Known as the best public stream to fish in Nebraska, it’s quite apparent to see why once you’re here. It’s much wider than the majority trout streams in Nebraska and has a significant volume of water running through it, creating deep swimming holes around the bends, but not too much that makes it challenging to get a good lie in. Although there is plenty of forage around, most holes are easily accessible and have little to snag on besides the few logs that have fallen over in the stream supplying good coverage for big trout.
There are multiple public access points to fish here. We started at the Long Pine State Recreation Area where they have a plethora of campsites with easy access to the stream. There are even hiking trails that cross the river and go up into the canyon, which are great for trail running or sightseeing. When we arrived to the SRA, which is just north of the town of Long Pine, it had just snowed so the ground was beautifully covered and the water had an ominous steam rising from the waters as the sun was going down. It was a short fish as the temperatures cooled off rapidly that evening in early October and no, I didn’t end up catching anything but as I hope you know, it’s not always about catching fish!
Just north of the SRA and on the other side of the highway, there is a Wildlife Management Area. We actually passed up fishing here, not because it didn’t look viable, but more because it was getting late and we were looking for a spot to camp out for the night. The SRA was clearly the better choice as we were limited on time with future engagements so we didn’t squeeze it into our agenda, which I’m still a little bummed about, but life goes on.
The next day we drove further up to the Pine Glen WMA. About 10 miles north of Long Pine, there is an incredible space preserved along the canyon for hunting and fishing. I’m not entirely sure how big, but it’s big! We stayed here for two nights but only fished for a long day. In order to access the river, you have to hike into the canyon from the top which seemed to be about a half-mile long. It had snowed heavily a few days before, so some of the ruts on the road were pretty precarious, however it was nothing too daunting to get stuck in. There was still a little bit of snow on the ground when we began our fish, but by mid-day, it was all melted after temperatures got up into the low 70s. This snowmelt seemed to have played a significant role in dirtying up the water with a brown hue, but we still fished for 5 hours or so hoping to at least catch one. But, to no avail, I maybe had one bite, it felt like a bite, I was sure it was a bite, but after a day of catching nothing at all, a little snag surely feels like a bite! Either way, being secluded in the Pine Glen Valley was rewarding enough as the sun beat down on our faces and a light breeze cooled our skin; it was a top ten day in a top ten Nebraska gem! Not to mention, we were gifted with a showing of a few deer, a cubby of quail that my dad’s dog Pearl kicked up, and even a small rattlesnake that showed off its intimidation but kept falling back off balance, it was quite cute (although I don’t think Nicolette saw it that way)!
While staying at Pine Glen we were running low on water so the next day we decided to leave camp and head into Long Pine where I had read about a spring to fill up at. There’s a business here that actually bottles their own fresh spring water, the only one in Nebraska, but I wanted to go straight to the source! We stopped in town at the Sand Hills Lounge to get directions. The owner of the bar pointed us the way and told us about the Gary who owns the land that butts up to the public property where the spring comes out of the ground and warned us about Ernie, the protective, yet kind and gentle German Shepherd who runs the place, and just wants to make sure you know it! So we followed the directions, unsure exactly where we were going, and they took us right there. We landed at an incredible piece of property and sure enough, Ernie came to greet us with a loud bark and yet a warming demeanor. There was no bite in this dog, he was all bark, Pearl didn’t even mind once she figured out he was just a big softy. We then walked down to the stream, crossed a foot bridge and filled out bottles and water jug up with some fresh spring water. The initial reason we came down to this area was because in the Nebraska Trout Guide it says there is access to fish at Seven Springs and when I looked that up, information on fresh, drinkable spring water popped up and got me all excited!
However, I was unsure if this location was exactly where the public fishing access was. So once we filled up we headed back on the dirt road and drove around the area. There are signs pointing to Hidden Paradise. So naturally, we followed the signs. What was the Hidden Paradise? Had to check out that out! Much to our surprise we drove into an area with little cabins or summer homes dallopped right along the river. We were blown away! This was something you see in Colorado, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, but in Nebraska, no way.There was a gentleman on his little tractor, grading out his driveway and seemed to be the only one around. I interrupted his work and asked about the public access point. He pointed us back to where we had started, filling up with spring water. But then said “Hell, you can fish all along here if you’d like. There’s trout in there and nobody is here during the fall.” The offer was awfully kind, but we decided to go back to where we started and give that a shot.
It’s just a short little stretch to fish, maybe a quarter mile with a dozen of major holes, but plenty to keep you busy for a couple hours. I finally got into some fish pulling out three or so all about a foot long. We later came to find out that someone just took a 23 inch brown trout out of there a couple weeks prior. I was pretty hurt to hear about that. Anymore, something that big should always go back.
Anyways, at Seven Springs (which is really just the lower section of Long Pine) it’s not like the rest of the stream where it’s deep within the canyon, so access is easily accessible. Yet, it is still tucked away and we felt secluded enough to not be bothered by roads or society. This would be a great spot for someone who isn’t fixing to hiking all the way down and back up. But, if you do go to this location, be sure to hang out and chat with Gary and his wife if they are around. You will probably want to check out their property anyways, so here’s a good opportunity. We had the pleasure of chatting with him for what felt like an hour about everything! He’s a really genuine person and someone who I believe epitomizes what it is to be a Nebraskan. Plus he may even let you fish on his stretch too!