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Posted in Youth Education

Trout Unlimited Assists Local Youth with 4-H Project

Luke instructing how to tie a half-hitch knot to secure a fly pattern
TU instructor Scott Minster teaching students how to use an ID chart to identify macroinvertebrates
TU instructor Milt Claney teaching students the sequential steps for tying a “Green Weenie” pattern
TU instructor Rod Cross demonstrating a back cast before each student practiced with a rod

Luke Sanner, a dual-enrolled junior, and the Forbes Trail Chapter of Trout Unlimited celebrated Earth Day working on Luke’s 4-H project.  Luke completed the requirements for his Diamond 4-H project with a hands-on education program at Rotary Park in Latrobe.  The program included an introduction for other 4-H members to stream ecology, macroinvertebrate (trout bugs) identification, fly tying and casting.  Luke, along with eight instructors from Forbes Trail taught the various activities.  As part of the Earth Day program, TU volunteers picked up litter along Loyalhana Creek earlier in the week when the weather was more cooperative.   

The macroinvertebrates were collected in nets in the adjacent Nine Mile Run and included mayflies, caddisflies, stoneflies, crayfish, beetles, cranefly larva and dragonfly nymphs.  The students, using ID charts, identified each of the critters before releasing them unharmed back into the stream.  The students also learned about the value of riparian buffers to protect the stream from runoff of pollutants such as fertilizers from the golf course and the value of tall trees to provide shade to keep the water cool.  

One of the 4-H students whose family operates a farm, explained how they follow Best Management Practices to protect their pond and stream.  By allowing high grasses and brush to grow along the pond and stream banks, they prevent runoff of cow manure.  And fences along the stream prevent the cattle from causing bank erosion.

TU mentors explained how the fly patterns they were learning to tie were to imitate some of the trout bugs they caught in the stream.   Luke demonstrated tying a slightly more complex pattern and presented each of the students with a plastic fly box to store their tied flies.  The students also got to try casting a fly rod, which was a little challenging fighting rain showers and heavy winds.

Luke and his family are members of Trout Unlimited and have supported many of TU’s activities and functions.  Forbes Trail sponsored Luke at the Rivers Conservation and Fly-Fishing Youth Camp at Messiah College in June of 2022.  Luke’s interest in stream ecology and macroinvertebrates sparked when assisting Forbes Trail with the study of Linn Run in 2021 to develop a Coldwater Conservation Plan for the stream.  The Chapter considers Luke one of their rising stars who will one day lead the organization and help protect our trout streams.  Congratulations Luke on your many achievements! 

Posted in Citizen Science Rock Run

Rock Run Water Tests 4-29-23

Rock Run April 29, 2023

Here’s the results of water quality tests at the mouth of Rock Run on April 29, 2023.

Air Temperature: 54°
Water Temperature: 48°
Linn Run Gauge: 1.97′
Linn Run Discharge: 15.5 ft³/sec
pH: 7.45
Alkalinity: 5.0

Posted in Events Youth Education

FTTU Assists with 2023 Envirothon

Forbes Trail Chapter of Trout Unlimited was invited to participate in this year’s Westmoreland County Envirothon at Twin Lakes Park in Hempfield Township.  Westmoreland Conservation District organizes the annual event and seeks local businesses to help sponsor it.  One hundred and twenty-five students were tested on their knowledge of Current Issues, Aquatics, Forestry, Wildlife and Soils.  Trout Unlimited provided a separate station where students learned to cast a fly rod and tie a trout bug pattern called a Green Weenie, designed by a former Forbes Trail tying instructor Ken Igo.  

Groups of 20-25 students spent 30 minutes at each of the stations being tested on what they’ve learned in each of the subjects.  Some school districts provided up to three teams.  Each team consisted of five students who would collaborate on the tests.  TU teaches coldwater conservation, fly tying and fly casting in schools, to scout groups and to adults on a regular basis.  They even take classes of students on local fly fishing field trips.  

The Envirothon is quite different.  It’s like speed dating where instructors have just 30 minutes to teach a very concentrated lesson on either tying or casting.  A group of ten students would sit at a table with a vice, tools and materials and follow along as an instructor explained the tying process step-by-step.  Most of the students produced a final product that any trout would chase.

Another group of ten would watch a casting demonstration by experienced castors, then grab a fly rod and try to emulate the instructors.  The students were taught the “back cast” and “roll cast”, the two most common casts used on trout streams.  Students eventually learned the hand placement on the rod, line control and the arm rhythm to where they could hit their target…most of the time.  For many of the students, this was their first exposure to fly tying and casting, which was TU’s intent…plant a seed and watch it grow.

Instructors Milt Claney and Joe Bilotta teach how to tie the Green Weenie.
Casting instructors Jim Litrun and Ron Rodgers explain the techniques of the back cast.
Posted in Conservation Loyalhanna Creek

Trout Unlimited Clears Litter Along Loyalhanna Creek

Teams of Forbes Trail Trout Unlimited worked at three locations to pick up litter along the banks of the Loyalhanna on Tuesday, April 18.  The section of stream in Ligonier is designated by the PA Fish & Boat Commission as both Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only (DHALO) and a PA Select Stream.  And Trout Unlimited has included it in their top ten premier trout streams in their Laurel Highlands Trout Trail program.  In other words, it’s a very special trout stream because of its natural beauty and superior water quality.  Unfortunately, a few thoughtless people continue to ignore the charm of the stream and leave their drink bottles, candy wrappers and bait containers scattered along the trails and banks.

As part of the annual Great American Cleanup of PA and Great Ligonier Valley Cleanup, Forbes Trail partnered with Loyalhanna Watershed Association to pick up trash along the DHALO section, around the causeway at Sleepy Hollow and on Mission Road in Latrobe.  Fortunately, it’s a very tiny percentage of the general public who still refuse to manage their wastes properly.  And more than likely the same slobs that throw their trash in the same locations every year.  TU encourages angler to leave absolutely no trace other than boot prints.  And in fact, anglers are asked to carry a bag to pick up trash left by others, leaving the stream banks even cleaner than they find them.

The teams picked up 20 bags of trash and one lawn chair.  The most unusual find was a garter snake trying to stay warm inside a discarded bed pillow.  They had to clean an illegal dump where someone, possibly a local resident, dumped garbage over the hillside, directly across the stream from the Giant Eagle supermarket.  Residents are asked to report illegal dumpers to the PA State Police or Keep PA Beautiful.  Littering in PA carries a fine of up to $300.  It’s only a few careless people causing the problem.  Do your part to report them.  It’s your tax dollars that pay Penn DOT to pick up and dispose of all the littler collected along the highways and streams.  We can find better ways to celebrate Earth Day than picking up trash left by a few thoughtless litterbugs!

Clean-up 1
Picking up trash along Mission Road in Latrobe
This garter snake came out to say “thanks for cleaning up my neighborhood!”
Clean-Up 3
Mission Road crew L-R Ron Miller, Bill Simogyi and Angela Schultheis
Posted in Fishing Youth Education

LVMS Outdoor Club Completes Successful Fly Fishing Program

FTTU volunteer John Albright approves of this Outdoor Club member's job of landing this nice sized rainbow on Loyalhanna Creek.

The Forbes Trail Chapter of Trout Unlimited worked with fifteen students over the winter and spring to teach coldwater conservation, fly tying, rod rigging, casting and fly fishing.  They wrapped it all together nicely during a field trip on Thursday, April 13.  The day for them began with a presentation by the local PA Fish & Boat Commission (PFBC), Waterways Conservation Officer, Matt Kauffman explaining how the PFBC supports the sport of fishing and a summary of the relevant regulations.

Immediately that session, Josh Penatzer, Project Manager for the Loyalhanna Watershed Association, demonstrated electrofishing to the students.  The students donned waders, and some carried buckets and nets, as they followed Josh around Mill Creek collecting fish and macroinvertebrates.  Once collected, Josh identified the species and explained their value in the stream before each critter was released unharmed.  This is a component of the coldwater conservation program being taught to the Outdoor Club each year…learning about stream ecology and the value of each component.

After a bag lunch, the students grabbed their waders and fishing gear to put all they had learned into practice on the Delayed Harvest Articicial Lures Only section of the Loyalhanna Creek, just downstream of the Rt. 711 bridge.  The students had obviously paid close attention during their Club classes because their efforts were rewarded with several trout and even more shouts of “fish on”!

Mr. Ryan Podlucky, Health and Physical Education Teacher and Outdoors Club Advisor for LVMS had this to say following the event…”I just wanted to thank you so much for a great day.  I know many of those kids said yesterday was the best day of school they ever had.  The boys were in the locker room talking to me before dismissal and they said they really felt like they actually learned something they can use.  It was a pretty powerful discussion.  That wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for you guys.  I really appreciate everything you do for us.”

Eight mentors from Forbes Trail assisted with the event on Thursday although approximately fifteen total helped with classes throughout the semester.  The students enjoyed practicing what they had been learning, and the mentors enjoyed the opportunity to share their skills and experience.  Forbes Trail works with several schools, scouts and youth group to help groom coldwater conservationists, and teach their rewarding sport of fly fishing.  The mentors work hard to protect trout fisheries and keep their fly fishing tradition alive.  And this group of LVMS students have certainly made their time and efforts worthwhile!  Kudos to all the Outdoor Club students!

One of the students caught this nice rainbow.
Another one of the kids with a large rainbow caught on the Loyalhanna.
Josh Penatzer leads the group in an electrofishing study of Mill Creek.
WCOs look on as the students study a fish caught in the electrofishing survey.
Mentor and Student
FTTU President Larry Myers mentors one of the students.
Student and Mentor
FTTU's Milt Claney helps a student with his casting.
Posted in Citizen Science Rock Run

Rock Run Water Test Results April 2023

Rock Run April 2023

Here’s the results of water quality tests at the mouth of Rock Run
on April 2, 2023.

Air temp: 30°F
Water temp: 41°F
Linn Run Discharge: 20.6 ft³/sec
Linn Run Gauge: 2.09
pH: 7.7
Alkalinity: 3.3
Flow: med/high and clear

Posted in Fly Tying Youth Education

LVMS Students Learn About Cold Water Conservation and Fly Fishing.

Fly Tying
TU instructor Rod Cross showing leaner Ethan Friscarella how to tie a Mop Fly.
Macro Instruction
TU instructor Monty Murty using a Power Point presentation to explain the life cycle of macroinvertebrates.

Twelve students from Ligonier Valley Middle School’s Outdoor Club participated in a winter program to learn about stream conservation and fly tying.  This is a program to teach the importance of protecting our coldwater fisheries and to train them to be environmental stewards.  

The Outdoor Club meets every other Thursday indoors for five events.  The learners will test their skills fishing for trout in April, the final class.  The program is conducted by the Forbes Trail Chapter of Trout Unlimited.  

“The Forbes Trail Trout Unlimited Chapter mentors do an amazing job teaching our learners about the importance of coldwater fisheries, and introducing them to fly fishing”, noted Ryan Podlucky, Health and Physical Education Teacher and Outdoors Club Advisor.  

Each session begins with a video presentation about trout streams, the importance of clean water for trout, and a lesson on a particular macroinvertebrate…or trout bug.  The learners then tie that particular fly pattern to make it look like the real deal.  During their field day, they’ll use their hand-tied flies to try to fool trout in Loyalhanna Creek.  

The patterns include trout egg imitations, bait fish, leeches, insect larva and adult trout bugs.  The learners will practice casting, reading the stream, making a near-natural presentation and, how to release trout unharmed.  TU teaches the value of using barbless hooks as well as the practice of catch-and-release.  

“It’s a great hands-on learning experience for the students” notes TU class instructor Joe Bilotta. “And it’s one more opportunity for Trout Unlimited to instill our values in our next generation of coldwater conservationists.” TU wants to introduce young learners to fly fishing as an outdoor activity they can enjoy with friends, or by themselves. 

Fly fishing is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and take a break from studying, work, competitive sports and trying to keep up on social media.  The more, young learners TU can recruit, the more ambassadors we’ll have to help protect our precious natural resources. 

Posted in Citizen Science Conservation Linn Run

Linn Run Conservation Plan Released

Forbes Trail Chapter of Trout Unlimited debuted their final Linn Run study results at a public meeting on March 30, 2023, at the Powdermill Nature Reserve.   Thirty-five guests were present to learn about the overall health of Linn Run watershed and what threats to the stream need to be addressed.

The study began in April of 2021 and was funded with a grant from the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds, a grant-making foundation that invests in efforts to protect healthy, natural streams around the state.  The study was a “partnership” effort involving state and local agencies and nonprofit organizations, each bringing unique expertise to the table.  Nearly fifty volunteers, including TU members, citizen scientists and professional chemists and entomologists worked on the project for nearly two years.

The specific studies looked at the water quality including potential pollutants such as E. coli, iron oxide, road salt and aluminum which can harm all aquatic life.  Extensive sampling done for macroinvertebrates (trout bugs), showed that the main stem and the major tributaries all had a healthy variety and number of bugs.  

Teams of volunteers conducted habitat assessments looking at every inch of the stream and tributaries from the first raindrop on Laurel Mountain to where Linn Run passes under the Rt. 381 bridge in Rector.  Bank erosion from flash floods, hiking trail washouts, log jams and barriers restricting fish movement were some of the problems discovered.  The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA), a tiny insect that infects the needles of hemlock trees, has been documented and could threaten the canopy over nursery waters.  

A limestone treatment system installed on the largest tributary, Rock Run, in 2005 has proven to be effective at raising both the pH and alkalinity of the tributary to where it now supports wild trout reproduction.  A similar treatment system might be considered for the headwaters of Linn Run.

The Coldwater Conservation Plan is part of a “process”. The next step will be for TU to meet with partners such as the State Park and Forbes State Forest officials to determine what remediation efforts DCNR might be able to work into their budgets and maintenance plans.  Then, decide if grants and more manpower might be needed.  Some activities such as clearing log jams after severe floods and monitoring for E. coli, the HWA and gill lice is expected to be an ongoing exercise by the partners.  

Overall, Linn Run is a relatively healthy, but somewhat fragile, high gradient mountain stream.  It and the surrounding park and forest attract well over 100,000 visitors each year.  Linn Run is the “crown jewel” of the watershed and the Partners are committed to Conserving, protecting and restoring it using whatever resources are needed. 

Andrea Presentation
Andrea Kautz, Entomologist and Lab Manager for Powdermill Nature Reserve explains the type and number of macroinvertebrates recovered on Linn Run.
Monty Presentation
Monty Murty, past chapter president and designer of the study, explains some of the water quality problems discovered.
Posted in Events

50th Anniversary Celebration

Award Presentation
Presentation of Proclamation from Westmoreland County Commissioners. L-R: Banquet MC Rod Cross, Commissioner Doug Chew, President Larry Myers, Banquet Chair Monty Murty

The Forbes Trail Chapter of Trout Unlimited celebrated its 50th anniversary on March 18th at Ferrante’s Lakeview in Greensburg with 200 guests in attendance.  The Chapter was formed in 1973 in response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Anges the summer before.  The storm damaged much of Ligonier driving the waters of Loyalhanna Creek over its banks and destroying everything in its path.  The creek was left looking essentially like a lifeless canal.

Local sportsmen and businessmen chartered a new chapter of Trout Unlimited to work with the PA Fish Commission, Penn DOT and the Army Corps of Engineers to redesign the creek into the premier trout stream that it is today.  The section of stream running through Ligonier is designated Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only (DHALO) and also a PA Select Stream which qualifies it to receive more and larger trout.  It is included as one of the top 10 streams in the Trout Unlimited Laurel Highlands Trout Trail  A true success story for the region!

Many of the Chapter’s original leaders and members, captured in the news clippings, slideshow and photos on display at the event, shared stories of their stream remediation work and the beginning of their education and outreach programs.  Guest speaker, Alan Stansbury, was a close friend of one of the early leaders, Don Robb, and spoke of how Don helped fuel the interest in fly fishing in the region.  Don operated a tackle shop in downtown Ligonier where he built custom bamboo fly rods and tied flies for local anglers, some who traveled worldwide pursuing trout and salmon.  

Westmoreland County Commissioners issued a proclamation to the Chapter for their service in the community and for protecting coldwater fisheries.  Commissioner Doug Chew attended the event and presented the award.  Monty Murty, past president for the Chapter, was Chair of the Banquet Committee and Board Director, Rod Cross served as Master of Ceremonies.

Forbes Trail is one of 49 chapters in PA and has over 500 members.  About 50 active members teach coldwater conservation, fly tying and fly casting in local schools.  They sponsor an annual clinic for disabled military veterans to teach them to fly fish as a means to heal the body and Soul.  And 40 volunteers recently completed a two-year study to develop a Cold Water Conservation Plan for Linn Run.

Len Lichvar
PA Trout Unlimited Council President Lenny Lichvar applauds Chapter’s accomplishments
Alan Stansbury
Guest speaker Alan Stansbury shares early history of Forbes Trail Chapter
Banquet Crowd
Some of the crowd of 200
Posted in Events

Banquet Ticket Sales Now Closed

FTTU 50th Logo

We have officially ended banquet ticket sales. Our ticket count has been submitted to Lakeview and we can sell no more.

Tickets are not sold at the door.

Thanks to all who have purchased tickets, we have exceeded our goal of 175. See you March 18!