The thought of chasing native brook trout takes me back to a time in my youth when I’d trek along backwoods streams catching and releasing or catching and eating a limit whenever I wanted.

In more recent later years, I’ve heard others talking about these beautiful fish and how it is a real challenge to find and catch them. It made me realize how fortunate I am to have such a great resource close at hand.

It’s a resource for those of us who live in the north central region of Pennsylvania, especially here in Potter and Tioga counties. Here we have top quality, cold water watersheds right in our own backyard or nearby. These streams contain the coldest, cleanest waters with high levels of dissolved oxygen that native brook trout need to survive in.

These streams are only accessible by putting forth a bit of leg work if you want to enjoy the thrill of catching native brookies. It’s an adventure where you wander into a backwoods hollow, crawl over or under fallen logs, push your way through dense laurel patches, and then slide out unto a large boulder and drop a line into a deep, dark pool.

You’ll wait for the reward that true trout anglers enjoy so much: that time when you’re finally holding one of those beautiful, bright colored, speckled trout in your hands. Then you’ll know that traversing along those mountain trails is well worth the effort.

Just think, all that happens while you’re setting there on a rock, casting a line to a waiting trout while the sun is high over the treetops. As you sit there listening to the birds chirping, you’ll know why many anglers pursue native trout in such wild settings. It’s because you seek the solitude of being one with nature while you aim to catch one of the wonders of the Pennsylvania wilds.

With that in mind, if I’ve tempted you into giving it a try just remember a couple of things. Brook trout are a delicate fish whose population is declining. So handle them with extreme care when releasing them. Also check regulations before fishing as many streams are only catch and release, while others have a five fish creel limit. Also, it’s a good idea to use circle or barbless hooks to aid in a smooth and easy release.

What’s most important is to get out there and enjoy the Pennsylvania outdoors. Snap a few pictures of those prized moments and put those native brook trout, our state trout, back in the waters to fight another day.

David Orlowski is a writer, hunter, fisherman and outdoor enthusiast from Potter County. He is a member of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association.