The following early recollections of "The Gabby" were written by Founder Dane Konop. Most of these Gabby tales are familiar to tournament veterans as they have been repeated around our Saturday night campfires. These mementos and photos are reprinted from the 20th Anniversary Edition of "The Gabzette", 1989 (Publisher, Keith Robinson).
Gabby in a Nutshell, by Dane Konop
1969: The Inspirational Gabby
Setting out from Indiana, Pa., college buddies Patton Annegan, Larry Selby, Paul Phillips and Dane Konop make their way to Kettle Creek, a fabled trout stream in "God's Country," Potter County, Pa.
It's after midnight when the four outsiders pass through Cross Fork. They make several runs up a dark and unfamiliar Rt. 144 before they locate OleBull State Park and the accommodations Annegan has lined up - a tiny trailer with a single bed for two, plus a canvas bunk strung directly above. The kerosene heater leaves the trailer's floor level freezing, while raising the temperature near the ceiling to the 90s. Around 4 a.m., the bunk collapses.
Despite their Friday night ordeal, the four are up and on the stream by 8 a.m. on Saturday. In a narrow shallow stretch of Kettle Creek upstream from Ole Bull near where Rt. 144 crosses the stream, Annegan lands a magnificent, awe-inspiring 23 1/2-inch brown trout the size and shape of a mammoth loaf of Italian bread.
On Saturday night the four 20-year-olds join local fishermen at Kinney's Bar, featuring "Betty the Go-Go Girl" and the band: a blind accordion player with three fingers on one hand and two on the other, and a matronly lady drummer who taps out the same ratta-tat-tat, ratta-tat-tat to each song. The hippie college boys' beer-sotted request for "Inna Gadda Da Vida" is ignored. They are, however, befriended by Rose Clim from Renovo, and later slip away from the bar just ahead of her suitors.
1974: Blowout at Ole Bull
Selby, Phillips and Konop are joined by Bob Prosperi in the first return to Kettle Creek. Annegan has dropped out of sight, never to be seen again. They camp at Ole Bull again and fish the stream just below the dam. Their campground neighbors in trailers and family tents shun them and warn off their children. The fishing is good on Saturday, the beer and peppermint schnapps flow freely at Kinney's, and the group later serenades the Ole Bull campground with Dylan songs to announce their safe return to town.
As if in punishment, the rain and winds come early Sunday, blowing away their pup tent and plastic sheet camp and sending them home. Despite the weather and their Ole Bull reception, the four neo-founders vow to make this trip to Kettle Creek an annual event.
1975: Frozen out of God's Country
Most of the crew from '74 returns to Kettle Creek, joined by Jerry Scarpo and Mark Bedont. They reconnoiter at Kinney's Bar before making camp, then make a stumbling portage with their gear 150 yards over Rt. 144's steep roadside embankment to a streamside camp down water from the pines. The temperature dips to 18 degrees, and it snows. Their bait freezes solid overnight, and their runny noses freeze over their mustaches. The fish don't bite; they're too busy trying to survive. No trophies are awarded. The group spends most of its time at the bar staying drunk and warm. Despite the freeze-out, they vow to return next year for the "big ones."
1976: The First Gabby
The group grows to the size of an expedition. Weeks before opening day they mass at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania student union to make preparations for the trip. Plans become so complex that committees are formed: food committee, transportation committee, and beer, alcohol and live bait committees. The group decides to award a trophy-a single engraved plaque-for the largest trout caught on opening day. Root toot tootin' Gabby Hayes, who had reportedly made his stage debut in Cross Fork when it was a booming logging town and later returned often to hunt and fish, becomes the group's symbolic patron and namesake. And the modern era of the Gabby Hayes Memorial Fishing Expedition begins.
A small vanguard-the scouts-heads to Cross Fork early to reserve a camp along the makeshift road down the edge of the pines that leads to the deep stocking pool they call Fish City. The weather is beautiful, in the 70s, and the fish are plentiful. Dane Konop wins the first Gabby on a point of semantics over Dave Gindlesberger: Does "largest" trout mean longest or heaviest? The Gabby begins its life in controversy, and the group vows to return.
1977: Neo-Founder Wins the Gabby
The smallest group since Ole Bull returns to the traditional campsite on the edge of the pines-now called simply Gabby camp. New blood arrives when Larry Selby invites his Monaca, Pa., hometown buddies Carl Ciccone and Dave Rubino.
Bob Prosperi, who has made every trip, except the first trip in 1969, wins the Gabby. It's one of five fish casually caught by Bob that day-a respectable-size brown trout landed at the bend in Kettle just before the first stretch of long, straight riffles. We see the last serious fishing by Bob, but not the last of the Monacans.
1978: Blessed by the Gabby
Another large group returns to Gabby Camp, many over great distances. But Larry Selby, who lives in nearby Williamsport, fishes many of the region's streams and is considered by the group to have a local fisherman's edge, takes his Gabby from the straight stretch of vast water downstream from camp, and not far from Fish City.
He suggests that Fish City be declared off limits for the Gabby. The others realize this will mean that the most skilled fisherman (Selby) would then be most likely to win the Gabby. All agree that catching the Gabby should not simply be a matter of skill, that one must be "blessed" with the Gabby, and that they cannot bear another one of Selby's drawn-out acceptance speeches.
1979: A 'Real' Rookie of the Year
Those Gabby guys return to Kettle Creek from far and wide: Pittsburgh, Monaca, Philadelphia, D.C., Gettysburg, Williamsport, Indiana, Pa. Most of the veterans return, but Keith Robinson becomes the first rookie to take the Gabby. It rains all weekend, few fish are caught, and Robinson in his long, blue Navy trench coat looks more like Harpo Marx tromping through the woods than a fisherman. Some say because of the way he is dressed, the Gabby was fooled and let down its guard, thinking Robinson surely wasn't fishing but was only lost in the woods. The veterans vow to return and win back the Gabby from this rookie.
1980: The Year of the Tribes
Veterans and rookies arrive in droves, as mini-camps queue up along the stocking road. The fishing is good and the competition is keen. The group is so large that it's now not just individual fishermen competing, but tribes: Monacans, Philadelphians, Washingtonians and others. Several large fish are caught, and Monaca veteran Dave Rubino lands the largest of the large. Before and after the Gabby award, the tribes taunt and challenge each other with boast and bravado. In the charged reverie around the campfire, life imitates art as the Gabby guys become like the boys in "Lord of the Flies." The D.C. tribe chants "Kill the fish! Kill the fish!" as they stumble around the campfire. A fat, ugly sucker that Jim Tweedy has brought back to camp, thinking it a trout, is sacrificed to the fire. Native P-burgher, part D.C. tribesman, ex-U. of Md. linebacker, Tweedy later falls victim to the rigors of the Gabby trip, passes out in the men's room at Kinney's, rides back to camp in the trunk of a car, and sleeps half in, half out of his tent in the rain all night. All except Tweedy vow to return for next year's tribal showdown.
1981: A Rookie's Gabscam
The weather is ideal as the tribes return to Kettle Creek. But again it is a rookie -Steve Mueller-who wins the Gabby. The tribal veterans are subdued. After the Gabby trophy is awarded, someone asks if anyone had actually seen Mueller land the fish. But no one had. Pete Floyd leads the shouts of "Gabscam! Gabby held hostage! Where did he buy that fish?" But Mueller is in ecstacy over his win, the tales of Gabbys of years past and of the camaraderie of the Gabby, and rightly ignores the ribbing.
1982: Double Gabby with Brandy
Larry Selby, feared as much for his drawn-out camp speeches as his fishing skills, becomes the first two-time trophy winner. Selby's trophy acceptance is cut short by numerous matters brought before the Gabby assembly and by a series of parliamentary campfire smoke-break "Gabstalls." Later, the founding members from the first Kettle Creek fishing expedition finally have their 1969 request for "Inna Gadda Da Vida" answered by the rock band Brandy at Kinney's Bar. Cheered on by a large crowd of Gabbyites - with their misheard chants of "Gabby! Gabby!" -Brandy's renditions of Iron Butterfly, the Doors and Jimi Hendrix have them all dancing and falling in the aisles by evening's end.
1983: Legend, Holy Man or Lucky?
Larry Selby becomes the first to win back-to-back Gabbys, three overall. He lectures the Gabby group: You guys moan about not catching fish. You don't know where to fish. You don't know what bait to use, what size hook, where to stand. Want to win the Gabby? Catch a bigger fish. Selby proudly poses on Sunday for a Gabzette photo with an armful of trophies. An awful realization comes quickly to Gabby camp: If he wins a fourth, three in a row, he will not soon be stopped, topped or shut up. All agree, he has to be bested; but how, and by whom?
1984: "He Only Catches Gabbys."
At his first Gabby in 1979 Keith Robinson, dressed in his Harpo Marx raincoat, caught only one fish all day. But that one under-12-inch brown trout, variously known as the "Gabette" or "Micro Gabby," put him in the books as the first rookie Gabby winner. Though he gradually began to look like a fisherman, the trout were not impressed. Rob killed no trout in 1980. And in 1981. And again in 1982 and 1983, still no fish.
But 1984 would be different. At 8: 10 a.m. Rob lands a 12-inch brown trout, his second catch in five years.
At the evening's awards ceremonies, as we all sit like ducks in the rain around the campfire, he explains: "Gabby catching is not a matter of quantity but of quality." And who could argue with "The Man Who Only Catches Gabbys.”
1985: The First Palomino
In the valley of the Kettle Creek, the air is warm and dry, with daytime temperatures in the 70s. A blue sky fills with billowy, fast-moving cumulus clouds. A light breeze spins off them through the tops of the pines. And on the ground, nearly two dozen frenetic Gabby fishermen swarm into camp. Just downstream from the now-shoaling Fish City in another deep pool, Dane Konop fishes until dark with red worms, mealy worms and black wood beetles, plus all manner of bug and larvae-and catches a 13-inch- plus palomino on a cricket. It is his second Gabby in nine years.
Rookie of the year Dave Phillips pulls in only three fish in a leisurely afternoon of fishing but proves his near-filial mettle during the Saturday night awards ceremonies when he ingeniously uses two sticks to prop up his older brother Paul, who falls asleep and is continually tipping over in his lawn chair following an abortive stint as master of ceremonies.
Later in town at the newly named Cross Fork Inn (Kinney's), the female vocalist has a tin ear with matching throat, singing song after song with no apparent embarrassment. She could at least read, so Selby gives her a note and entices her to announce "Dave Nops Gabby" to the indifferent crowd. Around midnight the bar, under new management, runs out of Straub, and we all go home.
1986: 85 in '86
It's an all-veteran Masters Tournament. The great tarp they call "Colaianneville" goes up for the first time. And catching the Gabby becomes a team effort for individual glory.
Going for back-to-back Gabbys, Dane Konop brashly flaunts his Gabby strategy in camp on Friday evening. He and cohorts Byron Anderson and Keith Robinson have already scouted and staked out a defensible stretch of stream, with potential Gabby contenders in clear view, before most other Gabbyites arrive in camp. On opening day, Steve Mueller joins up, the three become four, and the four become Team Gabby.
Team Gabby executes Konop's plan: They arrive early on the stream and monopolize a position near several big browns and palominos. All day they maintain stream position, hitting many fish, keeping some and releasing the others. Reaching peak pace and rhythm, Team Gabby casts in tightly choreographed synchronization, lines kept clear and bait kept drifting by the big ones. They are more than a team; they are a fishing machine.
Though tempted to move and abandon the plan, they maintain their hold on their stretch of Kettle. At 4:50 p.m. one of the larger palominos hits the durable front end of a night crawler fragment Konop had been drifting past its nose for over an hour. A shout goes up; they know this is the Team's Gabby. But it will be Konop's third trophy.
Back in camp, there is the traditional controversy, but this time not over who has the largest fish. Many question Team Gabby's methods, saying the four's overzealous team offense and defense violated the spirit of Gabby fishing. But none challenge Team Gabby's results.
1987: Those Pernicious Palominos
On Saturday morning Byron Anderson finds his spot. wades into the stream at 8 a.m. At 8:01 he casts his line. At 8:02 he catches the Gabby. But despite Andy's respectable 14 3/4-inch palomino, the 60- to 70-degree weather makes for good fishing but bad catching for the 25 other Gabbyites on the stream.
Back in camp a petty squabble over rookie-of-the-year honors deteriorates into a brouhaha over new Gabby rules and procedures. Founder Paul Phillips' move to focus on business in the business meeting is coupled with a proposal to exclude palominos from future awards consideration. Founder Konop calls a parliamentary campfire smoke break to preempt a vote on the palomino issue and thwart any tinkering with the loosely drawn Gabby rules. But when Phillips lobbies to continue the meeting despite the smoke break call, a band of disgruntled Gabbyites strikes the meeting and walks to the chant of "Where will it stop? Where will it stop?" While Phillips appeals for a return to rule by reason, the unruly mob murmurs and mills about, humming old union songs and mumbling strike talk. Once it is clear their positions will prevail, the strikers return to the Gabby circle and soundly vote down any consideration of changes in the rules. As the crowd disperses, a faceless voice sums up: "We may not be the best fishermen. But is this the world's greatest deliberative body, or what?"
1988: Dr. Trout's Fever Cure
The good news for Gabsters is that Ty Albert has brought a keg of highly touted, micro-brewery Stoudt beer to camp. The bad news for Gabby hopefuls is that Messrs. Albert and Stoudt have highly touted Dr. Trout with them. In 1987, quiet newcomer Jaymie Smolens couldn't find Gabby camp on Friday and missed the Saturday com- petition. The Gabsters soon learned he fly fishes, often, cooks backwoods gourmet trout, logs and photographs each and every fish he's taken, deigns to Gabby fish with a fly rod-lure combo, and is a hard-charging Gabby sophomore. At 28, a decade or so younger than most original Gabsters, Jaymie represents the new Gabby generation, one that includes Dave Phillips on the older end and Pat Welch's 16-year-old son John on the younger end. Surveying these fresh faces, Larry Selby says imagine these guys 15 years from now pushing us around in our wheelchairs, up to the fire, into our tents, along the stream. But for some of these brashly competitive newcomers, the big push is already on. Founder Selby, the old master, eyes Jaymie's beaver cap, his first-rate tackle and gear, and his cock-sure determination to take the Gabby and remarks. "You really gotta be a master these days to win a Gabby."
Founder Dane Konop, another former Gabby threat, points to the "Dr. Trout" moniker boldly stitched in tan letters on Jaymie's jacket. "No, Larry. Not master. Phd!
To no one's surprise, Jayrnie takes a large palomino early on Saturday, just down from camp. He and Ty go off confidently by car to fish other stretches of Kettle. Returning at midday they learn that one last large palomino-larger than Jaymie's contender-is left in a hole downstream from camp and that Konop and others are frantically fishing for it. Grabbing his fly rod and flies-his contender already in camp-Dr. Trout vows "I'll stop that Konop." His prescription: defense.
Throughout the afternoon fast fronts of wind and snow roll up the valley of the Kettle Creek like intermittent, rumbling freight trains: first you see the sky go hazy white, hear the winds bellow through the trees. Then all of Kettle Valley is shrouded in squalling snow, filling the air, obscuring cast lines.
Between the heaves of storm, Konop waits out two kids and their mom, becoming the latest in a daylong stream of fisherpersons all futilely after the large but listless palomino. A small gang of Gabsters gathers to try its luck. But the palomino will not bite. Dr. Trout's casts of a luminescent green ball from downstream are the only bait or lure now offered that move the monster pal.
The fishing reaches a frustrated frenzy as an under- water barrage of barbs fly by this reluctant, trophy- sized trout. Finally-the inevitable-the fish is snagged. But before it can be wrestled to the shallows and netted, the massive palomino rolls free. Some fishermen shy away as a second barb in the dorsal dooms the damaged trout, its reluctance to strike explained by a No.6 hook set deep in its lower jaw.
Brought back to camp, the golden giant first astonishes the Gabby group, then is rightfully relegated to a snagged fish's gruesome curiosity status. Dr. Trout takes the trophy with his earlier 18-inch palomino, out-competing the Gabby group and doling out a hard-to-swallow dose of its own trophy-compulsive medicine.
Again controversy marks the Saturday night Gabby circle, as campfire histrionics and Gabby gamesmanship barely sway a camp vote to table an appeal to "ban the palomino" and curb this hell-bent lust for Gabby gold.
On Sunday, Bob Prosperi teaches a different lesson, as he and his formerly frenetic student Karl Wendel spend the afternoon riding their lawn chairs in relaxing pursuit of a moving spot of soft sun on its brief pass through camp. They cannot catch the sunlight, and it finally slips away. "But," Bob says, "enlightenment's not found in the capture, Karl; it's the pursuit that lights the way."
Some now wonder will a new-age Gabby follow when the Gabsters next return?