The way out here

Flocking to the stockies

By HUNTER HILL
Posted 4/13/22

Confidence. Founded or unfounded, confidence is what turns a mere attempt into an experience. It doesn’t even have to be real; sometimes faking it will get you just as far as the real thing …

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The way out here

Flocking to the stockies

Posted

Confidence. Founded or unfounded, confidence is what turns a mere attempt into an experience. It doesn’t even have to be real; sometimes faking it will get you just as far as the real thing when it comes to more-or-less inconsequential skills.

Now before I go on, I just want to clarify that I am the world’s best writer and this will be the best thing you read all week.  (Cough, wink, nudge.)

No, I’m not here to tout my exquisite wordsmithing or grand humility, but rather some fond memories and a few optimistic hopes that spring from the month of April, which has always been a special month for all Pennsylvania fishermen.

April is when trout fishing opens up. First with a few youth-fishing days, which have the more public stocked tributaries flush with parents and kids tangling their Disney-themed new fishing poles in each other’s paths of casting. Shortly after that comes the true adult season, which isn’t without its own version of congestion in the more popular waters. Anglers claim their spots, aiming for those freshly released trout as well.

As a resident, I’ve always been taught to avoid the hordes and seek out the more quiet cricks and streams. Sometimes that’s less about the fishing and more about the peace of mind, which is about half the point.

Stocked trout have the unique pleasure of being among the easiest fish to catch in the world. Upon their release, they are like any other animal raised in captivity—they don’t know enough yet to shy away from the shiny things. So they will attempt to bite just about anything you throw at them.

One chilly April day over a decade ago on my dad’s boat, it was just him and a few friends and, of course, me fishing on Duck Harbor in PA for a large school of stocked trout that had been released days prior. As we made a few passes through the school, it became apparent that the fish were quite undiscerning, so we began to challenge one another to use audacious lures that were beyond ill-suited for “real” trout fishing. My dad, as the most cavalier of the group, ended up tying on a large eight-inch Rapala stick bait. It was about the size of many of the trout we were catching. Surely these small trout wouldn’t bite something as large as they were!

Hand to my heart, it was the first cast. He had reeled it in no more than five feet before he had a trout on the hook. Due to the size of the lure, it was less of a fight than it was just dragging the poor thing in.

If that fish was as big as the lure, it would have been a stretch. We released it, of course, along with all the other undersized trout we happened to hook into, but the experience was one that left us feeling pretty confident in our skills as fishermen, even though we knew full well the true rules of the sport were not in play.

And this is where I would like to circle back to my comments about confidence. One of the best things about trout fishing, particularly stocked-trout fishing, is that it instills the love of fishing in young people and builds their confidence. I recall many years spent going to one lake or another and fishing for trout, not fully comprehending the stocked aspect, but being awed as I and those around me pulled out beautiful fish like manna from the water.

Just a few short years ago, shortly after my first son was born, I went out to one such pond and picked up a few tricks from the River Reporter’s own Amanda Reed. If you want to talk to anyone about confidence, spend a day with her. If I recall, she didn’t even bait her hooks, just set out a bucket in the water and waited for the fish to swim in.  I jest, but all the same, she might as well have. My dad has often told me while we waited on baited lines, “If you don’t expect to get a bite at any moment, you won’t be ready or they just won’t come.” Words to live by if you think about it.

It’s funny how many life lessons you can get from fishing; perhaps that’s one of the reasons I enjoy it so much. The way out here, we crowd the stream banks and drag our kids out for some good, clean country fishing. It’s not hard to make a believer out of them, and there’s nothing greater than seeing that look of faith in their eyes when you tell them a bite is coming at any moment. Then when it happens, it’s not just the fish that gets hooked. My father’s got the boat out and the schedule marked for my son Rorick. This time next week we’ll be making new memories with the family’s newest angler, and perhaps in a year, his brother will join us as well.



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