So, How Cold Was It!?

Arriving on the stream in Huntingdon County PA April 3rd 2021 was not like other First Days of trout season. Not only did the season start two weeks early but it was 21 degrees Fahrenheit!

The first several hours of fishing yielded not one bite. My spinners and bait made no impression on the trout. Changing bait and lures with really cold fingers made it very slow going. Even the line iced up clogging the top two ferrules that had to be pushed out so the line could run freely. Tying knots to set up my rig after a snag was a challenge as well. And later when I needed to pee, it was nearly impossible to get a grip on my fly tab. Then when I did get a hold of it, I realized that my zipper was stuck in my shirt! Things were not going well. My friend Andy, however, was able to pull in a 20 inch Brown but there were many, like myself, who had little or no luck at all. I continued in the cold with no bites until around 12:00 noon when I decided to take a break.


Andy's 20 inch Brown Trout

I tried quite a few tackle options but realized that there was one bait I did not consider-- Power Bait. I used Power Bait many, many years ago with no real luck. Back then, I'd use less than half a jar and then not touch it for months or longer. It would get rock hard and eventually I'd throw it away. For some odd reason, I decided to go to a small mom and pop fishing store down the road and buy some Power Bait. They had a pretty good supply in random 'flavors.' I bought a jar that was yellow in color.


Why stand when you can sit?!

By this time, around 1:00, things warmed up to about 33 degrees. Still cold but at least my line was not gathering ice. I returned to the stream and worked my way through the woods and brush with thorns that pulled at my pants, coat and hands struggling to get to a good part of the stream.

With many fishermen gone, I settled on an area where the water was about four feet deep and fairly wide. The water color was green and the stream level was about perfect. I cast downstream between tree limbs several times without a strike. Minutes later I felt a little 'bump,' then another. I set the hook and hauled in a 13 inch Rainbow! Was I ever surprised! Over the next 20 minutes I caught two more Rainbow with the largest being 15 inches on Power Bait. Really?! Power Bait? After the excitement subsided, I fought the brush on the other side of the stream and tried a few holes farther downstream but nothing was biting. I then decided to work my way back upstream and see how my friends were doing. They were not having much luck. A few bites but no new fish were caught. I returned to camp to get warm and find something to eat for a late lunch.


Three dandy Rainbow Trout

The next day, Easter, I only had a few hours to fish before I had to head home so I ventured to where I caught the three nice trout the day before. After a few casts, I caught a Rainbow about 11 inches. Number four and once again on Power Bait. Before I left to return home, I shared the bait with my Brother and friend. Will have to check back with them to see how they did on Sunday.


Nice hole

The reason, I guess, we keep going to the stream is that we never can accurately predict what will happen. This First Day seemed completely doomed. Very frustrating for hours but persistence won out and I was eventually able to catch several nice trout and filet them for an excellent dinner. There were a number of reasons to quit early on Saturday but sometimes you have to keep going. Oh, and did I tell you that the crank separated from my reel?! Yep, completely fell out. Lots of line in the water and no way to retrieve it after catching the third trout on the First Day. Quite a mess but I was able to fix it after getting to the cabin and finding a screw driver.

Fish on and do not be deterred. They're in there. Just be flexible, persistent and have an open mind and try things that you may never have thought of. You may be surprised. Something like life?


Categories: Fishing


The First Day of Fishing in PA is…When??

Guess we were all caught off guard with the announcement that the First Day was Tuesday April 7th! I was certainly not ready. Not close. Teaching online has taken up a good bit of time. Lots of things to rearrange and learn as we play our part in this Twilight Zone episode called, ‘Covid-19.’

As I waited until the 17th when I could get time away, I wondered if there would be many fish left in the stream near Burnt Cabins, PA. Lots of the fishing streams in Southern Huntingdon County are not far from where locals live. So to get an hour of fishing in during lunch time is not a problem for them. And as you probably heard, the fish commission stocked larger trout than usual this year. Makes it frustrating wondering about what’s going on stream side…

When I finally arrived at camp, the water looked good. Not too high. But then the rains came and pounded down all Friday night. The stream was excessively high and muddy the next morning with the temperature around 40. Not a great day to be fumbling in the water in hip boots or walking through stream-side thickets and over slippery rocks. But finally late Saturday afternoon the stream started to subside and I was able to catch two. One shown below is 13 inches. Very big for what I typically catch!


High Muddy Water


First Trout 

When Sunday morning arrived, the water was still a bit high but quite good. Deep and moving. From the one hole pictured below, I caught three that were also in the 12 to 14 inch category. I was convinced that the stocked fish were indeed larger than years before! It’s rare for me to have trout jump out of the water when hooked but these trout did just that! I was lucky that none of them got off. Later in the afternoon I caught two more and the big one was16 inches.


Nice Trout Hole 


Three Nice Trout 


Last Two 

What I caught the fish on was pretty unusual for me. Corn and butter worms. I used my favorite Panther Martins and caught one on the yellow. Black is typically good for unclear water but nothing doing this year.

The Stick-in-the-Mud worked well in securing the big fish to shore while I tried my luck in other spots on the stream. Let me know if you’d like one or more for yourself! They work great.

Because the weather has been unstable so far, people are not getting out quite so much. I would not be surprised that many trout have yet to be caught. At least that’s my hope!

Stay well and send me your fish stories and pictures, especially if you’re using the Stick!. Always good to hear from you: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Stay Well.

Written by: Frank Koe Categories: Fishing


Stick in the Mud Product News

We have had many inquiries for the Stick in the Mud fish and rod holder from around the world, which is good news to be sure. So in order to expand the opportunities to purchase the Stick in the Mud, either one or several, we are now selling the fish and rod holder directly to consumers online. Some sporting good stores will continue to carry the Stick but to make it available online seemed to make sense. Not everyone who wants a Stick in the Mud lives near a retailer. The Sticks are available for $3.99 each plus shipping through Paypal. We will need to know your address and zip code before mailing your Sticks. The Sticks will be sent to you directly from our warehouse in Pennsylvania.


It's always great to see Sticks around the lakeshores and streams when I'm out fishing myself. I carry and use mine and when I see someone with their Stick in the Mud, I'm always interested in knowing what they think of it. The responses are great. Fishermen, women, and children say it helps to not have to look for a wooden stick or cut one from a tree to attach to their stringers. The Environmental Protection officers randomly roaming the streams have not taken it lightly when tree limbs are cut for this purpose. I'm told too that when there are only rocks on the shore, the Stick can be securely wedged between stones. The ABS material they are made of is very strong. And, of course, you never have to figure out how to secure the end of your stringer to the shore with fish on. The Stick in the Mud also allows you to measure fish to 16 inches so you know when you're legal.

News Flash!
We are now offering Stick in the Mud caps! So if you know a 'stick in the mud,' it just might be a great gift! The price for an Original Stick in the Mud cap is $18.00 plus shipping. The caps are brand new so we have a limited number currently in stock. For now, we carry them in brown only. It fashionably goes with the color of muddy shores we usually fish from!

stick in the mud cap

Feel free to contact us directly for Sticks and/or hats at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Here's to a great new season out-of-doors and streamside!

Please share your stories!

If you have any photos of you using a Stick, please send them along with your location so we can post them along with any Stick stories you may have.

Written by: Frank Koe Categories: Fishing


Second Day Became First Day!

Never had I seen the stream I visit on the First Day of trout season so swollen. It pounded down rain the night before so it was no surprise that the banks were overflowing. Just walking to the stream with a fractured left big toe was hard enough. The simple open-toed fabric shoe with two Velcro straps I was given was not the proper footwear for high water and slippery, muddy banks. 

foot Not fishing boots!

While waiting for 8:00 to roll around, I started to lose my First Day enthusiasm. There were more fishermen on the stream than usual because not only did the PA Fish Commission stock, but an area sportsman club made some nice contributions, so I was told. And just trying to find a place to cast without getting my feet wet or sliding in mud made it frustrating. After about two hours and not one bite, I decided to hang it up.

swollen-riverVery high, muddy stream

I drove back to the camp three miles away and planned to wait until later hoping the high, brown water would change color and calm down. Small PA streams usually adjust after awhile but leaving the stream after such a short time on the First Day was not my style. I wondered what I was missing by being away for so long. I decided to wait until about 3:00 before heading out once more.

I was hoping that lots of fishermen would become frustrated like me and quit after several hours. Because I was limited to stream access because of my toe, I decided to try a different place from where I was in the morning. I drove to the area about four miles from the camp, parked the car and walked across the road. I had to go down the bank carefully being cautions not to bang my toe against anything. Not easy. After getting down the bank, I could see two fishermen exactly where I wanted to go. They had three rods in the deep pool next to a large, dead willow tree. The water looked green and the level did recede. Good news but there was no room where I wanted to fish. So I decided to go upstream about 20 yards, fighting the uneven ground and battling the briars. I could see that no one was along that part of the stream which is usually not as deep as the nice hole near the over-hanging willow. But I decided to take a chance. 

I used a brown colored, gold spinner. My first cast was greeted with a nice bump and tug but nothing. I cast again. This time was different! I knew it was a large fish that needed to be carefully played. The stream at that point is only about 20 feet wide and the water was moving. The fish streaked downstream then cross stream. After a fight, I netted the 18 inch Brown! The largest I’ve ever caught.

18-inch Brown

I remained in that area of the stream for about an hour. I was unable to go farther upstream. The brush was too thick and I could not walk in the water to get around. I headed back to the camp and discovered that my friends who stayed all day caught three. 

The next day, Sunday, I knew that fewer fishermen would be populating the stream but wanted to head out early. The stream color was now good and the water level down. But just foggy enough that the fish could not see my advances. 

My first cast was at 6:45 and ‘bang’! Another Browie about 15 inches long. After several other casts, nothing. I decided to go down stream where I usually start the First Day. Only one other fisherman was there but he was way off to the side giving me a large area of the pool to cast into. Probably 30 feet across and 50 feet long. One of the largest holes on the Black Log near Orbisonia, PA. In about 45 minutes, I caught three nice Brown. Returned two smaller fish.   

Three Brown and one Rainbow Caught by Brother

As the rain returned around 11:00 and developed later into a sweeping storm with very high winds, I took the stringer of fish attached to Stick-in-the-Mud to the car and drove to the camp for cleaning. What started out to be a seemingly dismal early trout season, turned out to be a lot of fun. However, my ‘special shoe’ and sock did eventually get wet with the Second Day turning out to be more like a successful First Day.

Written by: Frank Koe Categories: Fishing


Never Can Tell!

The 2018 season started out hot. What I mean by ‘hot’ has nothing to do with the amazing trout I caught. I’m actually referring to the temperature that was in the 80's all day long! But the very next day, Sunday, the temperature dropped to the 40's. Quite a change. Very short summer!

Last year was one of the best I've ever experienced but as we know, one reason we fish is to be surprised, hopefully in a good way. The First Day this year was quite unlike the First Day last year. This year I caught only one Brookie about 10 inches long and that was it. Where I usually fish on the First Day was loaded with fishermen, more than usual, and light on stocked trout based on what I experienced and was told. It could be that everyone heard about all the big fish that were caught last year and decided to show up at Blacklog Creek. Another explanation is that the sportsmen’s club that supplemented the state stocking program last year did not release the same number and size of fish this year. Or could it be that many trout were caught out well before the starting bell at 8:00 am.

In anticipation of warm weather to come and the growing population of tics (see earlier post on tics), I discovered that several companies are now infusing fabric with permethrin. Permethrin is the best substance to ward off ticks. But it also keeps away chiggers, flies, midges, ants, and mosquitoes that can carry a host of diseases. Permethrin is not for direct skin application so it’s very convenient to have it already in the clothing and proven to not be harmful to your skin.

Because the First Day was so warm, the bugs were out in force. But with my hat sprayed with permethrin and a bandana I bought already treated wrapped around my neck, no bugs or flies bothered me. As the weather becomes consistently warm, I plan to use a cap I’ll spray and the bandana to keep annoying bugs from buzzing in my eyes, nose, and ears. In addition to the bandana, I purchased a pair of nylon pants that are infused with permethrin and good up to 70 washings. I’ll do anything to keep tics and bugs at bay! With two friends suffering with Lyme, it’s something I want no part of.

One of the highlights of the First Day was being up before sunrise and scratching out a few turkey calls. Immediately, two gobblers responded less than 100 yards away from the cabin. Having addressed my paranoia about tics, I just might have a place to go for spring gobbler!


10 inch rainbow






Osprey over Whipple Dam

Written by: Frank Koe Categories: Fishing


Another Year. Another Derby!

The 33rd annual fishing derby took place in Port Matilda April 29th. It's for kids under the age of 15. Lots of prizes were awarded with some being raffled off. And of course the Stick, once again, proved to be very popular.

There were literally some massive trout pulled out of a stretch of Bald Eagle Creek stocked especially for the event. I saw one that weighed 6 pounds and measured 23 inches! And that was not the largest. As the pictures show, the turn-out was excellent even though recent rain storms painted the water dark tan.

Great Turnout

Great Turnout!

Giant Brown

Giant Brown





It was great to see kids away from their mobile devices to learn a little about how much fun fishing can be. But enjoying the out-of-doors means that we all need to be extra cautious. Lyme disease has reached plague proportions in Pennsylvania with Huntingdon County being the worse.

Becoming infected with a deer tick can lead to nerve paralysis, arthritis, severe headaches, heart palpitations, fever, exhaustion, seizures, depression, and loss of the use of facial muscles. The sign that you may have lyme is often a red bulls-eye shaped rash but as many as 50% never get that tell-tale marker, especially those who are infected with a new strain of tick recently discovered in the Upper Midwest of the US, specifically Minnesota and Wisconsin. Beyond this newly identified strain, there is yet another mutation of the disease. In Maine, a woman died when she contracted the fairly rare Powassan virus from a tick. This strain of lyme disease was named after the town of Powassan, Ontario Canada where it was discovered in a boy who later died. Currently, there are no vaccines or medications available to treat or prevent the virus.

The reality is that it's often difficult to diagnosis lyme. About 300,000 people are infected every year and many have lingering health issues for the rest of their lives. Quick diagnosis and treatment is essential. Deer ticks are about the size of a sesame seed but baby ticks are even smaller. Generally, it takes about 24 hours or more for a typical deer tick to work its way into you.

Be careful while you're enjoying fishing, hunting, or even gardening! There is lots of information online about how to prevent lyme. Might be a good idea to read what the CDC has to say. Personally, I fear deer ticks more than poisoned snakes. Stay safe!



Written by: Frank Koe Categories: Fishing


My Oh My!

It's not often when you catch five trout on Opening Day with the largest measuring 16 1/4 inches and the smallest 13 1/2 inches. But that's what happened.

The stream, near Cowans Gap State Park, was not over stocked with fishermen and seemed more like a day later in the season. Sometimes when I see so few fishermen, I wonder if I'm at the wrong place because we all know the First Day is usually populated by as many fishermen as there are stocked fish in the water. Not so on this day. There were a total of five people around a fairly wide area of the stream. In fact, I was the only one on my side of the hole.


Redbuds on Hillside

It's always hard to figure out what bait or lure to use for that first cast. So many options. I finally decided to try a 'baby' night crawler. Nothing happened for the first three casts. But on the fourth, I got a very big strike! I could feel the weight of the fish, something I usually do not experience. I knew I had to play it calmly and carefully while reeling in about 20 feet of line. It's rare that my drag engages on a trout but this day I had to use my thumb on the Zebco Omega Pro 3 to increase the drag. The people around me were also aware that I had something very large on my line. After what appeared to be several minutes but was only about 10 seconds, the fish got off and my rod went straight. I reeled in the line and was amazed to see that my hook, leader, and split shot sinker were gone! Did the fish saw through the 8-pound test line with its sand paper rough teeth? I have no way of knowing. But I knew that was the largest trout I ever had on while fishing a PA stream.

I continued casting with a worm and over about 40 minutes caught 4 chubs. Depressing. Then I switched to meal worms then a Panther Martin. Nothing. After an hour into the season, I was getting frustrated as I continued to reflect on how that large fish escaped. Across from me two nice fish were caught around 10/12 inches and that was it.

Not sure what to do, I walked up to some of my friends to see how they were doing and they seemed to be having quite a bit of luck. They had their limit in about 35 minutes. I couldn't believe it! They were catching fish on Panther Martins and spinners. I decided to rededicate myself. I knew that after only an hour or so all the fish could not possibly be caught.

I attached a spinner and headed back down to the place I left. I threw the spinner about 5 or 6 times and...nothing. I headed down stream where oddly enough there were no fishermen. Fighting through the overhanging briars about 50 yards from my first spot, I flipped out the spinner underhanded into a section of water that looked to be about four feet deep. The very first cast a trout slammed into the spinner and once again a fight was on! The trout actually jumped about a foot out of water 4 times! Never had that happen before. This 'big boy' fortunately did not get away. I placed the fish on the stringer attached to the Stick-in-the-Mud to let it swim near the shore then flipped the lure out a few more times with no results. I continued downstream and each hole I came upon I caught another big trout within three casts. It took me about 50 minutes to an hour to navigate through the woods, stream, rocks, and briars to come up with my limit. At about 10:00 or so I was finished with my largest First Day catch ever.

It's never easy to know what exactly fish will be talking on a given day: bait, lures, or flies? But as we well know, there's a seemingly endless array of choices. By having a good selection of live bait and lures ready to go stream-side, there's a very good chance you'll 'strike it rich' and discover, with persistence, the right formula for a particular day of trout fishing on a PA stream.

rainbow trout

Four Large Rainbow and One Brown

Written by: Frank Koe Categories: Fishing


Equipment Counts

Fishing small streams over many years in Central Pennsylvania, I've discovered that certain traditions and preferences develop. For example, most of my fishing takes place on streams that range from about four to 25 feet wide. Depth of water is usually not more than four feet. Most fishermen use open-faced spinning reels and, to a lesser degree, bait casting reels. But my preference is for the closed-faced reel, like the Shakespeare or the old Johnson Century that rarely develops backlash problems and uses a push button action making casting very simple. These reels are good for smaller streams or tight spots where you do not need to put out 20 to 60 yards of line. For short rods and small streams, a closed-faced reel is the answer. But there are two problems.

First off, the closed-faced reel has been associated with children who are just starting to enjoy the sport and most adults do not want to be seen stream-side with childish equipment. The second problem is that although the concept is very good, the majority of closed-faced reels are poorly made. I have no idea how many closed-faced reels I've gone through costing from $15.95 to $33.00. These reels available at Walmart and other locations are not intended for grown-ups who desire a serious and dependable reel. Until recently.

What's nice about living in rural America is that you can enjoy the life style but also have access to a world of products online. As customers, we think we’re responsible for what we purchase but in reality it's the buyers associated with a store or Big Box who 'tell us' what our choices are. Not so when we access a computer.


Zebco Omega Pro 3

The good news is that in recent times the closed-faced reel has been upgraded with models that work very well but do not appear in local stores including larger outlets like Field and Stream or Dick’s. There is no reason to be intimidated by the notion that a closed-faced reel is just for children any more assuming you find such a reel useful to help make stealthy presentations without the hassle of setting the pick-up or bale with a finger and risking a backlash.  

In particular, I'm referring to one such reel that I've tested and use, the Zebco Omega Pro 3 Spincast Reel. It sells for around $80.00 plus tax and worth the money. The drag works very well and is nicely located so you can use a thumb to roll it from low to high. I’ve also removed the line that came with the reel and replaced it with Yo-Zuri Hybrid, 8-pound test.  

Although I use an open-faced salt water reel for surf fishing where there's an ocean to cast out into or for lake fishing, this one model of Zebco performs exceptionally well for those many smaller country streams where trout call home. After all, it's about the equipment and what works for the type of fishing you do. 

Written by: Frank Koe Categories: Fishing


Something Different for the First Day

Lake Perez at Sunrise

Last year was the first year Lake Perez at Stone Valley was filled with water and stocked with trout. Stone Valley is a short drive from State College, PA. The lake was out of commission for six years due to repairs that had to be made to the breast of the dam. The stocking report this year indicated that the lake would be stocked April 14th.

A few weeks ago, I decided to dock my Sports Pal Canoe at Stone Valley. It helps not to have to tie it up and transport it on top of the SUV for every float- and- fish outing. It also saves money on a roof rack that attaches to the existing one so the rack can actually be used!


One Brook Trout

I figured that my Brother and I could get to the lake early and launch the boat to try lake fishing for the First Day. That we did. In fact, we were first on the water. But of course that changed around 7:30. There were about 30 boats on the lake just before 8:00 with most of them trolling the length of the lake back and forth using electric motors. No gas motors are permitted. The day was perfect. No clouds and no wind. The lake was glass smooth with late morning temperatures around 69/72. It was great to be out early and watching a few swirls in the water caused by trout coming up for an early hatch. It always helps to see that kind of activity. It fuels the excitement and anticipation of catching the limit of five.

We fished for about 4 hours using just about everything except Power Bait and minnows. Bottom line? Nothing. Not even a bite! It appeared that some trout were caught by the trollers, but not many. Pretty odd first day. But after we docked the boat around 12:00, I traveled a short distance to Whipple Dam and caught one brook trout around nine inches. You could actually see trout swimming in the water there just a few feet from shore but most were not interested in what I had to offer.

At least the boat is docked at a very scenic place, Lake Perez, that’s stocked with fish acclimating to their new environment and available to be caught another day.


Brother and the Boat

Written by: Frank Koe Categories: Fishing


Hunting for Natives

As the heat of summer yields to cooler fall days, it’s always a great time to hike through the woods to visit a remote mountain stream in the hopes of catching a large native brook or brown trout. The word ‘large’ here is quite relative. Catching a native measuring eight inches or more would be quite impressive.


A likely native trout stream hole

The experience is more like hunting than actually fishing in the more traditional sense. Native streams are usually narrow and fairly shallow. A ‘good hole’ might be only two feet deep or less. Stream widths can range from about three to ten feet. The water is almost always crystal clear and by casting your shadow across the surface, telegraphs an immediate signal to all trout and instantly they scatter under rocks and roots. Being stealthy, very stealthy is the only way to improve your luck. If you can see the trout there is an excellent chance they’ve already seen you and will consequently not bite. Sometimes there is a more flat, calm area of water several feet downstream from the hole you want to try. That calm, wide area usually has a few two, three, or four inchers standing as guards while keeping an eye out for a snack floating by. If you spook those fish they often race upstream and sound the alarm to any fish in the pool. Before your garden worm hits the surface of the water, all of the fish have been alerted.

On a recent trip to Tipton Run, Blair County, PA I carefully made my way down stream. It was rough going because of all the laurel, trees, and brush overhanging the water. If you bump against a tree branch and its shadow moves over the stream, the fish are gone. And, of course there is the challenge of keeping the line from becoming tangled in limbs on shore or over water as well as trying to prevent a snag in the water that would disrupt the hole.


About four inches

I felt I was doing a good job of delicately dunking the small worm in several good spots but nothing was happening. No bites. I’ve found that just because the stream is known to have native trout does not mean that the entire stream is populated. When I start to fish, I sometimes walk abruptly up to the edge of the water to see if any small trout disperse. This way I know there are fish in that portion of the stream. I’ve been known to have spent many hours fishing in small mountain streams only to realize that there were simply no fish at home! But I’ve also fished in streams where there were no fish in a 75 yard portion of a stream but then a few feet farther magically ‘showed up.’

Eventually, several three or four inch brook trout held onto my worm long enough to be lifted a foot or so out of the water but dropped back in. There were no keepers this day.

The next several weeks are a great time to be in the woods hunting for native trout. And even if you don’t catch a prize you will not be disappointed by the fall colors or the aroma of the fall air.

Written by: Frank Koe Categories: Fishing

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