The Lunker: Backwaters Back When
It was in the late nineteen-fifties and the weather outside the classroom was beautiful. Trout season had just started, and as we sat there looking out the window we could hear the fish calling us.
The next morning, Darrell Dochstader and I were walking along Route 6, one hand with our thumbs in the air and the other carrying fishing rod and bait, headed toward the Galeton area.
It didn’t take long and we were climbing into an ol’ rattling pickup. “Skipping school, huh?” the driver asked with a knowing glance.
“Yep,” we replied (rather quietly) as we settled in.
“Don’t blame you. It’s a good day for fishing,” he stated.
The old gentleman seemed glad for our company as we rambled along. He talked a lot and asked many questions of us. He told stories of his fishing adventures, many quite comical. With each story we were given lessons about the art of angling. We were schooled on rods, reels, line, hooks, bait, sinkers, and even when and where to go.
Finally we reached the off-road to Darrell’s grandfather’s camp. We thanked the kind fellow for the ride and fishing advice and headed up the dirt road to camp.
The warmth of the camp’s fire felt good, as Darrell’s grandpa greeted us. He was working on some equipment and offered us a chance to settle down for a spell. We were anxious to get started on catching some trout. He said, “Go right ahead, but I’ll wait till later when they’ll be biting.”
We were out for hours and harvested only a few fish. Grandpa went for an hour or so and returned with a limit—and the limit was more back then.
So we decided to go with him to learn his secret spots and techniques. During our visits he taught us a lot about stream fishing for trout. We improved our approach, presentation, and time on the water, which greatly increased our catch rate. He even showed us the little larvae you can find in the clumps of twigs that float in the backwaters of a stream.
Back in school it was no secret why we were absent, and we were often asked, “How was the fishing?” It was no big deal—even a teacher asked how we did and where we went.
Today if you skipped to go fishing your parents would get a call, and they would round you up and take you back to school. Then you would be suspended for having sharp hooks and a fishing knife in your pockets. (Although this would give you a few more days to get back on the water.)
Many things have changed in fifty some years: school policies, fishing regulations, access to open water, water quality, costs related to the sport, and participation have all been affected through the years. My hope is that the opportunities to enjoy the experiences of being on the water and the sport of angling will exist for the future and for our grandchildren.