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 is more of a book than a blog. Contained in the 550+ articles are tips and tactics, adventures, stories and philosophies. I give presentations on much of this material for clubs and schools. And Troutbitten has grown into a four season Pennsylvania fly fishing guide service.
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 shows. 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 was 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 eleven 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 this site — all of it matters, because every connection and experience is greater with a life on the water.
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 . . .
These places change, but they are more constant than shifting, more lasting than fading. The stream that I fished as a boy every April still holds the same trout, and I follow those familiar bends upstream around rocky mountains. Fallen trees have diverted the channels enough to move the main flow twenty yards east or west, but permanence is more powerful. Here, change is minimal. And that’s comforting . . .
. . . He feels it too. And so he’s drawn to the woods, to these places larger than his small life that often seems too big. I’ve been doing the same for forty-three years . . .
. . . But what else does he need?
The whole thing started with four fishermen and a long email chain. That quickly became unwieldy, so Sloop and I set up a private message board for our small group of Pennsylvania anglers and titled it, Troutbitten. Each of us invited close friends — trusted fishermen — the kind of guys who could keep a secret, even after a few beers. And for a short while, a small, core group of guys called Troutbitten fished hard and shared their discoveries with one another . . .
Today marks the completion of a significant Troutbitten project. After a full year in development, the Troutbitten Shop has launched. For sure, this is the conclusion of one phase and the beginning of another, as I’ll continue to add designs and products for the shop in the coming seasons.
The Troutbitten Shop starts with tees, hoodies, hats, stickers and canvas prints. These items feature logos and original designs, artfully printed on high end materials. I took no shortcuts.
Troutbitten has grown from the seeds of your support. Troutbitten readers have made all of this possible, and I’m thankful to be part of a community of anglers who live a life on the water.
I invite you to look around the shop a bit. I’m proud of what is here, and I’m excited for the future.
Here’s a quick rundown of the shop parts . . .
In my early twenties I drove a delivery van for a printing company while finishing the last few semesters of my English degree. Life was pretty easy back then, and I spent much of my leisure time playing guitar and fishing small backcountry streams for wild trout. It was a tight-quarters casting game. And making the transition from the five-foot spinning rod of my youth to a much longer fly rod gave me some trouble. Until, that is, I received one of the simplest and most transformative pieces of fly fishing advice . . .
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