Dane Konop photo
The 2021 Recap
The 2021 Recap
Cross Fork, Pa. Competing in his 22nd tourney, Dane Christian Konop won the 2021 Gabby Hayes Memorial Invitational Trout Fishing Tournament on Kettle Creek April 3 for his first championship. D.C.’s 14-inch palomino just edged out four-time champion Mike Shanks’ rainbow runner-up.
Fishing with Mike, D.C. took the golden pal with a Panther Martin about 4 p.m. from a pool halfway between Gabby Camp and Ole Bull.
When D.C.’s victory is combined with the six Gabby championships won by his father, Founder Dane, their seven wins tie the father-son team of Byron and Zach Anderson.
Forecasts for especially cold weather and lingering COVID concerns combined to reduce the turnout in Gabby Camp and fishermen on the stream. In addition to the Konops and Mike, only three other Gabby Guys braved the conditions: Fire Guy Darien Bohdal and Joetowners Julius Czarnecki and Joe Hrubos. With only five fishermen on the stream, the 2021 Gabby Camp tied for the fewest competitors with the 1977 tournament, when Bob Prosperi was the champion and the Monaca Tribe made its first appearance.
Again just edging out Mike, D.C.'s three catches on opening day were also top in camp. It was a good weekend for the younger Konop, as he caught two fat 15-inch rainbows on a Panther Martin on Friday during a tackle check on Cross Fork Creek, an artificials-only, open-year-round, catch-and-release stream that feeds into Kettle.
It was no surprise that there would be cold weather for the earlier-than-usual opening day instituted by the Fish and Boat Commission to spread out the crowds on streams statewide. But the combination of overnight temperatures in the high teens, snow and a wicked wind proved especially challenging to both fishermen and campers.
Recovering from hip replacement surgery, Founder Dane had invoked a medical excuse and rented a cabin near Cross Fork, where he was joined by Mike and D.C. But Darien, Julius and Joe braved the austere conditions, pitching their bags under the tarp next to the campfire Thursday.
About 10 a.m. Friday, what Darien called a “devilish gust of wind” knocked down and tore up Colaianneville. The weakened, third-generation tarp did stay up long enough to shield off the half inch of snow the storm deposited overnight. The three reported that they were relatively comfortable despite the wind and cold, faring better than if they had slept in tents.
Contrary to past openers, all three bought fishing licenses and actually made it down to the stream Saturday, when air temperatures in the afternoon began climbing into the high 40s.
Atmospheric conditions turned quite balmy Saturday as the front moved well away from Kettle Creek Valley, leaving behind a light breeze, clear, bright blue skies and temps eventually reaching the low 50s.
Unfortunately, the quality of the fishing did not match the weather. Although not based on any actual fish count, it appeared streamside that far fewer fish than usual were being caught on Kettle all day. There were only infrequent sightings by this correspondent and other Gabby Guys of catches and no fishermen walking the stream with stringers of fish. Other anglers encountered on the stream echoed these observations. Despite Joe’s aid as their non-fishing scout, Julius and Darien were skunked fishing “our” section of Kettle below camp, as was Founder Dane.
By 5 o’clock, the Gab Guys and most other fishermen were off the stream when fishing failed to improve.
The earlier quitting time allowed for an earlier than usual start to the Gabby business meeting. At 7 p.m., acting as stand-in for Karl Wendel as sergeant-at-arms, Founder Dane called the meeting to order. At the invitation of the Founder, the usual meeting M.C., Darien opened and chaired the proceedings.
Mike Shanks began with the memoriam for the Gabby Guys who have passed, including most recently in 2020, Gene “E-Rod” Rodriguez and 1980 Gabby winner Dave Rubino.
Owing largely to the low number of attendees, the head count required only one restart.
Owing largely to the low numbers of fish caught, the fish count was expanded. In an egalitarian gesture suggested by Founder Dane, each fisherman was given the opportunity to report on his fishing efforts regardless of results. Joe, Darien and Dane related in moot detail how they didn’t catch fish. Mike and D.C. reported how they did. Getting a jump on their cabin mate who lagged behind, Mike and D.C. started the morning at the gas line right of way, where about a dozen or so other fishermen had also clustered before 8 a.m. After having no luck there, the two Gab Guys moved upstream, where D.C. caught two rainbows on a Panther Martin just downstream from the fly fishing only area. In the afternoon, they moved upstream from the 144 bridge and descended to the stream at the white cottage that is perched high above Kettle about two miles from the bridge. After a hike, D.C. landed his palomino and Mike caught two rainbows in the same infrequently fished section of meandering creek where Founder Patton Annegan caught the Inspirational Gabby of 1969.
While not a record low, the 2021 Gabby fish quotient of 1.0 was unimpressive.
Because of the absence of committee chairs, there were no committee reports and no old business reports, with all actions proposed and/or under study deferred by unanimous consent until 2022.
There was plenty of new business.
Mike reported on the retirement of our long-time camp firewood supplier, Erin Churchill, who had also provided trash bag pickup and, of course, his homemade wine. Mike lined up a new supplier, who delivered a cord of wood on Thursday, split and at a lower cost. Mike anticipated the firewood arrangement could be continued in 2022.
As keeper of Colaianneville, Darien assured the diminished circle of Gab Guys he could replace the storm-demolished, third-generation tarp. His plan is to switch to canvas, which while much heavier is also much more durable than the plastic tarp used in the first three iterations. Darien did report that the center chimney frame, an original component, survived Colaianneville’s collapse and could be incorporated into Colaianneville4. Founder Dane urged Darien to apply for a Gabby grant to cover costs, assessable to tournament attendees in 2022, when a post-COVID peak turnout is anticipated.
On behalf of Mike Ondovik, last year’s Gabby champion who could not attend, Joe produced this year’s trophy, a strikingly handsome, non-traditional design created by Mike and consisting of a plasma-cut steel trout mounted on a 10-pound, 21-inch block of walnut, with the grain simulating the flow of Kettle Creek.
Following the trophy viewing, Darien issued a call for concessions and contenders. After Dane, Darien and Julius conceded, Mike and D.C. brought out their contenders for comparison on the Gabstick. It was just a formality, as D.C.’s pal clearly nosed out Mike’s rainbow. On behalf of Mike Ondovik, Founder Dane Edward topped off the awards ceremony when he presented the 2021 trophy to Dane Christian, who broke with family tradition with a refreshingly brief acceptance speech.
Following one of the shortest confabs in recent Gabby history, guest M.C. Darien called for a close to the meeting at 8:30. Because of the Easter holiday, Joe and Julius checked out of camp and returned to their families immediately after the meeting. Mike, D.C. and his dad retreated to their cabin. Darien stuck it out for one more evening, departing camp about 10 a.m. Sunday after extinguishing the campfire and policing camp for lingering litter.
Prediction for 2022: Make your plans early, as a boom crowd is expected to return for a COVID-free Gabby.