There are 10 inches of water in his basement, courtesy of the biggest floods in Central Pennsylvania’s recent history, but Joe Humphreys is going fly fishing.
The Susquehanna has cut the main highway north from Harrisburg. The Juniata is up into the trees along its forested banks. Even Spring Creek, normally a picturesque flow through the Victorian town of Bellefonte, is an ugly, malevolent torrent. And Joe Humphreys is taking a 14+ incher from the edge of Spruce Creek’s flooded channel.
Joe Humphreys, a nationally known fly fisherman, conservationist, author, and educator, has been teaching fly fishing for over 40 years and numbers former President Jimmy Carter and Vice President Dick Cheney among his students. Lean and agile, with creased eyes and short white hair, he laughs easily, aware of his status as a fly fishing legend, but most likely to joke about it.
Two things happen when Humphreys gets onto a creek: He hooks trout and he calls class to order. Spending a day with him—even a day when Centre County’s storied limestone creeks are well over their banks—can be a graduate course in casting the long rod.
Director of the angling program at Pennsylvania State University for 19 years, Joe teaches as he casts, demonstrating a bewildering array of techniques and approaches for getting his fly where he wants it. He points out the problems then explains his tactics as he flicks a tight, accurate coil through a small opening under a low hanging rhododendron. He reviews fish holding patterns while rollcasting with a grace and nonchalance that yeomen casters find infuriating to watch.
“Short, short, short,” he admonished, using a subtle twitch to send a black sculpin arcing into an eddy on Spruce Creek. The rain-swollen creek’s surface heaves and then thrashes apart along the back of a rising trout that whirls and slams the lure.
Humphrey’s mantra is: “Cast to catch, not just to cast.” He has produced numerous books and articles on the subject, along with a series of highly successful videos. “The 10-to-2 stroke is rarely useful,” he said, “You need to punch the fly up through the brush without a backcast.”
For the tight, tangled creeks and runs around State College and Rothrock State Forest, he uses a 7 to 7.5 foot, 5 or 6 weight rod because it loads quickly. He wants a heavy line on a short rod, but still wants enough rod length to give him added reach.Next Page