Domenick Swentosky

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.

 

Read History

Read History

Border Collie and the Thunderstorm

Border Collie and the Thunderstorm

The border collie always sensed incoming weather before I did. Under the perfect contrast of black on white, just beneath mottled pink skin and between the ears, was a group of unknown senses, not just for the weather, but for a number of intangibles I never seemed to recognize. He tilted his head and stared at me with confusion, perhaps wondering why I couldn’t hear, smell or sense the thunderstorm before I could see it . . .

How It Started

How It Started

There was a small shop attached to the house where he tied flies and built fly rods. Everything was a mystery as I opened the screen door, but I recognize the smell of cedar once I walked in. I knew nothing about leaders, tippets, tapers or nymphs. I just knew I wanted to fish dry flies.

I was turning sixteen that summer, and the fishing had slowed — again. It always did. When the sun climbed higher and my freestone waters grew clearer with their summer flows, the minnows that I’d learned to fish so well just stopped catching trout. It happened every year, but I was old enough to be aware of the shift this time.

The Little League Series: Some Teams Are All Heart

The Little League Series: Some Teams Are All Heart

I’ll always have a soft spot for kids this age. These young boys and girls are six to eight years old and learning to be hitters, with their own coaches serving up meatballs across home plate.

They are sophisticated goofballs with only minor control over their emotions, with conditional attention spans that are sometimes ripped away by the slightest and silliest things imaginable. They’re kids.

And for many of these little people, baseball is a first chance to learn the life lessons that build strong adults: that true success is earned through hard work, that passion exceeds wishful thinking, and that teamwork is a constant compromise.

At the Little League age, heart is everything. And I’ve seen teams with half the talent take down bigger teams with twice the power through sheer will and desire — they just wanted it bad enough. Determination is contagious. Belief is addictive. And when a team buys into one another, they don’t easily let go of that belief.

Right Here

Right Here

I guess I’ve been searching for something.

For months now, I’ve spent my limited opportunities on the water fishing progressively more remote locations. Turning down offers to float and cast over abundant wild brown trout on our major rivers, I thought I was looking for solitude. What I’ve found is a companion so powerful it cannot be passed off as simple memory. It’s my own history, and I’ve felt it so presently that it seems at times my flat shadow may take form and rise from the leafy ground to start a conversation.

I’ve returned to the waters where I’ve been, to revisit not the fish, but the places in time. These memories are eminently tangible out there, without the clutter of accumulated things in my home, the garage or the grocery store to get in the way. A trout stream, miles removed from hard roads, and sunken into a valley beyond the distance of average effort, offers a peaceful reward and a natural, blank slate for anyone willing to seek it. And when thirty years have passed between visits, the reflections I’ve found in these old, familiar waters are astonishing.

Jeff’s Chicken

Jeff’s Chicken

In his mid-twenties, my friend Jeff walked away from his job to be a trout bum for a few months. It was a bold move, but a strategic one. Jeff had enough funds saved up to float him from late spring all the way into the fall, and he simply wanted to hang out, drink beer and catch trout for a while.

Some people hike the Appalachian trail. Others take a year after school to travel across Canada or maybe backpack through Europe, if you have that kind of money. Jeff just wanted to fish the hell out of Central Pennsylvania and be a trout bum for once. So that’s what we did.

At the time, my own lifestyle was pretty flexible. I’d already spent five or six years exploring Central and North-Central Pennsylvania during the day and playing music in clubs and bars at night. Gas was cheap then, and it was nothing for me to wake at dawn and travel north for a hundred miles.

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