Boiling Springs, Pa. – Cletus Starner saw his 60th trout opener
in the same spot along the Yellow Breeches Creek on April 2, the
first day of the 2011 trout-fishing season in the southeastern and
southcentral regions of the state.
It would have been 64 years, but he took four years off to serve
with the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War.
His sons, Jim and Steve, have shared the experience with him for
more than 40 years, missing only a few years each, including once
at ages 8 and 6 when they had the measles and left the stream only
at the insistence of their mother, Janet.
“They bawled all the way home,” recalled their father.
Grandsons Travis and Matt have “begun” their contributions to the
tradition, with 25 years and 11 years respectively at the spot the
family calls “Hog’s Hole.” Great-grandson Gavin Hebert caught his
first trout there last year, at age 3.
Friends stop by throughout the day. Family members who aren’t fond
of fishing visit the spot later on the first day, bringing dinner
with them to the trailer the family parks just across the road from
the stream for two nights prior to the first day.
When Cletus first “hogged” Hog’s Hole for himself and
wheelchair-bound “lifelong buddy” William Ditzel, he only needed to
arrive by midnight before the opening hour, which was 5 a.m. back
then. And that’s where the tradition began.
He first took notice of the long, deep hole a few miles west of
Boiling Springs as a boy of 6 or 7, while accompanying his parents
on regular Sunday visits to his Aunt Alberta in a nearby nursing
“My folks wouldn’t allow me to fish on the Sabbath,” he recalled.
“All I could do was crawl down over the bank and watch” a couple of
anglers hook a seemingly endless supply of trout from the only spot
along the then-narrow, dirt lane from which they could get to the
stream for half a football field in either direction.
Starner decided that “when I got my driver’s license,” that hole
would have new occupants for the first day.
When that day finally arrived, he and Ditzel woke early on the
first day of trout season 1947 and drove from their homes in
Highspire to the special spot, which they found already occupied by
two other anglers.
They settled for a spot downstream, caught only a few trout and
“the next year we were here at midnight and we got the spot,”
It was that method for securing the hole that led Ditzel’s brother
Charles – when he accompanied the friends and noted that anglers
needed to get there early to “hog” the spot for themselves – to
observe, “Oh man, this is a real hog’s hole.”
And, that’s the way it’s been for 60 years, although the advance
arrival needed to claim the spot extended first to camping there
the night before and more recently to camping there for two nights
before opening day.
The family fishes and hunts together across the state and beyond,
but they’ve never considered trying a different spot for the first
morning of trout season.
“We’ve never even had the discussion,” noted Jim. “This stream
could turn into a boiling acid- mine drainage and I think we’d
still be here.”
It’s almost as if the stream didn’t need to hold any trout to bring
on each year’s step in the ongoing tradition. Except for those
occasions when a younger relation wants to keep his fish or when a
few are wanted for a meal, “we don’t even keep the trout,” noted
And, young anglers who show up at Hog’s Hole, even non-family
members, are given preference for spots along the stream, which are
much more available these days, in the wake of road-widening and
brush cutting to accommodate the area’s growing development and
“It all boils down to sentiment,” explained Starner. “After you
come and go to a place for so long, it just becomes a part of