Articles in the Category Commentary

Find Your Rabbit Hole

Understanding the ideas of other anglers through the decades is how I learn. It’s how we all learn. The names change, but the process remains. We build a framework from others. Then we fit together the pieces of who we are as an angler . . .

Test Without Bias

Of all the reasons why I fly fish for trout, two captivating things keep me coming back: refining a system, and breaking it all apart.

Go into any new exploration with a clear head and without expectations. Remove your prejudices and forget your preferences. Achieve this, and you may well be surprised by what you find with a fly rod in your hand. Ignore this, or fail in the attempt, and you’ll likely learn nothing. Worse yet, you may learn the wrong thing.

Let the river teach. Let time be the gauge. Let the fish have their say. Forgo conclusions and look instead for certainty in trends. Test honestly and without bias — always . . .

Troutbitten State of the Union — 2020 Wrap Up

The real joy of having Troutbitten as my career is in all the chances I have to be creative. The articles, presentations, videos, web design, and the guided trips — each one is an opportunity to communicate ideas about why we fish, how we fish, and what keeps us wishing to fish, day after day. Thank you for that chance . . .

Troutbitten Opinion: Nicholas Meats, LLC vs Fishing Creek

Fishing Creek is currently at risk for drastic increases in groundwater withdrawal by Nicholas Meats, LLC of Loganton, PA.

Troutbitten stands against this proposal and believes this operation will be detrimental to the sustained life of Fishing Creek, as well as the health and welfare of all living things that rely on it.

Please read and understand this dangerous issue, then do something to protect Fishing Creek . . .

Angler Types in Profile: The Substitution Guy

Angler Types in Profile: The Substitution Guy

. . . “Great. I have some ideas on how to make your fly better,” Bruce said flatly.

That stung a little too. What improvements are needed? I wondered while Bruce stashed my beloved streamer into his fly box. I watched until the end, until the shadow of the closing lid engulfed the mallard flank, and the glint from the copper conehead was no more. Farewell, good friend.

Seven days later, Bruce sent me photos of his “improved” version, noting that he’d substituted white for tan marabou, changed the collar dubbing to something “with necessary flash,” and added opal tinsel to the tail. “The fly just looks bare without it,” Bruce assured me. Accompanying the pics and descriptions of what he changed, Bruce ended with the following: “This spruced up fly gets a lot more attention!!”

Now how the hell does he know that, I wondered. It’s only been a week . . .

These Hooks Bend Out

These Hooks Bend Out

Competition hooks are most often designed with penetration as the primary goal. When you’re scoring fish, one nine-inch trout can put you at the top of the leader board, (I think that’s what they call it). So super-sharp hooks with wide gaps and long points are the norm. While the standard nymph hook for many years has been 1X or 2X strong wire, competition style hooks are most often designed with medium or even light wire, under the belief that thinner wire penetrates easier. Of course it does. But oh my, the difference is slight. And the trade off is not worth it (for me).

That lighter wire is where the cheaper companies get into problems . . .

Patience vs Persistence

Patience vs Persistence

Patience and persistence — in some ways they are opposites. Patience is waiting for something to happen. And persistence is making something happen.

And all you need is a full day spent with a persistent fisherman to know that your patience isn’t really getting anything done.

Over time, patience has been pinned to fishing, as if the two go hand in hand. And I think that’s a mistake. It’s an attached stigma that doesn’t fit — not for Troutbitten anglers, anyway. So once again, it’s apparent that words themselves change the way we think about things. Words and meanings change how we do things. New anglers are taught that fishing is a quiet, patient sport. And so they wait. And they are content when nothing happens.

A Christmas Story, and a Troutbitten Thank You

A Christmas Story, and a Troutbitten Thank You

Growing up, my wish was not for a Red Rider BB Gun (Ralphie) It was for a flowing trout stream in my backyard. I wanted more trout at the end of my line, but it was more than that, too.

With limited trout fishing opportunities in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, I’m not quite sure how I attached myself so deliberately to trout fishing. It was a springtime thing for us, mostly. But oh my, the places we would visit. We traveled through the predawn frost over unlined two lane roads, with the steamy scent of Dad’s hot tea filling the warmth of the old Buick. We camped within earshot of the riffles, along small streams in Pennsylvania’s northern tier. And every time we arrived, it felt like someone plugged me back in, like a piece of me was rightfully back in place . . .

The shakes, and why we love big trout

The shakes, and why we love big trout

. . 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 . . .

The I’ll just lay my rod here for a minute mistake

The I’ll just lay my rod here for a minute mistake

People do the same things. The instincts of fishermen find identical paths upstream through the river — watery trails lead to the best water with the greatest efficiency. You can easily see where everybody else fishes. And I guess the flies and tippet-tangles in streamside branches signal that we all make the same casting errors too. Presented with the same problems, fishermen come up with the same solutions, and we make the same mistakes.

That’s all pretty harmless and kind of fascinating. But then there’s that thing we (all) do where we leave our rod on top of the vehicle and drive away. WTF?

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Two Percent — Penns Creek Needs Your Voice

Two Percent — Penns Creek Needs Your Voice

Just two percent of Pennsylvania’s 83,000 river miles receive the state’s Class A Wild Trout designation. Two percent. Wild trout are rare. They are rare enough to be special, to be highly valued and protected. In short, we must be careful with the resource.

If we’re objective about the meaning of “Exceptional Value,” if we stand back and decide what’s best for the stream, separating ourselves from tradition and ingrained culture, it’s clear that Catch and Release regulations are the next step for this section of Penns Creek.

Now, the PFBC is accepting public comment on the proposed Catch and Release regulations for this area of Penns Creek. The comment period ends on September 1st, 2018. The motion will be voted on in October . . .

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Angler Types in Profile: The I’ve been doing that forever guy

Angler Types in Profile: The I’ve been doing that forever guy

Fly fishing is full of it — full of anglers who take themselves too seriously, and full of others who support it. Everyone knows everything.

So as fly fishing churns out newish concepts like articulated streamers and euro nymphing, it’s no wonder there’s some resistance to it all. No wonder  at every turn we find guys with arms folded, shaking their heads and saying, “Nah, I’ve been doing that forever. . .”

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Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #50 — Fish Hard

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #50 — Fish Hard

Here we are, at the end of fifty tips. Just two weeks shy of a year ago today, I started this series with a plan. Determined to publish every Sunday, I wrote these tips to be a little different, trying for something unique, and with a new take on some stuff many of us may not have considered for a while.

. . . What brings us back is the trout. Fishing without catching only goes so far. It only lasts so long. We dream not just of the woods and the water, but the trout too. And catching those fish brings in another art, another appreciation for the challenge and a new way to be creative. It also fulfills our human need to learn something. And without a trout on the end of your line once in a while, you’re just hiking through the water with a ten-foot stick . . .

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Angler Types in Profile: Goldilocks

Angler Types in Profile: Goldilocks

On the sweetheart days, the Goldilocks angler is there. Any other time? This morning? Not so much.

It seems that some fly fishermen are constantly looking for reasons not to fish. Provide them with a logical reason to stay home, and they will — and they’ll feel good about it.

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Is your new fly really new? What makes a fly original?

Is your new fly really new? What makes a fly original?

When is a fly original enough to deserve its own name? And do a few material changes result in a new fly, or is it the bastardization of an existing pattern?

“That’s just a Woolly Bugger with flashy chenille, bigger hackle, rubber legs, and dumbell eyes. Oh, and it’s two of them hooked together.” That’s the first comment I heard about Russ Madden’s Circus Peanut. And to that I say, sure it is. But aren’t there enough material and form changes there to be a unique fly? When we think Woolly Bugger does it really look anything like a Circus Peanut? No, not really. So I’d say the Circus Peanut deserved a name, and it got one.

I have a similar fly stored in my own meat locker. I call it a Water Muppet, but it’s mostly a Circus Peanut. I tie it smaller, dub the body instead of wrapping chenille, and I use a tungsten bead instead of dumbbell eyes. And while I have my own name for the pattern that amuses me, it’s pretty much a Peanut.

But I think there’s a genuine desire on the part of many fly tyers to get this right. We want to give credit for inspiration, and we know that all good ideas stem from somewhere. At the same time, we’re proud of the material or form changes we’ve made that catch more fish in our own rivers. And sometimes those innovations define a genuinely new fly pattern, so they deserve a unique name . . . . .

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