Matt Kowalchuk knows a thing or two about fishing.
That’s why the 24-year-old is the head fishing guide at The Feathered Hook in Coburn.
It’s a job he got last year after graduating from Lock Haven University and one that puts his fishing knowledge to use — specifically in fly-fishing.
“People call the shop and say, ‘Hey, I want a guided tour,’ ” Kowalchuk said. “We go out, discuss the area, spend the day on the water, and the only thing the fisherman has to bring are waders, sunglasses, an open mind and the willingness to learn. We supply the rest.”
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The guide’s job is to cater to the fisherman or woman and provide a good experience.
And fly-fishing, Kowalchuk said, is a sport that doesn’t discriminate against age, gender or level of experience.
“I’ve had fathers and sons; husbands and wives; and beginners and people who have been fly fishing for decades, but just want to learn a little more about the waters in the area,” Kowalchuk said.
“We also get people from everywhere — not just Pennsylvania – coming to our area to fly fish. This is a destination location.”
Steve Sywensky, the owner of Flyfisher’s Paradise at 2603 E. College Ave., said after spending a day fishing on Spring Creek, he counted license plates on vehicles from at least 14 states.
“It’s not uncommon to even see license plates from the West Coast,” Sywensky said.
World fishing championships have also been held in the area.
Within about an hour of State College, Sywensky said, there are 75 “viable trout streams” good for fly-fishing year-round.
That’s largely due to creeks and streams that don’t freeze in the winter.
“Pennsylvania’s got the second most amount of moving water in the nation, and we’ve got limestone streams that are spring-fed and stay cool year-round, which is good for trout habitat,” Kowalchuk added. “And they normally don’t freeze, which allows fishermen to go out all year.”
Warmer waters like the Susquehanna River, whose branches encompass part of Centre County, are best to fish from April to September, and are good for fishing large and smallmouth bass, carp and muskies.
Peak season is during hatch season —from April to June — when fish feed on bugs, though Kowalchuk said the fall is a good time to fly fish if the angler is looking for solitude.
“There’s not as many people in the water from September to December, but with cool temperatures and shorter days, the fish are active before laying low in the winter,” he said.
In the area during the fall, brown and rainbow trout are popular catches, Kowalchuk said.
Sywensky encourages anglers to arm themselves with a rod, reel, line, leader material, a supply of flies, waders and something to hold their fishing gear.
And for beginners, he reminds them that they have to play by the rules of the fish.
“If you want to determine what you want to do with the fish, you have to literally participate with them in their environment on their level,” Sywensky said. “So observation is important. One thing to do when you’re out is look, as much as you fish.”
Though people fly-fish for numerous reasons, Sywensky said an important part of the sport is learning outdoor conservation.
“There’s more that goes into fishing than just casting and waiting,” he said.
He encourages anglers to participate in groups that teach about water quality and how to preserve the environment.
“I’ve been fly-fishing for over 50 years, and you learn something every time you go out,” Sywensky said.