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I’m proud.

I’m quite excited by what I saw over the last two weeks.

It’s a refreshing bit of optimism.

In case you didn’t know, the start of Pennsylvania’s trout season has become increasingly infamous over the past decade or so. Folks fight about who’s fishing where. They leave trash behind. And they park in strangers’ front yards.

The bottom line is the sport has been taken for granted. Trout season has been treated as an undeniable right … as if we all have a right to a fat fish stocked in every pocket of water that will hold them. And when we didn’t get it, everybody suffered.

But what I saw over the last two weeks was quite different. It was quite positive. If it’s a sign of the future, we’re in for some great stuff.

I took a bit of a tour of the county’s trout streams during last week’s season opener and the previous week’s mentored youth day. I was on Deer Creek, Muddy Creek, Fishing Creek, several branches of the Codorus Creek and nearly every other stocked trout water in the area. I was proud of what I saw.

The mentored youth day was undoubtedly a success. Sure, a few adults may have added a fish or two to their kids stringers (a big no-no). But overall, the day met its mark. It was a bull's-eye. All over the county, youngsters were fishing with their dads, grandfathers, mothers … you name it.

They caught fish. They kept a few. And, if my unscientific poll was even remotely correct, they tossed the majority of fish back into the water … saving plenty for the anglers to come.

It was a similar story on the first day of the season. Despite the rainy start, countless anglers were ready to make their first cast of the year when 8 Saturday morning rolled around. Again, some folks just had to wiggle their way into an already crowded hole, but the majority of anglers thoroughly understand fishing is supposed to be fun. They kept it that way.

But perhaps the biggest surprise came on Sunday — the day after the big “carnival.” My afternoon drive to many of the county’s hottest spots revealed good news. I saw very little litter — nothing that made me shake my head in disgust.

If we want to keep this sport alive and ensure future generations have as much or more access to our prized waters than we do today, this is exactly what trout season should look like. Opening day is not a party … but a celebration of a sport we love. That’s what I saw last weekend.

I saw families. I saw neighbors fishing with neighbors. And I saw strangers offering each other a hand. In other words, I saw sportsmen.

It’s something to be proud of.

I know I am.

Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@yorkdispatch.com.

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