Memories

Foggy River Secrets

I finally got to watch the new movie about an old friend yesterday afternoon. “Live The Stream: The Joe Humphreys Story” followed Joe for four seasons, travelling around Central Pennsylvania and out to Arkansas for his quest for a twenty pound brown trout. The film is marvelously done, and it makes clear the amazing energy Joe retains every day at 91.

He still teaches fly fishing throughout the season, and doesn’t stop for the winter. If he’s not doing classes and seminars at one of the fly fishing shows when the snow flies, he’s out climbing his favorite ridge to his deer stand, or fishing Spring Creek near his Centre County home. Joe Humphreys truly embodies the title of this documentary; he lives the stream every day.

The film brought back a flood of memories for me. It is hard to imagine that it was 29 years ago that I first met Joe at one of his Allenberry Fly Fishing Schools on the Yellow Breeches Creek. “Hump” and Ed Shenk teamed with the late Norm Shires, presenting quality fly fishing schools for Orvis for years. They continued forward when Orvis’ corporate policies changed, focusing their schools at their Manchester, Vermont headquarters. Joe’s on stream Allenberry programs were always head and shoulders above the Vermont based Orvis school, and easily among the best in the country.

L. to R. Much younger versions of Yours Truly, the late Ed Shenk and Joe Humphreys; Allenberry, September 1991

I learned a great deal about fishing and life from Joe and Ed over the years. Both kindly travelled to my fledgling fly shop to give presentations to help me get the business going. Though this was their livelihood, neither charged me a fee for their services.

It was always a lesson when either of these gentlemen fished behind a student, invariably catching several trout where the eager students had taken none. They would pause with each trout and point out the details we all missed: why they cast where they did, how they manipulated their tackle to ensure a natural drift, so that the students learned how and why those trout were caught by the masters.

If you have a streaming device, you can watch the movie for free right now on Tubi, or order a DVD version from Amazon. I highly recommend this beautiful film, as it chronicles an amazing gentleman who has spent his life helping others enjoy the gift of fly fishing. Joe Humphreys is a National treasure.

Those memories of my Cumberland Valley days still haunted me this morning, as I stalked the river with my terrestrial box. I am sure that I caught more dry fly limestone trout on terrestrials than on any mayfly or caddis pattern I owned, and its fun to relive those flies and tactics here, on the rivers of my heart.

My little 7 1/2 foot Garrison 206 got the nod this morning, lined with a three weight double taper. The rod is a modern replica crafted by Jim Downes of Coburn, PA; originals, if they can be found, costing the equivalent of my net worth. Downsie’s Garrison is a gem, equally adept with a three or four weight line, and capable of pinpoint accuracy.

The river had fallen since my last visit, and my beetle would barely drift along the banks and the cover while the main current slowly eroded my slack. I dropped the rod tip a bit quicker than normal in compensation, and the extra float was enough to fool a beautifully colored brown of nineteen inches. He doubled over the Garrison as the golden cane absorbed his struggles all the way to the waiting net.

I was not so lucky with a couple of his brethren. One came ever so slowly for the fly as my arm was rising for the pickup, which took it away from him at the moment of truth. Another popped the fly when it finally exhausted it’s dozen feet of drag-free drift tight to the river bank. I enjoyed the morning immensely, having missed my chance to fish yesterday, foolishly believing the weather forecasts that screamed thunderstorms by ten AM. We got no rain of course; dark clouds, wind and a bit of mist to be sure, but none of the rain we so desperately need.

The crowds of visitors are already massing for their weekend in the Catskills, so I must surrender the rivers to the throng. Baseball returns tonight, or at least a reasonable facsimile, with my home team playing in Boston’s deserted ballpark. I’ve missed it.

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