The PA Trout Opener

If you grew up in a state where there are no set dates for the trout opener, then you probably won’t understand.  Year round seasons that ebb and flow with the next delivery from the state hatchery mediate any great enthusiasm or any en mass coming together of generations and friends.  In Pennsylvania, the trout opener was a bit of a mystery to Steve-o.  He has lived in PA for going on 9 years, but never lived the opener more than to laugh at the shoulder to shoulder throngs as he drove on a bridge crossing an approved trout water.

Each year KG and his family go to their cabin to fish.  It used to be that fishing was the primary reason to go to the cabin, but as the years passed and the kids grew to be adults, it’s just as much a reason to get away and reconnect with family and friends, as it’s an excuse to go fishing.  This year Steve-o came along to experience what many would say is “a good ole time” and some clean living.

KG has been going to one area in the Allegheny National Forest for 23 trout season openers in a row,  with the exception of one year when he was living in Alaska.  What keeps him coming back year after year are the cherished old memories, and his desire to create new ones.  KG and his family used to have a cabin right on Bear Creek that they leased from the Forest Service. It was one of four cabins, yet as far as he could tell, the other three were abandoned and had not been maintained. They essentially had the area to themselves.  This is where KG would trout fish on opening day with his grandfather, father, brother, uncles, cousins, and friends.  It’s where he caught his first trout on a fly rod with his grandfather, father, and brother.  It’s not often that you have three generations catch their first trout on the same stream.

The past two years KG has fished this one stream on opening day, and in those two years he has had 80 plus fish each time. It’s not necessarily all about the numbers to him, but admittedly, catching that many fish can be pretty fun.  He had no reason to think this year would be any different, and looked forward to his friend’s reaction. Steve-o and KG made their way down to the beat to watch the fly fishermen go at it against the bait checkers as the statutory trout season began in the commonwealth.

KG’s younger cousins were decked out with fly gear as the clock struck 8am and lines-in.  They went against the power bait throwing bait chuckers on the other side of the run.  KG and Steve-o watched the lines hit the water and fish after fish being hooked.  The best thing about all of it was that most everyone was releasing the fish.  The fathers and sons across the way were hooking and landing fish.  Young boys and girls were getting in on the action over there as well.  Hooking one fish, running back up the hill to their camp site and then running back to throw their gob of bait in the stream yet again.

The junior Bug Chucker recruits held their own going fish for fish with the team across the way.  Logan was even able to hook and land several fish on KG’s Lady Gaga fly.  Not that this was a competition, mind you, but it was a scene of exaltation for both family camaraderie and fishing.  With all of the action and frankly, novice ability working that beat, few lines were crossed and tangled, making for few cross words spoken…Except when Logan bounced the bead head wooly bugger off of Kevin’s ear at the apex of Logan’s back cast…KG narrowly missed gaining a new ear ring.

After about an hour or so of the opening day exuberance, KG and Steve-o decided to leave the younger fisherman to fight their own battles, and try a native brook trout stream that flowed into Bear Creek.  KG was no stranger to this stream, he had caught plenty of natives from it before, yet to their surprise after hiking up a quarter of a mile, no luck.  They eventually came back down to see if the fly fisherman vs. bait chucker chaos was still going on. Sure enough, it was, and in their slightly biased opinion, KG’s cousins were the victors.  Next time bait chuckers…or pick up the buggy whip and join the fray.

KG and Steve-o decided to find some water that was not being frothed from the opening day mobs.  As they would find out, you can find some water to yourself during PA’s trout opener.  This stream was Big Mill Creek.  (The exact location along Mill Creek will go without mention, readers who would would like to know the beat fished, can leave a comment.)  The guys got into a small school of fish right off the bat, KG hooked and landed three pretty fishies.

Then it was Steve-O’s turn. They made their way down stream, checking out a few other runs and holes until they came across a side channel where the pellet heads were stacked up.  Steve-O had a white bugger on and that’s all it took for him to get hit after hit, landing fish left and right.  While Steve-o was catching fish, KG was on the camera filming the action.  Once the buggers slowed down, the guys changed it up, tying on flashy nymphs, which seemed to be the trick.  KG and Steve-o stacked’m like cord wood until they could here the sound of chilled beverages, and deer sticks calling to them from the cooler in KG’s rig.

Leaning on the truck, KG and Steve-O were at a crossroads. Do they continue fishing on another peice of water, or should they make their way back to the cabin to toast and cheers to the fishing Gods?  Well, since the river was good to them and they had both caught a lot of nice fish, they decided not to jinx their good fishing fortune. It was time to celebrate.  KG had his special concontion already mixed back at camp, but Steve-o was in search of his weapon of choice, Jameson. In that part of the world even the state wine and spirits shops are wader friendly.

They get back to camp to hear from everyone and all of their own success  The group had done well, and now everyone was ready to enjoy the last night at camp.  As they sat on the back porch sipping their beverages, who else but their friend Cowboy Joel and his buddy came riding up into camp.  Everyone was able to enjoy his company once again before he rode off into the rain, in his new hefty sack poncho.  Good food, good drinking and good company flowed into the evening.  The bottles were pretty much gone by the time KG and Steve-o started making their rounds to other camps.

The night came to a end and neither KG nor Steve-o could recall how they got back to the camp but everything was ok by the next morning.  All in all, opening day was a lot of fun for the two bug chuckers, and they hope that everyone enjoyed these three blogs about their trip. Good luck to all throughout trout season – happy fishing!

KG & Steve-o

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