A History of Trout Unlimited and the Environmental Movement in Pennsylvania: 1959 – 2000
I wrote this book at the request of a dying friend. Fish & Boat Commissioner, Enoch S. “Inky” Moore and I traveled to a council meeting of Pennsylvania Trout (the state council of Trout Unlimited) in the early 2000. At the meeting the topic came up about writing a history of TU in the state. Inky and the editor of the newsletter got into a rather contentious debate about who should write the history. Inky finally said with some certainty that he would do it. The matter was settled. On the way home Inky was unusually quiet. Finally he looked over at me, “About that history,” he said, “If I don’t finish it will you?” I replied I would, never thinking he would not finish it. He died that fall and the obligation to my late friend was something that needed to be done. The book was published by PA Trout in 2003 and is today out of print.
This book is a history of Trout Unlimited in Pennsylvania with annotations relating to what was happening at the time as far as environmental and fisheries issues were concerned. This book is not a scholarly treatment of the history and the reader should understand that. I purposely avoided footnotes and a comprehensive bibliography. It would make for tedious reading much like that of a college textbook, and few readers would be interested in such a tome. I did, however, highlight books, magazines and specific articles and site them in a selected reference section. Any scholar who is inclined may use that reference to produce a scholarly work. Good luck. I have tried to include some humor and keep the subject material light. This book cannot be all facts and dates. It should be enjoyable to read, or at least readable by the members. If something offends you, too bad. Nothing here is meant to be offensive or derogatory, but if you choose to look at it that way, that’s your choice.
There is still much to be told about Pennsylvania Trout. There are many stories of chapters and people that are not included here. I have searched to the best extent possible at this time for information that is relevant and important to Trout Unlimited. I sent out queries and placed articles asking for information in Pennsylvania Trout. I talked to many people who supplied me with information. Much information was gathered, and from it I gleaned scraps of data that were woven into this tapestry.
I took over this project at the request of a dying friend. I never in my wildest dreams expected it to take so long, or to be so encompassing. I hope this history is what the original author had in mind and I hope I did the subject matter justice.
Michael J. Klimkos, December 2002
The Letort: A Limestone Legacy
People that know me find it a bit uncharacteristic that I would edit a book about the Letort. It is not my favorite stream. This project was originally conceived as a program for the Central Pennsylvania Conservancy’s dinner to raise funds to purchase a piece of ground along the Letort. In my position as editor of Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide magazine I had acquired some interesting facts about the stream and I put them together and asked a few of my writers for input, an essay on their thoughts about the stream. I was amazed by the response. The Conservancy took the lead in turning it into a book. It can be ordered from the Central Pennsylvania Conservancy at http://www.centralpaconservancy.org/
Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat. The official name given to the stream by the U.S. Geological Survey, Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) officially calls and spells the name of the stream Letort Spring Run. There are no capital “T”s nor is there a space in the first word. Checking maps back as far as 1904 shows that the name has been officially spelled that way for over a century. Today most anglers and residents refer to it as “the Letort.” Older newspaper accounts often refer to the stream as “Letort Spring.” Whatever it is called and however it is spelled, the trout that live in the stream don’t seem to care one way or the other.
The Letort is the quintessential limestone stream found in the limestone based valleys of Pennsylvania. It is the reason that James LeTort settled in the area. The water was clean and plentiful – and it made good beer and whiskey. It still does. The stream also provided power for grist mills and other industrial uses. The town of Carlisle sprang up around the stream and it was important to the community; sometimes for good reasons and sometimes for bad reasons.
If you go into a fly shop anywhere; Maine, Montana, Miami, Beijing, or Warsaw and mention the Letort, people have heard of it. It is on most fly anglers’ “bucket list”. If you stand along the banks of the stream sooner or later the entire fly fishing world will pass by. It was on the Letort that Vince Marinaro did his research and began a new chapter in fly fishing when he published his groundbreaking A Modern Dry Fly Code in 1950.
Growing up in western Pennsylvania I first heard of it in the late 1960’s in the pages of Outdoor Life and Field and Stream. There were no “fly fishing” magazines then. But outdoor magazines had writers and fishing editors that still rank in the higher echelons of the outdoor writing fraternity. My curiosity was piqued. Some years later when I transferred to Harrisburg and had to find a place to live, Carlisle was the choice – a lot of it because of the great fishing offered by the area’s limestone creeks, the Letort being one.
I would be telling an untruth if I said I fell in love with the Letort and fish it continually at every opportunity. The truth is I rarely fish the stream. But I appreciate the stream, the trout that live in it, the anglers who do fish it and the history of the 9.4 mile thread of silver and green water. It is important to protect the stream. It is too valuable to let it slip into oblivion as a drainage ditch. Even if I don’t fish it often, it is important to me to know it is there.
In preparing this work I read a lot of old newspaper clippings. I could not include them all, but mentioned those I found to be of interest. One of the things that struck me was how many people, children mostly, fell into the stream and drowned. It’s a bit of a wonder that the town survived. The stream also served as a frequent repository of bodies, some by their own volition, some not so much. Early on the Letort was a frequent flooder. The stream was praised and damned, channeled and dammed, and hated or enjoyed by many. It became an industrial river. As the automobile came along it was a catch basin for erstwhile motorists. It was crossed by bridges and railroads. It served as both a sanitary sewer and a storm drain. It has been insulted in a host of ways, with pollution, sediment, development, water withdrawal and just plain litter. Yet Letort Spring Run in the twenty-first century shows just how resilient a limestone stream can be.
This book is a compendium of history and writers’ and anglers’ thoughts on the stream. It is important to remember history so we know where we are going. Without their efforts this work would not be possible and without their diligence and willingness to protect the stream the Letort would not be what it is today.
Now for pronunciation; is it pronounced Lee Tort, Luh Tort or Lay Tort? Depending on where you are and who you are talking to you will hear various pronunciations. Kieran Frye, noted fly tyer from Western Pennsylvania puts it succinctly when he says, “It is just like Lay-trobe or Luh-trobe,” referring of course to the home of the Steeler’s training camp. No matter how you pronounce the name of the stream, the trout don’t care.
Editor, Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide
Carlisle, PA, 2015