Letort Spring Run Fly Fishing Guiding and
The Letort Spring Run which runs through Carlisle Pennsylvania along with Big Spring, Falling
Spring, and perhaps Cedar Run is part of the legendary beginnings of fly fishing in America.
Many of the theories and fly patterns that are now accepted in the fly fishing world came from these streams
especially the Letort. This was the proving ground for the selective trout and the patterns that were
developed to catch these fish. Perhaps no stream trout in America are as spooky as those on the Letort. At one
time this stream produced some massive fish but like the other spring creeks in Pennsylvania has succumbed to
pesticides from cress farms, development and urbanization. You can still catch some large fish on the stream
but the stream has changed and its hatches which are still present in some areas there have dwindled. It got
so bad that the my legendary friend the late Charlie Fox lamented that the fish wouldn't rise much anymore
because of the decline of the Sulfurs. In fact, later in life Charlie didn't fly fish but chose to go after
muskie on top water plugs which he designed. (Photo of a Letort Brown coming to the net
over the cress; ©2007 E. Macri/Jack Hunter).
How good is the Letort today? The Letort is still a decent spring creek to fish. Locals know where
and when the heaviest hatches still come off. If you are not a very accomplished fly fisherman please stay away
from fishing the Letort. Perhaps it would be best especially in the upper section to go there with a pair of
binoculars and maybe just observe the stream and the fish. Learn how the fish behave; learn what spooks
them; learn how close you can get to he fish. The Letort is inhabited by some of the smartest and wariest
brown trout on the planet. A novice on the Letort with bad wading or a few bad casts can put the fish down in
an area for the entire day! To fish and cast on this spring creek is considered a nightmare by most. There are
trees and bushes behind you; there beds of cress in the middle of and sides of the stream. And the fish of
course are in the most difficult lies. You should be a very accurate caster to begin with. If you are not you
will probably have little success.
The Letort has an unbelievable subtle currents to
cause drag. To be consistent on the Letort you must be good at fishing small nymphs, midges, and streamers. If
you get them to come up consistently or if you are in a stretch where there is a decent hatch you must take
advantage of it. Cress bugs and scuds fished deep will still take fish on the stream if you don't spook them.
You must plan your attack first. You must know how you will land the fish even before you start because the
clutter of vegetation, trees, bushes, and muddy conditions will work against you. Many fly angler fish the
open water on the lower Letort these days. The stream has a periodic trico hatch in sections. I fished this
section many times with Vince Marinaro and always gave him a good cigar which he enjoyed. (Photo above shows Vince Marinaro on the Letort; circa early 1960's; ©2007 E. Macri/Irv
Directions to the Letort
Get off of I 81 at South Hanover St Exit. Head towards Mt. Holly Pa and turn left on Bonny Brook
Rd. The headwaters of the Letort start above the bridge. Below is a highway map.
Letort Spring Run Evaluation
Overall Ecological Condition: 2.4 out of 5
Fishery: 2.9 out of 5
Hatches: 2.6 out of 5
Fly Fishing Pressure: 3.5 out of 5 (higher number is better because it means less anglers)
Fly Anglers' Success Ratio 2.0 out of 5 (note this refers to a skilled fly angler)
Overall score 2.7 out of 5
If it's a bright sunny day and you are thinking of fishing the Letort head for the nearest bar for
bourbon and water or a good cold beer because you'll probably catch as many trout in that bar as you will on the
Letort. Perhaps it's one of the unfortunate consequences of global warming but there are so many bright cloudless
days that make the Letort unfishable. However, if it's a cloudy or overcast day get to the Letort. This will be
your best chance. In fact, I always like to fish it right before a storm! You can fish the Letort any day right
before daybreak into the first hour using the techniques of Ed Shenk of streamers and sculpin patterns. The same
will work on open water after dark. The fish are tough and you must be too to catch them. Sulfur nymphs and
pheasant tail nymphs are very productive for trout on stations.
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© 2009 E. P. Macri Jr.