You may see junk when you look at a pile of rods with broken tips or reels that don’t wind, but Dale Ortmann, of Manorville, sees the one that got away and the exhilaration of reeling in the one that didn’t.
“Every pole I was picking up, I was cleaning, it would just take me back to all the fish that I caught with that pole,” he said.
Ortmann collects and refurbishes old fishing poles from his front porch overlooking the Allegheny River.
The first bunch came from his wife's late grandfather. He then gives the repaired poles to children near Ford City and Kittanning, sharing his love of fishing with them.
Ortmann has made it his mission to get children off their devices and outdoors.
“My generation, when we grew up we were always outside,” Ortmann said. “The kids these days, now all they do is sit with the computer. Sit in front of the TV.”
Not that sitting isn't a part of fishing, but Dale says sitting and thinking is good.
“You are sitting there watching your pole and it gives you time to think. Think about what you're doing for the day. What you got to get done, and thank God I'm fishing,” he laughs.
Since March of 2013, Ortmann has handed out 244 refurbished fishing rods.
“You can catch fish, after fish, after fish, and then, you know what? You'll always remember that day. The best day you had fishing, what you caught,” Ortmann said. “What days do you remember playing a video game?”
Ortmann said friends, family and even strangers donate used fishing poles for him to fix.
He estimates any given week he’s repairing 5 to 6.