Published by the Sharon Herald on April 14, 2007 10:23 pm - The official start of trout season for most of the state was Saturday, but in certain catch-and-release areas, fly fishers have been braving the ups and downs of Pennsylvaniaís weather for a while.

Practitioners of 'quiet sport' reap rewards beyond the catch

By Matt Snyder
Herald Staff Writer

MERCER COUNTY - Mick Cochrane calls fly fishing the "quiet sport"

The official start of trout season for most of the state was Saturday, but in certain catch-and-release areas, fly fishers have been braving the ups and downs of Pennsylvaniaís weather for a while.

For Cochrane, who works at the Neshannock Creek Fly Shop in Volant, the sport is a chance to relax. Even when he bow hunts, he said, he sometimes canít get business off his mind.

But fly fishing - where the angler casts an artificial lure - requires a sportsmanís attention, Cochrane said. With attention focused on the line, rod, water, and the potential fish, it keeps the head from wandering.

"Itís probably the most relaxing thing Iíve ever done," he said.

Ken Tarczy, a member of the Neshannock chapter of Trout Unlimited, agreed. He called fly fishing a good getaway and a release.

"They donít build trout seasons in any ugly places," he said. "Fishing in Pennsylvania has some beautiful, beautiful streams."

The Neshannock Creek Fly Shop specializes in the artificial flies and other equipment used to trick crafty trout and other fish into nibbling. And each June it hosts the Young Anglers Fly Fishing School.

Anglers were casting lines into Neshannock Creek behind the fly shop on Monday. Since that area of the river is "delayed harvest," which means catch-and-release, live bait is not allowed.

Fish tend to swallow live bait whole, which makes releasing a catch more difficult, said Tarczy, who has been trout fishing for 40 years. He said he started like everyone else, on live bait and spinning when he was younger.

"Once you get into fly fishing," Tarczy said, describing it as trying to match nature with a fly, "it becomes a big obsession."

Adam Listopad, another Neshannock Fly Shop employee, said the trick to fly fishing is to present the lure to the fish as naturally as possible.

"Some guys are a lot better at the foolery than others," Listopad said. Anglers flick their line out, and try to land the fly into or onto the water without letting the line go taut. It lets the lure drift more naturally in the water, he said.

To trout fish in Pennsylvania, anyone 16 or older needs to buy a fishing license and also a trout stamp, according to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commissionís Web site.

While the daily catch limit in streams, ponds, and lakes is five fish, Tarczy said he throws back all that he catches. Several of his friends, including Don Garrett, agreed. "I killed three in the last 22 years," Garrett said.

Tarczy said trout isnít bad eating, but his passion is more for the sport. He and other members of Trout Unlimited have helped run a trout nursery at Munnell Run Farm in Coolspring Township. It is one of 177 nurseries across the state. They stock the rivers in Mercer County with about 2,000 trout every year, said nursery supervisor Pete Anthony. The nursery is part of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Cooperative Nursery Program, and the commission inspects the nursery.

So far this year, Anthony said, their 2,000 brown trout are averaging about 10.6 inches, though most are closer to 11.3 inches. There were a few "dinks" in the bunch, Anthony said. The nursery requires two men every day of the year to come in and help take care of the trout, and the work force is all-volunteer, Tarczy said.

Trout Unlimited will also hold a special fishing derby at 9 a.m. until noon Saturday in Wolf Creek in Grove City for children 12 and under and people with disabilities. Registration starts at 8:30 a.m. and a free lunch will be provided.

The Munnell Run nursery will stock some of their 25 golden rainbow trout in Wolf Creek for the event, Anthony said. The golden rainbows average 12 inches, with one measuring at 15 inches. Anthony said the kids get excited over rainbow trout because they can see them in the water.

Wolf Creek travels under the bridge next to Grove City College, Tarczy said, adding, "we stock the hell out of it."

For Neshannock Creek conditions:

Munnell Run Farm:

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