TRCP’s “In the Arena” series highlights the individual voices of hunters and anglers who, as Theodore Roosevelt so famously said, strive valiantly in the worthy cause of conservation
Hometown: Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania
Occupation: Retired Social Security Administration official, flyfishing guide, writer, educator
Conservation credentials: Currently co-chair of the Trout Management Committee at the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited. Previously served as council president and vice president, as well as a chapter president and officer.
For Dave Rothrock, picking up a fly rod as a boy was just the next natural step in a continued fascination with and pursuit of all things trout. He started tying flies before he even knew how to fish them, and he tells us that he still likes to photograph the bugs that trout like to eat. Rothrock’s most memorable fish encounter was his very first wild brown, which he landed after years of only having access to stockers, and it has ignited a lifelong commitment to clean water in Pennsylvania’s trout streams.
Here is his story.
I was set on my journey in the great world of the outdoors—from my first fish at the age of six to hunting for pheasants and deer—by my father. But really it was my love of trout that has made me what I am today. The wild trout fishing we have available here in Pennsylvania is arguably some of the best in the nation. Apparently, many others agree, since we have more trout anglers on the water throughout the year than any other state.
It was here that I caught my first wild brown trout. For about ten years I had only fished for hatchery-reared fish, but I was old enough to drive out to the Little Lehigh Creek in Allentown, Pa., for this trip. I knew from the moment I laid eyes on the 8-inch brownie that I had something special. Of course, back in the mid-1960s, I wasn’t familiar with catch and release as a concept, so all trout were harvested to be eaten. Wild trout were special in more ways than one!
These days, even though I have fished for trout from Michigan to Maine and Austria and Slovenia, I would choose my home state every time. (Maybe with a side trip to Maine for trophy brook trout—it’s the last remaining stronghold for native brookies here in the U.S.)
As a fanatic flyfisherman, and one who values wild trout over any other, I have come to realize that what I hold most dear would not exist without clean water. I have written about flies and flyfishing in numerous publications, and I enjoy guiding and teaching anglers of all skill levels with the goal of enabling them to be more effective and successful on the water. Clean water is the number one essential for any of this to be part of my life.
I was introduced to Trout Unlimited back in the earliest 1970s. It was at TU meetings that I first began to hear about conservation. I’ll confess I don’t remember any of what I heard at first, but it must have instilled in me this concept of giving back to something from which I’ve taken.
I also began to realize the connection between the trout I enjoyed catching and the need to protect the water they inhabit. I heard reports of streams holding more trout as a result of stream habitat improvements made by conservation-minded anglers and others. I learned that mayflies and brook trout, in particular, can help indicate the quality of the water and any trouble brewing.
Over the years I’ve tried to make good on my belief that I need to give back to the resource that provides me so much opportunity. It is only by so doing that we have the quality trout fishing that so many of us hold so dear.
The next generation of anglers recognizes the value of wild trout, and they are quick to point out weakness and flaws in management practices. Yet, when the opportunity arises for them to provide constructive input, or when a call goes out to help a stream in need, it seems they are nowhere to be found. I hope this starts to change.
Unless we see more young people taking an interest in fishing, to the point of being willing to speak up and take action when needed, the future of our traditions is in jeopardy.
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