Students explore heritage in fly fishing class

Students explore heritage in fly fishing class

By Emily Riden
Collegian Staff Writer

Series note: This is the fourth in a five-part series examining gym classes offered at Penn State.

Penn State’s heritage is deeply rooted in agriculture and the outdoors — and three kinesiology classes allow students to get in touch with that heritage by learning the sport of fly fishing.

The classes trace back to the 1930s, when a “young fellow” by the name of George Harvey went fishing with the dean of the College of Agriculture, course instructor Mark Belden said.

The dean was so impressed with Harvey’s ability to tie flies to fish that he asked Harvey to teach him and other faculty members. In 1947, Harvey was hired by the university to teach fly fishing for credit. This made Penn State one of the first universities to offer collegiate fly fishing, Belden said.

“And here we are nearly 70 years later, still teaching the fly fishing class,” Belden said.

Penn State continues to be recognized as a leader in fly fishing education, Belden said.

Since its origin, the fly fishing curriculum has expanded to include KINES 004 (Principles and Practices of Fly Fishing for Trout), KINES 008 (Introduction to Casting) and KINES 093 (Masters of Fly Fishing).

“The classes are a lot of fun — excuse the pun, but after we get the kids going a couple classes, we’ve got them hooked,” Belden said.

Before actually taking to the water, students learn important information and techniques in Rec Hall. Some of the necessary skills include tying flies, learning how to cast, reading water and learning basic entomology such as the bugs that will be found on the water, Bill Steudler (senior-geography) said.

Once these skills are acquired, students venture outdoors to actually put what they have learned into practice.

“Our laboratory is a place called Fly Fisher’s Paradise,” Belden said.

Located roughly six miles from campus, Fly Fisher’s Paradise is a part of Spring Creek Canyon and a part of the tremendous outdoor environment that is available in the area, Belden said.

“This is actually a destination area for fishing. A lot of people come here to fish and sometimes that is lost. A lot of people don’t have a clue,” Steudler said.

While outdoors, students concentrate on being problem solvers and really understanding the stream, Belden said.

“You have to learn to interpret what the stream is telling you and interpret where the bugs are because that’s usually where the fish are going to focus,” Belden said.

Once these skills are mastered, students will have an activity that they can enjoy long into their lives, Belden said.

Fly fishing can also serve as a great alternative activity during the college years, Patrick Williams said.

“The best thing I think it can do for a student, in light of the whole party environment, is give them something constructive to do that doesn’t involve drinking,” Williams (graduate-aerospace engineering) said.

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Urge Governor Cuomo to Extend Executive Order No. 41

The ground-breaking New York Times series by Ian Urbina, documents an extensive and disturbing amount of information that was gathered from EPA, state regulators and gas drilling companies, not previously made available, either to the public or to key government regulators and decision-makers. The EPA memo reveals that Pittsburgh residents suffered “one of the largest failures in US history to supply clean drinking water” due in part to fracking wastes.

According to the Times, the drilling industry has also hidden the conclusions reached by its own studies, while publicly taking the position that the radioactive elements in drilling waste are not a concern, including a confidential industry study that agreed with EPA’s conclusion that radioactivity in drilling waste cannot be fully diluted by discharging it into rivers and other waterways. Another study in l990 found that radium in drilling wastewater dumped in the Louisiana coast posed “potentially significant risks” of cancer for people who regularly eat fish from those waters.

Nevertheless, the second Times article in the series reported that millions of gallons of drilling wastewater are treated at plants that continue to discharge their treated waste into rivers.  Despite the potential health and environmental hazards associated with radioactive wastewater, federal regulators recently confirmed to the gas industry that drilling waste remains exempt from federal hazardous waste law.

The third article in the series reveals that a deeply divided EPA has failed to increase needed regulation of oil and gas drillers and to enforce existing federal pollution laws that some agency lawyers insist are clearly being violated.  As an EPA lawyer explained in an internal memo obtained by the Times, “Treatment plants are not allowed under federal law to process mystery liquids . . . .  Mystery liquids is exactly what this drilling waste is.”

The proposed Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) regulations and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) current draft supplemental generic environmental impact statement both are fundamentally flawed. Also, there are nowhere near enough regulators to assure that even a sound permitting regime could be administered effectively, especially given the drilling industry’s consistent disregard for human health and the environment. Without major shifts in approach by regulators and industry, far more resources and a much longer timeframe than DEC and DRBC officials currently are working under, we can’t see how this can be fixed.
We are asking you to take action now to maximize the positive momentum the NY Times stories have generated. Urge Governor Cuomo to extend Executive Order No. 41 for at least a year beyond July 1, 2011 to afford DEC the time necessary to update the 1992 GEIS on a comprehensive basis, incorporating a cumulative impact analysis, and to take steps to ensure that DEC has the staff and budget necessary to complete the SEQRA process and to do a formal rule-making after that process is complete. 

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