Burchfield: Fishing adventures are about to begin

Times have changed. This 1936 Pennsylvania All Outdoors Fishing Guide provided stream descriptions to anglers 85 years ago.

The opening day of trout season can’t come soon enough. That’s the way it feels this year, especially with less travel, isolation from others, not to mention late winter snowfalls and bone-chilling temperatures.

Yet even without Covid contributing to the situation, this time of year anglers, trout anglers to be exact, get the itch. Trout is the draw. But when you really think about it, many look forward to the adventure. No, we’re not talking about an Indiana Jones. It’s much less than that, but a whole lot more fun.

While searching my personal outdoor library, a small book caught my eye. It was a small publication titled “Pennsylvania All Outdoors Fishing Guide.” Published in 1936, it had a purchase price of $1. Accounting for time and inflation, that would set the purchase price at just under $19. But for the price, its contents showed new areas and streams to fish for those willing to explore.

The small blips of stream locations and descriptions were short and sweet. And the narrow focus keying in on portions of the northern tier and areas leading to the Ohio border provided important information regarding where to go.

Another book in my library, “The Book of The McNuff,” compiled and published by the Cameron County Historical Society located in Emporium, is special. Its pages re-live the adventures of Warren Wenrick that began in the fall of 1919, and who later established a hunting camp in Cameron Co. Wenrick made his way to and from the area from his home in Dauphin Co. by train. Over decades those hunted and fished from the “McNuff” explored the area. And by doing so generated memories that would last a lifetime.

In the 1970s, it was my good fortune to share time with a Paul Heitzenrater. After being discharged from the military, my wife and I moved to DuBois, and that’s when I met Paul. Being new to the area, he took me under his wing, and he mentored “the new kid on the block”.

As time went on, we shared countless hours in the field hunting. And along the way, he shared me with some of the most out-of-the-way locations to hunt in the county — areas that I frequent to this day.

Paul was in great shape when I met him in his retirement years. He always said hunting and fishing contributed to his good health in mind and body.

Paul always had a good story to tell. From the start, it was evident his recollections were straightforward, no bragging, just the facts.

Ahead of one trout season before he died, Paul recalled an interesting story. And I’m grateful now that I took notes.

Paul recalled, “During the 30s, my fishing partner back then, Wade Britton, and I liked to travel to fish. Those were the days when the PA’s modern system of highways was in its infancy and the main mode of travel was by rail.”

The pair left DuBois taking the night train that headed north on a train that wound its way up the Bennetts Valley. Paul went on to say that they had no idea that the trip was to become one of those unforgettable experiences.

Paul went on to say, “Prior to leaving DuBois, we made arrangements to be left off the train at a specific location that would eventually allow us access to the mountains. Our goal on the two-day trip was to fish Mix Run and Red Run.”

“At that time, the creel limit was 25 and we caught plenty of fish. Thank goodness we brought with us extra sacks to carry the fish. In all, we caught around 50 native brook trout.”

Paul shared additional details of the trip and of course, traveling by rail would become part of the adventure. But times have changed.

Today, streams can be easily accessed by vehicle. Stream locations are located by GPS mapping. And stream descriptions and stocking reports are viewed via our home computers. All positive changes. Yet many aspects of fishing remain the same.

The angling experience requires individual participation. It’s something that can’t be pulled off a shelf then paid for and enjoyed. Or for that matter extracted from an electronic device.

There is something special about the serenity of the moving water and the peace found in nature.

Trout season is set to begin shortly, and this year, the timing of opening day is perfect. Spring will soon be here. And there is evidence that warmer weather is at hand, the green up is underway.

Yes, it’s fun to look back and remember those special times when hunting or fishing. The upcoming trout season presents a new season of opportunity.

So, pick up that rod and reel and invite a friend, or better yet, someone new to fishing and generate memories that will last a lifetime.

The statewide Mentored Youth Trout Fishing Day will open on Saturday, March 27, and the statewide Opening Day of Trout Season is on Saturday, April 3.

(Charlie Burchfield is an active member and past president of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association, a member of the Professional Outdoor Media Association, and the Mason-Dixon Outdoor Writers. Gateway Outdoors e-mail is GWOutdoors@comcast.net.)

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