I was a ten year old standing on the deck of the SS United States. My parents brought me to say good bye to a missionary friend.
As sailing time approached we returned to the pier and the fastest passenger liner in the world eased away from the pier. There was music, confetti and cheering.
Born in 1944, the Spring of my life was beginning. Spring for the SS United States began with her maiden voyage in July 1952. and the Little Lehigh was being designated as a TROPHY TROUT STREAM.
Longer than the Titanic, the red stacks of Americas Flagship gleamed, her decks glistened. She was at in the height of her glory, I was gaining fly fishing competence and skillful, lucky anglers were creeling one, twenty inch fish per day on the Little Lehigh.
Four US presidents sailed aboard the SS United States: Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy and Bill Clinton. (The youthful Clinton, fresh out of Georgetown, was on his way to study at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.)
I was learning fly fishing from my mentor Steve Kracirovic of Anglers Notch and the Little Lehigh was enjoying the highest population of trout in Pennsylvania,
The SS United States carried an impressive roster of luminaries on nearly every voyage. Famous passengers included Marlon Brando, Coco Chanel, Sean Connery, Gary Cooper, Walter Cronkite, Salvador Dali, Walt Disney, Duke Ellington, Judy Garland, Cary Grant, Charlton Heston, Bob Hope, Marilyn Monroe, Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, John Wayne, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
I got to open a fly shop and fish with Gary Borger, Lefty Kreh, Gary LaFontaine, Ernest Schwiebert, Charlie Meck, Barry & Cathy Beck, Ed Jaworowski, Ed Schenk, Oliver Edwards, Bob Clouser, Jack Gartside, Ed Koch, Don Baylor, A.K. Best, Larry Duckwall and others.
While my favorite ship was setting speed records I was wading the fast water looking with disdain at the sweet water fishermen.
I retired from my shop in 2010.
i couldn’t compete with Cabelas on one siide and LL Bean on the other. Jimmy Carter’s luxury tax put me out of the fly tying business sending the commercial fly tying tradition over seas.
The SS United States was retired from active service in 1969. The age of the great ocean liners had come to a close, doomed by increasingly fast and affordable trans-Atlantic airline flights.
The Little Lehigh began it’s decline with the retirement of Parks Director Don Marushak. The SS United States was drug to Pier 2 in Philadelphia and I began fishing and camping my way around North America.
As people started to talk about selling my favorite ship for scrap, I found stream banks getting higher, the water getting deeper and faster, the rocks more slippery, My loss of balance limiting my fishing opportunities in even the sweetest of water and the great days of the Little Lehigh were beginning to be discussed in the past tense.
Often this Trout Bum has to substitute being where the fish are for fishing.
Now there is talk of restoring the great ship. (http://www.ssusc.org/). I hope they have more success than I had in efforts to restore the Little Lehigh.
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