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Mountain Home Magazine

Hooked on Love

Mar 30, 2016 08:15PM

The sun danced and dappled off  the water, forming highlights on blonde Amidea (rhymes with Amity). The three-year-old followed her daddy along a trout stream, dragging her favorite toy from the sand box, a yellow plastic bucket. Walt Dickey brought a brook trout to the bank, grabbed the bucket, filled it with crystal clear water, and plopped the trout into it. Amidea was fascinated. He pinched a worm out of the bait box, stuck the point of a number six hook through the mating band, and buried the prong in the worm’s tail. He handed the rod to his daughter and tossed the baited hook in just the right spot. He coached the girl with the golden hair to jerk at just the right time. Amidea did, and slapped a brookie into Walt’s face.

He laughed—and he was proud of the kid. The toddler would spend the rest of the fishing foray watching her trout in that yellow bucket. Little did she or her dad know that it was the beginning of a lifetime love.

It was “Downtown” Germania, Pennsylvania, with a population threatening to approach twenty-five. It was 1983, and young George Daniel raced out his back door to follow the older kids and his brothers. They formed a huddle along one of those many rivulets that feed into the headwaters of Kettle Creek. This water raced right through town, past the general store, under the road, past the Lutheran church and the well-drilling garages on its way to renown as a trout stream. In the town, the water was cold, fresh, and pure. And it had been stocked with trout that were reserved “for the kids.” After a couple of trout were landed, an older brother took pity on George, baited a hook, and handed him a rod. When the tip of the rod dipped, all the boys screamed, “Pull ’im out!” George did, and that first trout began a lifelong pursuit, an obsession, a track that would lead to a career but, more importantly, to the love of his life.

It is a love story. Amidea and George married. The gal resided in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, and her fella grew up in Germania. How did this boy from the middle of nowhere meet the girl from the edge of nowhere? Amidea explained, “Well, George’s family moved to Lock Haven. I first saw him in math class. He had the most gorgeous blue eyes. I was instantly smitten. George didn’t know I existed. Then, one day, I was minnow fishing for trout with my dad on Baker’s Run when I looked up and saw George fly-fishing. He was so shy he barely mumbled hello.”

Maybe her angling did it. Maybe when George saw her fishing for trout, he mustered enough courage to talk. They started dating. George introduced Amidea to fly-fishing. As any bait dunker knows, fly-fishing can be intimidating—especially when you want to impress the boyfriend. Amidea giggled and explained, “He wanted to introduce me to fly-fishing, a sport that had become his lifeblood. We traveled to Fishing Creek, where I would fall in the love with fly-fishing. I had no idea what to expect. At that time, when I thought of flies I pictured house flies or horse flies I’d seen while riding my horses. With patience and love, he showed me the basic cast, the dance of the fly line, the gentle presentation of a dry fly, and the connection! Wow! The moment I witnessed the trout rising to the fly, and the second I was physically connected to it was mind-blowing. It was a beautiful eight-inch brown trout, small to many folks, but it was a game changer for me. Later that afternoon, as George was upstream, I lost my fly. Now what? I saw that the fish were rising to a small, white fly on the surface. I searched through the collection George shared with me and pulled out a fly that was about the same color and size and looked like it would float. I tied it on, took a deep breath, made a simple cast and...magic! The rest is history.” She laughed and added, “Try to explain night fishing with your boyfriend to the parents of a high school girl.”

From that day on Amidea has fished flies alongside George. They fished locally in Pine Creek, Kettle Creek, Young Woman’s Creek, the Sinnemahoning, eventually venturing to storied waters like Spring Creek, Yellow Breeches, and others. Their fly-fishing branched out to Washington, Michigan, Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas, Colorado, Montana, Utah, New York, and Louisiana, as well as countries like Finland, New Zealand, and the Bahamas. They studied Outdoor Resource Management at Lock Haven University. So in love with each other and stalking trout, Amidea said, “We would travel to the Prouty during spring break and fish brook trout streams. That was our kind of fun.”

For Amidea’s twenty-second birthday, George took her to a favorite stream and proposed. They finished college and married. They had tied numerous knots in leaders when fishing, but as Amidaea said, “We tied our most important knot at the Lutheran church and headed off  for steelhead fishing near Cattaraugus, New York.” They feel that they were lucky to land their first apartment within 300 yards of Fishing Creek.

After college, George worked as a seasonal employee for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s Stream Habitat Section. Amidea was an Americorps VISTA volunteer for the Centre County Conservation District. Later, she landed a full-time position as Watershed Specialist at the Clinton County Conservation District. On the side, George was working on his fly-fishing skills with mentors that included legends like Joe Humphreys, Dave Rothrock, and other fly-fishing greats willing to share their knowledge. He began offering free slide show presentations to local organizations at the same time he was studying to get certification as a Federation of Fly Fishing Casting Instructor. During this time, he entered his first fly-fishing competition, Fly Fishing Masters.

While working with watershed associations, conducting teacher workshops, conservation camps, and other programs, Amidea was hired by Trout Unlimited to work within the Kettle Creek Watershed on landowner workshops, habitat projects, and introducing the Trout In the Classroom program at Renovo Elementary. During that time frame, George competed in the Fly Fishing Masters, and qualified for the United States Fly Fishing Team. He competed in his first World Fly Fishing Championships and garnered fifth place honors. He began working as assistant manager of TCO Fly Shop in State College and conducting professional presentations, clinics, and guided trips.

Amidea has worked as the Northcentral Regional Education Specialist with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission teaching boating and fishing programs in addition to coordinating the Trout in the Classroom (TIC) program. The Trout in the Classroom program exposes students in grades three through twelve to cold-water conservation while raising brook trout from eggs to fingerlings in a classroom aquarium. Teachers customize the program to fit their particular curriculum needs so each program is unique. Pennsylvania’s Trout in the Classroom is an award-winning program touted by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited, and the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Environment & Ecology. Amidea plays an important role in that program and proudly spouts statistics that include TIC teaching opportunities now in 284 classrooms around the Keystone State. And Amidea is proud of the PFBC’s banner year as it celebrates its 150th Anniversary.

George worked at TCO Fly Shop, while a member of the U. S. Fly Fishing Team, and he served as coach for the U. S. Youth Fly Fishing Team. He has won two National Championships, has presented at Fly Fishing Shows, and has conducted seminars and clinics far and wide. Amidea began assisting George with fly-fishing clinics and the production of videos and photos for their programs. Amidea also conducts beginner level fly-fishing classes through TCO Fly Shop.

Daughter Evangeline arrived in 2009. Amidea was reading an article in Fly Fisherman magazine about trophy cutthroat trout in Evangeline Lake. She raced over to George and excitedly asked, “If it’s a girl, how about naming her Evangeline?” So Evangeline it was. Logan, named for Logan Pass in Montana, arrived in 2010. George published his first book, Dynamic Nymphing, in 2011 and was promoted to the manager of TCO Fly Shop while managing to balance teaching, group presentations, international fly-fishing competition, and writing a second book, Strip Set.

Amidst all that activity, the Daniels took a deep breath, mustered up some courage, and started their own business. The decision to establish their own unique guide business was a leap of faith...or, depending on one’s perspective, a leap of love. It definitely was one of the bolder moves that Amidea and George have taken. Asked about it, George shrugged and said, “We just thought the time was right to open up a guide service for fly-fishermen.” They certainly had the skills necessary for the venture. George had world-class fly-fishing credentials, and Amidea was exceptionally attuned to children, women, and others from the beginner to intermediate levels.

I asked George what drew him to the sport. “I love fly fishing. Though most folks imagine trout when mentioning fly-fishing, I also love the variety of fish I can target. And I love the people I meet and the beautiful waters it leads me to.”

Why guiding? He added, “My passion is sharing this exciting sport with others through education, instruction, speaking engagements, and personal guiding. The creation of my own fly-fishing education, instruction, and guide business has long been a dream of mine. Until recently, I’ve been adverse to the risks of leaving a steady paycheck and immersing myself into the “feast or famine” mentality of owning a business. Recent life events and several new friendships have reinforced the importance of following life passions.”

Talking about his full-time guide business, George mused, “It was quite a leap of faith, and Amidea encouraged the move. Our business, Livin’ on the Fly, is the end result of our spontaneous decision. We felt it was time for me to leave my comfort zone and follow my passion. Livin’ on the Fly is an opportunity for me to share what I have learned over the last thirty-plus years in the sport, and it is an opportunity to share the many life experiences fly-fishing has in store for anybody who presents a hook daubed with feathers and thread.”

Livin’ on the Fly offers services for anglers that range from guided trips to specialized one-on-one lessons. As George said, “Our goal is to provide fishermen with a quality fly-fishing experience tailored to their interests. The information and instruction we share is the result of a culmination of years on the water and extensive travel all over the United States and a number of foreign countries.”

Amidea and George said, almost in unison, “The more we fish, the more we realize there is always something new to learn.” George added, “This mindset has kept us hungry for knowledge and is the reason we try to continue our travels so that we can learn from industry leaders each year. As we said, ‘There’s always something new that we can learn.’ Every new experience for us means a new fly-fishing lesson for both our company and our Livin’ on the Fly clients. I have experience in managing the TCO Fly Shop in State College, so it was natural that our guide business works in cooperation with them to provide their clients—and our clients—a quality fly fishing experience.”

Amidea added, “Livin’ on the Fly has an instructive, educational guide staff and is made up fishermen and fisherwomen just like us. They are anglers who are always seeking to improve their skills and to create a world-class learning environment for their customers.” As George said, “I’m excited to work with Andy Wagner, George Costa, my wife, Amidea, and several others on this new venture.”

So where might an angler fling flies with an excellent guide through Livin’ on the Fly? The base of operations is located in central Pennsylvania limestone country, which includes Spring Creek, Penns Creek, Little Juniata River, Spruce Creek, and Big Fishing Creek, to name a few. Andy Wagner will be offering smallmouth float trips on the Juniata River. George occasionally casts an eye homeward toward Potter and Tioga Counties and he will be offering a select number of trout trips to his north central PA roots and a chance at wild native brookies. (You can check them out at www.livinonthefly.com.)

Amidea guides anglers as time permits. She will only be running three beginner schools at the State College TCO Fly Shop location. Due to her work and family commitments, she will not have time to conduct additional lessons or classes. After all, she does have a full time job with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and a couple of budding fly fishers, ages five and seven, to chase up and down the trout streams.

So that’s where Livin’ on the Fly is today. Great name, Livin’ on the Fly, a great guide business established by two anglers who fell in love while fly-fishing on a trout stream.

Perhaps a more apt name would be Lovin’ on the Fly.