By: Paul Wagner
I was raised on the fly. I picked up my first rod—a Cortland 7’6” 5 weight—at 8 years old. Being a Boalsburg native, I have been fishing (and getting skunked) on some of the most beautiful and difficult streams since I can remember. My first time fly fishing outside of the state was on a trip to Yellowstone with my father at 9 years old. This early fly fishing cursed me with the desire to be a complete trout bum. I’m now a ripe 24 years old and average three days a week on the water.
Like many fisherman, my father taught me almost everything I know about fly fishing. Before starting the department of medical sonography at South Hills, my father traveled the northeast demonstrating Phillips ultrasound equipment. He always brought his fishing gear in the back of his van so that he could explore new streams in his down time. During his time with Phillips, he has fished more streams than I can imagine. As I was growing up, him and I would often spend a Saturday afternoon “putzing around” and fishing his favorite mountain streams. There is no feeling like watching a beautiful native brook trout pummel your stealthily casted fly on the surface. The serenity and beauty enjoyed while fly fishing is best enjoyed by having something all fisherman crave, and that’s the SECRET SPOT.
Secret spots are traditionally way off of the beaten path. Found by walking down railroad grades, bushwhacking through rhododendron, and nearly sliding down steep slopes. The solitude and ability for mental reflection found when fishing your secret spot can’t be beat. They allow you to remove yourself from the constant buzz of life in the information age and concentrate on a difficult, but attainable task, which is catching trout. While insignificant in the grand scheme of your life, there is no larger gratification than when fishing your secret spot.
As I grow older, I have less and less time to venture deep into the woods to fish my favorite spots. Time constraints in combination with the desire to further develop other fishing techniques have drawn me to fishing more of the waters closer to State College. While these popular and time-tested waters provide excellent fishing, that secret spot was still missing. This desire to find a stretch of water and claim it as “my own” has driven me to fish some of the less spoken of sections of our local streams. In my search for the secret spot, I have found many unique and mostly unfished sections of stream which have made me appreciate the dynamic of the stream as a whole. Also, they have reminded me that just because you haven’t ever heard of someone fishing a particular stretch of water doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hold excellent trout. Sometimes these stretches do only provide mediocre fishing, but other times I’m convinced that they are someone elses’ secret spot because the fishing can be excellent.
This brings me to my main piece of advice when trying to find a secret spot. If the water looks good, FISH IT! There’s only one way to find out how the fishing is and sometimes you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Once you do find a secret spot, cherish it. Keep it clean, respect the fish, and most importantly of all, don’t go blabbing about this awesome, new fishing spot you found. Don’t be the gentleman that I overheard at this previous trout unlimited banquet talking about “his favorite mountain stream.” That is, if you don’t want me to fish it on my next day off.