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.
LVMS Outdoor Club Completes Successful Fly Fishing Program
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!
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!
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.
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.
FTTU Hosts Franklin Regional Students For Loyalhanna Creek Fishing Outing
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.
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.
After an absence due to COVID in 2020, the Military Veterans Fishing Outing is back. This year, it will be held on Saturday, October 2nd from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm at the Kingston Veterans and Sportsmans Club in Latrobe. The event is sponsored by the Kingston Club and FTTU.
The outing is open to all active duty or veterans of the U.S. military. Participants do not need to be disabled, but 30 spots are reserved for disabled vets. The event is free but you will need to register if you would like to take part. To get registered, email us at email@example.com. You can also participate as a mentor or volunteer. For more information on volunteer opportunities, contact us at the same email address.
Fishing will be done on the club’s lake for stocked trout and panfish. No fishing license is required and all tackle will be provided by FTTU. Volunteer mentors will be on hand to provide help for the disabled and instruction to those who would like to learn to fly fish. A grilled lunch will be served by the local Boy Scout Troop.
We have held this event in 2018 and 2019 and it has been an extremely successful and fun day. See the Community Service page for a report from 2019 and a slide show. Hope to see you there!
In order to prevent opening day crowds, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has decided to open trout season early, so as of 8:00 am today, Tuesday, April 7, trout season began statewide in Pennsylvania. Size and creel limits, license requirements and normal regulations still apply. Mentored Youth Day originally scheduled for April 11 will not take place this year.
The PAF&BC will continue to stock streams this spring, but in order to prevent crowds, a stocking schedule will not be posted and the public will not be permitted to help with stocking.
Click HERE for the official announcement.