A 2-hour fishing outing turns into a Pennsylvania trout grand slam

Letort Spring Run is a limestone stream in Central Pennsylvania famous among fly anglers. The creek, which meanders through South Central Pennsylvania, is renowned as one of the finest trout streams in the United States. Known for its extremely selective wild trout, the Letort has long been a proving ground where fly fishing techniques are developed and tested. As I found earlier this year, the stream also holds opportunities for spin fishing.

Last Spring, I decided to fish the small stretch of the stream that winds through Letort Park in Carlisle, Pennsylvania (map) while passing through the area. Although much of the stream is designated catch-and-release fly fishing only, the portion that runs through the park is open to spin fishing. Possessing only an ultralight rod and reel, a spool of 2 lb test Maxima fluorocarbon leader, a pack of size twelve gold salmon egg hooks, a few micro split shot and 2 dozen red worms purchased nearby I went to work.

Carlisle brook trout

Having never been to this stretch of the stream before, I decided to park and walk cautiously along the stream to check for signs of life. Starting at the north end of the park, near the entrance, I immediately spotted a small trout. The fish darted away quickly, letting me know that I wasn’t walking as cautiously as I had thought. A leisurely stroll southward on the stream bank revealed a few more trout, but even more ducks, geese and aquatic plants. I didn’t expect much.

I returned to my vehicle to retrieve my gear and repeated my walk to the north end of the park. A light downpour helped to mask my approach. The trout that appeared earlier was nowhere in sight. Neither was another that I had spotted a few meters upstream. I moved beyond a small pile of rocks placed across the stream as part of a recent improvement project and crouched down. I cast my weightless red worm into the head of a small shoot that wound around a thick clump of weeds and under the bank. Before I could reel my line taught I felt the distinct pull of a fish. I set the hook delicately and found my hook stuck in the upper jaw of a decent rainbow trout.

The fish was placed on the wet grass that lined the stream bank, photographed, and quickly released. It paused momentarily before jetting off to the undercut bank where my worm had found it.

A few minutes later, and a few more meters upstream, I hooked an incredibly beautiful brook trout. The fish hit my wriggling worm as it slowly sank toward the bottom of a 3-foot wide opening in the vegetation. After a very brief fight, the fish was photographed and released. Fishing less than an hour, I was already two-thirds of the way toward a Pennsylvania trout grand slam.

The next portion of the outing wasn’t nearly as productive. As I edged closer to the southern end of the park, I encountered more growth on the bank and in the water—and more mosquitoes. The fishing was tough, despite the presence of casting decks installed for accessibility. The few trout I saw refused to partake. The only nibble came from a fish too small to get the tiny worm into its mouth.

One large fish was spotted just under the surface, wedged between thick vegetation and low hanging branches on the opposite side of the stream. After futilely attempting to drop a worm in the small open space in front of it, I moved upstream.

The stretch of water open to spin fishing ends where an old railroad bridge crosses the stream at the far southern end of the park. Having learned this from browsing the website of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission in advance, I slowed to a crawl and methodically fished the last bits of water open to me.

Just below the bridge, in a slow bit of water, I saw a nice-sized wild brown trout with it’s trademark spots sitting nearly motionless. My first cast was perfect. My bait landed just far enough in front of the trout to drift right by its snout. Without hesitation the trout inhaled the worm. I set the hook and the fight was on. After a few quick yet strong zigzags, the fish acquiesced. I estimate its size as about 18 inches. I say estimate for a very good reason. As I attempted to lay the fish next to my rod for a photograph, to enable an accurate measure later, the fish flipped its way through my fingers and back into the crystal clear waters of the Letort. Though I regretted the lost opportunity, I was more than happy about my accidental achievement.

The rest of my brief time on the Letort was spent more battling snags and tangles than catching fish. The large fish I spoke of earlier was the cause of that. After more attempts than I care to remember, I finally dropped my worm in front of it, only to have my unnatural, restricted drift rejected. Still, I was able to hook a few more fish and watch from close range as a sleek carp rooted through the substrate in search of food.

All in all it was two hours very well spent.

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