State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

A Lifetime of Adventure Keeps Fly Fishing Legend on the Water

by and on April 30, 2019 5:00 AM

“Let’s go have an adventure,” said Joe Humphreys, as he started his car to go off on yet another trip to a local stream to fly fish.

And while the fly fishing legend does not move around as well as he used to (after all he is 90-years-old, and this past year he has had a few surgeries that have limited his movement), he is still a force out on the water, in tune with everything around him. Out on Spring Creek in April, at the headquarters of The Spring Creek Chapter of Trout Unlimited veterans affiliated program, a group of local anglers were glad to watch the legend at work. It is a common scene to see fly fishermen in awe, watching Humphreys do his thing.

With a glimmer in his eye Humphreys made his way out in the water with the assistance of fisherman Guy Murray, of Bellefonte. He checked under the rocks to see what kind food might be available for the trout, and studied what types of flies were hatching at that particular time. From his tackle he pulled out one of his homemade flies (many of his fly patterns are the gold standard for fly fishers, sold in fly fishing stores around the world with his name on them), and got to work.

He flicked his wrist with speed and precision as he cast his fly out on the water, and scanned as the current dragged it across the surface, taking it all in. He studied, and with a lifetime of knowledge, made the proper adjustments. He was trying to find the right spot, with the right fly and the right movement to tempt a fish and make it bite. And he wasn’t going to stop until he caught one.

Humphreys said he has millions fish stories, and driving beside Spring Creek, away from Fisherman’s Paradise toward Bellefonte, he talked of a group of five trout that take up residence at a specific bend in the stream.

“Guys see them and try to pull off and get them,” said Humphreys. But, he said, that as soon as they cast their fly into the stream, the fish scatter away. “Yeah, they (trout) are pretty smart.”

He is still fascinated by the stream and the fish, and that is something that has served Humphreys well through his long life. He loves it, studying the fish and watching what they do, and has ever since he was a boy growing up in State College. He remembers a big trout in Thompson’s Run that he just couldn’t catch. He studied it and watched what it ate and how it went about its business.

The stream became his classroom.

He took some orange thread and did his best to mimic the fresh water shrimp that the trout was eating, and with his homemade bait, he caught that fish. He ran home and showed his mom his catch, and from that moment on I guess you could say he was hooked. The rest is history, and his list of accomplishments is long.

He lettered in boxing and wrestling while a student at Penn State. He served his country all over the world while in the Navy. He coached wrestling at some of the top programs in the state and was an assistant wrestling coach at Penn State. He fished with Jimmy Carter and Dick Cheney and he hosted a show on ESPN. He taught a credited fishing class at Penn State and has written books about the art of fly fishing.

And, he’s still always willing to talk fish with anyone who asks.

In fact, he seems tickled that people are still interested to hear what he has to say, and, boy, are they ever. Recently, the award-winning documentary film “Live the Stream” shared the story of his life with a broader audience. Through it all he said he is glad to share his knowledge and love of the streams. He said it is his life’s work; and, he isn’t done yet.

This was the 83rd straight year that he made it out for the opening day of trout season (he even made sure to schedule his leave while he was in the Navy around opening day), and his excitement has never wavered.

On opening day this season, he and his buddies started off like they have for years — at The Corner Room (one of the few businesses still operating since he was a boy) in State College — before they headed down to Milesburg to fish the Bald Eagle.

Humphreys stays busy hunting and watching Penn State sports in the off season and he said he got a kick out of watching Penn State wrestling win another national championship this year. The many friends and family he sees often seem to bring him as much joy as the water, and he speaks of them all fondly. All of it keeps him ready for whatever adventure is coming his way.

“The secret, that I’ve found, is to have something exciting to look forward too,” said Humphreys. He was recently invited to go fishing in Northern Canada and speak at a fishing show.

“These are exciting things and gives me something to look forward to instead of sitting here looking out the window,” said Humphreys.

He said the documentary was an enjoyable project to be a part of and that working with the film makers was a great experience.

“Going to the film festivals, it was a lot of fun. It’s exciting. Another exciting adventure” said Humphreys. But besides the big trips, Humphreys seems to enjoy the little adventures as much as the big ones and cherishes every opportunity to talk about his passions — all the adventures that keep him young.

“Being out on the water today, it’s like I’m sixteen again. Such a wonderful experience,” he said. He was grateful for the time he spent with old friends and new acquaintances and was quick to share a joke and, of course, offer fishing advice.

After his trip with the group from Trout Unlimited, Humphreys had to hurry back home. He had made a promise to a 12-year-old fisherman who thinks the world of him that he would attend his baseball game that evening and he wasn’t going to miss it. While he laments that many youth are spending too much time playing video games instead of getting outside in nature (back in the 1930s they didn’t have many options), he sees hope in this young fisherman. He said he is glad to teach him and help him learn the ways of the stream, and he was not going to let him down.

So the legend of Joe Humphreys grows, and it is no fish story — it is an adventure.

LOCAL FLY FISHING legend Joe Humphreys still has it and for the 83rd straight year, he was casting flies on the opening day of trout season. Photo by Vincent Corso/The Gazette

This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

Vincent Corso is writer for Town&Gown and the Centre County Gazette.
Next Article
Letter: If You Care About Health Care, Don't Sit Out This Special Election
April 30, 2019 4:30 AM
Letter: If You Care About Health Care, Don't Sit Out This Special Election
Disclaimer: Copyright © 2020 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

order food online