Chas’s special guest on episode 7 of The Wealth Cast is former Team USA fly fisher and current Penn State fly fishing instructor, George Daniel. George shares the inspiring story of how he turned his childhood passion for fly fishing into an exciting and rewarding career, as well as its many benefits as a hobby.
Hello, and welcome to The Wealth Cast. I’m your host, Charles Boinske. I’m very pleased to have George Daniel as my guest today. George is extremely well known within the fly fishing community as a speaker, instructor, author, and competitor. In this podcast, George talks about his personal journey as a fly fisherman and offers advice to anglers of all levels. One minor programming note: George calls me by my middle name, which is Phil. This is an artifact of growing up as a junior, and to this day, my family and many of my friends still do so. I hope that you enjoy the show.
George, I’m so glad to have you on the show. Thank you so much for joining me today, and looking forward to chatting with you about all things fly fishing.
It’s a pleasure to be here, Phil. Thanks for having me.
You’re very, very welcome. So most of the people, or many of the people that are listening to this podcast, who have fished before, are familiar with who you are, but there are many people that are going to be listening for the first time and really are being introduced to you for the first time through this podcast. So it’d be helpful maybe to talk about how you got started, and where you are today, and then we’ll maybe talk about some more details about fishing in general.
Yeah, absolutely. I’m just a fly fishing bum that found a way to kind of carve out a living doing something that he enjoys. And long story short, I grew up in northern Pennsylvania, kind of on the border between New York and Pennsylvania. Up in Galton, now Germania, so in the boondocks, I mean, in the sticks. We were a one car family. father worked out of town with a lot of hours, and luckily for me, I had a stream called Germania Branch, which is a tributary to Kettle Creek. But it was a kids only section, and luckily, I was the only kid in the village that fished.
So for the first 14 years of my life, I had this beautiful, private brook, trout fishery all to myself. My father introduced me to fishing, but he was impatient, wasn’t I would say a great teacher, but he at least introduced fly fishing to me and because I had the resource readily available to me, you know, at that time, there was no Nintendo and so forth, and, you know, iPhones. So you were outside. And it was the environment, I think, that really created the angler in me. So I had this beautiful fishery to kind of just explore and just spend most of my childhood and youth in.
So I kind of got interested in that. And then luckily for me, when my father was—when I was 14, my father got a job in the State College area, relocated down into the State College, Lock Haven area. And when I was 14, I started reading about, you know, George Harvey, Joe Humphreys, and even at that age, I read about, you know, Joe and George teaching angling at Penn State, I thought, you know, “Wow, like, people can actually make a living doing this!” And it was just mind blowing to me to know that these gentlemen were only like a half hour away from my house.
So I read all the books even at 14—I did read, I was a horrible student in high school and just horrible, but the fishing, like, I’ve read both Joe’s books, I got George Harvey’s book, and they were my bibles growing up. And, you know, just fast forward a couple years—I was able to drive kind of, you know, borrow my mom’s car, but I ran into Joe Humphries at a local flower shop when I was 16. And I didn’t have much money. I mean, we were very tight financially, but I had a few bucks with me. I had already bought Joe’s books, but I was at the fly shop, Fly Fishing Paradise, and Joe comes in with a whole group of folks he’s doing a corporate trip with. I just, I knew that this was my one opportunity, my once in a lifetime opportunity to figure out a way to strike up a conversation. So I kind of just, and I was a very shy kid, but I kind of broke my way into the group and said, “Mr. Humphries, if I buy your book, will you sign it for me?” And you know, you can’t turn down a 15, 16 year old kid.
So I used that. So long story short, he signs the book, we have a conversation, and I get him to promise me he’ll take me fishing for a couple hours one day. And you know, he made the promise, and then basically fast forward a year and a half after probably like several hundred phone calls, “it’s that kid that you promised to go fishing, Gloria would always tell Joe like, yeah, this, you know, you need to.”
So eventually he took me out, and we hit it off really well. And after that, when I was 17, we just kind of, he developed a kind of a mentorship with me. Took me under his wing. And it’s been kind of just a very much protege-mentorship even to this day. So Joe, I would say, was the first individual who really gave me that formal instruction, you know. Taught me really the ins and outs of why things work and how it works, and once I got some instruction from Joe, I was just super hungry. I mean, I started hiring guys like Dan Shields and just, you know, mowing yards as a way to make money, and just be able to hire these guys even for four hours to take some lessons. So I was just I was stir crazy and very hungry to get that formal education to really kind of jump the learning curve.
Where were you spending your time in those days? Was it mostly on Spring Creek, or was it up around Lock Haven in your neck of the woods?
Yeah, a little bit of both: Fishing Creek, Spring Creek, Little J, Penn’s Creek. I was all over the place. Just a wonderful place to grow up. But yeah, that was a that was kind of the beginning of the end for me, I guess you could say.
That’s great! Do you remember just out of curiosity, do you remember the place that Joe first took you?
Yeah! We fished on big Fishing Creek, we fished below the federal Fish Hatchery—or behind the the federal Fish Hatchery. And no, it was a day I’ll never forget, was just watching the master in play. Just, it was just a great experience of him just being able to be patient and just spend time with me. And it’s something that I don’t—I’ve never forgotten, because now, not that I’m too much older, but you know, I’m in my 40s, and it’s amazing. Now I have kids in their teenage years, even some 20s, that ask me to go fishing, and I do everything that I can to kind of help out that kid because I’m just paying it forward from what Joe did for me.
Yeah, that’s fantastic. I think following your bliss, and figuring out what it is that you really love to do, and then making a living doing it is sort of the American dream, right?
It really is.
So that’s a great story. At that point, I imagine Joe was running the fly fishing program at Penn State already, or was that a little bit before that?
He’d retired—he was you know, this was in like ‘95, ‘96, so he had been retired for maybe eight or nine years. After a handful years, finally, just, you know, after graduation into Lock Haven—I went to Lock Haven University—Joe was the one that kind of, you know, really kind of put that seed in my mind, said “You know, maybe someday down the road, you could maybe take over the angling program, but go to Penn State, get your Masters.” And that kind of transitioned over there, and, you know, I did my, you know, my graduate work at Penn State. And, you know, eventually I kind of left that idea because, you know, at that time, the program was a little different: It was engineered, or kind of geared a little bit differently, and I ended up just going on my own way.
Basically, I wanted to work for myself. I didn’t want to work for an institution, I wanted to be a member of the US fly fishing team. And I kind of did that for a handful years, so I kind of walked away from that opportunity, and then just as chance would have it, there was an opening, you know, last year. Joe called me up said, “Hey, you know, have you thought about maybe coming back and maybe kind of taking over this program?” And I think it was the perfect timing, because for me personally, I think what makes me somewhat qualified for this position is my worldly experience, traveling with the US fly fishing team, my experience traveling, speaking, working with people. If I went straight from like, grad school, into that position, I would not have been able to join the US fly fishing team, wouldn’t have been able to travel, and that would not have created the experience, and I think the knowledge base, that makes me better for the job today.
Yeah, it’s all stepping stones, right?
Yeah, it’s all dominoes. So let’s talk about the—I think, probably a lot of people listening to the podcast may be hearing for the first time that Penn State actually has a fly fishing program, and it’d be great for you to just take a couple minutes and describe what that is, and well, sort of what the origins were.
Yeah, absolutely. Penn State had the first angling class, and it started I think back in the 30s with a guy named George Harvey. It became the first accredited course in the 40s, but up until probably in the late 60s, maybe early 70s, that’s when George gave it to Joe— handed it over to Joe Humphries, Joe ran it for close to 20 years, you know—did a phenomenal job, handed it over to a guy named Vance McCullough, then it went down to Mark Belden, Greg Hoover, and then Steve Sywensky and myself, and now it’s just myself kind of teaching the program.
But it’s a great program because what it is—one of the things I like the way I like to think about dangling programs and the fly fishing classes: You know, we’re not curing cancer, we’re not sending spaceships up to Mars. But what is happening is the kids, the students I have—I mean, what an amazing group of kids I’ve had in the last couple years. I mean, I’ve had literally like rocket science, scientists that are going to be working with NASA, there are people—there’s a young lady that is gonna be working for the government creating submersible vehicles. I mean, just cool, you know? But high stress, incredible positions. But they’re going to be doing incredible things with their life, but they need some sort of release. And fly fishing is one of the tools—it’s a lifelong activity, it’s a leisure activity, that allows these kids, when they get into their careers and their families to kind of get away. When they need that break, it allows them to kind of escape, refuel, reenergize, recalibrate, and then enjoy their time, and then when they go back to their lives, back to their work, they’re able to go back and be productive members of society. And then also hopefully have, you know, a good family life as well.
Yeah, that’s interesting. Our friend Mark (inaudible) often says that. It’s hard to think about anything else when you’re focused on a tiny insect, 20 yards away, on the surface of the water, and it forces you to sort of get rid of all the other thoughts in your head and focus.
It’s mentally healing that way. The other thing that I think, in my own experience with fly fishing, is that not only does it do that while you’re on the stream, but it gives you the opportunity to do that at home, or sitting at your tying vise—if you decide that you want to tie flies—when you’re concentrated on how many wraps of thread you need to put on this thing, and what kind of tinsel you’re going to use, or whatever the case may be, it really is mentally rejuvenating.
It absolutely is. Yes.
So I think that’s a great investment. I know both of my sons took the course at Penn State. I was unable to do it when I was in school, because in those days, you registered for classes using a computer punch card, and this is true—so you go into the recreation facility down there by the bursar’s office, and you would go to this table where there was a class number, and a certain number of cards. And if you were lucky enough, the class you wanted still had a card left, and you would file this card with your master card, and then run over to the mainframe and run these through, that’s how you were registered. That’s totally true.
So every time I went to Joe’s class, the box was empty. I think everyone in the building went straight to that table to get that card, so I was never able to do it myself. But like I said, both of my sons have, and they had a great experience with the class. So that’s fantastic.
You mentioned the sort of the rejuvenating ability, or the properties of fly fishing that allows you to clear your head and think about other things, other than your daily life and your work, etc. And today, going through what we’re going through as a country, with the pandemic, and economic disruption, etc., it’s proving to be—at least in my experience driving around—it seems like there’s a lot more people fishing. It’s calling to people to fish, to clear their heads, because it’s a natural social distancing activity, and it’s a good meditation activity.
So for those folks that are listening that haven’t fished before, that are sort of thinking about getting started, what do you think the—you know, when you go into a fly shop, and you see all this gear, and you see all these tools that you could get, what advice do you have for someone starting out? What’s the best way to get started if if there’s an interest in fishing
So if you have—whatever funds you have, I mean, I would say almost like a 50/50 ratio—so and before you even invest, one of the things you can do is just simply, most of these fly shops have like one on one programs and stuff. Usually these are free. And what’s so nice about this is before you even have the opportunity to actually make the investment to buy things, all you need to do is just go to these classes—they’re free, you need to sign up, they go over the basics, the essentials: the rod, the reel, just the core tools that you need to fly fish. Then they’ll take you out, often casting, or if there’s a stream or a pond nearby, they’ll allow you to actually use their equipment.
So what this does, it just allows you to actually have like, almost like a free rental for a couple hours. Try and get a feeling for the activity, and whether or not you really want to kind of, you know, go further. And if you do want to go a little further, what’s nice about fly fishing is again, you don’t have to spend a lot of money. There are some budget you know, very budget conscious, you know, tools and outfits, but you could just spend a few bucks. A couple hundred bucks will get you a great outfit, but more importantly, just spend even a half a day with a qualified instructor, or a guide.
Because you can watch, you know, because this is what I do for a living. I mean, I do, you know, a hundred lessons a year besides my Penn State gig, and they’ll always tell you, you know, “I read your books, I watched your YouTube videos, but it’s nothing like one-on-one instruction and spending time with someone that knows what they’re doing, and can give you constructive feedback.”
So, you know, even with that being said, just find a good knowledgeable fly shop that has a couple good qualified instructors, spend a couple hundred dollars, get some good qualified instructions on the basic casting—because no matter how expensive of a rod or reel that you use, it doesn’t mean anything unless you know how to use those tools. So just get some basic instruction, and buy a pretty simple basic set of equipment, you know, and you don’t need to get things complicated. That’s the beautiful thing about the sport, you can keep it simple. And it doesn’t have to get too expensive with this.
Yeah, like, I think most other activities that we pursue, there’s this learning curve, where, at the beginning, you think you need every piece of gear imaginable. And as you learn what you’re doing, you start divesting pieces of equipment and getting back to the basics of what you really need. In my personal experience fishing, that’s certainly been true.
Absolutely, yeah. You can look at the veteran, you can look at the guys and the ladies that really know what they’re doing on the water, and you look at their best and stuff, I mean, it’s pretty streamlined. You know, they don’t carry thousands and thousands of flies, they carry maybe a couple hundred flies, couple bullet tips or whatever. But you can look at the the Green Hornet, the guy that just came out of the Orbis shop, and they’re thinking, “I need to have this, I need to have this,” and I mean, their packs are just bulging. They can barely fit what they have into there.
When I see beginners, that’s what they look like because they think they need this, and you’re exactly right—once you figure some things out, you’ll figure out usually technique. You know, presentation trumps all that other garbage, and you can really kind of focus less on the gear and just focus more on the experience and the techniques.
Yeah, I can remember, one of the first trips I took was after graduation from Penn State. And it was you know, we started, we were all working and we started to have some resources, so we decided to take a trip to the Delaware River, and we invited one of our neighbors who had never gone fly fishing before. He’s got a tremendous sense of humor. And he literally went into Orbis, opened the catalog, and said, “Make me look like page 165.” And he just bought everything that—whatever the model was wearing. And it’s true. It doesn’t have to be super complicated. It seems really complicated in the beginning, but like anything else, there’s a learning curve, and it does—the slope does become less steep.
And I think your advice about getting some instruction in the beginning is really important, just in my experience as well. So from your perspective, what did you think when you first started fishing, and maybe, maybe early on, and you know, before your competition days, or early on in your competition days, was there anything that you thought was really important that you decided at the end of that period of time was less important and you, you know, sort of steered away from or or deemphasized?
Yeah, so it’s kind of going off of what we were just discussing is just the gear. I mean, before the season would begin, you would look at the hash charts and, you go to Central Pennsylvania, we’ve got bug factors, we’ve got some of the most prolific fisheries in the country, and we have every style of mayfly, caddis, stone flies that are hatching. And when you look at that, I mean, you could have simultaneously, ten, twelve insects that are hatching, and then you have maybe three or four stages of each of those insects. I mean, if you do the math with your fly boxes, that’s incredibly complicated.
So, I mean, in the checklist, the beginning of the season, I would like, look at like, like Cahill’s you know, sulfur, I mean, I would have to have sulphur nymphs, like Cahill nymphs, you know, dark Cahill, I mean, the whole gamut. It just complicated everything. And then eventually, especially with my time on the US fly fishing team, you know, the whole thing is, you’re traveling nonstop. You know, you’re going from you know, in, you’re traveling within the country, you’re also traveling overseas, you know—it’s virtually impossible to carry all the flies for all those streams on any given time.
So, one of the things I realized is that good comp(etitive) anglers, the common thing with good comp anglers, is that they usually just have a kind of a working box of a comp handful, what they refer to as competence patterns. Patterns that are more suggestive rather than imitative, so like patterns like, that has the hairs here, the pheasant tails, insects and nymphs that can imitate a wide range of food bases.
So I really in the last couple of years have gone away from trying to be super imitative, trying to match exactly, to kind of getting just close enough, and then just working on technique. So I would say my strategy is just carrying far less flies, and that has really just made life so much easier for me, from a gear standpoint, carrying things, but also, just being less frantic when I’m trying to actually tie flies, and not having to worry about carrying and tying every single imaginable pattern out there.
Yeah, that’s interesting. So on the other side of the equation, so you’re carrying less flies, and you’re worried less about that. What are you worried more about today than you were twenty years ago, when you were fishing? Is there a particular strategy or tactic or, or condition that you’re focused on more than the flies?
Yeah, so a lot of it now is just working the water. I mean, you talk about the COVID situation like, I wish COVID was around when I was a competitor, because the whole common theme with competition fishing is, you are stuck on a body of water—you can’t go beyond that. You have got to learn how to just work the water. Be patient. When things aren’t working, know that usually it’s not the fish, but it’s something you are doing incorrectly as an angler, and we need to make those adjustments. And you look at the COVID situation now, I mean, fishing license sales, my wife works with a fishing boat commission—I mean, license sales have just gone skyrocket. And if you go to the waters here, not even just here, but talking to the people that fish in Connecticut, around outside New York City. I mean, people were stir crazy, as you’re saying.
Streams are just polluted with anglers, and you don’t have the luxury of moving up and down the water, so you’ve got to figure out how to maximize the water in front of you for three or four hours, because you can’t move up. You’re kind of stuck there. And anymore now, especially with the increased popularity of fly fishing, State College is becoming more and more well known, we’re getting more and more angler pressure here.
So the big thing for me these days is just being patient and just learning how to work the water that you’re given. And because we have so many fish in our streams, when you’re not catching fish on Spring Creek—very likely, you’re just, we’re not doing it correctly. Don’t blame the fly, don’t blame, you know, the water. It’s you that’s failing, and we just need to find the correction. And that’s what I love about that. It’s been more of a mental game for me in the last couple years just focusing more on technique and just trying to cover less water and just maximize the water I’m currently on.
So do you think it’s—if you’re having trouble in a given situation—and let’s assume there’s trout there, and let’s assume that that water is not running ten times its normal speed. Are you—is it your thought that it’s probably not your fly selection that’s causing the issue, it’s probably presentation or delivery of the fly?
Exactly. Yeah. When you’re on streams like Spring Creek, and you have literally between three and five thousand fish per mile, that means like every step that you are taking, you are literally stepping almost on top of a fish. So, and those fish are feeding, you know, year round, it’s Spring Creek. You know, water temperatures don’t fluctuate. So on streams like Spring Creek, where you have that many fish in a given area, on very stable environmental factors like water temperature, where you know fish are not going to be shutting off too much. They’re pretty much feeding all day, every day, year round. When you’re not catching fish on streams like Spring Creek, I guarantee you, there’s a high probability that it’s 98% your fault that you’re not catching fish.
So when you say that, it makes me think, “Okay, how can people learn more about making this transition, and what resources can they avail themselves of, and who could they—what books could they read, or what videos could they watch?” Do you have any recommendations, you know, besides obviously, the excellent books that you’ve written and your YouTube channel? What peers do you look to, to say, “Okay, this guy is really, really doing a great job. Or you might want to consider watching this person’s videos or reading this person’s book.” Do you have any suggestions along those lines?
Yeah. So I think a lot of it comes down to the intimacy that you have with the local body of water. Because, you know, one of the things that I don’t do as much these days is I don’t compare rivers. Like, you know, well, this fish is a lot like the West Yellowstone on the Madison River. No two streams are the same, just like no two human beings are the same. So you work on good techniques—there are great resources out there on how to become a good nymph fisher; a good dry fly fisher. Once you feel like you’ve kind of done well enough to kind of conquer the fundamentals of those techniques, what I go to is, I talk to the guides—the guides that are on the water. On whatever stream I’m fishing, I’m going to reach out. Sometimes the fly shop guys, sometimes the guys in the shops do get in the water, but a lot of times they’re just retail guys, they don’t spend as much time on the water. I reach out to the guides that are on the water literally a hundred to two hundred days a year, because they understand the pulse of what is going on, in that fishery, and they know where fish are holding, they understand their activity, how water temperatures are affecting them, all these things. If I want to know how to fish your body of water, that’s where I find it from—local information from guys. So the guides is what I’m talking about.
Yeah, I think that’s good advice. In my experience, and I’ve been fortunate, and we’ve talked about this before—both of us have been fortunate to have lots of experience on water and getting to know people in the area and whatever areas that you’re fishing. And it’s amazing to me how many, even non-guide people there, there are these little gems of individuals who know so much about fishing—more than I’ll ever know. And most people are willing to share the information. Most people are willing to help you catch more fish. It’s been really one of the best things about fly fishing to me, is the people from all walks of life that have made it their life hobby. It’s their drive, or their mission, to figure out x piece of water. And they’re taking photographs of the insects as they mature, and they’re sharing these photographs, and they’re willing to show you, “Hey, this is, here’s a photograph of XYZ bug at this stage in his life, and this bug only exists in this area,” whatever the case may be. Have you found that to be the same?
Yeah. One of the things I remember about George Harvey, you know, and, George was a kind of a curmudgeon, like kind of like a tough, you know, hard skin guy. But the one thing that kind of I loved about George is I wrote George, you know, just him and Joe, like letters, just, you know, thanking them for everything they do.
But I remember, George responded back to one of my letters. And at the end of the letter, he always said, “You can rely on most fly fishermen, because most fly fishermen are good human beings, and they’re willing to help one another.” And you’re exactly right, and I think that is the case for most people—you know, we are out there to enjoy, to learn. Everyone I talk to on the stream, usually most of the time, is very willing to kind of help. And that’s the one thing also I didn’t point out, if you’re getting into fly fishing, and you’re not sure about what to do, and you’re by yourself and you’re on the water, don’t be afraid to actually go up to someone, if you see them catching fish, or if you see what they’re doing, and it seems like they’re a natural at it, don’t be afraid to go up and ask them a question, like, “what are you doing? Can you help me out?” Because I can guarantee you like 99% of the people that you go up to in this world on the stream? They’re going to help you out.
Yeah, it’s been my experience as well. In fact, I’ve learned a lot from folks in those situations. And like you said earlier, it’s your responsibility to pay it forward too You know, if you get help from someone, and someone else asks you, I think it’s only natural that you’re going to do the same for them.
But I try to explain to people why fly fishing, often in it, a lot of it has to do with catching fish, a lot of it has to do with the environment, a lot of it has to do with the arts and crafts part of making your own flies. For me, this is for me personally—but the best part of it is, at least in my estimation—is going down some dirt road in the middle of nowhere with your friends, finding some stream that you’ve never fished before. catching fish, having a great time, maybe stopping somewhere on the way back and having a beer and a sandwich and reliving the experience, and then getting up and doing it again. That to me, that’s what fly fishing is. It’s the whole package. It’s not just catching fish.
Yeah, you’re on that latter stage. on Larry Dahlberg who did the video series, The Hunt for Big Fish, he said it best. He said, “You go through different stages in your life. First, you just want to catch a fish. Then you want lots of fish. Then you want to catch big fish. And then the last stage is catching fish the way you want to catch fish.” I know you love the small mountain streams you love swinging wet flies—even though wet flies is not always the most productive—for you that is the most enjoyable, and that’s the one thing I think we need to understand and appreciate with fly fishing, and that’s a cool thing about this is that there are so many facets. You can fish on the surface, you know with dry flies. You can fish below the surface. You can throw streamers, basically imitating—bayfish imitations—and you can swim like … or like a lure. You can swing wet flies. And fly fishing just gives you so many opportunities to try so many different things. And there’s never a dull moment, as long as you kind of mix it up a little bit. It just gives you a great variety of things to do.
Yeah, I think that in that regard, you’ll never become an expert in every area of it. So it always gives you something to learn, which may be unique to the sport. Obviously, most sports activities you can never become perfect at, but fly fishing gives you an incredibly complicated equation to deal with, in my view.
Yeah, I think you’re right. Because I mean, yes, I understand a little bit about golf, I understand how the greens like, damp, you know, like moisture, sunlight and the effect of blades of grass. But when everything is said and done, like, you’re still putting at the same hole. Or when you’re on a ski slope, you know, you’re still going down the same run. But with fly fishing, like the environment changes, you can change 180 degrees in a matter of minutes. It’s just an involving jigsaw puzzle that is always constantly changing. And sometimes the jigsaw puzzle is one of those 20 pieces, you know, that your four-year-old can put together. And sometimes it’s like this 2000 piece puzzle that you can never figure out.
Right! Or ones you have a blindfold on trying to figure out. So that’s great. That’s a good analogy.
Before we close, I was just curious about your view, in terms of the environment, and how you’ve seen the environment change. I mean, the resources, we’re all dependent on the resources that we have, to be able to do, you know, participate in our sport. And in your experience, and I know Amity, your wife’s, experience, you know, she might have her own view on this too—how have the resources gotten better or worse, or have stayed the same, sort of, since you were 16 years old, running around Lock Haven fishing.
So in this area, I think they’ve actually gotten better for the most part—for the most part. I think one of the advantages is in the last couple of years, we have had an increase of anglers, and when you have an increase of anglers, you have more friends of the rivers, more friends in the water. So when you have that vested interest, that, you know, “We need to keep this,” and you have more people that are basically connected to this resource, and whenever there’s a threat to that, you’re going to have—you’re going to have a greater, you know, opposing force, anything that can kill the water, so to speak.
And one of the things I’ve noticed, especially where I grew up on the headwater streams of like Kettle and Pine, you know, Trout Unlimited, you know, years ago, started like, fifteen, sixteen years ago, started doing this, basically reestablishing a lot of these tributaries that were once acid mine drainage. You know, basically whether there was all fluorescent blue because of aluminum, or just completely like, you know, orange, due to the iron. They have done an amazing job, like cleaning up a lot of these streams. As you know, there’s a watershed, and what happens on the top, translates and transfers down to the bottom.
So like, as an example, like—not trout fishing, but the west branch of the Susquehanna River right on from my house here on Lock Haven, when I was in schools in Lock Haven back in ‘97 to 2001, like it was dead. It was deader than a doornail. Now, because of the efforts that they’ve done on the headwater streams, we’ve got good muskie fishing, we’ve got bass fishing, we’ve got good carp fishing—it has turned out to be a good fishery. The other thing I’m seeing now is, you have these great limestone trout streams.
And finally, there’s been enough pressure where more and more people are practicing catch and release, and they understand the importance that once you have this resource, if you just simply install regulations on those waters, where you’re not taking fish out, but basically you just create like a no kill, or a very limited kill—that resource instead of spending millions of dollars into stocking these waters and the amount of pollution that it takes to rear these fish—if you just let the system sustain itself and not take fish, it’s gonna take care of itself for you.
You look at trout populations, you look at some of the math or some of the surveys, like Spring Creek, I mean, Spring Creek has got like three to five thousand fishes per mile now. It’s got the highest amount of fish that has ever had. Same thing with Fishing Creek, Penn’s Creek, the Little J. I think our limestone streams are actually in far better shape now, because of the efforts with Trout Unlimited, the local conservation organizations that have basically said, “We have got to just limit the amount of fish that are being taken from the system,” and then also any issues that there is with stormwater drainage. And I mean, these guys have done an amazing job, just making sure if anyone’s doing any development, anything around there, I mean, you’ve got to go through a pile of hoops to get that permit.
So I think the number of watchdogs have been heightened, to a much higher degree, and because of that, I think we are probably really, in all honesty in this area, living in some of the best times from a trout fishery standpoint.
Yeah, I’ve seen that myself, and it’s amazing to me, Spring Creek as an example for how much State College has developed over the last forty years, and even longer, of course, but forty years of my experience—it’s amazing that Spring Creek still pumps out the bugs it pumps out, and the fish, and there, you know, there’s no stocking, it’s just wild, you know, reproduction. It is an amazing resource. And I would agree with you that the more people we can get involved, the better off these resources are going to be. It’s sort of counterintuitive—the more fishermen the better off the resource—but it is true.
Yeah, I mean, definitely. If it was up to me, I would, I would prefer to see less anglers, but also, you saw less people, you know, less membership, you know, 25, 30 years ago. Now, you know, people were very passionate about this. And that is what’s also about the Penn State class now is these kids. I mean, they are super into it. They’re very much on the environmental side of things. I mean, these kids, when it comes to understanding legislation, the politics, these kids, I think, are more glued into what’s going on with current events with our local politics and national politics, more so than most people in their 40s and their 50s.
So it is something that is really cool to see that hopefully, there’s this next generation that can at least keep, maintain at least, what we have.
Yeah. At the end of the day, that’s kind of our responsibility, right to make sure that it continues on for the future.
On that note, George, I just want to thank you so much for spending time with me on the on the show today, and for the listener that wants to learn more about fishing and explore some of George’s videos on YouTube, etc. in the notes for this podcast, we’re going to include links to all those things, your website Livin on the Fly, etc. So if you haven’t fished before, here’s your opportunity to avail yourself with some great resources, and you can learn from one of the best. So George, thanks so much.
Thank you, Phil, it was a pleasure.
Thank you for joining George Daniel and myself today. You can find links to George’s Amazon author page, his YouTube videos, his website, etc., in the show notes for today’s episode. Thanks again for joining us. Please remember to subscribe and join us for our next podcast. Take care.
George Daniel grew up fishing Pennsylvania’s Potter County, a remote region filled with wilderness and an abundant brook trout population. By age 21, George had learned from the best anglers in the northeast, including his mentor Joe Humphreys.
George earned a spot on Fly Fishing Team USA and remained on the team for 7 seasons, allowing him to learn from world-renowned anglers. His true passion is in fly fishing education. He appears at clubs and fly fishing shows around the country, where he conducts lectures and seminars. He also logs more than 280 days a year on waters near and far. George is currently the director/lead instructor for the Penn State Fly Fishing Program.
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