The snow was melting along the banks of Spruce Creek on Saturday as anglers were fly-fishing in the waters behind Evergreen Farms.
With cigar in mouth, Mark Battaglia would whip his fishing pole back and forth until the line caught the right current. He was aiming for brown trout, although the creek has rainbow and brook trout as well.
Battaglia, a 20-year fly-fishing veteran, said he has Joe Humphreys to thank for getting him into the sport.
“My friend’s dad gave me the best advice,” Battaglia said. “He told me to take Joe’s course at Penn State. What you learn is that it becomes a lifelong sport and there is always something to be learned.”
Humphreys is a nationally known fly fisherman, conservationist and author, and has been teaching fly-fishing classes at Penn State for more than 40 years. He was one of three educators from Penn State who were part of the fourth annual Penn State Fly Fishing Legends, a fundraiser for ClearWater Conservancy environmental projects.
Money raised will go toward the Riparian Conservation Program to improve stream quality in the Spring Creek watershed, said conservation biologist Katie Ombalski,.
“It’s just another way of bringing the community together to help our mission,” Ombalski said. “We get public grants, but we also get a lot of private support that really makes this community-based program possible.”
Twenty-eight anglers were part of the event Saturday as they sat in on seminars taught by Humphreys, fly-fishing instructor Mark Belden and Penn State entomologist Greg Hoover.
Seminars included casting, wet fly and nymphing demonstrations, trout stream insects, and dry fly and streamers demonstrations.
In its first year, the event raised $6,775. The second year it raised $9,275 and nearly doubled in the third year. This year, Ombalski said the goal was to raise at least $20,000.
“We’re not just able to restore streams, but it contributes to the overall economy,” Ombalski said. “We can do the work and our waterways attract anglers from all over. It’s an economic cycle.”
James Avedesian drove in from New York City to be a part of the event. He hoped to learn some new techniques, have some fun and, most importantly, give back to a good cause.
“That’s probably the most important thing,” Avedesian said. “But it is a good time and it’s nice to be properly educated.”
This was only his fourth time fly-fishing and first time getting professional lessons, but he said it’s the kind of sport with a lot of camaraderie.
Rick Rose, of Pittsburgh, concurred. Working for CalgonCarbon by day, Rose said fly-fishing is an additional stress reliever.
“It’s for the love of being outdoors and relaxing,” Rose said, who’s been fly-fishing for about 40 years.
And it’s the kind of sport you don’t need a lot of equipment. Belden said all it takes is a rod, line, reel some bait and lot of patience.
“The bottom line is, you’ll try it once and you’ll probably be hooked,” Belden said.