Pennsylvania Fly Fishing 4 min read

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing Letort Spring Run in South-Central Pennsylvania

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

September 19, 2019

Letort Spring Run brown trout

If you’re afraid of a challenge, you should stay far, far away from Letort Spring Run.

Like most Pennsylvania spring creeks, Letort Spring Run is a beautiful stream teeming with large wild brown trout.

But, like most Pennsylvania spring creeks, Letort Spring Run is difficult to fish even for the most seasoned anglers.

The crystal clear water ensures that the trout will easily spot you if you are not stealthy enough.

Heavy beds of watercress make casting difficult and provide savvy trout the perfect cover to hide in.

But have no fear! This guide will provide you with all the juicy tips you need to conquer Letort Spring Run and show those trout who’s boss!

About Letort Spring Run

A brief history and overview of the world famous Letort Spring Run in southern Pennsylvania

Letort Spring Run is a 9.4 mile long tributary of Conodoguinet in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. It is about twenty feet wide and is deeper than it looks at first glance. The stream runs through Letort Spring Park and enters Carlisle City just below the park.

The upper reaches of the stream are the most difficult to fish do to the heavy aquatic vegetation but harbor the largest trout. You’ll have better luck sticking to the lower areas of the stream, which has some large open areas that are easier to cast in. The lower end also has runs and riffle areas with faster water that makes it easier to nab trout. 

Letort Spring Run is fed by large springs, so the water stays cool throughout the year, even during the hottest summer months. A mile and a half of the stream is catch and release only and has the largest brown trout out of any section. This area begins above the bridge at route 481 and ends near Reading Railroad Bridge.

Fly fishing Letort Spring Run is sure to be a memorable experience. The heavy aquatic vegetation, thick undergrowth and trees along the banks may leave you cursing, or may yield the trout of a lifetime!

Letort Spring Run Map and Fishing Access Sites

map of fishing spots on the Letort Spring Run in Pennsylvania

Get Directions to the Fishing Access Points shown above with the DIY Fly Fishing Map

Best Spots to Fish Letort Spring Run

Letort Spring Run is easily accessible from Letort Spring Park. The easiest place to fly fish is the lower reaches of the stream, but you really owe it to yourself to visit Marinaro’s Meadow (see map for directions). 

This is where legendary fly anglers Charlie Fox and Vince Marinaro, amongst others, developed many of the fly fishing techniques and fly patterns that are still in use today.

Wade fishermen are going to want to be careful at Letort Spring Run! There are no banks in most places and it is very easy to lose your footing.

Because the stream is deeper than it appears, you can find yourself sinking fast. It doesn’t take an expert fly fisherman to know that flailing around for balance will spook the wily trout of Letort Spring Run. Watch your step!

Stream Flow and Current Conditions

Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish Letort Spring Run. The USGS stream gauge near Carlisle, PA provides a good indication of current conditions.The graph below shows the stream flow (discharge) for the past 7-days. If flows are considerably above or below historical norms (yellow triangles on the chart) then fishing conditions maybe not be ideal.

Letort Spring Run near Carlisle, PA

  • Streamflow: 32.0 ft³/s
Streamflow Graph

Best Time to Fish Letort Spring Run

Because the water stays cool all year, you can tackle Letort Spring Run during any season. The brown trout are more aggressive in the spring, and the spring season also offers the best insect hatches. Blue Winged Olives make an appearance in early April and last until the end of the month. There is also a minor Sulfur hatch that occurs in some sections of the stream in May and June.

Summer is also a good time to take on this stream, as there is a decent Trico hatch that occurs late in the season. Autumn also has an impressive Blue Winged Olive hatch. If you want to try fly fishing Letort in the winter, you’ll have the most success visiting on warmer afternoons.

On sunny days, the trout will hide, so it is best to fish on cloudy days. Start early in the morning or wait until late evening.

Best Flies for LeTort Spring Run

Some tips for fly fishing the Letort Spring Run

The main food for the trout of Letort Spring Run are cress bugs (sowbugs) and scuds that inhabit the ever present watercress in the stream. You’ll also want to make sure you have plenty of terrestrial imitations for tackling this stream. The brown trout here eat ants, grasshoppers, and beetles.

You are going to want to use light leaders and tippets. The trout in Letort Spring Run are a sophisticated bunch, so you’ll want to have excellent imitations.

Regarding fly patterns, here is a list of some of the best flies for Letort Spring Run:

  • Shenk’s Cress bug
  • Letort Cricket
  • Flat Wing Letort Hopper
  • Blue Winged Olive (#18-22)
  • Sulphur (#16)
  • Double Trico (#22-24)
  • Midges (#18-24)
  • Shenk Sculpin

Gear Recommendations

A 10-foot 4-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs on the Letort.  A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 4X to 6X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.

Letort Spring Run Fishing Reports

There are a number of area fly shops and on-line retailers that publish Letort Spring Run fly fishing reports. A few to check out are listed below.

Fishing Regulations

A portion of the Letort is managed under Catch-and-Release – Flyfishing Only regulations that extends 1.7 miles from 300 yards upstream of the bridge on T-481 (Bonny Brook Road) to the Reading Railroad bridge near the Letort Spring Park.

Pennsylvania requires all anglers 16 and older to have a standard fishing license, and a special permit for trout fishing, which can be obtained online or in most sporting goods stores in the state.

Letort Spring Run fishing regulations are available on the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission website.

Trip Planning Tips

The nearest regional airport to Letort Spring Run is Harrisburg International Airport. The airport is about forty five minutes away from your destination. Hagerstown Regional Airport in Hagerstown, Maryland is another good option, which is only about an hour’s drive from Letort Spring Run.

There are several hotels and lodges in the area that cater to the budget conscious fisherman. The Econo Lodge in Carlisle, Pennsylvania offers reasonable rates and is only a fifteen minute drive away from Letort Spring Run. 

If you are looking for a more rustic option, Deer Run Campground is a mere twenty minutes away. The campground is also close to Gettysburg and the famous Appalachian Trail, which you might want to make time to visit, if Letort Spring Run doesn’t keep you too busy that is!

Looking for more places to fish? Visit our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in Pennsylvania.

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