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.
He didn’t fish. He hunted. Wandering over wooded mountains, and whispering through the wheat fields, I followed my grandfather into a broken forest. We climbed over long oaks, and we scaled fallen hemlock trunks to reach the other side of a small stream. My footsteps fell into his. He walked slowly — much slower than a boy’s patience could match. And when my eagerness overtook me, Grandfather turned to force my pause. He leaned in and granted me this wisdom: “Slowly, child. Life’s secrets are in these trees.”
He was gone before my sons were born.
And now, when I enter these forests, these forgotten tramps, miles away from industry and deep inside shaded canyons, the wet moss absorbs my footfalls and silences the mental rush of an average life. These muted and hushed moments are given for remembering . . .
I must have been in my late teens, because I was wearing hip boots and casting a fly rod. It was a short transitional time when I fished small streams on the fly and still thought I had no need for chest waders.
It’s remarkable how the details of a fishing trip stick in the angler’s brain. We recall the slightest details about flies, locations and tippet size. We know that our big brown trout was really sixteen inches but we rounded it up to eighteen. The sun angles, the wind, the hatching bugs and the friends who share the water — all of it soaks into our storage and stays there for a lifetime. Fishing memories are sticky. And for this one, I certainly remember the fly . . .
. . When I hooked him, I felt a tremendous release of emotion. Satisfaction merged with adrenaline. My yearning for such a moment finally came to a close as the big wild brown trout slid onto the bank. I killed the trout with a sharp rap at the top of its skull, because that’s what I did back then. I knelt by the river to wet my creel, and when I placed the dead trout in the nylon bag, the full length of its tail stuck out from the top.
. . . Then I began to shake. The closing of anticipation washed over me. The fruition of learning and wondering for so many years left me in awe of the moment I’d waited for. I trembled as I sat back on my heels. With two knees in the mud of a favorite trout stream, I watched the water pass before me. I breathed. I thought about nothing and everything all at once. I felt calm inside even as I stared down at my wet, shaking hands.
. . .When a gust of wind pushed through the forest, I stirred. Finally my lengthy revery was passed, and I stood tall with my lungs full of a strong wind. Then I walked back to camp . . .
I guess I was about ten years old when I started pushing past the boundaries of my parents’ twelve acres of hills and trees. I easily remember the day that I walked into the damp valley and past the tiny runoff stream which I always imagined may hold a few trout — or at least a few minnows. Instead of staying on the near side of the watery divide, I crossed it. I looked back once. Then I started up the hill toward the unknown. In my boyish, drifting thoughts, anything was possible . . . and I’ve been wandering ever since . . .
Parenting is mostly guessing and then hoping you were right. My design all along has been to get the boys beside a river as often as possible.
Will they be fly fishermen at fifty? Will they take on fishing as a way of life? Will they need it as something to help them through difficult times? I don’t know. But I’m giving them that chance.
Joey waded through a knee-deep riffle, toward a bank side boulder that he’d never reached before. We’d fished for two hours with the fish count as zero as the skies unloaded a hard rain into the river. I waited underneath the half-shelter of a large sycamore and watched my son from twenty feet away . . .
Hours earlier . . .
I walked behind Dad to the river. I kept my head down through the steady morning rain, watching water drops grow on the brim of my hat and then fall in rhythm with each step forward. On a muddy side trail I followed Dad: my boot tracks into his, my wide and awkward gait to keep up, the sucking sound of mud and rubber separating with each step, and more water rushing in to fill the hole behind — then the splashing of my own half-sized boots into his full-sized tracks.
We walked until our path finally ended underneath a stand of spruce trees at the edge of the river. Dad looked back . . .
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