Warm weather means busy first day

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Sunny, warm temperatures and cloudy water conditions greeted area fishermen for the first day of the 2019 trout season in Blair County and surrounding counties Saturday.

The water on Canoe Creek was murky, but that wasn’t all bad, maintained most of the fishermen surveyed. They appreciated the extra cover, and within an hour of the 8 a.m. opening cast, everybody interviewed had caught at least one trout.

“Cloudy doesn’t bother me,” said Gregg Chittester, 53, of Hollidaysburg, who was among a party of four fishing a stretch of water near Beaverdam Road. “(It’s only when the water is) high that (it) bothers me, and it’s not real high, just a little muddy.”

Fishing with a fly rod, fly line, waxworms, and corn, Chittester had caught and released five trout in the first hour of the season.

“They can’t see me, and they can’t see the bait as well, so they have to make a decision a little quicker,” Chittester said of the trout and the murky environment.

The stream was cloudy from Friday evening’s rain, and Matthew Corle, 31, of Altoona had a popular swimming hole that is usually surrounded by fishermen all to himself on Saturday morning.

Corle had caught three trout — a brook and two rainbows — by 8:30 a.m.

“The water is muddy, but (the fishing has) been better than in other years,” Corle said. “Usually there are four or five guys here, but I think that last year, they were discouraged, because there weren’t many fish put in this hole.”

Jay Williams, 34, lives right near the stream. Williams and his wife, Jessica, and their daughter, Madison, were all fishing near a bridge, and each was having some luck.

Williams caught six trout and released all but two, while his wife caught one trout and their daughter caught two.

Williams liked the cloudy water conditions Saturday.

“It’s a little high, but I think that makes it better,” Williams said. “They’re biting pretty good today. They’re still dumb.”

Just around the bend downstream from Williams, Bob Hosband, 84, of the Bellemeade section of Altoona, was celebrating another trout opener.

“I’ve been fishing since I was 6,” Hosband said. “I go out fishing (on the first day) more or less because of tradition than anything. I like to watch the first-day fishermen, the two-hour fishermen.”

Using a fly rod and fly line, Hosband had caught one 11-inch trout, put it back in the water, and got a hard strike from another, but the fish didn’t take his cheese salmon egg.

“The water is a little cloudy, and I think that makes it worse,” Hosband said. “You’ve got to fish deep and weight (your line) down. They won’t raise up for it.”

Rudy Vorndran, 59, of Altoona, who was fishing with Chittester and two others, appreciated the opportunity just to get out for the trout opener.

Vordran has retired after 24 years with the National Guard, and often didn’t get a chance to fish on the first day. This year, Vordran enjoyed two opening days — Saturday’s opener for Blair and surrounding counties, and the March 30 opener on streams in 18 southeastern and southcentral counties in the state.

“I’ve missed a lot of opening days,” said Vordran, who had caught one trout Saturday. “Three of us went down to the early season opener, so this is my second opening day this season. I’ve met a lot of nice people along the streams in the last two weeks. It’s been interesting. If you’re out here along the stream with others, you have something in common.”

Chittester fishes the entire year around, but welcomed the nice weather Saturday.

“I fish all year — even ice fishing,” Chittester said. “It’s a beautiful day to be out in the Pennsylvania wilds, brother.”