Trout Trail fly-fishing events set to lure residents outdoors

| Thursday, March 28, 2013, 7:18 p.m.

The Laurel Highlands Trout Trail has planned several fly-fishing events, beginning Saturday, designed to lure in experts and beginners.

The Trout Trail events are coordinated by the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor, or LHHC, a nonprofit organization located in Latrobe that is dedicated to community development and land preservation, among other initiatives. The LHHC first held Trout Trail events last year to introduce people to the great outdoors and trout-fishing opportunities located in the Laurel Highlands area, LHHC executive director Olga Herbert said.

“It helps (visitors) to get outside and get with nature. Learn a little bit about a new sport, and meet some people,” Herbert said.

An opening reception at 7 p.m. Tuesday features the film “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen,” courtesy of the Forbes Trail Chapter of Trout Unlimited. Admission is $5, the film will start about 7:15 p.m., and the reception includes light appetizers and wine, Herbert said.

She said guests will enjoy the reception venue, the LHHC office in a 198-year-old stone house at 3435 Route 30 E. in Unity Township, midway between Latrobe and Ligonier.

At the reception, guests will enjoy cutout cookies in shapes of fish, as well as a little trivia and door prizes, said Herbert, 65, of Unity Township.

“I wanted to make it fun,” she said.

Because this and other events will include alcoholic beverages, they are for adults, but they are designed for adults of any age, from the early 20s to senior citizens, said Herbert, who has been LHHC executive director for 17 years.

Those attending the opening reception will have a chance to review the schedule of events planned for the rest of the spring and this summer, including those coming up soon, such as the Laurel Highlands Trout Trail Rendezvous from 2 to 6 p.m. April 20 at the Hidden Valley Resort in Somerset County.

The event, complete with a buffet of appetizers and a coffee and dessert bar, costs $25 and is geared to both male and female anglers, Herbert said. A multiple-choice quiz will offer fishing-related prizes.

Chefs from Hidden Valley will be on hand to demonstrate how to fillet a fish, and they also will show various ways to prepare it, Herbert said.

Guests at the reservation-only rendezvous also will also be privy to some advice and instructions from accomplished fly-fisherman Leo Vensel.

Vensel, who has been fly-fishing for more than 30 years in various waters throughout the United States, said it's easy to get hooked.

“It's so addicting. There are so many facets to it. You get immersed into it right off the bat,” he said.

Currently a resident of Murrysville, Vensel said he grew up in Greensburg and knows a lot about fishing in southwestern Pennsylvania, including the top 10 fly-fishing streams in the 70-mile region of the Laurel Highlands Trout Trail.

Vensel is an insured and licensed Pennsylvania fishing guide, an International Federation of Fly Fishers certified casting instructor and and a member of Trout Unlimited.

At the rendezvous, his presentation will cover an overview of those top 10 streams of the Laurel Highlands, and he also will give a casting demonstration. He said the discussion will cover information of interest to people with various levels of fishing experience, from beginners who are wondering what type of fly to use for bait to veterans seeking advice on how to prevent tailing, or faulty casting.

Vensel said the difference between fly-fishing, which uses artificial flies as bait, and other types of fishing is that the former is a bit more technical. But those who are interested in starting shouldn't be reluctant to try it out, he said.

Just like golf, Vensel said, fly-fishing has a learning curve, but it's worth the effort.

“You just need to be a little patient,” he said.

Vensel also will be one of the instructors for the Laurel Highlands Trout Trail Date Nights, which will occur three times from spring to the summer, with the first scheduled for May 26.

Beginning at 4:30 p.m., couples will meet at the Foggy Mountain Lodge, near Stahlstown, where they'll start off with an introduction to fly-fishing from a professional. All equipment will be provided, and couples actually will be able to test out their newly learned skills at the pond next to the lodge, Herbert said.

“It's in a lake stocked with trout, so we should have some success,” said Herbert, who has signed up for the first session.

She said the date of Vensel's instruction is not yet set, but he, along with other professionals, will provide the basics of fishing. And, she said, they also will discuss the importance of stream conservation briefly.

The event will happen rain or shine, unless the weather is really bad, Herbert said. Couples should dress for outdoor fishing, but those attending will not have to wade into the lake to fish.

After fishing, couples then will head to the lodge for dinner.

The cost is per couple, which includes a selection of menu choices, specially prepared by the lodge restaurant. A cash bar will be available.

Herbert said the date nights don't have to be just husband-and-wife or boyfriend-and-girlfriend events, as someone recently asked to come with an uncle. However, preregistration is required, as each evening is limited to 10 couples. The other date nights will be held June 30 and July 28.

Required preregistration for all events can be done by calling the LHHC at 724-879-4241 or going to the Trout Trail website,

Herbert said those looking for information on fishing in southwestern Pennsylvania should check out the Trout Trail website, which identifies the top 10 streams and provides GPS coordinates.

Natalie Beneviat is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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