Updated: Dec 1, 2020
The streams and rivers of Pennsylvania offer beginner and advanced fly fishers the opportunity to delve into the wilds and come up with some pretty amazing catches.
Walking into The Feathered Hook, I’m a bit hesitant. I’ve never fly fished before a day in my life (and I’ve only fished once before when I was ten). Needless to say, I was skeptical of what I could learn in a short amount of time.
In five minutes, Jonas had me casting like a pro, and I exaggerate only slightly. His bubbly and vivacious personality make learning easy, and his stories are sure to have you in stitches in no time. The shop is quaint, but walk inside and you’re greeting with all the equipment, bait, and extras that a fly fisher would need. It’s the perfect set-up for anyone looking to have a new experience, or the seasoned veteran fisher looking for their next adventure.
As a novice, my next question was, “What’s so special about the area that makes it such good fishing?” Jonas had the answer.
“Centre county and the surrounding area in Pennsylvania is essentially a geological anomaly because our bedrock is almost all limestone. Limestone makes the best trout water as it balances the PH levels and puts nutrients in the water. It’s a natural filter that turns cold water into trout water. We don’t have the biggest trout in the country, but what we do have is some of the most trout in a wild scenario, and we have some of the greatest hatches left in moving water. What this geological anomaly means is that from where we are sitting at 516 Main Street, Coburn, PA (the home address of The Feathered Hook), there are 110 trout streams within an hour of here. There is so much cold moving water that if you were to look at a map of the waterways in this area, it would look like veins in the human body.”
That is an enormous amount of variety in location and stream types for people of all skill levels to experience. Jonas adds that when dedicated fly fishers come to visit, they tend to stay for about a week, and fish an average of three different streams a few different times. But, they also work with people who have zero experience in the sport (like me).
“The people who come here cover the whole range, from “I’ve never picked up a fly rod before” to “I’ve fished all over the world.” The nice thing about this area is that everyone can have a good time. The very beginner fly fisher who comes here has incredibly low expectations, which works to our advantage. Because the area is so big, it has different levels of difficulty. There are areas of really high-density trout where there are less choices of things for them to eat, so it’s easier to match the hatch of the insects. But there are areas that are much more difficult. One of the things to take into account is our trout fishing is hard. Really hard. There is a tremendous amount of diversity of the kind of trout fishing, from the size of stream to the number of hatches of insects to match bait to. That is all fantastic to the person who wants to come and explore.”
People of all skill levels can benefit from another service that the shop offers: guides. These people know the ins and outs of the area, the fish, and the bait, and are an invaluable tool to a fly fisher of any level.
“The Feathered Hook is super proud to offer one of the best guiding services in Central Pennsylvania. We take our highly experiences guides, who are trained to work with everyone from beginner to advanced, and they give the client a great fly fishing experience. We have six in-house guides who can do the same things, and some specialize in certain areas. My job is to find out what a person knows, so that I can help them to their level,” Jonas says.
“One of the things we’re really proud of here is that we have Centre County’s first full-time woman guide. Her name is Tess, and she’s amazing. The opportunity to have someone with a full skillset to provide our clients the level of expertise that they have come to expect, regardless of gender, is what we want here at The Feathered Hook. It’s just highly qualified people regardless of who they are; I don’t care who you are or what you did for a living before. If fly fishing is your passion and can you teach it to the next person, then that’s all that matters. If the answer is yes, then you’re on the same page as we are. There has been a huge uptick in the past few years in the number of women that are getting into outdoor recreation, whether its kayaking, fly fishing, or fishing in general.”
With all of these amazing locations, guides, and equipment, Jonas is careful not to lose sight of what he thinks is the most important aspect; creating memories. At the end of the day, The Feathered Hook represents a freedom for the experienced fly fishers who love the sport. It’s a safe place for them to be around people who have the same passion as they do. And it’s a fantastic place for the beginner to get an introduction to the sport and the people who love it.
“My father was an avid fisher. He started taking me with him when I was three. I have hazy memories of those times, but that became the thing that affected me for my entire life. The thing that stuck with me through all of the years was fishing, and I aspired to be a fly fisher because those were the memories I had of those father-son trips. I want that to apply to the people who visit our shop today. That’s really when we’re at our best; when the client and the guide are having an experience that is much greater than, “I took you fishing and you caught fish.” Our goal here is to make lifelong memories.”