In Tight Contest, First Rookie Since 1981 Takes the Gabby
Kettle Creek near Cross Fork, Pa. In one of the closest competitions in tournament history, Gabby Rookie Jeff Marlow won the 2022 Gabby Hayes Memorial Trout Fishing Tournament April 16 with a 13 3/8-inch rainbow trout, just edging out Gabby veteran Drew Rose.
Jeff reported he caught the Gabby with a Panther Martin while fishing with his sponsor and father-in-law Mike Shanks in mid-afternoon “down at the S turns.” Jeff is the first rookie to take the Gabby since the late Dr. Steve Mueller in 1981 and, with Keith “Robbie” Robinson’s “Micro Gabby” of 1979, only the third rookie champion in tournament history.
The margin of victory was so slim that it took several repositionings of Jeff and Drew’s fish on the Gabstick before three-time champion Robinson, the senior Elder in camp, certified Jeff’s winner. The difference in length between the two fish appeared to be even closer than in 2016 when Mike Shanks’ winner was judged to be a flacid flea penis longer than Drew’s contender.
During the presentation of this year’s trophy, last year’s champion Dane Christian Konop pulled a Gabby switcheroo on the rookie champion, handing him a tiny 5-inch leaping trout trophy, while holding up the giant oak and sculpted steel trophy he won last year. Jeff seemed only slightly chagrined by the disproportionate size of the two trophies, before D.C. presented him with a 15-inch-high leaping trout trophy, with double marble and blue vapor plating.
Jeff beat out 12 other Gabby Guys on the stream, including six past champions. In his acceptance speech, he simply thanked Kettle Creek for allowing him to catch the Gabby. It’s been a great year for Jeff. He married Anna Shanks, bought a house and won the Gabby. And it’s only April.
After the mini-camp of 2021, attendance rebounded this year. In addition to Jeff, other Gabby Guys on the stream Saturday included Zach Anderson, Alex Bedont, Darien Bodahl and his rookie son Caleb (who notably is the first “Third Genner” in Gabby Camp), D.C. and his dad Founder Dane, Chris Miller, Jimmy Pelligrini, Keith Robinson, Tony Rose and his son Drew, and Mike Shanks. Joe Hrubos and Julius Czarnecki stayed behind to tend camp. Matt Genery and his would-be rookie Johnny Ortiz fished Thursday, camped overnight and left Friday. Chief Ed
Grugan and Senior Elder Byron “Andy” Anderson made brief appearances in camp, but were mostly confined to sick bay at Gabby Elder Haven.
The return to the traditional mid-April tournament date, two weeks into the trout fishing season, meant the Gab Guys could fish on Friday instead of sitting around camp fiddling with their tackle and drinking beer.
But it was a mixed success weatherwise. The weather was mild on Thursday when most Gabby Guys arrived in camp, with a high temperature of 54 degrees and a light, passing rain that allowed for a safe campfire. Overnight, temperatures dropped to 39 degrees. The wind picked up on Friday, with gusts as high as 40 mph, while the temperatures hovered all day in the mid-50s. Although rain was in the forecast, at 8 a.m. Saturday morning it was cloudy but there was no rain, with a temperature that had only dipped to 43 degrees. Unfortunately, the temperature kept dropping all morning into the high 30s. The rain began at about 11 a.m. and continued on and off all day. With a little sun in the afternoon, the temperature reached 48 degrees by 5 p.m. Another front passed over Kettle Creek Valley overnight, bringing a dusting of snow and temperatures that bottomed out at 26 degrees by 8 a.m. Sunday morning. Fortunately, the snow was gone by the time most of the Gabby Guys broke camp.
Water levels were nearly perfect, rising to just under the mean discharge of 340 cubic feet per second on Saturday, making for easy wading and fishing.
Gabby Business Meeting
Drew Rose, filling in for absent Karl Wendel as Gabby Sargeant at Arms, called the business meeting to order at about 10 p.m. Saturday, an hour later than usual to allow for the Gab Guys to finish their dinners, topped off with Mike Shank’s marinated venison nuggets grilled on the campfire.
Founder Dane opened the business meeting and welcomed the Gab Guys to the 46 th Gabby tournament. Mike Shanks gave the invocation, honoring those Gabby Guys who have passed on, including notably Mark Bedont in 2021. Alex Bedont then paid a special tribute to his father, accompanying himself on guitar while he sang the theme from “True Grit,” his and his father’s favorite movie.
The head count, the first topic of business in Gabby Housekeeping, was a big success, requiring only one iteration, which admittedly was then adjusted to recognize the 19 total Gab Guys in camp and the 13 Gab Guys who fished in the tournament on Saturday, in addition to the 15 attendees at the meeting. With a tournament fish count of 26, the resulting Gabby Fish Quotient was a respectable 2.0.
In the firewood report, Mike Shanks reported that 1 1/3 cords of wood were
delivered Wednesday by our new firewood supplier Ron Fisher (real name) for a cost of $315, which was paid for by the Steve “Fire Guy” Mueller Memorial Fund. The balance of the fund stands at $340. Donations should be sent to fund executor Mike Shanks. Mike reported that watching Fisher leave was like watching a truck version of pinball, as he backed up and pulled into tree after tree making his way out of camp. “I got to hit something to know where I am,” Fisher said.
In the facilities report, Darien Bodal reported on his construction of
Colaianneville4, replacing C3, which was blown up by a hellish gust of wind in 2021. The new tarp is 50x50 feet, with a center pole extended from 12 to 15 feet. The woodblock and chain-rigged “chimney” has survived from the original Colaianneville of 1986. The tarp, which Darien personally financed, arrived with a significant tear, which he repaired. By Friday evening, numerous fire pin holes appeared, resulting in a “planetarium effect” from the light of the full moon. Darien suggested it may be a one-year tarp.
Founder Dane introduced Julius Czarnecki as the new webmaster for
GabbyHayes.net, replacing the late website founder Mark Bedont. Julius was the perfect candidate, articulate, tech savvy and committed to the Gabby. Mark endorsed Julius’s selection and worked with him before his death to ensure a smooth transition. Julius reported that all the familiar features will continue on the website, with the addition this year of an updated version of Mike Shanks’ Gabby Family Tree and “Kettle Corn” for contributions from Gabby Guys, with some surprise improvements planned for the coming year.
The continued threat of dead and dying pine trees falling in camp during a
tournament was the only holdover topic of old business. It has become apparent in recent years that the mature trees that surround Gabby Camp are reaching the end of their life span. While they are coming down throughout the Brunnell Pines, the situation is especially critical in the open area that makes up camp, as the trees on the edge of the clearing are no longer supported by adjacent trees. An inspection by Founder Dane and Fire Guy Darien had revealed the seven dead trees that appear to be the most dangerous. Darien volunteered to seek permission from the
local forest ranger to take down these trees a few weeks before Gabby 2023. This will lessen but not completely solve the problem of falling trees and limbs. It is, after all, a forest.
New business included a report by Founder Dane on his repair of the Gabstick, the official fish measurement tool of the Gabby tournament. Created by Monaca Tribesman Carl Ciccone in the early 1980s, the Gabstick has taken a physical beating over the years and was no longer functional, with broken components held together by duct tape. Dane reported he reassembled and glued together the broken pieces, washed down the entire stick with wood soap, then used rubbing alcohol and very fine steel wool to remove dried fish slime stains and tape residue.
He also re-glued the plastic edges of the T-square and enlarged the slot in the foot piece that guides the T. The work was completed just in time for this year’s exciting comparison of contenders. The Founder also reported on the condition of the Selby Cup and the need in three years to replace or expand the cup because only three blank name tags remain. The consensus of the group was to add another bottom section to the trophy that could extend its life span 30 more years to 2055.
The meeting adjourned at midnight.
Next tournament will be on April 15, 2023.