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Fun times bumping into folks from Presque Isle

The past week for me will rank as one of the strangest in recent memory.

It all started so simply, when I realized I had a few open days on my schedule just before the Memorial Day weekend. That welcome situation prompted me to plan a trip with my brother to Presque Isle Bay on Lake Erie for some bass fishing. My introduction to kayak fishing came on Presque Isle Bay 13 years ago, and fishing from my kayak on Presque Isle during the month of May has been a longstanding tradition for me ever since.

Presque Isle State Park is the crown jewel of the Pennsylvania state park system. This amazing peninsula on the Lake Erie shoreline is a beautiful and unique natural resource hosting a spectacular array of wildflowers, birds and special geological features. Fishing in the bay can also be a special experience, with an abundance of largemouth bass, perch, rock bass and other panfish, along with northern pike and muskies. In late May, thousands of trophy-sized smallmouth bass migrate there to spawn, attracting anglers not only from Pennsylvania but also many surrounding states.

While Erie and Presque Isle Bay can be a true angler’s paradise in the springtime, as anyone who has fished there can attest, unfavorable wind and weather conditions can turn those waters into a nightmare. Wind and the associated rough weather it serves up is particularly troublesome for kayak anglers. We battled wind and rain for most of the three days we spent on Presque Isle, catching just a handful of fish for our efforts. As disappointing the fishing turned out to be, I took some solace in the fact that wonderful place has provided me with so many memorable outings over the years and will undoubtedly yield many more in the future.

Returning home, I had plans to fish for trout with some friends from Philadelphia on Memorial Day. Shortly after I woke up early last Monday morning, however, I received a phone call from him telling me that his wife and son were quite ill and he would not be able to make the trip to central Pennsylvania. Faced with a change of plans for my holiday, the decision was an easy one — head to the Juniata River for smallmouth bass. The river was down to a manageable level for the first time in weeks, and it would be the first time all year I could put my kayak on my favorite water.

I had left my boat in my brother’s garage upon our return to Erie, so I sent him a text saying I would be down to get it shortly. Unfortunately, he had already left earlier to go fishing himself that morning. That sent me packing my fly-fishing gear to go trout fishing. And while I would have much preferred to be back on the Juniata after more than a month hiatus, the trout treated me well that afternoon as I caught more than two dozen in about three and a half hours.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, I was also able to go trout fishing with a friend from Pittsburgh. When we met that morning, he related an amusing story that sort of capped off my crazy week. It seems he had traveled to the northwest part of the state a few weeks ago to do some trout fishing and stopped in a local fly shop to get a little information on the current fishing conditions. The shop owner offered to look at his selection of flies and offer recommendations on those that would likely be most productive and any additional fly patterns that would be useful.

As the proprietor examined one fly box, he pointed to a group of flies and said, “Those look like some kind of Walt’s Worms.”

My friend informed him those weren’t “some kind” of Walt’s Worms, but flies tied by the originator of the pattern himself, Walt Young.

“You know Walt Young?” he asked.

My friend assured him he did indeed and that we were planning to fish together in the coming weeks.

To that, the man behind the counter asked, “Is he still alive?”

At first, we enjoyed a great laugh about that story. Then I contemplated the fact that I have been around the outdoor circles so long that some might think I am not still around. Finally, I resolved the situation with a well-known quote from that great American writer, Mark Twain, who once said, “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

So let me close that silly week by saying my health and spirits are as good as could be expected for someone who has experienced more than 60 birthdays. And I plan to keep fishing, hunting and writing for many years to come.

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