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: New Cumberland, Pennsylvania
Occupation: Flyfishing guide for Relentless Fly Fishing, a TCO Fly Shop employee, and snowboarding coach for USA Olympic athlete A.J. Muss
Conservation credentials: Board member for Cumberland Valley Trout Unlimited
Neil Sunday’s “Gram” probably didn’t realize she was creating a lifelong sportsman and fishing devotee when she purchased his first fishing rod at a local hardware store. These days, he’s something of a reformed bass fisherman, dedicated to helping people get out on the water for south-central PA’s brown, rainbow, and brook trout.
Here is his story.
I can still remember the trip to the hardware store in Mechanicsburg, Pa., where my grandmother bought me a Shakespeare spinning rod. Trindle Spring Run was quite demanding for a six-year-old, so I spent a few summers with very few fish stories! That all changed when I moved to Dillsburg and hit the farm ponds and Yellow Breeches Creek near Williams Grove.
When I was older, I took up flyfishing after a few years of tournament bass fishing on the Susquehanna River. I realized the impact we were having on the smallmouth bass populations and thought that something had to change. So, I gave away most of my traditional rods and reels and taught myself how to fly cast—I haven’t looked back.
I have so many good memories of fishing, and I’m making more every day. One of my most incredible days on the water was shared with my wife, Lori, and a good friend, Captain Scott Irvine, in Key West. We left the docks before sunrise, and after a 45-minute skiff ride we powered down the boat. In the distance, as far as we could see, fish were rolling on the surface.
We had over two hours of sight casting to feeding tarpon! By 9:30 a.m., we were doing celebratory shots of tequila. We spent the rest of the day chasing permit and hunting bonefish in the pristine environment of the Marquesas.
If I could fish anywhere, I would like to go back to New Zealand. Their focus on protecting the environment is evident. The people and government understand the importance of conserving what they have, and the fish happen to be the benefactors of this effort.
The overall conservation ethic is something I wish we had more of here in our great country.
As a fishing guide in South-Central Pennsylvania, my office is on the famous waterways of the Cumberland Valley. Without clean water, we would not have the wild brown trout of the LeTort Spring Run, the wild rainbow trout and native brook trout of Big Spring in Newville, or the dynamic trout factory known as the Yellow Breeches.
In fact, without clean water, I’d have to go get a “real” job.
In my time as a Board member of the Cumberland Valley chapter of Trout Unlimited, I have taken a keen interest in our Stream Access and Conservation Committee. Once a tract of land has been used and a waterway altered, it’s very hard to restore. As a committee member, I’m part of a team that goes to great lengths to have restoration projects approved by state agencies, landowners, and other stakeholders.
Right now, one of the biggest conservation challenges where I live, and for our country, perhaps, is that people don’t prioritize responsible building practices, development, and land-use management over financial gain. Conservation should be used as a preventative measure—it is the easiest way to keep what we have for future generations.
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