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.
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!
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!
LVMS Students Learn About Cold Water Conservation and Fly Fishing.
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.
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.
50th Anniversary Celebration
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 www.laurelhighlandstrouttrail.org 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.
Banquet Ticket Sales Now Closed
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!
Rock Run Water Tests March 2023
Monthly Rock Run Water Tests 2-25-23
It was a cold morning as the FTTU citizen scientists conducted monthly pH and alkalinity tests with frozen hands.
We arrived to find even more trees and branches down over the stream.
Air Temp – 28° F
Water Temp – 37.5° F
pH – 7.3
Alkalinity – 3.4
Linn Run Discharge – 21.1 ft³/sec – Medium High
Special Guest Speaker at March Meeting
Former Pennsylvania Waterways Conservation Officer and Outdoors writer Bob Steiner will be our special guest at the chapter’s March meeting on Wednesday, March 1st at 6:00 pm at the Nimick Center in Ligonier.
Bob is the author of “River Boots, A Fish Warden’s Tales of Pennsylvania Fish and Game Law Enforcement”.
From Amazon: RIVER BOOTS is a career synopsis, a training manual, a history book and one conservation officer’s slightly twisted view of a quarter century in the business. It is a sometimes “belly laughing” look at a profession that can turn deadly serious in a second and can leave tears running down your face from laughter a few minutes later.
The 253 stories in RIVER BOOTS were written for fishermen, hunters, boaters, conservation officers and their deputies, all law enforcement officers and anyone that has an interest in the outdoors.
For conservation officers it is a textbook, with the how-tos and the how-not-tos, the whys and the why-nots. For conservation agency folks, it is a bit of nostalgia with a smirk. Other law enforcement officers will see a little deadly serious, perhaps lifesaving thinking, coupled with a “Barney Miller” attitude. Folks considering a job in the agencies will get an on-the-spot look at what they are asking for and will come away eagerly awaiting their turn to join in.
The license-buying hunter, fisherman or boater will get a firsthand look at how their license fees are spent for the good of the sport, the environment and the fish and game resources. Sorry, no statistics or charts included. You will laugh at the scofflaws and the conservation officers alike. Mostly, like reading “Notes from the Stream” or “Field Notes” produced by our fish and game agencies, you will grin and laugh and ponder.
To answer the question, the RIVER BOOTS were green 10-inch leather boots the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission issued with those snazzy green-and-brown uniforms we wore. They leaked.
Bob will have autographed books for sale.