It's been 35 years, but nationally renowned trout fisherman Joe Humphreys remembers the experience like it happened yesterday.
Or last night.
Humphreys, 83, caught a Pennsylvania state-record brown trout that measured 16 pounds, 34 inches on Centre County's Fishing Creek in Lamar back in 1977.
After chasing the fish for three full years, Humphreys - who has fished exclusively with flies for most of his life - finally fooled the trout while using a George Harvey Pusher Fly after the sun went down one evening.
"Once they get disoriented at night, you can handle them pretty well,'' Humphreys said. "It felt like somebody had turned a washtub over. It made quite a commotion. I knew that was the fish I had been after.''
This area of Pennsylvania is a productive and entertaining one for trout fishermen, and Humphreys has many stories to tell about it.
Opening day: The trout season opened March 31 at 8 a.m. in 18 southcentral and southeastern counties. The official opening day for the rest of the state, including Blair County, Cambria County, Huntingdon County, and Bedford County, is 8 a.m. today.
Minimum legal size: 7 inches.
Fishing hours: 24 hours a day, after 8 a.m. start.
Creel limit: Five per day, combined species, during the regular season, which begins Saturday and ends at midnight Sept. 3. Three per day, combined species, in approved trout waters only, during the extended season, which begins Sept. 4 and ends at midnight on Dec. 31.
License requirements: All fishermen ages 16 and older must possess both a valid 2012 Pennsylvania fishing license and a trout/salmon stamp in order to fish for trout. Licenses are valid through Dec. 31, 2012 and are available at issuing agents statewide.
License fees: Licenses cost $32.40, including $9.70 for a trout stamp, for resident fishermen ages 16-64. Senior resident fishermen ages 65 and older can purchase an annual license for $11.70 plus the $9.70 trout stamp, or a lifetime license for $51.70 plus the $9.70 trout stamp.
He was born and raised in State College, still lives in that area, and literally wrote the book on fly fishing in Pennsylvania.
In fact, Humphreys has authored two books, "On the Trout Stream" and "Trout Tactics," served as an instructor of an accredited fly fishing program at Penn State University for 19 years, and was a former member of the United States Fly Fishing World Championships Team.
Among the more famous pupils Humphreys has mentored in the art of fly fishing over the years are former president Jimmy Carter, former vice president Dick Cheyney and legendary former college basketball coach Bob Knight.
"President Carter is a real student of the sport, and Bob Knight loves to fish and has an open mind about trying new things,'' Humphreys said.
Humphreys has fished for trout all over this country and beyond, but he still regards this area of Pennsylvania as one of the finest regions for trout fishermen in the United States.
The 2012 trout season opens in Blair, Centre and surrounding counties today at 8 a.m.
"We're spoiled here,'' said Humphreys. "In a lot of states, you may have a couple major streams to fish, then you would have to travel quite a distance to get to the next river. This is one of the premier sections for fishing in the United States. Our streams here are so fertile, there is such excellent water quality, and there are so many great fly hatches. When it comes down to fishing the top streams in the country, I like it right here.''
Bellefonte physician Denny Shannon, 41, has fished for trout with flies for the past three decades. Shannon has fished with Humphreys for the past 10 years, and regards their time spent astream as priceless.
"In the world of fly fishing, he's a living legend,'' Dr. Shannon said. "I spend the bulk of time when we're fishing together just watching him, and listening to his stories about fishing from decades ago. I've learned more about fishing from him in the past 10 years than I probably will learn from anybody ever again. No matter what situation he's faced with on the water, he seems to find a way to catch a fish.''
Humphreys caught his first trout at the age of 6 on Spring Creek in Centre County. It's one of the streams that he still loves to frequent, along with other limestone favorites like Penns Creek in Centre County, the famous Spruce Creek in Huntingdon County, and the esteemed Little Juniata River that runs through parts of both Huntingdon and Blair counties.
Many of these streams are stocked with fingerling trout that grow to trophy size, and catch-and-release regulations are enforced for fishermen on many of these waters.
"We're blessed in this area, because we have all of those streams and more within a 25-mile radius,'' Humphreys said. "There are also a lot of mountain streams which I enjoy fishing as well. I like the challenge of working around the thick brush surrounding them.''
The beauty offered by the limestone treasures listed above is that certain areas of most of those streams are open to bait fishing as well as fly fishing. Therefore, just about any trout fisherman in Blair County and the surrounding areas can have the pleasure of fishing those top-shelf streams.
For bait fishermen and fly fishermen alike, this area of Pennsylvania is a veritable paradise, and fishing is a hobby and pastime that can be enjoyed by people of all ages here.
"In fly fishing, there are a lot of different challenges, where the fisherman is imitating a lot of different insects with his fly,'' said Humphreys, for whom fly fishing is a year-round pastime. "It's a heck of a good way to catch fish. It's challenging, and it's a lot of fun. But a real good bait fisherman who really understands how to fish worms or minnows can be [very successful] too, if the guy has good line control and knows how to place bait where it needs to be.''