This post is less an introduction to the great Pennsylvania limestone water known as LeTort Spring Run than a strategy for fishing it in a very limited time period. Driving homeward from Virginia I had just enough time to view the famous stream again and maybe fish it for an hour. I had fished it only once before– on a hot day in August and was beaten. There was no shame in that, of course, since the nine-mile stream is considered one of the most difficult fly-fishing waters anywhere. To get skunked there on a first occasion is a humbling experience and a decent way to keep honest.
Ed Shenk, Vince Marinaro and Charlie Fox are several of the many well-known and experienced fly-fishermen who have made the great LeTort a home water and a place to hone their angling skills. Anglers from around the world have challenged themselves on this chalk stream that has been compared to the classic River Test in England. The works of Fox and Marinaro, of Koch and Shenk, have influenced more than a generation of American outdoor enthusiasts. To cast a line on the LeTort is to sense the presence of exceptional fly-fishing personalities who ghost the spring run in an amiable and instructional manner.
1/ Okay, I had 60 minutes of actual casting time in the afternoon, with a bright sky overhead. Not good.
2/ I’d approach the lower end of the catch and release section near the city park in Carlisle. I’d select a likely looking spot and stay there for the hour. I’d try to ignore the tempting pools and glassy runs beyond. I’d focus on one place and allow myself to get hypnotized: ah, the beds of cress and swaying grass, the sediment sucking at my shoes, the hatch of midges or Blue-winged Olives (if I was lucky enough to see one).
3/ Of the three rods that I carried, I would choose the longest one to cast with, a 9-footer, and equip it with a 4-weight line. Earlier at Mossy Creek, the long rod proved to be useful for slinging heavy nymphs into hiding spots, but here, at this southern Pennsylvania spring run, I’d forgotten how brushy and sodden the banks were. Since there is no wading, I was lucky to have the 9-foot for a different reason– for making a long, light cast across the wider pools. I would need all the “line control” I could get on these famously tricky currents.
4/ The wild browns were more likely to hit a small emerger or dry fly than a large nymph, or so I thought. I opted for a #18 Olive. When that didn’t work, I switched to tandem flies– a Scud and a Hare’s Ear, then a pair of soft-hackles, which finally did the trick.
With only five minutes to go until ejection time, I began to work a fast run entering the pools where I fished. A small wild brown (bless its pointy little head!) took the soft-hackle and fought me till entangling with a sunken branch.
I waded to the branch and got a quick photo of the brownie as a means of saying “thanks.” Releasing the fish was all I needed to break the barrier of hesitation I had felt at the start. When all was said and done, I was probably lucky to have made that small connection before my hour was up. No matter. I felt grounded with the stream at last. I knew, then, I’d be making longer visits in the future.