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Dave Wolf (left), of Port Trevorton, Snyder County, Pennsylvania, has a unique slant to his Susquehanna River bass fishing guide service - a McKenzie drift boat, just like the ones out west. The McKenzie-style drift boat is long, wide, has high sides, and a raised front. The boats are safe and very stable in white-water flows up to class 4 or 5, and extremely maneuverable on calm, and even very shallow water. Stepping into Wolf^s boat is like stepping into a drift trip in the Northwest Territory where the boat originated. Named after the McKenzie River, a rough and rugged torrent of water through some of the best fishing waters, these boats are a relic of the past, yet a boat that will live well into fishing^s future. The legendary McKenzie River flows through the Northwest Territory, northward, to the Beauford Sea, near the Arctic Ocean. The McKenzie River is the drainage of both Great Bear Lake, and Great Slave Lake. While the McKenzie drift boats are common sights in the northwestern corner of North America, they are very rare sight on most Pennsylvania waters. "In Pennsylvania, some fishermen use drift boats on the Delaware River; and I know they use them up in New York State on the Salmon River. For the most part, you can^t seem to find anyone who sells the drift boats anywhere east of Michigan," Wolf said.
Drift Boat Advantage
"We get a lot of strange looks and stares from other fishermen along the (Susquehanna) river," Wolf said. "This boat is incredibly maneuverable, even when we drift and row over water as shallow as four inches. The boat can take a heck of a beating, and is stable as a rock - even with three people standing and casting from it." One angler stands in the front of the boat to fish, while the other fishes from the back of the boat. I sit in the middle and row to the best smallmouth spots. The sides of the boat are about as high as a standing angler^s hip, so the boat remains stable even in the toughest conditions. The fold-down seats allow a comfortable seat, or a open area for casting a fly rod.
Capitol Fishing!
"The Susquehanna River, from Harrisburg and northward upstream, is probably the best smallmouth bass fishing river in the state, and I can take my clients right into some of the best smallmouth bass hotspots on the flow," Wolf said. True, the Pittsburgh area rivers are great smallmouth waters, but if you never fished the Susquehanna, you^re missing some of the most enjoyable bass fishing in the state. The river is a long stretch of shallows and long pools chock-full of smallmouth. "I guide between Sunbury and the Rte 322, Clarks Ferry Bridge, which covers about 30 miles of water. Our average float is 3.5 to 4 miles, and is always where we^ve found the best bass fishing locations on the river depending on weekly changes in fishing activity and water conditions," Wolf said. "Because the game commission owns many of the islands along the Susquehanna, we often see egrets, blue herons, whitetail deer, otters, Canada geese, and a variety of ducks as we drift past them while we^re fishing for bass." "On a full-day guided trip, we also have a shore lunch on one of the islands." "On many days anglers will take between 12 and 30 bass, depending on their skill level and how the bass are hitting. The bass are averaging about 14 inches, and we put most clients onto fish in the 16-19 inch range," Wolf said. "We release every bass we catch."
Fly fishing or Light Tackle
Wolf specializes in fly fishing for bass, but also offers light spinning tackle fishing from his boat. Dave Wolf, who is also a well-known outdoor writer and an author of five books, is undoubtedly one of the absolute best fish fishermen in the state, and bordering on legendary status. Wolf is also an excellent fly fishing instructor, and provides lessons to those who want to learn how to fly fish for bass on the river, or trout on one of the southern tier limestone trout streams. Wolf recommends fly rods for bass that are 8-9« feet long and in 7-9 weight lines. "Because we specialize in top-water fishing, we use a variety of Gaines popping bugs in sizes 8-10. Foam bugs, large dry flies, Montana big water flies, and all Wulff patterns," Wolf said. "For those rare days we need to fish for sub-surface feeding bass, we use Clouser deep-diving minnows, wooly-buggers, leech, and crayfish patterns." "The whitefly hatch is still coming off in the evenings on the river. We also guide during the late-evening whitefly hatches, but we wade out into the river for that," Wolf said. "Spin fishermen should use six pound test line, and lures such as the Rebel Crayfish, Mister Twisters, Little Cleo^s, and a selection of plastic jigs and tails in white, chartreuse, motor oil, and lime green colors." "One thing you should never forget to bring on one of the drift trips is your camera," Wolf added.
To Book a Trip
If you want to sample some of the best river fishing for bass, with a fly rod or light tackle, and enjoy the adventure on a McKenzie Drift boat, call Dave Wolf at Wolf Tracks Guide Service at (570) 374-0517, or e-mail him at

Uploaded: 2/21/2004