Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

80-year-old Pennsylvania fly-fishing course still a success story

University Park, Pa. — Joe Humphreys’ legacy in the fly-fishing world was apparent this summer when he served as coach of the bronze-medal-winning United States team in the Worldmasters Fly Fishing Championship in Portugal.

At a related event, organizers presented Humphreys with a gold medal for his lifetime of contributions to the sport.

While recognized around the world, Humphreys, a member of the Fly Fishing Hall of Fame, also has a legacy at Penn State. A 1957 graduate of the College of Health and Human Development, Humphreys served for 19 years as an instructor in Penn State’s angling program.

The fly-fishing course, which began in the 1930s, is still offered today as a General Education offering in the Department of Kinesiology in large part due to the Joe Humphreys Student Angling Fund, which supports instructors and helps provide equipment to students.

In an effort to maintain the longevity of the program, Woods and Waters Consulting in Boalsburg, recently organized a fundraising event, which generated $20,000 for the endowment.

“Many thousands of students, who really learned the rudiments of fly-fishing enjoyed the course. I am running into them all across the United States as I’m continuing my fly-fishing endeavors,” Humphreys said.

“We have so much stress in this world today, and there are so many demands. The angling course has provided students with not only the rudiments of angling, but it has given them a wholesome recreational activity, and that’s so important.”

Recognizing the importance of the program, Katie Ombalski, principal of Woods and Waters Consulting and a longtime conservation advocate in central Pennsylvania, organized Cast In Traditions, an annual three-day fly-fishing clinic and fundraising event.

“One of the things I have learned in my 25 years as a conservation professional is that if people do not understand and experience nature for themselves, they don’t value it,” Ombalski said.

“Our natural resources are threatened in so many ways today, it is essential that future generations learn the importance of land and water conservation. If there are to be stewards of our natural environment in the future, we need to plant the seeds now by getting young people out on the landscape.”

Roughly 30 anglers participated in the April event at Spruce Creek, a well-known trout stream near State College and the same creek where Humphreys caught his first trout as a boy.

“Spring Creek and its tributaries, they were my classroom. It influenced my life to the point where it became my livelihood, and I’d like to think I’ve touched many lives, and the people I’ve worked with have also touched so many lives, so it’s not only recreational, it’s spiritual,” Humphreys said.

“One thing that I’m very proud of is that my students and students of the program have been very important relative to the conservation of our streams and water quality because they want to keep them there for the angling for millions of others.”

The event included a day of seminars taught by Humphreys and Greg Hoover, current instructor in fly-fishing at Penn State, who for years have worked with Ombalski to raise funds for conservation.

“They have given so much of their time to help us in the past, it was time we helped them with the endowment that supports the program they love,” Ombalski said. “We want to see that program flourish into the future and supporting the endowment will help ensure that it does.”

Nancy Williams, head of the Department of Kinesiology, said the endowment allows the fly-fishing course to continue while supporting instructors and ensuring students have necessary supplies.

The department is also considering further developing the course to include an expanded travel component in the near future.

“The fly-fishing program has been one of the most successful general education efforts the department has engaged in,” Williams said.

“As department head, I consistently encounter former students who cannot say enough about the fond memories from their time in the class and how they have evolved their perspective on the course as they have gotten older. It has brought great recognition to the department, and it is an honor to be associated with the rich history of the fly-fishing tradition in central Pennsylvania.”

In addition to the effort led by Woods and Waters, which provides conservation consulting services including technical support for philanthropic foundations, businesses and conservation organizations, conservation planning, and terrestrial and aquatic habitat restoration and management services, other volunteers helped support the latest effort to contribute to the endowment.

Tracey Olexa and Chris Hennessey served as volunteer coordinators for the event. Kitty Patterson of Graphics and Design in State College provided promotional and communications materials for the event.

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