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The Gentleman Angler Remembering Bob Rinn, Lycoming County’s Fly Fisherman and Conservationist Extraordinaire By Kevin McJunkin
Our Annual Fishue! Corning’s Fishy Art Fish on Ice Boats Galore in Mill Hall
Volume 15 Issue 4
17 Swamps, a Morning
The Gentleman Angler
Ride, and the Addams Family
By Kevin McJunkin
Remembering Bob Rinn, Lycoming County’s fly fisherman and conservationist extraordinaire.
By Gayle Morrow
20 The Boat That Jack
By Linda Roller
Mill Hall’s Peters Marine floats through time.
26 Celebrating with a
Bunch of Squares
6 Why Ice Fish?
By Karey Solomon
By Lilace Mellin Guignard Well, for one thing, it’s a lot easier to sneak up on ’em...
As GlassFest moves to July, the community builds a quilt.
34 Back of the Mountain
By Linda Stager
12 24 The Perfect Cast
By Karey Solomon David Ackerman sculpts fishing art on Corning’s Market Street. Cover by Gwen Button, photo courtesy Melanie Rinn Martinek, Bob Rinn fly fishing; top photo, Bob Rinn streamside, by Chalmer Van Horn; center, ice anglers headed out on the ice at Beechwood Lake, by Lilace Mellin Guignard; bottom photo Dave Ackerman works on one of his pieces of art, by Karey Solomon.
w w w. m o u n ta i n h o m e m ag . co m Editors & Publishers Teresa Banik Capuzzo Michael Capuzzo Associate Publisher George Bochetto, Esq. D i r e c t o r o f O pe r a t i o n s Gwen Button Managing Editor Gayle Morrow S a l e s R ep r e s e n t a t i v e s Joseph Campbell, Robin Ingerick, Richard Trotta Circulation Director Michael Banik Accounting Amy Packard
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Cover Design Gwen Button Contributing Writers Maggie Barnes, Mike Cutillo, Ann E. Duckett, Melissa Farenish, Elaine Farkas, Kerry Geykis, Lilace Mellin Guignard, Carrie Hagen, Lisa Howeler, Don Knaus, Janet McCue, Kevin McJunkin, Dave Milano, Cornelius O’Donnell, Brendan O’Meara, Peter Joffre Nye, Linda Roller, Jan Smith, Karey Solomon, Beth Williams C o n t r i b u t i n g P h o t o g r ap h e r s Bernadette Chiaramonte, Diane Cobourn, Bill Crowell, Bruce Dart, Nigel P. Kent, Roger Kingsley, Jody Shealer, Travis Snyder, Linda Stager, Curt Sweely, Sarah Wagaman, Curt Weinhold D i s t r i b u t i o n T eam Layne Conrad, Grapevine Distribution, Duane Meixel, Linda Roller, Phil Waber T h e B ea g l e Nano Cosmo (1996-2014) • Yogi (2004-2018) ABOUT US: Mountain Home is the award-winning regional magazine of PA and NY with more than 100,000 readers. The magazine has been published monthly, since 2005, by Beagle Media, LLC, 39 Water Street, Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, 16901, and online at www.mountainhomemag.com. Copyright © 2020 Beagle Media, LLC. All rights reserved. E-mail story ideas to editorial@mountainhomemag. com, or call (570) 724-3838. TO ADVERTISE: E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us at (570) 724-3838. AWARDS: Mountain Home has won over 100 international and statewide journalism awards from the International Regional Magazine Association and the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association for excellence in writing, photography, and design. DISTRIBUTION: Mountain Home is available “Free as the Wind” at hundreds of locations in Tioga, Potter, Bradford, Lycoming, Union, and Clinton counties in PA and Steuben, Chemung, Schuyler, Yates, Seneca, Tioga, and Ontario counties in NY. SUBSCRIPTIONS: For a one-year subscription (12 issues), send $24.95, payable to Beagle Media LLC, 39 Water Street, Wellsboro, PA 16901 or visit www.mountainhomemag.com.
Chalmer Van Horn 6
Old...fashioned: In the old days anglers wore a coat instead of a vest to go fishing. Bob Rinn is fishing the upper end of Big Run (Muncy Creek trib) at Scouts Hollow in April, 1988, looking natty in a tweed jacket with his trademark Effanem green felt crusher.
The Gentleman Angler
Remembering Bob Rinn, Lycoming County’s Fly Fisherman and Conservationist Extraordinaire By Kevin McJunkin “I have fished all over this country and around the world, but my favorite and best fishing experiences have been here in Pennsylvania.” ~ Bob Rinn
f you take a map of Pennsylvania and draw a one-hour-drive radius circle around Williamsport, you will see one of the unheralded centers of American flyfishing culture. This northcentral region— bordered by Wellsboro and the upper Pine Creek watershed to the north, Spring Creek to the west, Penns Creek to the south, and Columbia County’s Fishing Creek to the east—encompasses a great diversity of mountain freestone and valley limestone creek fisheries. Noteworthy waterways include Lycoming, Loyalsock, and Muncy creeks, and many of their tributaries are fine trout streams in their own right, including Slate and Cedar runs (Pine), Pleasant Stream and Rock Run (Lycoming), and Mill and Hoagland runs (Loyalsock). Though this area lacks a catchy name, like Catskills or Adirondacks, our “creeks” are as large and productive as their “rivers.” Our region has also spawned many renowned anglers, including Al Troth (inventor of the elk hair caddis fly), Ernest Hille, Bill O’Connor, Horace Hand (artist), Don Daughenbaugh (fishing guide to the presidents), John Alden Knight, and George Harvey. Charlie Fox and Sparse Grey
Hackle often visited and wrote about our streams. My longtime friend, Bob Rinn, of Muncy, knew and fished with many of these legendary anglers. He was my connection to the storied angling heritage of our area. Robert Marks “Bob” Rinn was born on June 22, 1924, in Jersey Shore. His father worked for the New York Central Railroad. Bob grew up fishing Pine Creek and its tributaries with his dad and brother Fred. His father had a 1919 Maxwell “machine” which they used for transportation in the mountains during his early years. Bob would pass his rod through the side curtain while the car was parked on a bridge or alongside a pool. Traffic did not exist. After serving in the U.S. Army and Army Air Force in World War II, and graduating from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, he worked as a mechanical engineer for SKF in Philadelphia and then Sprout-Waldron in Muncy. He was also a good salesman, so he travelled extensively for his job and had opportunities to fish throughout the country and around the world. I first met Bob at a meeting of the Susquehanna Chapter of Trout Unlimited, and soon discovered that we had a common interest not only in fly-fishing but also old fishing tackle and angling history. • Bill O’Connor, former owner of the E. Hille Anglers fly shop in Williamsport,
remembers night fishing with Bob on Loyalsock Creek in Sullivan County, just below Girl Scout Camp Lycogis. They worked up and down the long Cold Watch pool with their big wet flies and caught many large trout, as had their predecessors including Charles Lose, author of The Vanishing Trout, published in 1931. “Fifty or sixty years ago the angler on our mountain trout streams was diverted at times by the sight of a flock of wild passenger pigeons feeding in the woods along the stream,” Lose wrote. Around two in the morning Bob wanted to rest so they laid back in a field, looking up at the stars. “You realize how dark it gets up here,” he said, and then he launched into one story after another. “He was a great storyteller and could go on for hours,” says Bill. • A simple trip to the nearby cliff pool on Muncy Creek at Picture Rocks, a favorite spot in Bob’s later years, was treated as a special celebration. Bob always carried compact folding stools in the back of his “fish mobile.” He’d brought them back from France after WW II, and they were great for putting on and taking off waders. “Hey Manhattan, fetch the sit-upons!” he would call out to his grandson, Andy, who was visiting from New York City. I remember sitting on those stools during a break from See Rinn on page 8 7
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Rinn continued from page 7
fishing, sipping 7-Up and munching on homemade raisin-filled cookies, listening to Bob tell stories about members of the fly fishing community who had passed on to “the great stream in the sky.” Here are a few. Ernie Hille, who founded E. Hille Anglers in the late 1920s, an important source for fly tying feathers, hooks, and many specialized items not found in tackle outlets, was a gruff person who didn’t suffer fools lightly. Bob was in the shop one time when a sport came in and said, “I need to buy a fishing pole.” Ernie snorted, and responded in his most authoritarian German accent: “SIR, we do not have fishing POLES. We sell fishing ROOODS!” Bob almost rolled on the floor laughing. Bob recalled fishing the Game Farm pool on Loyalsock Creek with Bill O’Connor and John Alden Knight, noted fishing book author and contributor to Sports Afield and Outdoor Life magazines. Knight expected good fishing, in accordance with his special Solunar Tables that predict daily fish activity based upon the lunar day of twenty-four hours and fifty-six minutes. However, there was no hatch and the ‘Sock was dead as a doornail. Bob questioned him: Are you sure the poor fishing wasn’t because it was too bright, or the creek was too high? Could it have been the water temperature, barometric pressure, or many of the other factors (and excuses) that figure into fishing success? Bill, whose father-in-law Ernie Hille was involved in the development and marketing of the Solunar Tables, kept his mouth shut. Bob continued to rib Knight. “Do the Solunar Tables really work? What are they good for?” Knight finally had enough and retorted, “Well, during the Depression they were good for $30,000 per year!” Bob and a companion once arranged to meet Sparse Grey Hackle (Alfred Miller), legendary fishing writer (author of Fishless Days, Angling Nights and a prolific sporting columnist for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Sports Illustrated), at a tavern near the Beaverkill River in the Catskills. Sparse was going to take them fishing, but he said it would be a while before the evening hatch starts, so why don’t we have a round of drinks? Bob
obliged him. One round led to another, and dinner and cocktails were ordered. It soon became apparent to Bob that Sparse had little interest in going fishing, but just wanted to take advantage of the free food and booze—and good conversation, no doubt. • Bob liked to carry a frying pan, coffeepot, and provisions several miles up into his favorite stream, Raven Run (his pseudonym—“To divulge its true identity would risk destroying it”), build a small cooking fire at the High Falls, and make coffee and buckwheat pancakes. He was not a “rip the lips” kind of fisherman. He said, “Trout fishing and other outdoor sports should remain essentially primitive—one of their values is in the contrast with high speed modern living.” His angling was orderly, contemplative, and civilized. Bob took meticulous care of his gear. He would splice braided silk fly lines of various diameters together to create his own special tapers to bring out the best in his vintage split bamboo fly rods. He made his own fly line dressing that floated his lines better than commercially available dressings. He stored the lines in winter on handmade large diameter spools so they wouldn’t develop kinks. He made canvas sleeves for his rod tubes so they wouldn’t bang around in the back of his fishing car and get dented. He designed his own lightweight tackle packs, ahead of their time. He tied his own flies, of course. Bob was a self-reliant man, as were many of his generation. Bob introduced me to the pleasures of fishing with good vintage split cane bamboo fly rods, rods that have grace and feel seldom found in their stiff, modern graphite counterparts. His favorite was an eight foot, two piece rod that he built up from a blank obtained from Paul Young, the renowned Michigan rod maker. It was light and strong with handsome flamed cane, still arrow straight after many years of use. I acquired my first bamboo fly rod, a beautifully wrapped circa 1940 Kingfisher, at an estate auction near Benton. I showed the rod to Bob. He looked it over carefully and joined the sections by their metal ferrules, gave it a waggle and pronounced it ready to fish, other than needing a minor repair. One of See Rinn on page 10
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the two tip sections had delaminated near the tip-top guide, so I took it to E. Hille Anglers and their rod maker, Hal James, glued the bamboo strips back together, wrapped the damaged part with silk thread, and varnished it so it was good as new. Casting it was a revelation. • Joe Radley, who, like Bob, is an avid fly fishing historian and collector of books, told me about an unexpected find while helping Bob catalog his extensive collection of angling memorabilia. While fishing the Schoharie Creek in the Catskills, Bob went over to talk with another angler (Bob would seek out anyone on the stream) who turned out to be Art Flick, author of the classic book, Art Flick’s Streamside Guide to Naturals and Their Imitations. Bob had the book and had tied many of Art’s fly patterns. Bob told Art that he really liked his Hendrickson dressing but was not able to find any pink fur from a vixen red fox (the color comes from urine burns), an essential component. A week later, a letter arrived from Mr. Flick with a patch of urine stained vixen fox fur attached. Bob decided to let go of one of his favorite split bamboo rods, a 7 ½’ three piece, two tip Wright & McGill Granger Special built in the late 1940s, after he was too infirm to hike into Raven Run, where he liked to use it. Bob had fished it hard and caught a lot of fish on it, wearing out the guides. He had neatly rewrapped it with silk thread, although the wrap color wasn’t a perfect cosmetic match with the original. He had also reset both tip-top guides, so the rod 10
was down about an inch in length, although it had no discernible effect on casting. The cork grip was ridged and soiled. Being an engineer, he plated the nickel silver ferrules with copper when they wore down and became loose. They fit together as snugly and smoothly as any bamboo rod I have ever used, disjointing with a solid “pop.” Although to the purist collector the rod had been devalued by hard use and the functional repairs, the rod’s “mojo” far outweighed any loss in monetary value. So, I gladly purchased Bob’s rod when he offered it to me at a fair price. I christened it on Raven Run at the pool Bob named Twin Hemlocks for a matched pair of hemlocks that shade it. The creek runs into the side of the mountain here and makes a sharp right turn. There is a ledge rock at the bend that shelters many nice trout. On the very first cast, I dropped an inchworm imitation into the run. A thick, brightly colored seventeeninch brown trout swam out from under the ledge, grabbed my fly, and turned back. I set the hook, and a strong fight ensued. I worried that the slender tipped rod would not hold him as the trout seesawed back and forth in the pool, first trying for the undercut on one side and a brush pile on the other, but the rod had plenty of power in the butt and I was able to turn and quickly tire out the fish, releasing it unharmed. It was the most beautiful trout I have ever caught. What a pleasure it was to tell Bob about catching the fish on his rod,
Melanie Rinn Martinek
Chalmer Van Horn Rinn continued from page 9
With a little help from your friends: (left) Bob and Chalmer Van Horn enjoy an “English Toast” lunch after a fishless morning in April, 1986; (right) Bob chats with Kevin McJunkin at Richardson’s Canal House in August, 2014.
and to show him the photo! Bob smiled, and said, “Well, even a blind squirrel finds his nut! I told you that rod was lucky!” • Bob was a charter member of the Susquehanna Chapter Trout Unlimited and developed the Susquehanna Ripples newsletter for the members. Inspiration for the newsletter came from Pools and Ripples, a delightful assemblage of fishing essays by Bliss Perry, reprinted in 1936, according to Bob Baker, the current newsletter editor. Bob appreciated Perry’s idea about long life: “If the rod and reel are working well, and the fly book is wisely filled, and the sky a bit overcast, and there is just enough ripple on the water, your life extension institute is already functioning!” Below is an excerpt Bob wrote—it’s from the first Susquehanna Ripples, Vol. 1, Number 1, April, 1974: “Opening Day – Finally! Most trout fishers will be streamside on April 13th. This is the time we look back over the seasons … Let us hope that we never forget the tradition and lore that forms such an important aspect of our sport. There is an accepted fiction that fishermen go fishing to catch fish. Some do, of course, but most don’t. The lesser catch is the fish. The real reward of a day in the open is the little things that feed the eyes, the ears, and the soul. It’s the startled deer around the bend of the stream. It’s the Trillium, the rich green moss and Cinnamon Fern. It’s the drumming of a grouse or a turkey’s cautious call. It’s fishing, yes. A dry fly bouncing along a riffle or the easy sweep of a cast of wet flies
into the mysterious depths of a trout pool. It’s friends, old and new, around a campfire or in the dimming light after the last cast of the evening. Memories will be made, on April 13th. May they all be good ones.” • Fishing was a spiritual experience for Bob. He used to say that he saw no conflict in being on the stream on Sunday mornings instead of sitting on a church pew, plus it was much less crowded! When asked why he wasn’t at church by his minister and friend Rev. Bruce Smay, Bob would say he was having “streamside services.” Bob wrote a “Tall and True” column, a mix of tall tales and true stories, for the Muncy Luminary in the mid 1980s. His legendary character “Old Jed” once caught a trout so big that its photograph weighed five pounds. Old Jed and Bob used to ice fish when it was “cold enough to freeze your shadow to the ice.” As a youth, Bob watched for Gollywobblins on fishing trips up Pine Creek with his Dad and brother, Fred. “Gollywobblins are birds resembling gigantic Great Blue Herons with wings spanning a distance of seventeen feet. Dad startled one which was resting atop a woodcutter’s cabin. It became so frightened that it neglected to release the roof as it flew away. I saw the evidence—the roof was discovered in the woods 200 yards distant. The next time you watch a Great Blue Heron flying overhead, it might be a Gollywobblin flying at 3,000 feet altitude.” Bob always had a twinkle in his eye. His daughter, Melanie, didn’t like to get up early for school because she was such a night owl. Bob knew that she really wanted a horse, so he would call out to her “There’s a horse in the front yard! Come down to see it quick!” Of course, the “horse” was always gone by the time she got up. Melanie plans to publish a book of his wonderful stories. • I would be remiss to characterize Bob as solely an angler, although that was how I knew him. He was also a hunter and outdoorsman who enjoyed all of the seasons. As he wrote in one of his Tall and True columns, “Those persons who limit woodland experience to only one type of endeavor miss the joy of broader See Rinn on page 28 11
Lilace Mellin Guignard
Meaningful competition: Jan and Colegan Stiner take a moment to smile during a serious tournament.
Why Ice Fish?
Well, for One Thing, It’s a Lot Easier to Sneak Up on ’Em... By Lilace Mellin Guignard
’ve been thinking I want to try ice fishing. Problem is, I don’t know why. Heck, I don’t even know what it is other than what I can see from my car as I drive by Nessmuk Lake three months of the year. I’ve read about how people sit around in shelters in their T-shirts, grilling food and sometimes catching fish. It sounds like a tailgate party. Mid-February I call Tackle Shack, a Tioga County institution, to ask Don Kelly if I can hire him to take me ice fishing. He explains that the ice won’t be good much longer and he’s busy at the shop with a nearby tournament coming up. “What tournament?” I ask. It’s a fifteen degree pink pre-dawn when I almost pass Beechwood Lake, because a frozen and snowy lake looks a lot like a field. Trucks fill the small lot and line the access road to the sixty-seven-acre impoundment
managed by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. I park behind the last one and head to the registration trailer. Jason St. Peter welcomes me even though I explain I only want to see what ice fishing’s all about. Angie Gee offers me cookies, saying it’s the second year the club’s held this tournament. It was scheduled for earlier in February but a warm snap made the conditions unsafe. Teams are gathering outside with sleds and packs full of gear. That’s a lot of weight. Hardwater angling—a term I recently came across—is a reminder that what you’re tramping across and drilling through is not a solid most of the time, at least in our part of the world. But we’re lucky. We get ice fishing every year, and right now no one’s got ice south of I-80. The turnout is good. Forty-two twoperson teams or individuals are signed up.
As the last team puts their poker chip in the red plastic coffee tub, which is how the start order is determined, I slip outside. Sleds hold buckets, collapsed shelters, chairs, and what could be corkscrews for giant wine bottles but are augers used to drill through the ice. Not everyone has a sled. According to Don, ice fishing takes very little gear to get started, assuming you have cold weather clothing. “You don’t need a boat,” he says. “All you need is a way to cut through the ice.” Equipment wise, today’s crowd runs the gamut from just the basics to sophisticated electronics. I sidle up to an older man waiting for Jason to start pulling poker chips. He’s from Harrisburg. I ask him how ice fishing compares with other types of fishing for him. “It’s my favorite. Ice fish taste better. See Ice Fish on page 14
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Ice Fish continued from page 12
Only kind of fish I’ll eat.” The first number called isn’t his, but I hush so he can concentrate. What begins is the slowest charge from a starting line I’ve witnessed. The draw means that even if you were last to register you might be first on the ice. Everyone has their strategy in mind—some want to set up over deeper parts, some in areas that’ll get the sun first. Jason tells me he doesn’t think many people will set up shelters because they’re more intent on catching their limit today than socializing. The winner is the team whose ten fish limit weighs the most. These are panfish—including crappie, perch, or bluegill/sunfish. For five dollars more than the twenty dollar entry fee, teams can compete for a lunker prize. One is for the largest panfish, and one for the largest bass, walleye, pickerel, or trout by weight. Lunker, Jason has to tell me, means big fish. Despite Jason’s prediction, it doesn’t take long for red tents to pop up. “Must be colder than I thought,” he comments from the heated trailer. He assures me it’s not violating angler etiquette if I walk out and talk to people—you’re not going to scare the fish. Another point in ice fishing’s favor. Team 7 is two young men kneeling beside holes much smaller than what I expected based on cartoons. Each man stares at fishfinder screens. One shows what’s immediately below, but the other picks up activity farther afield (alake?). It’s a breezy belowfreezing on the ice, but they won’t use a shelter because they want to move around. The few fish in their bucket aren’t big, but they’ll give this spot a little longer. Kyle Earley, thirteen, is well on his way to being a man of few words. “More relaxing,” is all he’ll say about why he prefers ice fishing. I try to write this down with fingers I can’t feel. Kyle silently stands before me, his parka unzipped and ski cap drooped over one eye, looking very relaxed indeed. He and his stepfather are from Blossburg. They haven’t caught anything yet. Beyond them on the ice, I run into Jan and Colegan Stiner of Wellsboro. Colegan is already an impressive trout fisherman, his father proudly tells me. They do have some fish in a bucket, and as we talk Colegan pulls one in. “Usually we have a grill and set up the tent,” Jan tells me, “but today is serious.” His smile tells me the competition is still friendly. Dinate, his wife, is coming back from the coldest portapotty in the world. It’s a long walk—a point against ice fishing. My cheeks and fingers are beyond numb, and I want to reach the trailer before that happens to my legs. Watching for frozenover holes that pock the ice like spring pavement, I realize I still want to ice fish. Here’s why: It’s an activity that’ll get me outdoors in winter more reliably than those that require snow. There are more ways to stay warm than when sitting in a tree stand. I’ll be able to bring friends and not worry how loud we are. I can go by myself or with my kids. I can go with my husband, fish while he rides his fat tire bike on trails, and then if I catch anything have him clean them. I’ll bring home the panfish, fry them up in a pan, and never let him forget I’m the one who caught them. After all, ice fish taste better. Lilace Mellin Guignard raises her kids in Wellsboro, teaches at Mansfield University, writes about women outdoors, gets wild with community theatre, and shakes things up at Sunday school.
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Swamps, a Morning Ride, and the Addams Family By Gayle Morrow
ow do you feel about swamps? I like them, and I think I know one reason why. It’s The Addams Family. I’ve adored the show my whole life (what little girl of a certain age did not want to be Morticia Addams?), and the, uh, unique members of that clan were swamp fans, too. It rubbed off. While swamps, like families, can be creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky, even altogethter ooky, they’re also brimming with an enchanting assortment of living things. For those reasons I feel quite fortunate to live near a few lovely swamps (can’t you just hear Morticia saying that?), but there is also this: They are (not to brag or anything, because it’s really nothing I did) the humble, almost secretive beginnings of several little streams, which are in turn feeder streams for bigger waterways, which are in turn… You get the picture, right? They are headwaters. One warm morning—one of a series of warm mornings during a long dry spell— my horse and I were taking a quick cruise around our dusty dirt road neighborhood
when I had this bright idea: Let’s take a different way, this shortcut through the swamp and up the hill. I’d been meaning to explore this part—I wanted to know how deep and wet it was and whether it was rideable. It’s been sooo dry, so I’m sure it’ll be fine, I told my horse. It was not. We got a ways off the road, no problems, and were skirting what looked to be the wettest section, when suddenly my horse was up to his belly in extremely thick ooze. And every direction we turned, he was still up to his belly. I flung myself off his back, and then I was thigh deep in the stuff. I admit to a moment of panic—I was unable to channel my inner Morticia—but my horse, bless his heart, kept his head. He lurched (Lurch—get it?), and lurched again a few more times, found a bit of purchase, then a bit more. I floundered after him. When we were both on solid ground again, breathing hard, he shook himself and looked at me, like, “Well, what were you thinking? Geeze.” The most insightful takeaway from that little adventure (aside from the pleasant surprise that my horse, who sometimes
believes that a boulder he’s walked by dozens of times is unexpectedly and most assuredly going to eat him, is relatively calm in an actual crisis) was the awareness of how much water there must be in that particular section of that particular swamp, even in really dry times, and how valuable that water must be to all kinds of life, especially during dry times. You’ve probably heard the truism that we all live downstream. Well, we all live upstream, too. It may be stating the obvious, but all the water everywhere starts somewhere else. Your favorite trout stream might begin in my neighborhood swamp. The water flowing in each little roadside ditch, along with all the silt and garbage typically flowing along with it, could end up in your favorite trout stream, too, or maybe in your drinking water. Take yourself on a fun little expedition and follow a stream to its source. You may find it to be quite unassuming—maybe only a miniscule trickle from one of those lovely swamps—but that’s the miracle of headwaters. 17
NIgel P. Kent
The Wizard of April
t’s April, and we’re so ready to take geese over snow shovels, trilliums over bare branches, and flowing water over solid ice. Lambs and fawns and caterpillars, oh my! Yeah, you’re right, it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as “lions and tigers and bears.” But do pay attention to what’s going on behind the curtain. There is magic, if not a man, there, and any moment you’ll be seeing it.
(2) Courtesy Jack Peters Always afloat: Jack and his father in 1956 in a boat that Jack made. Jack and Piper (right) at the dealership.
The Boat That Jack Built Mill Hall’s Peters Marine Floats Through Time By Linda Roller
t’s always been about boats. We sit in a small office, filled with the clutter of a busy business and with walls filled with mementos of the many gifts and kindnesses that this family and this marine shop have given the community for decades. Jack Peters hands me a small photo carefully. The date on the border is August 1956, and a young Jack is sitting in a boat with his dad. “It’s the first boat I built,” he says. He then built several more, though that was only a hobby. It was only five years later that Jack, a new high school graduate, opened his first store in Flemington in his grandfather’s service station. There were some boats, but back then he also sold motorcycles. The
family grew, as he met and married Connie in 1964. Connie taught kindergarten at Keystone Central and would go on to teach for thirty-seven years, and then substitute for another eleven. The business took root and began to prosper. By 1968, Jack was talking to a new company from Japan that sold motorcycles and had recently expanded into outboard motors for boats in the U.S.—Yamaha. “They were the second company that came over, right after Honda,” Jack says. Peters Marine became a Yamaha dealer, and today is one of the oldest Yamaha distributors in the country. As he expanded into a dealership, it
wasn’t long before Jack had run out of room to sell at the service station. “There wasn’t enough room for boats,” he says. There was, though, property at 3250 Eagle Valley Road in Mill Hall—perfect for a building for sales and service and lots of room for the boats. As he became settled there, he sold more boats and boat equipment than motorcycles, and he also had room for the ATVs and other sports vehicles that Yamaha was developing. Today, the motorcycles are gone. But there’s plenty in the showroom for those who want to get around on rough terrain and for other backwoods traveling. But it’s still the boats.
“Boats and boating equipment are two-thirds of the business,” he says. Ninety percent are fishing boats and pontoons, all accommodating a range of fishing styles. Technological innovation has created lighter boats with more horsepower, which means that the space once needed for the inboard motor is now available for supplies, equipment, or people. The motors on these boats can range up to around 400 horsepower, but Jack notes that the larger motors are usually best on larger boats used on the intercoastal waterways and on the ocean. “Most motors sold around here are 115 horsepower or less,” he says. What sets Peters Marine apart from other marine dealers is the number of boats right here in land-locked Mill Hall, awaiting a customer’s inspection. That has become increasingly unusual. Jack tells the story about a guy from Dubois (about ninety miles from Peters Marine) who had gone to another dealer about two hours away from Dubois and saw just six boats. Jack assured him that if he came, he would see boats. Finally, he was convinced to make the trip, and ultimately saw dozens. Usually, the lot has forty to fifty boats available for customer perusal. That many boats can turn your head. One of the little things that Peters Marine encounters is impatience. Well, maybe it’s really just eagerness and excitement. “People see the boat and they want it loaded right away,” Jack says. It’s understandable, but not the way this shop does things. It may take a day or more to prepare a boat for a customer. The craft may need to be loaded or unloaded. Then it must be put on a trailer carefully and strapped correctly. The motor must be started, and then adjusted to the right idle speed and checked for any problems. The boat is also cleaned before it leaves the lot. But, sometimes, they can accommodate an anxious fisherman. “There was a guy from Coudersport who wanted a boat in the showroom, but only if he could take it back with him,” Jack recalls. “It happened to be a boat already on a trailer, so it was an easier prep. We got the boat ready in an afternoon, and he took it away, headed north.” The foundation of all the sales is the service. Jack calls it the most important part. “Most of the major brands I carry, I’ve carried for decades,” he says. “We have a deep knowledge of how to service and repair what we sell.” In the service area, Jack has a secret weapon: Brian Karstetter. Brian has been with Peters Marine for over forty years. He can, Jack says, “solve problems that stump other service centers.” They also service vehicles bought from other dealers if they are not busy with their own customers’ needs. Colleen Burfield and Connie Peters also work hard with the customers, the scheduling, the parts department, and even helping prepare boats to leave with their new owners. As Jack says, “We all do each other’s jobs.” A scan of the walls tells that tale of people who have taken the luck they have had and spread it around—to local sports teams and to the kids who are growing up throughout the region. When you add it all up, it’s a success story in business, in life, and in the community in which they all thrive. It’s not only about the boats. Find Peters Marine on Facebook, at petersmarine.us, or call (570) 726-4066. Mountain Home contributor Linda Roller is a bookseller, appraiser, and writer in Avis, Pennsylvania.
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(3) Courtesy Dave Ackerman
Casting technique: when not on a stream, retired prison guard Dave Ackerman crafts natural inspirations to catch anyone’s eye.
The Perfect Cast
David Ackerman Sculpts Fishing Art on Corning’s Market Street By Karey Solomon
ave Ackerman keeps hoping to be somewhere near a stream the opening day of fishing season. His father and uncle inspired him with the joy of trying for trout with hand-tied flies. But he also loves art, and since retiring from his work as a prison guard he’s enjoyed a second life as a full-time sculptor and jewelry designer. “And I’m a better artist than a fisherman,” he admits, managing to sound just very slightly regretful. For years he sold his work at a gallery on Market Street in Corning, now closed. Then, eleven years ago, he crossed the street and met Gordon Gustin, owner of Gustin’s Gallery Goldsmiths. Gordon and Alfa Shaw, another artist who works at Gustin’s, became Dave’s mentors, teaching him the art of working with precious metals. Dave, in turn, became one of the jewelry workers
whose work is shown and sold at Gustin’s. His sketchbook began to fill with designs for commissioned works as well as jewelry made from repurposed historic Corning art glass. Dave finds inspiration in the natural world, the people he’s met and read about, and the materials he works with. As a child, he loved assembling models, then went on to design model soldiers complete with uniforms authentic to their period. His work is informed by history as well as years of re-enacting Revolutionary and Civil War battles. For these, he often sewed his own uniforms, hands-on experience which enriched his ability to create sculptures that look historically authentic. In some smaller statues, the clothing looks so convincingly like leather and fur that is must be touched to confirm it’s metal. With Gordon’s encouragement,
he experimented with jewelry designs, including his very popular fish rings. “I initially thought sportsmen would like them,” he muses. “But it turns out, people just like the fish.” A fish cannot only symbolize Christian faith, but also luck, healing, health, creativity, and abundance. Dave’s fish look freshly scooped from the water, about to try to wriggle out of the net. It’s possibly the life and liveliness of his work that makes it so loved. Many of Dave’s creations are made with lost wax casting, a long and complex process. He begins with a design carved in wax or clay. Perhaps it’s a ring or a pendant created to hold a gem. A silicone mold is created around it, then the original is removed. New wax is poured in and allowed to cool; the result is unmolded and See Acherman on page 25
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examined. Perhaps it needs refinement or a few changes. After the new wax piece is exactly as planned, this is encased in plaster, which becomes a one-use mold. Interestingly, this part of the process is called “investment.” After the plaster cures, it’s heated until the wax runs out, then precious metal is melted, poured in, and allowed to cool. The plaster is broken away, and the piece of jewelry revealed and polished. If a gem is part of the design, this is when it’s set in. Dave makes his jewelry on premises at Gustin’s, much of it begun at his battered work bench at the rear of the store, near a window looking out onto the alley. But larger bronze pieces, after he’s created the mold using a similar process, are cast with bronze in a foundry—there’s one at Elmira College and a private studio in Penn Yan. “I started with miniatures, but my stuff keeps getting bigger!” he says. “I want to do monuments too, bigger works with more substance.” In addition to his fish, he’s created statues of local heroes, from busts of Native Americans who lived here before we did to war veterans from many different conflicts. These larger works are more complex in their construction, because he has to add armatures or bracing to retain the shape of the work as it’s being cast—and which later must be cut and polished off. And there’s an unseen ingredient in all his work, that being the research he does to ensure his artistic endeavors are historically—and, for wildlife, anatomically—accurate depictions. Just as his natural subjects seem caught in the moment before they swim away or take flight, the people he’s sculpted in bronze have expressive faces, as though they’re thinking so deeply, if you step close enough and listen, you might hear what they have to say. You can, in fact, almost hear their voices, tinged with the intonations, slang, and wisdom of an earlier time. One local hero Dave longs to sculpt is Elmira-born Colonel Eileen Collins, the first female commander of a NASA Space Shuttle. “It bothers me there’s not a statue of her,” he says. In a lighter and more earthbound vein, another subject he wants to memorialize is unsung Corning personality Henry, a basset hound owned by Amo Houghton in the 1960s. Once known as the “Dog About Town,” Henry would regularly make the rounds of pubs along Market Street—by himself—where he was welcomed with beer or snacks. Later he would take a cab home, though occasionally the police gave him a ride. Dave would like to see Henry in bronze, gracing Market Street again. Dave works long, joyful hours at his art, as if to make up for lost time at beginning his second career in midlife. Whether his next conversation is with a customer who comes in with a handful of her mother’s jewelry, wanting it updated to be worn in a new way, a couple looking for unique wedding bands, a grandchild wanting him to bring a hero to life in bronze, or a fisherman wanting a reminder of a memorable catch, he’ll sketch it and turn it into distinctive three dimensional reality. See more of Dave’s work at gustinsgallery.com/davidackerman. Karey Solomon is a writer and fiber artist.
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Celebrating with a Bunch of Squares As GlassFest Moves to July, the Community Builds a Quilt By Karey Solomon
reating art is a joyful way to leave your mark on the world. In the lead-up to Corning’s eleventh annual GlassFest (being held this year from July 30 to August 2), members of the community and visitors who love being here are invited to create a four-inch-square glass tile to contribute to a “glass quilt,” to be seen for the first time at this year’s festival. Organizers hope people will commemorate their love of color and community in a work of art to grace the area forever. You can book a slot at the Make Your Own Glass studio at the Corning Museum of Glass, purchase a small fusing project ($23), and tell the instructor before beginning that your tile is for donation to the GlassFest Quilt. (Check GlassFest.org for the deadline to get your square in the quilt.) Friends might come together to celebrate a friendship. Quilt groups may represent themselves and the quilts they make by choosing glass pieces like quilt squares to arrange on their tile—after all, fusing glass is quicker than sewing because the heat of a glass kiln makes everything stick together. “I’m a quilter, and nothing gives me
greater joy than making a quilt someone else can enjoy,” says Coleen Fabrizi, executive director of Corning’s Gaffer District. “Part of my heart goes into every stitch. I thought we could merge those ideas together [quilts and glass] and make something that symbolizes the community and its support for GlassFest.” Coleen says the Crystal City is the first place producing a piece of public art of this kind and on this scale. “And I love it that absolutely anyone could contribute,” she says. The project had a soft beginning last year when tiles were made to commemorate GlassFest sponsors. That smaller piece was hung on the wall at the Radisson Hotel in Corning. This year’s tiles will be displayed on large sheets of canvas, laid on the ground. Dr. Connie Sullivan-Blum, executive director of the ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes, hopes many artists in different media will take some time to make a tile, envisioning those pieces as a moment of exchange between different art forms. “Now it’s open to the public to contribute a piece that would be created for the community, rather than something that would only be seen in the home,” she says. “I see this as an
opportunity to play a bit, get this experience, and contribute to this larger piece.” The result will be spontaneous art, a new, larger piece to emerge from the mosaic of individual contributions. “One of the things that’s exciting is that the experience will be something you can’t predict. I’m just doing a small piece of it, but I won’t control it. I’m excited about that,” Connie says. Because glass lasts a long time, the tiles that make up Corning’s glass quilt will be on display at future GlassFests as the “quilt” grows. Sections will be displayed around Corning through the year, and will also appear on the Gaffer District’s website, where it can be enjoyed even by those only able to visit virtually. But Coleen can also imagine visitors looking for the piece they offered to the glass quilt each year they visit the festival, when the quilt might appear in a new configuration of squares. “We don’t know yet how large it will be,” says Connie. “We see this as a multi-year project in different stages. We’ll see what comes from it—I think it will be fun!” Karey Solomon is a writer and fiber artist.
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Rinn continued from page 11
horizons.” Many times Bob told me that he was lucky to have lived in the time that he did. He wrote “There was a time, starting in the late 1920’s, when automobiles became more reliable for travel to trout waters, and the trout were plentiful.” I remember a trip we took up Loyalsock Creek. He drove along the old back roads to the valley mouth, eschewing the faster but soulless interstate highway that was completed in 1969. We were not in a hurry. As we rode up the valley and passed by favorite fishing holes he fondly recalled his friendships with previous owners who would allow him to fish on their land, and talked of the great fish he had caught from each stretch. Now, much of the land is posted. Bob said that he had many good memories of that time that will forever be beyond the comprehension of trout fishermen in the future—this is the crux of the problem. As he often said, “we never miss what we have never known” and “there will never be another yesterday.” Bob sometimes seemed discouraged by the degradation of many of his favorite trout streams from problems such as erosion and siltation, channelization and floodplain development, and invasive species like knotweed. He had first hand knowledge of the environmental problems caused by poorly regulated coal mining, and spoke out at public meetings about his concerns with fracking and natural gas development. I tried to buck him up by citing some examples of restoration, including Babb Creek, an acid mine drainage impacted stream in Tioga County brought back from the dead under the leadership of his contemporary, Bob McCullough, now supporting trout and downstream mayfly hatches in Pine Creek. Bob worked tirelessly to preserve and improve Pennsylvania’s woodlands and waterways through Trout Unlimited and as a founding member of the Muncy Creek Watershed Association. Bob was an effective advocate, and was on a first name basis with many local and state elected officials. When they helped secure funding for stream improvement projects, he made sure they got credit. Lycoming County representatives have a strong conservation record in part because of the positive encouragement and support of environmental champions like Bob Rinn and Bob McCullough. Walt Nicholson, past president of the Susquehanna Chapter of Trout Unlimited, appreciated Bob as a great “motivator.” Bob was actively involved in Earth Day celebrations and often gave conservation talks to civic organizations and school groups. His presentations would often start out with the ancient Roman adage: “First you must breath. Then you must drink. Then you must eat. Before all other things.” He believed the most important problems in the U.S. and the world are pollution of our air, land, and water. He would cite local examples of environmental problems and how some of them were corrected, and others remain unresolved. He gave advice about how to influence matters of the environment. “Polite letters to newspapers and Government representatives and Agencies. Petitions are mainly a waste of time. Personal letters are more valuable. Demonstrations should only include well-dressed men and women—no shouting. Use well made signs. Must have TV coverage to be effective. Choose site carefully – do not cause problems. Do not be militant. Partner See Rinn on page 30
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Enduring losses: one of Bob’s longevity hardships was outliving friends and family. He is pictured with (from left) his wife Evelyn (who predeceased him) and daughters Melanie and Robin.
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Rinn continued from page 28
with sympathetic organizations.” I think this is still good advice for being taken seriously by the powers that be. Bob was always the gentleman! He was also a vocal backer for our recreation resources. When a farmer threatened to post a popular special regulation section of Muncy Creek if the old County Bridge at Tivoli was not rebuilt (the commissioners were considering closing the bridge), he rallied many anglers to the cause and called Commissioner Rebecca Burke every day about the bridge project. The bridge was rebuilt. This stretch continues to provide splendid fishing for many anglers to this day. • Bob died on June 14, 2016, just eight days shy of his ninetysecond birthday. He told me that one of the hardest things about living to a ripe old age was outliving his wife and friends. He told me that he was saddened by the loss of Evelyn, his beloved wife of nearly sixty years, his daughter Robin, and close friends Dick Leaver of Muncy, and Al (Jack) Eschenbach of Milton, among others. After he passed, his grandson, Andy, found several of his poetry books, bookmarked with poems about loss that helped console him. In his later years he walked with a pronounced stoop from painful back injuries sustained during the war (he was at Omaha Beach during the invasion of German occupied France), relying on a walking stick when hiking or wading. Like many veterans, he did not talk much about his war experiences. Melanie thought it was to shield his family from the horrors of war. Andy interviewed him for an oral history and he became quite emotional when talking about his service. He came back a different person after the war, losing much of his innocence. His family and friends predicted correctly
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5 7 0 6 6 221 6 4 w w w . ar n o t . u s 5 7 0 6 6 221 6 4 w w . ar n o t . u s w w w . ar n o t . u s w ©2014 Masco Cabinetry, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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that when he was no longer able to walk without assistance that he would not be long for this world. When the pain became too much to bear, Melanie made an appointment to have him fitted for a walker “to ease the pain.” The night before the scheduled appointment, his heart stopped, and he slipped away peacefully. • The last few times we went fishing he was content to sit on the bank, look at the water, and watch me fish. We took a trip up Pine Creek on a cold and blustery spring day and didn’t even wet a line. We pulled over at the Black Walnut Bottom access and contemplated the silvery creek, butted up against the steep light green mountain. Bob said he often saw eagles here, and, as if on cue, a pair of bald eagles crested the ridge and circled overhead. The day after he passed, I decided to take Bob’s Granger fly rod up Raven Run again. The stream flowed crystal clear over rose colored slate ledges. Hemlock trees clung to the steep gorge walls, their gnarly roots exposed. Cold springs dripped from mossy rocks. I fished several miles up to the High Falls pool, where Bob had once hooked a giant fish on a small fly, a fish that threw the barbless hook before the battle really started. I spotted a mink, a kingfisher chattered at me, and I spooked a great blue heron in the distance. In Bob’s own words from a Tall and True column: “The birds contribute beautiful background music for changing scenes of form and color, for tis not unlike visiting an art museum. Masterpieces of nature appear around every bend.” I didn’t catch many fish, but it was a therapeutic experience. On the way back out, I stopped at the Round Hole, one of Bob’s favorite spots. I sat on a slate bluff for a long time, listening See Rinn on page 32
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to the stream cascading into the large pool, thinking about Bob. I realized that I would not be able to tell him about this fishing trip or any others, and it felt like there was a hole in my heart. My father died of Alzheimer’s when I was only forty-three. Like Bob, he was an engineer. I was just starting to enjoy an adult relationship with my Dad when he became afflicted. In some ways, Bob helped fill the void. I remember thinking not long after meeting Bob, “should I become close friends with an older man, because I will lose him, too?” I answered my own question when my affection for Bob outweighed my fear of loss. On that day in June, I decided to flip one final cast into the center of the deep pool. To my wonderment, a large brown trout rose up from the bottom and sipped in my fly—this on a bright day in the middle of the afternoon. I felt like Bob was there with me. It’s been a few years now, and I still feel that way. I’m so glad I knew him. • Chalmer Van Horn of Muncy was one of Bob’s best buddies. When Bob was in charge of engineering at Sprouts, he had hired Chalmer to work as a mechanical draftsman. They co-founded the Muncy Creek Watershed Association, along with Rev. Bruce Smay and Dick Leaver. Not long before Bob passed, his grandson, Michael, brought him down from Rochester, where he was living in a retirement community, for one last visit. He stayed with Chalmer in his cabin near Big Run, a Muncy Creek tributary. “That evening Bob just wanted to sit in the swing between two large sugar maples and listen to the sounds of nature,” Chalmer recalled. “We sat there for hours, it seemed, and Bob recounted many experiences that we enjoyed together. Bob would always put everyone ahead of himself. That was his character. Before we returned to my cabin, he turned to me and said, ‘Chalmer, you are the luckiest person in the world. You have this little cottage in the mountains where excellent trout fishing exists, hunting is plentiful, and where neighbors and friends care for one another.’” Andy told me about fishing at Chalmer’s trout pond with Chalmer and his grandfather, smoking good cigars and sipping from a flask of whisky, listening to him reminisce over his many years of fishing all over this country and around the world. However, Bob decided in that moment that his favorite and best fishing experiences had been in Pennsylvania. He would not have wanted to live anywhere else. • The last time I saw Bob was as the plume of his ashes swept down Manor Fork into Slate Run, and then into one of his favorite fishing holes. It was so beautiful and perfect that it took my breath away. Bob was an inspiration to me, and to others who knew him. I hope you know him a bit, now. We can all honor his life by working together to preserve and protect the trout streams that he cherished. Kevin McJunkin is a retired environmental planner for Lycoming County. He is secretary of the Susquehanna Chapter of Trout Unlimited and Babb Creek Watershed Association. Thanks to Melanie Rinn Martinek, Andy Martinek, Bill O’Connor, Jim Latini, Joe Radley, Walt Nicholson, and Chalmer Van Horn for their help with this article.
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