Clarion Inn and Super 8. If you prefer to stay outdoors and save money, check out Prince Gallitzin State Park and nearby Noel’s Trailer Court for camping options. Wright’s Orchard Station, located just south of Altoona, also offers camping for outdoor enthusiasts. In Tyrone, Camp Anderson offers camping as well.


If you like Italian food, then you’ll love visiting this area of Pennsylvania that is home to the Juniata River. In fact, the highest rated restaurant in Altoona is Finelli’s Italian Villa. The menu features classics such as linguine, gnocchi and fettuccine alfredo. If you want simple, home-style food, then check out Tom & Joe’s Restaurant in Altoona. They have favorites such as omelets, hash browns and pot pies.

Didn’t catch any trout for dinner? Nearby in Tyrone, you’ll find plenty of pizza joints that will help fill your belly. Nino’s Pizza and Original Italian Pizza are local favorites.

If you’re in Tipton, check out Irvin’s On Main and Houser’s Subs for some delicious grub. With so many towns and restaurants surrounding the Little Juniata , you won’t be going hungry.

If in the most popular fishing area of Spruce Creek, the Spruce Creek Tavern is a great place to stop in for a bite and a beer. You can order anything from beer, to salad, to beef with noodles. If you are looking for something sweet and tasty, swing by the Spruce Creek Bakery.

While you may not think of central Pennsylvania as a fly fishing hotspot, come fish the Little Juniata and let it change your mind. You’ll experience plenty of calming, relaxing areas where you can wet your line and relax. But rest assured that you won’t be wasting your time either. With the right tactics, and in the right area, you’ll be catching plenty of trout to make things exciting.