Since we were in the area, Jim and I decided to drive over to the Letort after striking out on the Yellow Breeches. The Flyfisher’s Guide to Pennsylvania got us in the ballpark and then we used dead reckoning to eventually arrive at the small parking area next to the bridge on Bonnybrook Road. I proved again to myself that I should bring my reference books with me when I venture into new territory. According to the Mid-Atlantic Budget Angler, we should have gone farther north to get into the better water. As I write this article, I was surprised to see that the Letort actually goes on to the property of the Army War College; a place where I lived when I was a kid in 1967. Back then, the Letort would’ve been in its prime, but I did not know about it. Rats.
Anyway, we rolled into the small parking lot at the southern end of the catch and release, fly fishing only section and were thankful to see that the Letort was not blown out like the Yellow Breeches. Since it’s a spring creek, the flow is moderated by the amount of water that the spring pumps out rather than the contributions of other tributaries. Jim and I walked to the small bridge over the creek a little bit north of the parking area and were happy to see some trout moving in the water below. It was late December and at 3:30 in the afternoon, we only had another hour of daylight. I decided to work upstream from the bridge while Jim headed down.
There were a few small bugs floating in the air, so I tied on a small gnat pattern and later switched it to a small BWO, but I knew I wasn’t going to catch anything. The Letort is famous for its spooky fish and the gentle approach required to catch them. After being beaten up all day on the Yellow Breeches, I was not motivated to adopt the crawling approach demanded by these fish; breaking the ice through the wet grass and the mud puddles. Instead, I regarded this visit as a recon and walked upstream as gently as I could flipping my fly to the open spaces between the bright green vegetation.
The Letort looks exactly like Big Springs Creek. It has a smooth white gravel bottom with plenty of vegetation providing cover for the fish. The cover made me wonder how to actually fish this thing on a good day. In the Mid-Atlantic Budget Angler, Ann provides almost 2 pages of commentary on one of her visits to the Letort. She quoted Ed Shenk, a famous guide, who said the “9 out of 10 fish landed on the Letort are hooked on the first cast“. Whoops… that presents a challenge for a New Fly Guy who needs a few erratic casts to get the fly anywhere near where it needs to be. She also commented that the technique Ed follows is to approach cautiously and cast a large sculpin pattern to the fish hiding in the pockets near the stream banks. He uses a short, 3 foot leader and punches hard to break it through the vegetation.
Looking at the thick vegetation floating lazily in the gentle current, it occurred to me that his tactic is a good approach to catch these fish. It’s almost like going after bass in the middle of lily pads. You flip it into the middle using fairly strong line and then horse them out when they hit it. If you do fish a dry fly, drag is everything here since the fish are so well educated.
My day ended just like Ann’s; although it took her eight hours to get to where I was after an hour — skunked – but anxious to return to give the Letort another shot.
Bottom Line: From my brief time on this pristine stream, I know that I absolutely have to return. After all, it’s only a 2 1/2 hour drive from where I live.
Getting There: From I81, take exit 47 south onto Rt 34. Turn left on Bonnybrook Road and follow it to the bridge.
Google Local Coordinates: 40.176086,-77.185843
I think this is a famous landmark on the Letort. The parking area is to the east of the bridge
Upstream from the bridge. The sign cautions anglers about wading during the spawn
Upstream about 100 yards south of the bridge
Looking back to the bridge
Interesting… plenty of houses right next to this water
Look at this. Wow… this is tough fishing and that vegetation is probably there all year round based on the spring fed nature of the creek.
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore