This Is Troutbitten
There are two sides to every fisherman: one that simply enjoys being on the water (hoping to catch a fish), and the other that desperately wants to know how to put more fish in the net. Troutbitten aims to address both.
This Troutbitten site started as a creative framework for documenting the things that I’d like to show my sons someday — a diary of events, and of things learned on the water. I soon realized how deep this all would go.
This site reads more like a book than a blog. Contained in the 900+ articles, podcasts and videos are tips and tactics, adventures, stories and philosophies.
Troutbitten is also a full-time guide service, offering guided trips on the famous limestone waters of Penn State country.
The Troutbitten Podcast (launched in 2021) is the most popular independent fishing podcast in the United States. And Troutbitten videos offer a tactical, yet artistic look into the experience of a life on the water.
I grew up on twelve acres of wooded hills, but with no trout streams. The south corner of my parents’ land drained into a valley that held water for most of the year, so I made rock dams and imagined that someday I may find a trout there.
As a child, I learned to fish live minnows on a spinning rod, and I began to absorb the natural connections to the woods and water than run deep in our family. My uncle taught me to read the river and trust what it showed. My father taught me the determination to be persistent. And my grandfather taught me to walk with the earth — not on top of it. This all grew inside me until fishing became more than an occasional recreation — it became a theme to build a life and family around.
Life is about discovery. And it seems I’ve spent a large share of my days learning about trout. I’ve grown to understand the places trout live, and I’ve come to know myself better . . . all while searching for a trout. The best trout streams harbor a quiet peace that I cannot find elsewhere, and I need to walk in these waters on a regular basis.
When I turned sixteen, my parents gave me the keys to the family sedan, and I drove the two-plus hours to Spring Creek in Bellefonte, PA. I followed a hand-drawn map, which the local fly shop owner had given me, and I fished with flies — leaving the minnows home for the first time since I was ten years old. I caught nothing that day, but the seeds of my future were sown. I knew that Spring Creek and the central PA region was special, and I did what I could to find my way back.
I went to Penn State after high school, then later finished at IUP with a BA in English. I minored in philosophy. I met my wife there, and after graduation we moved to within walking distance of Spring Creek. I was home. Finally, I had the classroom I’d always wanted. Wild trout were a short reach beyond my back door.
For six years I fished five days a week, in all four seasons. During the days I explored every corner of this region with a 4×4, some maps and a fly rod. At night I played music in the clubs of State College, PA.
When my first son was born, that freedom to fish was replaced with the responsibilities and gifts of being a father. I’ve now spent the last fourteen years dedicated to raising two boys and being a good husband.
There is wonder in my sons’ eyes when standing knee-deep in rippling current. They smile when they feel the tug of a trout through the line and into their hands. I believe they love the river and feel its comfort in much the same way as I do. I think it’s my job, at least, to give them that chance.
Family, friends, fish the rivers, and Troutbitten — all of it matters, because every connection and experience is greater with a life on the water.
A great fly rod responds to the angler. The slightest motions and refinements in the cast are transmitted to the rod, and it flexes — it responds in kind. The angler’s thoughts and instincts flow through a great rod, so our accuracy and adjustments become effortless.
We can be in tune with a great rod and perfectly connect with its performance. With some time spent fishing a great fly rod, it becomes an extension of our will. The fly hits the target because we want it to. The leader lands with s-curves in the tippet because that’s what we decided. And the rod makes it happen.
A go-to fly rod is like an old dog or a good friend. We know them, and our connection is natural.
Anglers cling to the stories and accounts others. We believe in the experts. We want masters of this craft to exist and to tell us the answers.
Sure, you might have a group of wild trout dialed in for the better part of a season. Maybe it’s a midge hatch every summer morning, or a streamer bite on fall evenings, for one hour on either side of dusk.
But it will end. That’s what’s so special about chasing trout. Like the wings of a mayfly spinner, predictability is a fading ghost . . .
Of the good fishermen I know, one thing I see in all of them is how easily they can reach conclusions about fish habits. They have a knack for knowing what to trust and when to trust it.
The damned thing about a river is that it changes every day, and the habits of trout follow. If you’re observant enough to see the dynamics of a river, you can predict how the fish will respond, just by correlating their behavior patterns with the changes in water level, clarity, food availability, etc. Often, though, that’s a big leap to take. And it requires trusting in your observations enough to act decisively on them . . .
Reviving a trout was once taught as part of the routine. But we don’t hear that so much anymore. Because the idea of playing a trout to the point of exhaustion, so much that you have to help it regain balance and breath, is mostly a thing of the past. And that’s a good thing . . .
It’s a question I ask of my friends and those whom I’ve just met. What are you working on? Because, whether we realize it or not, we’re all working on something.
“What do you do for a living?” is a common small-talk question. But I don’t ask that one much. I save it for later. What do you love? What are you passionate about? And what are you working on? Those are the more interesting queries that get to the core of each person.
So I’ve asked these questions for years. And it surprises me how often the answer is a blank stare. Some people simply don’t know what they love — yet. And that’s alright. Maybe they’re still searching for some passion in life. But inevitably, it’s those who light up with enthusiasm that I connect with. Tell me what you’re into. The topic hardly matters. I can listen for hours to someone who knows their craft from every angle, who understands what they love, why they care about it and what they plan to learn next.
I was driving a small Nissan pickup, halfway down a steep and rocky logging road, somewhere in the Pennsylvania backcountry. The truck crept down a small boulder field of mixed slate and sandstone. And the frame held solid while the suspension complained against larger obstacles. . . . That perfect, hour-long slow climb down a tram road and into the Fields Run valley was the beginning of a wonderful, memorable adventure . . .
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