Eli Eakin had a goal in mind when his family traveled to the banks of Neshannock Creek on Sunday morning.
“I want to catch a catfish,” said the 6-year-old member of Boy Scout Troop 743. “In case we go fishing, I’m going to catch a catfish.”
There were no catfish, but Eli and his family did not emerge from the banks of the creek empty-handed.
They were among more than a dozen volunteers who carried bags of trash along a stretch of downtown Neshannock as part of a cleanup spearhead by The Fly Stop in the Washington Center neighbour.
Eli was accompanied by his father, Aaron; mother, Jamie; and her sister Kiely, who belongs to Troop 6743.
“I have to get a total of 80 hours of community service,” Kiely said, adding that for her, however, the task was just as important as logging the time.
“We all love to fish,” Jamie Eakin said. “We go to ponds and fish friends. She (Kiely) had some fly fishing experience at summer camp. So that was pretty cool and we know some friends who fish Neshannock Creek, so we thought, “what a great way to help clean up and make it a nice place to keep fishing.”
The Eakins themselves haven’t fished the Neshannock, Aaron Eakin said, because they don’t have the proper fly fishing gear.
“But maybe we’ll get into stream fishing at some point,” added Jamie Eakin. “We just moved here (from Washington, PA) just over a year ago, and are still getting to know the area.”
Like the Eakins, The Fly Stop itself is relatively new to the area, with owner Kory Van Tassel launching it just weeks before the opening day of this year’s trout season. Van Tassel, however, is a county native who returned to the area in 2021 after about 10 years on the West Coast, where he opened the original – and still existing – Fly Stop in San Diego.
“We just want to help out a little and give a little back,” Van Tassel said, “and we’re doing that in New Castle because that’s an area that probably needs it more than other stretches.
“It’s not terrible, but you can find cleaner bodies of water for sure, so it could use a little love.”
The cleanup kicked off a day of activities at The Fly Stop, with food and drink scheduled for noon and a list of speakers starting at 1 p.m.
“We will do various presentations of four different types,” Van Tassel said before the cleanup began, “everything related to rainbow trout fishing, muskellunge fishing, trout fishing and species hot water like carp and bass.”
But it was the chance to help along the creek that most prompted Chippewa resident Vinny Martinez to add a weekend trip to New Castle to the five he usually does during the week.
“I work at New Castle, and the Neshannock has given me and my family a good time for years and years and years,” he said. “I fish there almost every day. During lunch breaks I’m in the Neshannock or at a local stream here.
“I just think it’s time to give back to the creek and to give back to everything here in this area. We love it so much.
(The Fly Stop is located at 26 N. Mill St. in the Washington Center passage. For more information, visit https://www.theflystop.com).