Fly fishing gear

Trout group promotes ‘fishing tourism’ for Laurel Highlands

If an angler’s group and a regional tourist agency promote the Laurel Highlands streams as a premier trout fishing destination, will anglers travel here and boost tourism in Westmoreland counties, Fayette and Somerset?

That’s what the Forbes Trail Chapter of Trout Unlimited and GO Laurel Highlands, the state’s official tourism agency for the three counties, hope to happen this year with the creation and marketing of the Laurel Highlands Trout Trail on the Chestnut and Laurel watersheds. ridges.

To create the trout trail, experienced fly fishermen from several Trout Unlimited chapters in southwestern Pennsylvania will identify major trout streams in the three counties, said Larry Myers, president of the Forbes Trail chapter of Trout Unlimited, based in Westmoreland County. The organization identified the top 10 trout streams in a similar effort several years ago and Myers said a few more could be added to this new list, which he hopes to have completed by the end of March. .

All of the waterways – such as Loyalhanna Creek and Linn Run in Linn Run State Park – will be in what is designated as the Laurel Highlands Landscape by GO Laurel Highlands, formerly the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau, and the State Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. , Myers said. Trout Unlimited volunteers want to install two signs in larger parking areas along selected waterways to identify the waterway as part of the Laurel Highlands Trout Trail. Signs will have QR codes to direct visitors to a website with more information, Myers said.

“It’s an opportunity (for members) to share their favorite fishing spots with other anglers, while helping support small businesses in the area such as tackle shops, restaurants, resorts -service and motels,” Myers said.

According to a 2009 report by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, an agency of the state General Assembly, rural Pennsylvania has a unique opportunity to capitalize on the growing national and international interest in outdoor experiences and tourism focused on nature, or ecotourism. According to the report, recent national trends show a dramatic increase in nature activities, such as bird watching, hiking, downhill skiing and primitive camping.

The report recommended that the state restore “fly fishing only” designations to certain historic waters and then market those assets in national magazines, with the logic that out-of-state licenses generate more revenue for conservation. It should also pass laws to improve environmental cleaning, as poor water quality has affected the quality of fishing in the state and hampered tourism, according to the report.

Commercialization of the trout trail

To spread the word within a four to five hour drive of the area, GO Laurel Highlands plans to launch a Laurel Highlands Trout Trail marketing campaign in Washington, DC, and its metro area; New York City; Philadelphia Cream; Cleveland and the Midwest, said Ann Nemanic, executive director of Ligonier-based GO Laurel Highlands.

“These trout streams are the hidden gems” in the Laurel Highlands, Nemanic said. “People are looking for outdoor experiences” in this time of covid.

The Forbes Trail Chapter will help raise awareness of these hidden gems by producing brochures and placing signs along the creeks, thanks to a $3,900 grant from the Penn’s Woods West Chapter of Trout Unlimited in Pittsburgh.

The Trout Trail succeeds a similar initiative launched in 2012, which was a partnership with the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor, the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau and local chambers of commerce, Myers said. The Forbes Trail Chapter eventually purchased the initiative’s intellectual properties. With assistance from the University of Pittsburgh Johnstown in the spring of 2021, the website’s messaging and technology was revised toward trout fishing ecotourism, focusing on cold water conservation and outreach missions. Trout Unlimited, Myers said.

The University of Pittsburgh Johnstown School of Business develops a marketing plan and brochure for the Trout Trail and Trout Unlimited chapters – Chestnut Ridge in Uniontown, Ken Sink in Saltsburg and Mountain Laurel in Johnstown – participate in the initiative, Myers said.

The idea of ​​attracting out-of-state trout anglers to the area isn’t far-fetched for Dan McMaster, owner of Ligonier Outfitters, which stocks a wide range of fishing gear, including flies, rods and gear. McMaster said it’s not unusual to get calls from people outside of Pennsylvania wanting to fish Loyalhanna Creek.

A section of Loyalhanna Creek from the Highway 711 bridge downstream to the Two Mile Run bridge is designated as delayed harvest, artificial lures only by the National Fish and Boat Commission, meaning Labor Day through June 15, captured fish should be immediately released, Myers said. This high-quality section of the creek is a “state-selected stream,” which causes the fisheries commission to stock more trout there, Myers said.

Two customers recently looking to buy trout flies from the store, Jeff Holmes of Murrysville and his son, Benton, agree with McMaster that Loyalhanna attracts trout anglers from outside the area.

“Loyalhanna is a beautiful stream,” Holmes said.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .