This “How Did We Get Here?” story comes from fellow SRS member and Trustee Hugh Wenger. Hugh started coming to Slate Run in the mid 1970’s at the invitation of a college friend. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves a little – let’s back up several years.
Now this is just my opinion – I think people are usually introduced to fly fishing by learning how to cast initially. Then they are exposed to the techniques and tactics used to stalk our quarry – trout or other game fish. Hugh’s approach was a little different.
Hugh’s fly fishing passion was preceded by an earlier time in his life. It was this earlier time when he learned how to tie flies. That’s right, he learned how to tie flies before he learned how to cast a fly rod or fly fish! At or around when Hugh was in 6th grade, he started tying. His first instruction came from a book in the library that had a chapter on fly fishing. The first creations used snelled hooks from his father’s tackle box. This was no problem since his father hardly ever fished. As far as fly tying materials – thread came from his mother’s sewing basket and other materials came from such things as ground hog hair and pigeon feathers. These first creations were crude to say the least. However, a friend from school had a less than discerning eye and bought 3 for a quarter. The following Monday the friend reported that his father had taken him fishing and he had caught a 16 inch trout using Hugh’s creations! After a year of badgering his parents he became the proud owner of a Shakespeare Wonderod.
Hugh fishes the West Branch of the Octoraro Creek in southern Lancaster County with his ‘bread fly’ (Backstory on the bread fly – Hugh observes people using bread to catch fish there. So he figures, a little cotton-tail rabbit tail, a hook, lash down and wa lah… bread….fly). Now Hugh didn’t give me a lot of feedback about the bread fly’s effectiveness but I am betting it probably did just fine on those Octoraro trout!
Hugh meets Lloyd Nelson, a fly fisherman with considerably more experience, in his senior year in college. Lloyd and Hugh fish Penns Creek which leads Lloyd to eventually invite Hugh to his cabin in Cedar Run. They fished Cedar Run, Slate Run and Pine Creek. It was one of the most wonderful places Hugh had ever seen. School ends for both of them and Lloyd moves to Illinois. After 4 more years of school Hugh knows he wants to get serious about fly fishing and sets a goal of 5 years to accomplish that. While visiting the Slate Run area and frequenting the old Hotel Manor, Hugh becomes acquainted with, and learned a lot from, Tom Finkbiner, Pat and Gene Eroh and Mike O’Brien. He stays at the hotel often and developed many wonderful friendships with the regulars there.
In those days (many years ago by now) it was common to catch 20 fish a day. Hugh has many fond memories of stays with Pat & Gene Eroh for the ‘Opening Day’ of trout season. He takes responsibility for introducing Jeff and Dan Fry, Dan Helm and Dale Blouch (former SRS Treasurer) to Slate Run. Dale’s introduction included a hike to the Frying Pan hole. Before fishing there a brief foray through the woods above the hole revealed about one third of the bottom was covered with a dark mass. Dale refused to believe that it was fish, claiming that all he saw were leaves. Dale was skeptical and said something to the effect of ‘those aren’t fish – those are leaves in the bottom of the pool.’ Then Dale stood up and those leaves, probably a couple hundred trout, moved over to the other side of Slate Run.
Hugh has noticed that the productivity in Slate Run has dropped over the years. He says it used to be very productive fishing from the mouth of Slate Run upstream to the Green Slipper camp. The change didn’t happen overnight. It took several years but eventually the productivity diminished. The largest trout he ever caught was a 20 inch brown with the next at 14. He did come across a dead brook trout that was easily over 20 inches once! Hugh hasn’t fished Cedar Run as much as Slate over the years. However, he has stories of those that used to catch tremendous fish up in this run. Supposedly, back in the day when it was legal to fish crickets on the waterway, some fished with them at night and were exceptionally successful.
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Till we see each other again….. I’m an Unintentional Blogger … aka UB