Today we are celebrating our 100th day on our adventure fishing the Trout Unlimited Top 100 Trout Streams.  The SaraLinda has traveled 3513 miles thus far.  We have fished 26 of the Top 100 streams and have fished 44 streams total.  The gallery above is a sampling of the beautiful fish we caught today fishing the Savage River, Middle Fork and Crabapple Run in far Western Maryland.

What we found early on was that Its Not About the Fish, but its about the people we are meeting.  That is still true today. From all of our guides (check out their interviews), to the fly shop owners, the musicians sharing their music with us, the campground hosts who’ve helped us out tremendously and all the people in the local diners, coffee shops and breweries we’ve visited.  Its really been a blessing meeting and becoming friends with them all.

We are in Maryland for another few days before heading to Kentucky to fish the Cumberland.  After that, we’re headed to Carmel, IN to see the grandkids over the 4th of July before continuing our adventure in Michigan.

We hope you are enjoying tagging along with us on our ramble.  If you have any questions or even better, have any suggestions for things to do in the areas we’re visiting, please please send them along!!!

Cheers ?,

Tom and Barb

We’ve been blessed this entire trip in meeting and being befriended by so many people…. From Jimmy and Kathy Harris and Ron Thomas in Helen, GA to Tom and Deb Finkbiner in Slate Run, PA…  to all our guides we’ve enjoyed and who’ve taught us so much about fishing and the incredible places where their local trout live…  to the musicians who’ve shared their songs and stories with us…   all of the fly shops and their staffs who’ve put us on the flies and fishing spots for fun and successful fishing.  While you might think our journey is about fishing the TU Top 100 Trout Streams, it really isn’t.  As Andy Wagner, our guide on Spruce and Penns Creek says, “fishing is just an excuse”… an excuse to get together with old friends, make new friends, break bread together and be a part of a community of people who share your same “excuse”.   This has been our biggest “aha” moment of the trip and it was really brought home when Andy took us on a side trip at Penns Creek.

There are many fishing, hunting and “sportsmen’s” camps dotted along the streams we’ve fished in Pennsylvania.  After we’d spent the morning on Penns Creek, Andy took us to one of these camps which is known as “The Shanty”.   Imagine a small, one room cottage with no electricity, no running water, no phone and the nearest road is at least 1/4 mile away.   Inside is a wood stove, a sink, two sets of bunk beds, a sofa, a few chairs, a propane stove, a kitchen table, several kerosene lamps, some books and other items.  Food, supplies, water (beer), propane, wood, etc… all have to be brought in via lawn cart along a path left by the railroads that runs along Penns Creek.   That is the “physical” characteristics of “The Shanty”.   But kind of like “its not about the fish”, its really not about the physical characteristics of this camp.  Its about the people who built it and the people who now occupy and care for it and its history.

Thanks to Andy, we were honored to have met one of those people, Jeff Zim, a retired teacher and school principal.  Jeff shared the history of The Shanty from when it was originally built to its current set of characters who inhabit it.  The real history of the camp is in the hearts and minds of the people who’ve been fortunate enough to have stayed there, shared a drink and a cigar on the porch and fished with Jeff and the “Shanty Posse”.  It’s in the stories experienced and shared.  Barb and I were privileged to have spent a while sitting with Jeff and hearing some of those stories.  Most of them didn’t involve fishing at all, but the characters who share our community “excuse” of fly fishing.

Many of Jeff’s stories included one of his primary “posse” members, Bob Ranck.  We laughed so hard at some of the stories centered around “Ranck”.  What seemed to emerge from all the stories was that Bob got it more than the rest of us, meaning he really knew and lived the saying  “it’s not about the fish”.   From all the stories it was clear, “Ranck” was a character.  I wish we’d have had a chance to meet him as well and he could have been there to share his side of the stories being told.  They were priceless!

Places like this, and more importantly, people like this are so very special.  Barb and I want to thank Andy for bringing us up to The Shanty and introducing us to Jeff.  HUGE thank you to Jeff for opening his heart and his stories to us.  It meant the world to us both.  And even though he wasn’t there in person, he seemed to be there with us in spirit… a special thank you to Bob Ranck for creating this incredible place and keeping a warm and welcoming front porch for passers by to become friends.

 

Our final river to fish in PA this year was Spruce Creek.  We had the incredible pleasure of fishing it with Andy Wagner of Livin on the Fly.  The day before we fished Spruce Creek, we took a very special trip to Penns Creek with Andy.   He promised if we worked hard fishing Penns he’d take us to “Disneyland” (his name for Spruce Creek).  He spoke of big fish, easy wading and spectacular scenery.  He wasn’t kidding!!!

He forewarned us that when the Spruce Creek fish hit, we’d have to be ready for a fight, but to fight back.  In my first few casts, an over 20″ brown took my fly and the fight was on.  I lost.   In a few more casts, a 20″ rainbow hit and schooled me.  Slow learner?  Perhaps…. but not Barb.  Soon she was landing a gorgeous 21″ brown that she fought hard and long.  It just continued from there…. Disneyland for sure.

In his interview, Andy talks about Spruce Creek as a fishery and how its become this amazing fishing stream.  He also discusses why his “local” water, Penns Creek, is so very special.  Andy is a guide who not only knows his fishing tools and techniques, but more importantly, is intimately connected to the places and people where he guides and fishes.  Being able to not only fish these beautiful trout streams, but to “see” them through his eyes and mind, made fishing with Andy incredibly special.  If you come to central PA, make sure to grab Andy for a trip to Disneyland, Penns Creek and all the local waters.  In the meantime, enjoy our interview with Andy from the banks of Spruce Creek.

We had the pleasure of fishing with the founder and owner of Outcast Anglers, Lance Wilt along with JD Vera who is working with Lance this spring.  JD runs a guiding operation in the Central Patagonia region of Chile.  We fished three different “creeks” in the State College PA area with them:  Spring Creek, Fishing Creek and Penns Creek.   We had a blast and caught fish each day, including a few big ones!  Please enjoy Part 1 of their interview in which you learn about how they got into fly fishing in the first place.  Both are very interesting stories… one from a very local perspective and one that spans from Patagonia to Minnesota.  Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 coming soon!

There were no guides to be had for Kettle Creek so we went to the local fly shop, Kettle Creek Tackle Shop, for help in picking flies and spots to fish.  We never know quite what to expect when we go in “blind” to a fly shop with our story of fishing the TU Top 100 Trout Streams.  Most warm up pretty quickly to help us out (we must look desperate) but sometimes it takes a visit or two, which was the case here.  However, once we got to know the shop and its staff, they were awesome in getting us onto the right flies.  As for spots to fish, we kind of stumbled onto them.  However, what a stumble we had!

We caught fish each day on dry flies in numerous spots.  We even got to fish a couple of tributaries including the Cross Fork which brought us some beautiful brook trout.   Barb and I both love fishing small streams for wild brook trout.

The area along Kettle Creek was just gorgeous.  We stayed in Kettle Creek State Park in the SaraLinda.  Had a couple of great meals (and beers) at Deb’s Cross Fork Inn in the little town of Cross Fork.  And visited the Ole Bull State Park several times for picnics and “rest stops”.   Ole is actually a man’s name and is pronounced “Oly” like the beer.  There were several creative fishing camps along the road like the “Oly Cow Camp” and one titled “Oly S#%t”.   Fly fishing people have a unique sense of humor.

We hope you enjoy this short music video chronicling our time along Kettle Creek.

Pine Creek Valley begins up in the Pine Creek Gorge which is affectionately known to locals as the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon.  There are many small towns along Pine Creek but the one we focused on was Slate Run which houses the Slate Run Tackle Shop and Wolfe’s General Store.  The proprietors of the store are Tom and Deb Finkbiner.  We spent a lot of time in the store sharing fishing stories, getting provisions and some of the best deli sandwiches anywhere.  Tom, Deb and the entire team at the shop were so incredibly helpful and friendly.  We even had a chance to have dinner at Tom and Deb’s with many of the team and other guests.  We made so many memories in the valley but the ones we’ll carry with us forever are the people we’ve met there.

Straub Brewery is an ardent supporter of fly fishing and in particular, the work being done by Tom and others on Pine Creek.  Of course, we always support the local economy and had a few of these refreshing brews.  We met Hana at the store who is a part of the Straub Brewery family and had great stories.  We sampled our way through a variety of the beers but one of my favorites was the Kolsch.

The valley is really in the middle of wilderness on all sides.  Tom told us that the estimated population of Slate Run was about 19 but the bear population at last count in the area was 92.  We never got to personally see any bears but saw pictures each day from people who did.  Given we were out fishing daily in the wilderness we were actually quite relieved we’d not seen a bear.  However, from the pic in the gallery, you can see we saw great locations for bear dens.

In addition to bears, another danger in the area is rattlesnakes.  There is actually a rattlesnake festival happening in a couple of weeks nearby.  Julie, our fishing guide, was reminding us as we hiked along the streams not to reach out and balance ourselves on the rocks.  These rocks are home to rattlesnakes.  It was a constant balancing of quietly sneaking up on fishing holes and pounding our shoes on the ground to scare away snakes.

While we caught many great browns and rainbows from Pine Creek, we were most excited to fish for little brook trout in both Cedar Run and Slate Run.  We drove way up into the watersheds to get to the homes of these beautiful fish and used all our stealth to catch them.

Finally, we’ve caught up to spring in PA.  The flowers are blooming and the fragrant smells are everywhere.  We are very excited for warmer weather and no more snow…. hopefully.

We are on to Kettle Creek for the next few days and then even more fishing destinations in Pennsylvania.  There are more trout streams (10) in PA on the TU Top 100 Trout Streams list than in any other state.  Fish on!

We had the greatest time fishing with Julie Szur on Slate Run and Pine Creek.  As a matter of fact, we had so much fun with Julie we didn’t make it over to Cedar Run until a day later.  We found Julie through Tom Finkbiner at the Slate Run Tackle Shop in Slate Run, PA.   Tom and Deb run the shop and Wolfe’s General Store in Slate Run which is a gem in the Pine Creek Valley.   Two things you MUST do if you want to fish several gorgeous trout streams for huge browns, rainbows and brookies:  1.  Call Tom and book Julie…. she’ll put you on fish and I promise you’ll have a great time… and 2.  Go see Tom and Deb at the store.  They are two of the finest people you’ll ever meet.  The staff at the shop are incredibly friendly and helpful.  Big shout outs to the entire team at the tackle shop and store.  Now… if you want to get a glimpse of fishing in the area, check out the interview we did with Julie and a very special guest!

Our time in NY state was FUN!  When we arrived in the Lake Placid area to fish the Ausable River, it still seemed like winter.  There was still snow on Whiteface Mountain.  It was cold and rainy and perfect for fishing.  As we left Roscoe, NY, we’d had days in the 70’s and sun.  Spring finally caught up to us in New York and we had many fun adventures.

The Lake Placid / Wilmington area is rich with Olympic history and great fishing.  We had a trip down memory lane touring the Olympic Center where the “Miracle on Ice” occurred.  I could still hear the call… “Do you believe in miracles?”  A plaque on the wall memorialized all of the winners, including Eric Heiden who won 5 gold medals in speed skating which was held on an outdoor track, the football stadium for Lake Placid High School, which was flooded for the events.

When we were planning our trip to the area, we had numerous recommendations to get Rachel Finn from Hungry Trout Fly Shop as our guide.  We were so lucky to get Rachel and on a very cold, rainy day, I went fishing with her; Barb decided to stay in the SaraLinda and keep warm and dry.  Rachel took me to several different spots on the West Branch of the Ausable River and taught me to tight-line nymph (euronymph or czech-nymph).  We got into a few fish and had a blast fishing.  We did the guide talk interview in the guide shack of the fly shop.  Rachel is a great guide and her interview is one to be sure to watch.

When we headed south from Lake Placid to Roscoe, we saw spring emerging.  It was fun seeing all the trees budding out and flowers starting to bloom.  And yet, tonight as I’m writing this, we are in a freeze warning.

Roscoe, NY is known as “Trout Town USA”.  It is one of the  top 10 trout towns according to Forbes magazine.  We had some fun taking pictures of all of the “Trout Town USA” sites in town as well as sampling the locally sourced Trout Town brews of Roscoe Beer Company.  We also sampled some of the Catskill Brewery’s products on the recommendation of Zach Anderson.

Zach was our guide on the East Branch of the Delaware River.  I got to float fish with both Barb and Dr. James Kelley who came in for a long weekend.  Zach put us all on fish as you can see in the video.  Ken and Michelle Tutalo of the Baxter House River Outfitters put us together with Zach and also shared some prime spots for us to fish as well as what flies to use.  They were spot on.

Speaking of Dr. Kelley, we had a blast as he came in when Barb went home for her Mom’s birthday and Mother’s Day.  We fished the Beaverkill, Willowemoc, East and West Branches of the Delaware.  We even got to visit not one, but TWO, Hall of Fames.  First, we took a day and went up to Cooperstown, NY, to visit the hallowed halls of the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Next, we visited the Catskills Fly Fishing Museum and Hall of Fame in Livingston Manor.  More stories to tell but we were missing our third “Amigo”, Dr. Dan McCormack, who will hopefully join us this fall in Colorado.

Barb and I tried to get in to see a Midnight Ramble at The Barn, Levon Helm’s studio.  Unfortunately, nothing was happening when we were there… BUT…. we finally made it to the site of the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival, Bethel Woods.  We geeked out and went onto the original site of the festival, stood on stage and pretended to play to the crowd.  The spirits of Jimi, Janis and all the artists were present.  It was a very special trip for us.  The museum is not to be missed.

NY was definitely a “State of Fun” but it’s now time to head back to Pennsylvania and….

Ramble On!