By: John A. Straitiff
Growing up in Sigel, PA, with parents who owned a bait shop, few Saturdays in the year were met with more anticipation than the opening day of trout season. As a young child, my first opening day memory was getting up before dawn and bouncing through the darkness down a dirt road on our way to Clear Run. We arrived at the chosen starting spot, “the hole” before sunrise and settled in to wait for the start of the season at 8AM. As the sun started to glow behind the steep ridges above, I could see the opposite bank where the stream turned under a big rock and with heavy mountain laurel lining the far hillside coming down to the water’s edge. As daylight filtered into the clear water, my dad pointed out a small school of brook trout swimming in the deep pool. It might have been only 45 minutes or so until 8AM but to a kid on his first opening day, it seemed like days until I was able to make my first cast. That morning I had a blast. The moment I caught that first trout I was and am to this day hooked on fishing. Soon my brother was old enough to join the fun. As we turned into teenagers, camping out along the stream with friends became an annual ritual. With a driver’s license came the freedom for my brother and me to explore the many creeks and streams around Jefferson, Clarion, Elk, and Forest Counties.
We quickly fell in love with spending time chasing the big brown trout we discovered roaming the deep pools and riffles of the Clarion River. As I struck out on my own, my friends introduced me to fly fishing. The first trout I ever caught on a fly was in Emporium. It was a small brown on an ugly looking grub that I clumsily made out of a rubber band and brown thread. I thought it looked like a waxworm and being a spin fisherman all my life, it seemed like a good choice to me. I now look back fondly on the days spent teaching by wife and her younger siblings how to fish and look forward to being the uncle who teaches the next generation to enjoy the sport that I love. These days you are mostly likely to find me far away from the opening day crowds on some small isolated mountain stream chasing native brook trout.
In the PA Great Outdoors region we are blessed to have so many waterways that are stocked each spring and many small streams with thriving native brook trout populations. Plus, the region has two Wild & Scenic rivers and many lakes and ponds. This year make plans to take a kid to cast a line, drown a few worms, and make some memories. By the way, always bring dry clothes and an extra pair of shoes…they’re going to fall in.
Find more information about fishing in the PA Great Outdoors region online at VisitPAGO.com or call (814) 849-5197 for free fishing guide.