In the Presence of Fishing Royalty

August 31, 2016 at 11:18 am Leave a comment

NewHero_FishingCreek_LTS_PC4

Photo courtesy of Live the Stream.

Our new issue includes a short feature on Joe Humphreys, Penn State’s legendary fly-fishing educator. For the story, writer Matt Sedensky caught up with Humphreys and with Lucas and Megan Bell, the husband-and-wife team wrapping up production on Live the Stream, a feature-length documentary on Humphreys due out this year. You can watch the trailer here. – B.J Reyes, associate editor

Joe Humphreys seems every bit the veteran fly-fisherman, wearing waders, a ratty, decades-old vest and a face full of character that doesn’t hide his 87 years. Then a crowd masses on the riverbanks, or another angler asks for a photo, and you realize you’re in the presence of something more: Fishing royalty.

Now the story of Humphreys ’57—so highly regarded for his fishing skills that his company has been sought by statesmen and celebrities alike—has garnered the interest of filmmakers who are wrapping up shooting of “Live the Stream,” a documentary about his life. Fly fishing’s serene waters and graceful casts of the line may seem the antithesis of an engrossing feature-length film, the humility, genuineness, and joy Humphreys continues to exude somehow exhilarate the viewer, elevating a sport to art.

He still remembers the day when his father first took him fly-fishing at the age of six, the Kingfisher bamboo rod he clumsily held and that eight-inch trout he was thrilled to catch. It’s been a constant in the eight decades since. “I still have that basic excitement that I had when I was six years old,” he says. “And that’s one thing that I suppose I won’t lose till I can’t pick up a rod.”

After Penn State, Humphreys coached and taught before also establishing one of the first high school fly-fishing programs. In 1970 came the realization of a dream, a return to Penn State to lead the angling program started by his mentor, George Harvey ’35. His time at Penn State spanned almost two decades.

Throughout his career, students have included Jimmy Carter, Dick Cheney, Bobby Knight and Liam Neeson. Just as meaningful as the big-name companions, though, have been those he’s touched through programs he’s been involved in that help instruct young people and injured veterans. Some of those he’s taught find themselves so obsessed with catching a fish, Humphreys has to offer two words of advice: Look up. He tells them to look at the hemlocks, at the sunlight peeking through their boughs, at the magnolias in the distance. See the sky, listen to the brook, relax in the crystal waters. Humphreys feels God there. “There is no stress,” he says. “There are no tensions.”

Humphreys has traveled to world championships, penned two books, and hosted an ESPN series. Still, when the husband-wife team of Lucas and Meigan Bell approached him with the idea of a film, he was surprised his story would be interesting to a wide audience. Lucas Bell ’02 met Humphreys while filming a history of the angling program as a film student at Penn State. After reconnecting with him last year at a fly-fishing show (the Bells, too, are aficionados), he had the idea for the project. His wife was sold soon after meeting Humphreys.

“Within a few minutes you get it,” she says. “You’re laughing, you’re charmed, you’re entertained and you suddenly realize why he is such a great man.”

Matt Sedensky

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Entry filed under: Alumni, From the Magazine, The Penn Stater Magazine. Tags: , , , .

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