Posted in Fly Tying

Winter Fly Tying with the Gray Hackle Gang

If I can remember correctly, my fly-fishing adventures began in the 1980’s. At that time, it was nothing but a hobby which I enjoyed while being out in nature and the solitude on a day off from work here and there. I never really developed a true appreciation of the sport because like many of us with homes, families and careers, there was always something that needed to be done.

My children became adults and I retired nearly 8 years ago which freed up some time for me to pursue some of my interests. A good friend began a tradition of a yearly fly-fishing trip to his hunting/fishing cabin in the State College area to chase the wild brown trout in the limestone streams in that area. Initially we began chasing the sulphur mayfly hatch. What an eye opener. To be wading in a stream full of wild trout during a prolific mayfly hatch is truly something indescribable.

The sulphur chase evolved into chasing the green drake mayflies. Then it was the march brown, which turned into the Hendrickson, and so on and so on. Our novice group was evolving quickly from stoneflies, caddis, midges, scuds, mayflies and terrestrials. Entomologist’s we certainly were not, but we were trying and learning as we went along. The group which goes on that trip annually consists of 6-10 guys. One in that group has just finished his third competitive fly-fishing tournament. We were learning and having fun. Of course, there is always that competitive nature which is unspoken but absolutely felt amongst a group while fishing.

That was the path that led me to the Forbes Trail Chapter of Trout Unlimited (FTTU). I was seeking knowledge to learn more about the cold-water fisheries and become a better conservationist. I actually believed that if I started tying my own flies, I could save a boatload of money. I quickly learned that was in no way the case. If you are thinking you will save money tying your own flies, you are absolutely wrong. I will tell you this though. There is nothing more rewarding than catching a fish on a fly which you tied yourself. Couple that with being able to identify and match what those fish are seeing and eating gives one a great sense of accomplishment.

I believe it was 2014 or 2015 while attending a FTTU meeting there was discussion about getting a group together to tie flies. I was all in on that. My quest for information at that point had peaked. I wanted to learn all I could. YouTube and the internet are nice but I feel there is nothing better than hands on experience and actually doing it and making mistakes as you go. The late Drew Banas was heading up the group as the coordinator. He did a great job securing a venue and communicating with everyone interested.

So here I am, now the coordinator of this fly-tying group associated with FTTU. With the exception of one covid year, we have been active every year since the start. The group is filled with fly-tyers willing to help. Ask questions and learn as you go. We were recently told to decide on a name for this group. The name decided upon is the TU Gray Hackle Gang.

The TU Gray Hackle Gang is primarily a group comprised of members of the FTTU. We are a part of FTTU. The skill level is broad in the group. There are members who began fly-tying this year and there are members who have been fly-tying for years. There is an active member willing to work with new fly-tyers and teach them the basics. Every member who attends is willing to help out. If you are interested in fly-tying but are intimidated, let me relieve your apprehension. This is really an activity in which one may proceed with as much detail as desired. Anything from winding yarn on a hook to adding feathers, fur, beads or fuzz. Whatever your comfort level is perfectly acceptable.

We typically start meeting sometime after Christmas and continue weekly until the weather breaks enough that we can start getting on the water using the flies that were tied. Currently, we are meeting every Tuesday at noon for lunch. This year we are meeting at the Tin Lizzy in Youngstown PA. Once everyone has finished their meal, we move to a private room and all tie whatever each individual wishes to tie on that particular day. Our session is usually finished and everyone is cleaned up and ready to head home around 4 PM.

We have tried tying the same pattern each week as a group but that didn’t work out very well. Everyone does their own thing. We share ideas on patterns, materials and techniques. Believe it or not, there are no secrets that I have encountered. Everyone is open and happy to share. Typically, each individual brings all of their own equipment. This includes a vice, tools and materials. The chapter has loaned out equipment in the past for new fly-tyers to use until they determine if this is something they wish to get involved in. Our goal is to tie flies of all types, familiar patterns, unfamiliar patterns or some that have recently been ‘released’.

The possibilities are endless. Flies have been tied for native brook trout, wild brown trout, stocked trout or great lakes steelhead. Whatever is of interest to the individual is within reach. We have had members tie patterns in preparation for various fishing trips out of state. I won’t mention anything about bass or panfish because after all, this is Trout Unlimited.

Additionally, we all enjoy the socialization and interacting with each other. Of course, there are always some fish tales told as we go. Anyone and everyone are welcome to participate. If you are new to fly-tying or feel it may be something of interest to you, let us know and we will make arrangements to ensure everything will be available for you to try it out. If you are a seasoned fly-tier and looking to tie with us, hear or tell some tales on Tuesdays, come and join us. Email any questions to and someone will gladly respond.

When: Tuesday’s – Noon for lunch, then fly tying afterwards.
Where: Tin Lizzy Restaurant, 259 Main Street, Youngstown, PA
(on the corner of Main Street and Route 982).
Want to join in? Contact us at:



Posted in Citizen Science Rock Run

Rock Run Water Tests March 2022

Rock Run March 2022
Mouth of Rock Run March 2, 2022

Air Temperature: 54° Farenheit
Water Temperature: 41° Farenheit
pH: 7.9
Alkalinity: 3.4
Linn Run Discharge: 24.3 ft³/sec
Linn Run Gauge: 2.08 ft.

Posted in Fly Tying Women's Involvement

Lady Fly Fishers Learn to Tie Their Own Flies

Sub-freezing temperatures and nearly a foot of snow didn’t stop lady fly tyers from getting together to practice their craft on Sunday afternoon, February 6. Ladies from the area, including members of Forbes Trail, Penn’s Woods West and Mountain Laurel Chapters, met at PA Fly Co fly tackle shop on Rt. 31 east of Mount Pleasant to practice some new patterns. The ladies started with the “green weenie’, a somewhat controversial, but very effective pattern. Other patterns they mastered were the zebra midge, mop fly and single egg.

Husband and wife team, Tim and Angie Schultheis, organized the event in an effort to introduce more ladies to fly-tying and start building a small group to tie and fish together. Angie is Forbes Trail’s Diversity Committee Chair, and serves on the Board of Directors. She has been collaborating with Amidea Daniel, PA TU’s Women/Diversity Initiative Chair and Judy Sittler, PA TU’s Youth Education Chair, as well as Penn’s Woods West’s Diversity Committee for two years to formalize and grow the group of fishers. Husband, Tim, was one of the first Forbes Trail youth members to learn fly-tying in 1995 from the Chapter founders, even before they had a formal Youth Education Program. “We want to reach out and help mentor others so they can experience the fun our entire family enjoys fishing and fly-tying” noted Angie.

Joslyn from Berlin, PA, brought her own tying kit given to her by her kids as a Christmas gift. Joslyn has fly fished, but now wants to learn the art of tying. She has taken online tutorials provided by Amidea and has practiced on local streams including Wills Creek in Somerset County.

Mandy is from Pittsburgh and has fished with the Penn’s Woods West ladies on the Loyalhanna Creek in Ligonier, as well as other area streams. Now she wants to learn to tie and brought her i-pad to take scrupulous notes while mentors provide step-by-step instructions. She too has taken advantage of online tutorials including Forbes Trail’s Facebook.

Doug Yocabet owns and manages the recently opened fly shop on top of 3-mile hill. Doug has offered his classroom to many fly-tying groups in an effort to get more kids and adults into the sport of fly-fishing and art of tying. As Doug shares…”Tying is an activity many of us enjoy, especially during winter months. I enjoy interacting with the students and seeing them master the eye-hand coordination needed for this art. I like seeing the expression on their faces when they finish their first masterpiece! It’s rewarding!”

Trout Unlimited Chapters are always trying to introduce new students to the art of fly fishing and fly tying. Learning the art helps gain an appreciation for the need to become ambassadors for coldwater fisheries where we practice our sport. Reaching out to ladies and young students encourages entire families to become involved with fly fishing as well as stream conservation projects.

Please check back on Forbes Trail’s Facebook page or our web site at for more planned events. Students do not have to be a TU member to participate. And those who join the activities will find plenty of skill and willing mentors

Posted in Citizen Science Rock Run

Rock Run Water Tests For February 2022

Mouth of Rock Run 2/6/22
The Mouth of Rock Run 2/6/22

Neither rain nor snow nor frigid winter temperatures will keep the FTTU citizen scientists from their appointed rounds! A beautiful winter morning greeted the testers at Linn Run State Park on February 6th. Water levels were up with recent rain and snow melt and the air temperature was a chilly 17°.

Air Temperature – 17° Fahrenheit
Water Temperature – 34° Fahrenheit
Linn Run Gauge – 2.24 ft.
Linn Run Flow – 33.3 ft³/sec
pH – 7.7
Alkalinity – 2.8

The idea here is to record monthly pH and alkalinity readings at the mouth of Rock Run to track the progress of the chapter’s acid mitigation project on this important Linn Run tributary. The limestone sand deposits are placed in the headwaters to treat the stream for acidity. If readings at the mouth are good, then it can be presumed that alkalinity and pH in the entire stream must be healthy. A goal would be to have alkalinity readings of 10 at the mouth. We haven’t reached that goal consistently yet. Higher flows typically bring alkalinity numbers down as we see in his month’s readings, but overall, alkalinity of the stream has improved since the project began.



Posted in Conservation

DEP’s Integrated Water Quality Report Now Available.

Did you know that there are 85,568 miles of rivers and streams in Pennsylvania? They’re all covered in the PA Department of Environmental Protection’s “2022 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring Report” now available for viewing here –  2022 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring Report
This assessment of impaired waters in the Commonwealth is conducted and updated every two years.  The report provides a wealth of information about what streams are not meeting EPA’s water quality standards and for what parameters they fail.  This is yet another tool that Trout Unlimited can use to help identify trout streams that could benefit from remediation services and help us prioritize where we want to invest resources.

Unfortunately, the 2022 report shows an increase in impaired stream miles of over 2,000 miles since the last time the report was done in 2020.

A description of the report can be found in the PA Environment Digest.

There is an interactive map where you can research any stream in Pennsylvania and see if it is attaining its intended use for aquatic life or recreation or if it is impaired by any number of causes such as mine drainage or siltation.
It’s best to view the demonstration video first before exploring the map.

Link for the Map
Link for the Demonstration Video

The report contains a wealth of detailed information. You can spend hours researching you favorite streams or seek out information on ones you’d like to explore.

Posted in Youth Education

Wildlife Leadership Academy Now Accepting Nominations

The Wildlife Leadership Academy is currently seeking referrals of motivated students ages 14 to 17 to become Certified Conservation Ambassadors. Nominations are now being accepted online at Letters will be sent to nominated students with an invitation to apply to the 2022 program.

Nominated students should have demonstrated interest in wildlife and/or fisheries conservation. Accepted nominees will become certified Conservation Ambassadors through attending a 5-day residential summer field schools which focuses on a particular wildlife species, including white-tailed deer, bass, brook trout, turkey and bear. Students in each field school will gain extensive knowledge about natural resource conservation, leadership experience, and communication skills.

Applicants may be nominated by an adult who knows them well, but is not a relative (teacher, school counselor, Envirothon advisor, employer, youth group leader, etc.).

As Conservation Ambassadors, students can receive a letter of a recommendation for college applications; certification of community service work, and a certificate designating them as Conservation Ambassadors.  Students are also eligible to apply for three college credits through Cedar Crest College, return to the Academy tuition free the following year, compete for college scholarships, and join an Academy Alumni Network of wildlife, fisheries, and conservation professionals.

Academy Alumni and Conservation Ambassador Aubree Reiter of Blair County describes her participation in the program as an “absolutely amazing experience”.

She shared, “Everything was absolutely amazing. The people we met were extraordinary and the amount of information we obtained was just mind boggling. I still talk about my experience to my family and I am constantly referencing my notes. I can’t wait for my future!  The field school reached beyond my expectations.”

The mission of the Wildlife Leadership Academy is to engage and empower high school age youth to become Conservation Ambassadors to ensure a sustained wildlife, fisheries and natural resource legacy for future generations. The Academy, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is a cooperative initiative involving state agencies and conservation organizations.

FTTU Youth Group members have attended the academy in the past and it is well worth while. The WLA has a coldwater conservation program called “PA Brookies”.


Posted in Trout Trail

Grant Provided for Laurel Highlands Trout Trail

Check Presentation
Ed Barger, Penn’s Woods West Chapter Treasurer presents the grant check to Larry Myers, President of Forbes Trail TU. L-R: Monty Murty, FTTU Treasurer; Larry Myers; Bryan Mathie, PWWTU President and Ed Barger.

The Penn’s Woods West Chapter of Trout Unlimited presented a $3,900 check to fellow Forbes Trail Chapter for an ecotourism project called “Laurel Highlands Trout Trail”. The purpose is to guide fly fishers to premier trout streams in the Chestnut and Laurel Ridges region of southwest Pennsylvania. The streams will be selected by experienced fly fishers from several TU chapters. All streams will be within what is designated the Laurel Highland Landscape by the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau and the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. It’s an opportunity to share their favorite fishing spots with fellow anglers, while helping small support businesses in the region such as tackle shops, restaurants, gas stations and motels.

The other TU chapters participating in this initiative are Chestnut Ridge, Ken Sink and Mountain Laurel. The group will also partner with University of Pittsburgh Johnstown (UPJ), Business School under the direction of Dr. Skip Glenn. UPJ initially helped design a web site and in the second phase will help develop a marketing plan and brochure for the initiative.

In spring 2022, volunteers will install interpretive signs in parking areas along all of the selected streams to identify them as part of the Trout Trail. QR codes on the signs will direct readers to a web site where more detailed information about the Trout Trail and TU chapters can be found.

The original Laurel Highlands Trout Trail project was initiated in 2012 in partnership with the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor, the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau, and the local Chambers of Commerce. A website and promotional brochure were developed but the initiative was not being financially maintained by the partners. Forbes Trail TU eventually bought the intellectual properties of the initiative. With the assistance of UPJ in the spring of 2021, the web site message and technology were re-visioned toward trout fishing ecotourism focused on the coldwater conservation and outreach missions of Trout Unlimited. That web site can currently be accessed via and clicking on the link at the top of the home page.

For more information about Forbes Trail Chapter activities, and to view photos of recent events, visit our web site at  Additional information about Penns Woods West Chapter activities and events can be found on their web site at.




Posted in Citizen Science Rock Run

Rock Run Water Tests January 2022

Rock Run
Mouth of Rock Run January 2, 2022

Several days of rain brought the highest flows since January of 2021.

Air Temperature: 44° F
Water Temperature: 47° F
Linn Run Discharge: 48.9 Ft³/sec
Linn Run Gauge: 2.52 ft.
pH: 7.4
Alkalinity: 3.3
















Posted in Fund Raising

FTTU Fufills Promise with Donation to Westmoreland Food Bank

Check Presentation
Forbes Trail TU officers present check to Westmoreland Food Bank. L to R Monty Murty (Treasurer), Scott Minster (Secretary), Denny Hess (Vice President) and Lauren Hill, Director of Development for WFB.

Forbes Trail Chapter of Trout Unlimited (TU) recently presented a $600 check to the Westmoreland Food Bank to help those in local communities in need of food. Through its annual, fall meat raffle, TU gave away eight $250 gift cards for Bardines Smokehouse in Crabtree. TU members sold over 800 raffle tickets at $10 each to friends and family members throughout Westmoreland County. The eight winning numbers were drawn on November 17th and the gift cards were delivered shortly thereafter. TU donated 10% of the raffle profits to the Food Bank.

“We are grateful to Forbes Trail Chapter of Trout Unlimited for their true act of selfless giving,” said Jennifer Miller, CEO of the Westmoreland Food Bank. “If it were not for the community and their generosity, we would not be able to do what we do best and that is feed people and nourish lives.”

“This is an easy way for our chapter to raise unrestricted funds for community, school and local stream projects” noted Larry Myers, Chapter President. “It’s an opportunity for all of our 600 members to get involved in fundraising with minimal effort.” This is the second year that Forbes Trail partnered with Bardines and the Food Bank on the meat raffle. We gave away one gift card for every 100 tickets sold, which are really good odds. “Knowing that each ticket purchased helps those in need of food makes the selling very easy.” said Myers. “There are many families in our communities who could use a helping hand, and the raffle is a simple means for us to provide that support.”



Posted in Citizen Science Rock Run

Year End Rock Run Water Tests

Mouth of Rock Run
The Mouth of Rock Run 11-27-21

Icy temperatures and the first dusting of snow greeted the testers as the final water sampling at the mouth of Rock Run for 2021 was done on Saturday, November 27.

Air Temperature: 25° F
Water Temperature: 34.5°F
Linn Run Discharge: 7.95 ft³/sec
Linn Run Gauge: 1.76 ft.
pH: 7.7
Alkalinity: 7.8

The final averages for the year are 7.43 pH and 7.03 alkalinity. These are the best averages we’ve recorded since we began taking monthly readings in 2017.
2017-2018: pH-6.47, Alkalinity-5.9
2018-2019: pH-6.5, Alkalinity-6.1
2019: pH-6.5, Alkalinity-6.2
2020: pH-6.88, Alkalinity-5.92
2021: pH-7.43, Alkalinity-7.03

Plans are to add limestone to the headwaters in 2022.

Click Here Rock Run pH Chart 2021 for the complete 2021 chart.