The article below was
Sportsman's Connection /
Outdoor Talk Network
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We usually dont meet them, yet their existence has penetrated our lives. Their
pastimes have become our passions; their writings have evolved as our philosophies. They
have given us direction and fueled the emotion for the pursuit of our endeavors. We are
their students and their disciples and yet, we rarely think of them. Who are these
mystical people transcending the
century to arrive at the extraordinary? They are the legendary, the icons of the industry.
Those who have made an impact beyond refinements, but rather blazed new territory for all
to experience and enjoy.
At the very least, you probably heard their names. Jack OConner made the .270
Winchester famous with his exploits of one shot hunts and very dead elk. Elmer Keith made
the .44 Magnum famous by dropping charging grizzlies within dancing distance. Fred Bear
traveled the world to hunt our most dangerous game animals with a bow. You may have been
born after they died, but their persona has effected us all.
In the fishing world, the man of the century, the standard by which all others are judged,
is alive and living in State College, PA. His name is George Harvey. There is no man, dead
or alive, who has made the impact on our fishing society as this living legend. He is the
Dean of American Fly
Fishing, the Patron Saint of Fly Tiers, the teacher of teachers. His life is a story of
caring, sharing, vision and passion.
I met Mr. George Harvey, or should I say Sir George Harvey, at WMAJ in State College for
our hour-long radio interview. Chatting with him was akin to speaking with a living,
breathing, history book. At 88 years young, I found him mentally sharp and physically
strong. Here is a man that has not missed an opening day of trout fishing for 82 years! I
am sure that is one for the
Guinness Book of Records. His whole life is about breaking records and breaking new
ground, going where no man has gone before.
On the air, Mr. Harvey told me the incredible story of the beginning of his world famous
fly fishing classes at Penn State University. It seems he enrolled at Penn State College
in 1931 and quickly became the friend of another fisherman, R.L. Watts, the Dean of Penn
State. During their first outing together, Mr. Harvey out-fished the dean, 25 to 2, with
the fly rod. George had been tying his own flies since he was ten. He was an overnight
success on campus. Sought after by faculty and students, Mr. Harvey was soon teaching fly
casting and fly tying. In 1934, Mr. Harvey was asked to teach his magic as a non-credited
course. He was also a physical education teacher for the University, ultimately becoming
the head of the PE program. He continued until 1947, teaching thousands to fly fish and
fly tie. In 1947, the University converted his course to a credited course, the first in
the world. Outdoor Life did a five-page spread on George Harvey and his classes. Mr.
Harvey continued to educate the masses until his retirement in 1972. I can not fathom how
many thousands this man is responsible for educating.
During his tenure, he taught his courses in 48 cities in PA. He lectured in hundreds of
towns and hamlets. He has fished, literally, everywhere in this state. As they say,
he has talked the talk, and walked the walk. In his travels, he discovered the
trico hatch. He was the first to tie the trico dry
fly. He fished with presidents, movie stars, writers and video producers. He has been on
television, radio and wrote timeless fly fishing books. He skills at the bench, with the
fly rod and on the creek were and remain unprecedented. He is mentioned or featured in
almost every fly fishing book written in this century.
He even trained his own replacement. It seems a gentleman by the name of Joe Humphreys
attended Mr. Harveys course in the late 1960s. In 1970, Joe Humphreys was
hired by Penn State as a fly fishing instructor. In 1972, Joe picked up the torch for the
retiring George Harvey. Joe Humphreys went on to teach thousands more. George and Joe are
great friends, having dinner together every week. George Harvey tied the special fly that
Joe Humphreys used to catch a 16- pound brown trout from Big Fishing Creek. I saw the fly.
It was tied with jungle cock. That fish was our state record for many years. Obviously,
Joe Humphreys is a legend in his own right. I interviewed Joe as well. He will be the
topic of a future column.
Spruce Creek is Mr. Harveys latest stomping grounds. The PA Fish and Boat
Commission named a catch and release section in his behalf. I supposed you could
say he has been immortalized by this gesture. I believe we should build him a
monument. I cannot think of another man who has done so much for so many for so
long. The next time you pick up your fly rod, think about Sir George Harvey. We are
all his descendents. No one on this planet can match his contributions. In the 20th
century, he is unquestionably the fly fishing icon of icons.
Some will be remembered for what they said. Others will be remembered for what
they did. The special will be remembered for who they were. Author, Jim
Sportsman's Connection / Outdoor
P.O. Box 219
Northampton, PA 18067
Tel. 610-262-2143 / Fax 610-262-4440