Posted in Fishing Youth Education

Students Exploring the Outdoors

As impossible as it might seem, every student who participated in the Trout Unlimited first, annual “Students Exploring the Outdoors with TU” event caught at least one trout…and some caught many more.  This was a partnership effort developed by the Forbes Trail Chapter of Trout Unlimited (TU), Ligonier Valley School District, the PA Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) and local landowners.  The intent was to introduce 5th graders to the sport of fishing and use the school sanctioned field trip to teach a little about stream ecology, water safety, trout bugs and becoming responsible environmental stewards.

The event was held April 18 and 19 on a trout stream near Ligonier where property owners and neighbors had remediated a section of stream specifically for youth anglers.  The neighbors sponsor a youth event each year on the traditional first day of trout season, but this event went above and beyond.  Each day, forty students from Ligonier Valley elementary schools were bussed to the site and divided into groups of five to seven students, then rotated every half hour through six learning stations.  The stations, managed by TU volunteers and partners taught casting, stream ecology and macroinvertebrates, water safety, fly tying, the value of riparian buffers, and of course…trout fishing.  

In preparation for the event, the PFBC stocked the stream and TU purchased another delivery of trout from a local hatchery in an effort to up the odds for the students to catch fish.  “That might not be how it works in nature”, noted Angie Schultheis, Education Committee Chair and event organizer for TU.  “But in order to get the students “hooked” on the sport, they needed to ensure a “fish-on” experience for each student.”  Mission accomplished!

It was rewarding for the volunteers to see the excitement of the young anglers landing, what in many cases, was their first fish ever.  Mr. Ryan Podlucky, Health and Physical Education Teacher at Ligonier Valley Middle School, and coordinator for this event, arranged for ten students from the District’s Life Skills program to participate in the fishing also.  They had first shot at the trout on the second morning.  Those students all enjoyed a memorable experience catching trout, and releasing them unharmed.

Mr. Podlucky provided eight Junior Mentors each day from his school to assist the younger students.  The Junior Mentors had just completed a winter-long program with TU and were anxious to demonstrate their newly developed skills to the fifth-graders.  In just three months of working with TU in the classroom and on the stream, the students grew from being learners, to being instructors.  Being close in age, the Junior Mentors and new learners worked well together. 

Local Waterways Conservation Officers, a Game Warden and adult TU mentors worked alongside the Junior Mentors to help the 5th graders read the stream, cast to likely hiding places, set the hook, then net the fish and safely release it.  Students took a break at noon to enjoy a bag lunch provided by the school district.  TU cooks provided a grilled lunch for the volunteers as they caught their breath for the afternoon session.  Over twenty volunteers and teachers worked like a well-oiled-machine to provide the students with a rewarding outdoor education and memorable experiences.


Posted in Events Fishing Trout Trail

Laurel Highlands Trout Trail Poker Run

Announcing the first annual Laurel Highlands Trout Trail Poker Run!

Here’s how it works:

  • Fly-Fish all 10 of the top ten Laurel Highlands Trout Trail streams
  • Take a photo of participants at each of the Top Ten Stream signs and submit the photos to us at
  • Participants submitting all ten photos will be included in a drawing for the prizes
  • Adult prize is a Douglas ERA fly rod with Cheeky Preload 375 reel with line and backing
  • Youth prize is a Echo Gecko youth outfit with rod, reel and line ready to fish 
  • Registration fees are $20 for adults and $5 for youth 15 and under

Visit the Laurel Highlands Trout Trail website for all the details and locations of the LHTT top ten streams and signs.

  • The Poker Run goes from April 6th to July 31
  • Photo submission deadline is August 7, 2024

Download the Flyer: Poker Run Flyer

Download the Rules and Registration Form: Poker Run Rules and Registration

Posted in Fishing Loyalhanna Creek Youth Education

Ligonier Valley Students Celebrate Spring with Fly Fishing

Youth Photo 3
LVMS students ready to hit the stream.
Youth Photo 7
Mr. Podlucky assists Bella Butler with biggest caught fish of the day!

Fourteen students from the Ligonier Valley Middle School demonstrated their fly-fishing skills on Loyalhanna Creek on Wednesday, April 10, as part of a school sanctioned field trip.  The students had just completed a six-session program from January through March learning the importance of coldwater conservation and how to tie flies and cast using a fly rod.  This program, originating with the school’s Outdoor Club many years ago, is an effort by the Forbes Trail Chapter of Trout Unlimited to share with the next generation their passion for fly-fishing.  But more importantly, it’s an effort to teach the students the importance of protecting our trout streams and the coldwater fisheries.

The “final exam” was putting into practice all the skills the students learned during the course from selecting the correct fly pattern, experimenting with casting techniques, mending their lines, and learning how to “read a stream”.  A few of the students had some previous fishing experience with family members while others were quite new to the sport.  While many of the students caught fish, what impressed the TU mentors the most was their perseverance and attention to detail.  

When it was time to get back on the bus, a couple of the students almost had to be threatened with detention to get them to leave the stream.  Haley Robertson had snagged her trout fly on a rock and broken it off.  While still standing in the stream, she demanded another rod with a fly already tied on it, then proceeded to catch one last trout.  And Haley may have claimed the titled for most fish “caught”…by her definition! 

As a means of explanation, the mentors also taught the students some of the finer points of the sport of fly-fishing, such as terminology.  For example, when an angler hooks a fish and fights it for 5 seconds or longer before it breaks off, that is considered a “Long Distance Release”, or LDR and counts toward the daily catch total!  In essence it’s a modified version of “catch and release” that TU promotes.  The students seemed to grasped that quickly!  Fishing is sometimes as much about story-telling as it is a sport itself! 

Mr. Ryan Podlucky, Health and Physical Education Teacher and Advisor for this program did his share of tutoring and netting fish.  After demonstrating to students how to catch a trout himself, he proceeded to help a couple of students who weren’t having as much luck.  In his words, “Today’s trip, although probably the most memorable for my students, was probably about 5% of the time that Forbes Trail TU had dedicated this year to my students.  This organization and volunteers pour their time and energy into their passion.  It is really great to see my kids outside of the normal classroom walls learning and having experiences they normally wouldn’t be able to have.  LVSD really appreciates the efforts of FTTU.”

Youth Photo 8
Rocco Harris with first trout of the day.
Youth Photo 6
Mentor Milt Claney helping Carter Bizup rig his fly rod.
Youth Photo 4
Mentor Angie Schultheis guides Parker Smith to waiting trout.
Youth Photo 2
Haley Robertson - Sometimes we catch more than fish!
Youth Photo 1
Mentor Ron Rodgers assists Cooper Hegan land his first trout of the morning.
Youth Photo 5
Mentor Larry Myers helps Alyssa Queer read the stream.
Posted in Fishing Veterans

Veterans and First Responders Fishing Outing


What an incredible day of fishing and camaraderie as over 40 veterans and first responders hooked and landed trout, panfish and catfish!  Military veterans, first responders, Scouts and volunteers from Kinston Veterans Sportsmen Club and Forbes Trail Trout Unlimited celebrated the end of summer with a spectacular day on the water.  Unfortunately, the weather was more cooperative than the trout this year.  Some of the anglers spent Saturday relaxing and reacquainting with friends.  Others took the fishing opportunity more seriously learning how to use a fly rod for the first time and honing their casting skills.  

Veteran Fred Exley expressed, “I really want to get more into fly-fishing next year.  I borrowed this rod this morning but I need to learn out to reach out further on the water with it.”  Steve Shirley from Trout Unlimited was helping Fred with his casting skills, teaching how to transfer the energy from the rod to the shooting line.  Trout Unlimited teaches fly fishing to veterans as a means to heal the body and soul. 

Forbes Trail Chapter of Trout Unlimited began its program in 2018 focusing on military veterans.  Partnering with Kingston Sportsmen allows ADA access to their lake stocked with trout, lunker catfish and panfish, and easy access to other facilities. This year, for the first time, they extended the invitation to local first responders.  “We want to recognize first responder for their brave and dedicated service to the communities where we live”, noted Chapter President, Larry Myers.   

Keith Riffle, Club VP and President of the Veterans Committee recruited many of the veterans by visiting numerous VA medical centers, VFWs and American Legions.  A veteran himself, Keith explained, “We’ll do whatever it takes to provide a rewarding day on the water for our veterans and first responders.”  

This was the first time many of the veterans and first responders participated in this fishing event.  For others, it was time for reacquaintances.  The purpose of the program is primarily to introduce veterans and first responders to fly fishing for some R&R.  But if using a fly rod is not comfortable, mentors assist the veterans using whatever fishing tackle they prefer.  Some veterans have actually built their own fly rods and tied their own flies.    

For retired Army First Sergeant, Cynthia Butler, this was her second event and would like to see more lady veterans get involved with fishing.  Cynthia and several family friends and veterans enjoyed the day, even though the fishing was more challenging this year.  The water was still a little warm and the bright sun, while welcoming to the anglers, drove the trout deeper in the lake.  Still, every angler said they enjoyed the beautiful fall day and are looking forward to coming back next year.  As a bonus, everyone enjoyed a delicious picnic lunch and many won raffle prizes of fly rods, autographed books and gift cards.  Westmoreland County Commissioner, Doug Chew was on hand to recognize both military veterans and first responders for their dedicated service to our country and communities. 

Other partners were Scout Troops 465 and 305.  The Scouts, as in past events, prepared and served lunch for the crowd of 120 veterans, first responders and volunteers.  They also opened the event by posting colors and later held a flag retiring ceremony which the veterans appreciated.  We thank our event sponsors…Home Depot, three local Giant Eagle Supermarkets, Fish USA and Bent Rods Bait and Tackle. 

The partner volunteers look forward to the annual event and enjoy the opportunity to, if even for just one day a year, be able to serve those who served their country.  It was another relaxing and rewarding day on the water for all involved.  Trout Unlimited salutes our veterans and first responders, and thanks all of our partners and sponsors who made this all happen.


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 Fishing Women's Involvement

TU Ladies Hook Into Fall Trout

Lady anglers from Penn’s Woods West and Forbes Trail Chapters of Trout Unlimited took advantage of the beautiful weather this past Saturday to do some fall trout fishing.  The leaf colors were almost as magnificent as those on the hefty brook trout landed by Tara Easter.  What made it extra special was Tara spent the day fishing with her mother, Bonnie Robinson who happens to be chair of the Membership Committee for Forbes Trail.  The two TU chapters regularly partner on activities and events involving our lady members since sometimes neither chapter can round up a critical mass on its own.  Through its Diversity Committees, TU works to create programs for entire families and community members who may not get many opportunities to try their hand at fly fishing.  Penn’s Woods West organized this event and reach out to surrounding chapters.  For once both the weather and trout cooperated! 

Ladies Fishing
Tara Easter and lunker brook trout she caught
Posted in Events Fishing Veterans

Veteran's Fishing Event Postponed

Due to an increasingly bad weather forecast calling for rain and cold temperatures on Saturday, October 1st, we have reluctantly decided to reschedule the Veteran’s Fishing Day for next Saturday, October the 8th.

All else remains the same. The event will begin at 9 am and run til 3 pm. There will be drinks, snacks and a grilled lunch served by Boy Scouts. Fishing tackle will be provided for those without their own and there will be expert mentors for those who need assistance.

Here’s hoping for nice weather and that everyone can still attend.

Posted in Fishing Youth Education

Youth Group Fishing Day on Loyalhanna Creek

Twelve students from Ligonier Valley Middle School’s Outdoor Club got to test their skills fly fishing on Thursday, May 12th, on Loyalhanna Creek. This was the culmination of their winter-long, fly-tying and coldwater conservation studies program. Mentors from Trout Unlimited’s (TU) local Forbes Trail Chapter worked with the students for several sessions during the winter teaching them to tie a variety of patterns of imitation flies…trout bugs. Thursday, they got to try out those patterns on the Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only section of the stream in Ligonier. This was a high school sanctioned field trip to give the students stream experience with a sport they have been studying as part of their Outdoor Club.  

The weather cooperated much more so than the fish unfortunately. Though most students did experience “hits” from trout over the two-hour period. Dylan A, an eighth grader actually got to yell “fish-on” while classmates and mentors cheered him on. The fish, a nice size rainbow, put up a good fight, but managed to release himself before Dylan was able to get him into the landing net. It was a pretty cool experience just the same. While TU promotes “catch and release”, we prefer it be on the angler’s terms, not that of the fish! Many of the Club students were experienced fly fishers and demonstrated their skills to the mentors. Others, while they may have fished before, were using a fly rod for the first time and welcomed instructions.

TU has worked with the Outdoor Club for many years. Mentors were excited to be able to renew their program with the learners after a two-year, pandemic hiatus. The students want to learn to tie their own flies, and to use a fly rod proficiently. “We can teach them all that. But we’re most interested in teaching them about the need to protect our coldwater streams and fisheries”, said TU mentor Bill Somogyi. “At some point, they will need to become the advocates to protect our trout waters so they and their kids will have streams like the Loyalhanna to fish.”

TU welcomes the opportunity to work with local schools and youth groups to teach coldwater conservation and fly fishing. LVMS students are fortunate that they have a premier trout stream, essentially within walking

distance of their school. They are quickly learning to be the stream’s ambassadors.

LVMS Youth Group Fishing
FTTU Mentor Milt Claney demonstrate a “roll cast” to LVMS Outdoor Club members.
LVMS Youth Group Fishing
LVMS learner, and experienced fly fisher, Dan T practices a dead drift with a nymph he hand-tied.
LVMS Youth Group Fishing
FTTU mentor Larry Myers ready with the landing net as LVMS learner Dylan A plays a nice rainbow trout.
LVMS Youth Group Fishing
Outdoor Club anglers and mentors practice social distancing while fly fishing on Loyalhanna Creek.
LVMS Youth Group Fishing
FTTU mentor Jim Litrun coaches LVMS learner Tyler Q on keeping a tight line during the drift.
Posted in Fishing Youth Education

FTTU Hosts Franklin Regional Students For Loyalhanna Creek Fishing Outing

Students Ready To Go Fishing
FRSD students geared up and receiving safety instructions and day’s itinerary.

Eleven students from Franklin Regional School District (FRSD) skipped school on Thursday, March 24th, and spent the day fly-fishing on Loyalhanna Creek. Actually, they didn’t really play hooky, and the where they fished was the Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only (DHALO) section of the stream in Ligonier, open to fishing year-round. This was a high school sanctioned fieldtrip to give the students stream experience with a sport they have been studying and practicing (on dry land) as part of their Fly Fishing Club. This is the first year for the Club and their first fieldtrip.

Nine volunteers from the local Forbes Trail Chapter of Trout Unlimited (TU) mentored the students on fly casting, presentation and matching the hatch, i.e., trying to figure out what bugs the trout were eating. The mentors took the time to counsel the students on the importance of protecting our natural resources, including coldwater fisheries. They also explained the value of practicing “catch and release” and how to release a fish safely without harming it.

Environmental Science Teacher, James Passarelli, serves as the Club’s sponsor and has been teaching the students casting techniques as well as fly tying. “I thought the help your TU members gave the kids yesterday was invaluable” noted Jim. “I saw so much improvement in the kids and their casting. Your guys are helping us to build the next generation of fly fishers and stream conservationists! If I can teach them anything in the club, it is to just be outside and enjoy the water while respecting nature. Unfortunately, the weather was much more cooperative than the trout! But it doesn’t matter if we caught fish…it was still a great day!”

TU mentor Ron Rodgers, who has grandchildren in the FRSD, was pleased to see the Chapter extending its school programs to western Westmoreland County. As with other TU members, Ron enjoys teaching his favorite sport to the younger generation and explaining why it’s so important for them to be good stewards of our trout streams. Ron worked with Jordan, a senior most of the day. “Jordan worked hard on his roll cast and had it perfected by the end of the day”, noted Ron. “While he didn’t get to land a trout, he was able to enjoy the “fish on” experience at least twice.”

TU will have another opportunity in mid-April to work with the same group of students in Linn Run State Park. There the students will learn how to do water quality testing and to collect and identify “trout bugs”, an indicator of overall stream health. The event will include a number of other activities including fly tying and casting. “We want the students to enjoy fly fishing, but it’s more important to TU to teach them to be good stewards of our trout streams”, explained TU mentor Milt Claney. “We teach the complete package!” The field trip will supplement what students are being taught as part of their Fly Fishing Club program.

On-Strream Instruction
Student fly fisher Noah practices “drift technique” with to TU mentor Tom Van Dyke
Fly Selection
TU mentor Al Moschetti shares “secret weapon” fly pattern with student angler Jasper.
Roll Cast Instruction
TU Mentor Milt Claney demonstrating the roll cast to students.
Posted in Fishing Veterans

Veterans Fishing Day

After over two years, we were finally able to get our third veterans fishing day in on October 2. This year, the event was held at the Kingston Club lake near Latrobe and was open to all veterans. We had beautiful fall weather, a chilly morning gave way to a sunny, warm afternoon. FTTU partnered with the Kingston Veterans and Sportsmen’s Club and Project Healing Waters with Boy Scout and Cub Scout troops preparing and serving the food. Lowe’s Latrobe donated the drinks. The lake was stocked with rainbow, brown and brook trout by the Kingston Club and everyone was able to get into some fish. Mentors from FTTU and Project Healing Waters were on hand to net fish and provide assistance to those who needed help fishing. FTTU also provided loaner rods and reels, bait, lures, flies and other fishing tackle. All the veterans received raffle tickets and after lunch, prizes donated by FTTU and the Kingston Club were given out to both the veterans and some scouts.

For a full report and slide show, see the Community Service Page.