February 2020 Issue

April’s Monthly Meeting

Tuesday, April 27, at 7PM

In Praise of Wild Trout with Ray Gagnon

Join us at the Squan-a-Tissit Chapter, April 23, monthly meeting for a program that focuses on the very heart of TU’s Mission: wild and native trout.  Ray Gagnon of Greater-Boston TU will share a pictorial and poetic celebration of the total experience of fishing for these precious, special fish in our “local” headwater rivers and streams. Titled, “In Praise of Wild Trout,” Ray’s presentation will draw on scenes he has captured and experiences he has had over the last several years, in what he calls his “New Hampshire home waters.”

He’ll offer some “how-to” advice on strategies for finding wild trout streams and selecting the right gear, in addition to covering some interesting and unexpected “side benefits” of this kind of, frequently, high-altitude fishing.

(Please note that, for obvious reasons, Ray will not specifically name or locate most of these delicate headwater streams. But he will identify relevant NH watersheds where you can explore for yourself!)




A Note From the Board of Directors:

We would like to extend a warm hearted “Thank You!” to everyone that helped make the Annual Fundraiser Dinner a huge success.  

The chapter’s goals towards the continued conservation of our rivers could not be reached without the support from local businesses, TU members and it’s volunteers, and the generosity of the those who attended the night’s festivities.  The monies raised at this event are already being utilized to fund some of the chapter’s projects throughout our watershed, such as the removal of a small dam and the replacement of a culvert located on the Keys Conservation Area, continued monitoring of water temperatures within the watershed, and improving and maintaining the continuity of our rivers and streams. We will be providing updates and hands on volunteering opportunities regarding these planed projects as they become available.

On Saturday April 27th beginning at 9am the chapter will be conducting it’s annual river clean up day along the Nissitissit river. Please join us at the former Millie Turner dam site located at 62 Hollis Street in Pepperell, MA. This clean up coincides with Pepperell Green Up Days. We will be providing refreshments and trash bags and it will be a opportunity for you to scout out some fishing spots as you help keep are wildlife management areas green. So bring your gear and perfect your fishing skills after the clean up as the stocking trucks have been out in full force.

Upcoming Events

  1. New Hampshire Fly Fishing Show 2020

    February 22 @ 9:00 am4:00 pm
  2. Chapter Meeting

    February 25 @ 7:00 pm9:00 pm
  3. Annual Fundraiser Banquet

    March 14 @ 5:00 pm9:00 pm
  4. 4th Annual MA High School Fly Fishing Tournament

    May 16 @ 8:00 am5:00 pm
  5. Caddisfly Festival 2020

    June 5 @ 8:00 amJune 7 @ 5:00 pm

Nissitissit River Clean-Up

Saturday, April 27

The Squan-a-Tissit Chapter will be conducting a river clean-up day on the Nissitissit River. This event coincides with Pepperell Green Up which is a community effort to improve the appearance of the town by removing litter and debris. Refreshments and trash bags will be provided, please wear appropriate clothing for the day.

We will be meeting at the former Millie Turner dam site located at 62 Hollis Street in Pepperell, MA at 9am for some refreshments and will continue through the Nissitissit Wildlife Management Area with the clean-up.

All are invited to join in the Celebration of the designation of sections of the Nashua, Squannacook, and Nissitissit Rivers as part of the National Wild and Scenic River System!

When: Sunday, April 28, 2019, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.

Where:  Bill Ashe Visitor Center Pavilion in the Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge, 80 Hospital Road in Devens, MA.  View a Google map for directions.

What:  Congresswoman Lori Trahan is a confirmed participant, and many other federal, state, and local officials will be joining the townspeople from the eleven participating communities in this historic commemorative event. Come to learn more about what the designation means to our entire region, and come to celebrate this achievement!

At 1:00 p.m., we’ll enjoy light refreshments and social time. The program will begin at 1:30 p.m. Following the event, there will be guided Nature Walks on beautiful trails near the Bill Ashe Visitor Center. There will also be a display of native wildlife mounts, and live music. People interested in paddling can bring their own canoes and kayaks; the dock will be in place on the Nashua River.

There is handicapped parking at the Bill Ashe Visitor Center, and for all other attendees, there will be extensive parking very nearby, and a free shuttle bus.  The Celebration will be held rain or shine.

This event is free and open to all communities – come celebrate!

The Celebration is hosted by the Nashua River Wild and Scenic River Study Committee.

Reservations are not required, but are appreciated for planning purposes. Please RSVP to Al Futterman with the Nashua River Watershed Association, For additional information visit or call the NRWA at


Please feel free to share this message with others who may be interested in joining in.  Thank you!

Images (left to right): Nashua, Squannacook, and Nissitissit Rivers. Photos by Cindy Knox Photography.

Preventing tick bites…..

Tick exposure can occur year-round, but ticks are most active during warmer months (April-September). Know which ticks are most common in your area.

Before You Go Outdoors

  • Know where to expect ticks. Ticks live in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas, or even on animals. Spending time outside walking your dog, camping, gardening, or hunting could bring you in close contact with ticks. Many people get ticks in their own yard or neighborhood.
  • Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing and camping gear and remain protective through several washings. Alternatively, you can buy permethrin-treated clothing and gear.
  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents External containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undec anone. EPA’s helpful search toolExternal can help you find the product that best suits your needs. Always follow product instructions.
    • Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old.
    • Do not use products containing OLE or PMD on children under 3 years old.
  • Avoid Contact with Ticks
    • Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
    • Walk in the center of trails.

After You Come Indoors

Check your clothing for ticks. Ticks may be carried into the house on clothing. Any ticks that are found should be removed. Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors. If the clothes are damp, additional time may be needed. If the clothes require washing first, hot water is recommended. Cold and medium temperature water will not kill ticks.

Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and daypacks.

Shower soon after being outdoors. Showering within two hours of coming indoors has been shown to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease and may be effective in reducing the risk of other tickborne diseases. Showering may help wash off unattached ticks and it is a good opportunity to do a tick check.

Check your body for ticks after being outdoors. Conduct a full body check upon return from potentially tick-infested areas, including your own backyard. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body. Check these parts of your body and your child’s body for ticks:

  • Under the arms
  • In and around the ears
  • Inside belly button
  • Back of the knees
  • In and around the hair
  • Between the legs
  • Around the waist


Can the Lehigh River become the best trout fishery in the East? A group of fishermen thinks so


The river shimmers under an azure sky, a kaleidoscope of glittering light flashing from a surface stirred by the mild spring breeze.

It’s mid-May and our party of six is launching two drift boats for a day of fishing and photography on the Lehigh, floating seven miles from Bowmanstown through the Lehigh Gap in the Blue Mountain to Walnutport. On the edge of Pennsylvania megalopolitan sprawl, the river here retains a remote and craggy character, edging along hillsides garbed in rich spring greenery.

Our hosts, Dean Druckenmiller, the Berks County Conservation District executive, and Paul Kanaskie, an environmental engineer and part-time fishing guide from Tamaqua, man the oars. Together they have nearly 40 years of fishing experience on the Lehigh. Their “McKen­zie”-style drift boats, lightweight dories designed for maneuverability and stability with shallow drafts and forward-facing rowing seats, are well-suited vessels for the big, brawny water.

“This river has the potential in my opinion to surpass a lot of the large trout rivers in the eastern United States. I think it can probably surpass the Delaware as a fishery, and I think it can rival some of the fisheries out West.” 

Dean Druckenmiller, Berks County Conservation District 

Adrift in the current, we search for bugs on the water surface and the Lehigh’s brown trout that might be rising for an entomological treat, exhilarating targets for our group of fly fishermen. As with all fishing excursions, the day is puffed with promise.


“This river has the potential in my opinion to surpass a lot of the large trout rivers in the eastern United States,” Druckenmiller told us at bankside before the start of the float. “I think it can probably surpass the Delaware as a fishery, and I think it can rival some of the fisheries out West.”

The upper Delaware River system in Pennsylvania and New York is the reigning king of big eastern trout waters, and the fabled rivers of the West enjoy elite status in trout fishing lore, but Druckenmiller does not make this comparison casually.

Fly fishing since he was a child, his self-described love affair with the Lehigh began nearly a quarter century ago. In 2004, his passion led him to join with Kanaskie and a cadre of like-minded anglers to organize the Lehigh Coldwater Fishery Alliance, a nonprofit conservation group with a singular goal — securing a consistent flow of cold water to nurture what they think could mature into a heralded wild trout fishery.

For anglers and the non-fishing public alike, it could mean a wealth of economic and environmental riches as well.

The commodity of water


The Lehigh River, despite a tarnished 19th and 20th century industrial history, is healthier today than any time in the last 175 years, according to the Wildlands Conservancy in Emmaus, the unofficial steward of the river. The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources named it Pennsylvania River of the Year in 2007.

The second longest of the Delaware River’s tributaries (the longest is the Schuylkill), the Lehigh comprises a watershed of nearly 1,345 square miles, according to the conservancy. The river traces its headwaters to the Pocono Plateau in southwest Wayne County. It flows southwest, along the borders of Lackawanna, Luzurne and Monroe counties, turning southeast in Carbon County through ancient geological cuts in Lehigh Gorge and Lehigh Gap, and then south and east in Lehigh and Northampton counties to empty into the Delaware at Easton. Along its 103-mile path, it drops 1,900 feet in elevation.

Reading Eagle photos | Fly fishing on the Lehigh River.


While the river might be best recognized as the waterway of the urbanized Lehigh Valley, with a 2010 census population of more than 712,000, most of the watershed is forested (63 percent) or farmed (24 percent), according to a 2003 management plan prepared by the Conservancy.

In 1961, the Army Corps of Engineers completed the Bear Creek Dam flood-control project, blocking the Lehigh at the confluence of Bear Creek 77 miles upstream from the Delaware and forming a reservoir in Luzerne and Carbon counties. The dam was renamed Francis E. Walter in 1963 upon the death of a Pennsylvania congressman remembered by history for his fervor on the House Un-American Activities Committee. True to its intended purpose, the Corps estimated in 2015, FEW dam has prevented more than $206 million in flood damage downstream.

In 1988, Congress expanded the Corps’ oversight responsibilities at the reservoir to include recreation. It was a game-changer for users of the river.
In the ensuing years, the Corps’ management evolved to accommodate whitewater enthusiasts with increased releases from FEW to charge the rapids through Lehigh Gorge State Park. In 2004, the access road that crossed the reservoir at lakeside was relocated to the top of the dam, clearing the way for greater water-holding capacity. The Corps reported “whitewater releases” in the summer and fall more than tripled. The extra water also yielded more steady flows to sustain the trout population through hot dry summers.


Beginning in 2001, the Corps partnered with the commonwealth to fund a series of multi-year studies assessing the reservoir’s impact on the ecosystem up to 45 miles downstream. The intense examination concluded that modifications to the dam “could positively benefit many miles of downstream water quality and recreation, whitewater rafting and angling, in the Lehigh River concurrently,” the Corps acknowledged in a 2015 report.

A cold-water conundrum

Cold, clean water is the quintessential element of a trout river.

Across the Lower 48, some of the most renowned trout rivers are below dams, what biologists and anglers call tailwater fisheries. The deepwater releases from the reservoirs keep downstream temperatures low, ideal conditions for inland salmonids like the brown and rainbow trout prized by sport fishermen.

“If we had cold water year-round, the potential is pretty significant for a major trout fishery.”

Paul Kanaskie, environmental engineer and part-time fishing guide 

Druckenmiller, Kanaskie and the others in the Coldwater Alliance look at FEW Reservoir and see possibility and opportunity. If the reservoir’s cold-water capacity could be harnessed and controlled, they believe, miles upon miles of the Lehigh would flourish with a thriving wild trout population.
There’s one big problem to solve. The release gates at the reservoir draw water only from the bottom of the lake (there also is a top gate for when the reservoir approaches capacity), according to the Corps. The cold water from the depths is the first to exit the reservoir.

“The limiting potential right now is the temperature of the water,” said Kanaskie, who serves as vice president of the Alliance. “With the way Francis Walter Reservoir is set up, we are depleting the cold-water pool by somewhere around early to mid-July ever year. So basically the trout in the entire Lehigh River are looking for cold water refuge from that time to the beginning or middle of September. … Our fish are not out feeding all summer long because they are hiding out looking for some cold water.

“If we had cold water year-round, the potential is pretty significant for a major trout fishery.”

To realize that potential requires expensive structural changes at the reservoir. The Corps would need a multi-gate release tower to tap from various levels of the water column. In the simplest of terms, it would draw from the upper levels of the reservoir in cooler periods of the year while preserving the coldest water at lake bottom for release during the warmest months.

What would it take for such an investment? The Corps is poised to find out. It has budgeted $1.5 million for an investigative study as part of its 2019 work plan. But more money is needed.

“Studies are cost-shared 50 percent federal and 50 percent nonfederal,” Steve Rochette, a public affairs officer for the Corps’ Philadelphia district, explained in an email exchange. “The study cost will be determined during the scoping process after a cost-sharing agreement is signed, but typically is limited to $3 million.”

On March 13, the Delaware River Basin Commission approved $25,000 to pay for the non-federal share of a preparatory report to get the study underway, said Kate Schmidt, a DRBC spokeswoman.

Reading Eagle | Dean Druckenmiller, president of the Lehigh River Coldwater Alliance, says the Lehigh “has the potential to surpass a lot of the large trout rivers in the eastern United States … and I think it can rival some of the fisheries out West.” His group wants to see the river developed as a wild trout fishery.

The river economy

Jake Markezin was ticking off big numbers — the economic impact of the top destination wild trout rivers in the United States: In Arkansas, $101 million from the White River; in Wyoming and Montana, $102 million from the Big Horn River; in Pennsylvania and New York, a whopping $305 million from the upper Delaware.

Markezin, an executive at the Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board, is another of the officers of the Coldwater Alliance. He was speaking last March at the group’s Lehigh River Boot Camp, a day of presentations and fishing to introduce anglers to the river. The dozen participants paid $100 each for the program held at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center in Slatington.
Drilling down to the economics of the Lehigh is challenging, but it’s clear the river is a catalyst for recreational spending.

A 2018 economic Return on Environment study for Carbon County — home to the popular Lehigh Gorge for whitewater rafting and many miles of prime fishing water on the Lehigh and its tributaries — projected that canoers, kayakers and fishermen spend up to $9.2 million “per year on gear, accessories, vehicles and other trip-related sales.”

A 2015 Corps report pointed to a surge in whitewater rafting participants. In a single year, the report stated, “one of the commercial outfitters downstream had 58,645 paying guests which correlate to over $3.5 million in river sales with a conservative economic multiplier equating it to over a $10 million impact in Carbon County alone.”

“… (O)ur agency is confident,” former state Fish and Boat Commission Executive Director John A. Arway wrote to the Corps in 2014, “that the Lehigh River below the dam could be a world class tailwater fishery that would generate tens of millions of dollars a year and be unparalleled in the Northeastern United States.”

Druckenmiller, the Alliance’s president, can only imagine the return on the investment.

“There is an extraordinary opportunity sitting here,” he said.

Trout and the Lehigh

Make no mistake, the Lehigh River already affords anglers ample trout fishing.

The state stocks the river above and immediately below Lehigh Gorge with hatchery-reared trout, and sportsmen’s groups add supplemental stockings. The Lehigh River Stocking Association estimates it has stocked in excess of 367,000 adult trout in nearly 30 miles of the river below Lehigh Gorge since it started in 1991.

“For many anglers, their first encounter with a trout is often a fish from a state hatchery or a private stocking association,” Steve Chuckra, LRSA president, wrote in a recent newsletter. “That’s where their journey begins, and I believe that it is critically important to fishing and fishery stewardship that those journeys do begin.”

Chuckra said the LRSA will stock about 9,000 trout between 14 and 20 inches in length this year. The organization, which operates on a budget of $65,000 to $85,000 a year through memberships, raffles and donations, maintains two co-op nurseries and has been experimenting with incubating trout eggs.

There is anecdotal evidence that many of the stocked fish survive from one year to the next, Chuckra said, and there are indications, albeit lacking scientific documentation, that some stocked trout might spawn.

The watershed also supports several high-quality wild trout tributaries, another important source of cold water to the main river, and trout migration in and out of these feeder streams is likely.

All of the river between the dam and Treichlers, Northhampton County, about 50 miles, is open for public use, with about 20 miles through the Lehigh Gorge accessible mainly by foot or bike on a rails-to-trails route.

Lehigh River resources

Trout season begins Saturday, March 30 at 8 a.m. in most of Southeastern Pennsylvania, including Berks County: 

The Lehigh Coldwater Fishery Alliance has a wealth of fishing information at, including an interactive map with access points and boat launches, insect hatch calendars, and a river conditions guide based on flows monitored by the U.S. Geological Survey. You also can visit them on Facebook.

Contact fishing guide Paul Kanaskie through Rivers Outdoor Adventures, New Ringgold, at, 570-691-5476 or
Learn more about protecting the watershed, local conservation, and the Lehigh River Water Trail through the Wildlands Conservancy at or 610-965-4397.

Look for hatcheries, stocked streams and other features on the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s interactive map.

There are 10 major access points, including seven boat launches suitable for trailers.

Yet another quality intrigues the fly fishermen of the Coldwater Alliance — the Lehigh’s character.

“It’s big water for starters,” said Druckenmiller. “It’s more of a western style trout fishery. You’ll have large rapids, pocket water, riffles and long pools. It’s got great habitat and great bug life. It pretty much has every mayfly hatch found on the East Coast.”

“The biggest reactions we get from clients we’re guiding is that they can’t believe there’s a river like this within 100 some miles of Philadelphia,” added Kanaskie. “So many people who come here have been driving up the Northeast Extension (of the Pennsylvania Turnpike) for years and looking at this river, and they can’t believe there are wild brown trout here. And you look around at the landscape and the mountains, and you get almost a western feel here.”

Advocates for wild trout

The Coldwater Alliance’s roots go back to Druckenmiller’s and Markezin’s stint as partners running the guiding service Fly Fish Pennsylvania for several years. College buddies, they had grown enamored with the big river close to home. Druckenmiller remembers an epiphany on a float from Bowmanstown to Walnutport — the same stretch where I joined him last spring — when he blurted out, “This place looks like it should be in Idaho.”

They would compare the Lehigh with great American trout rivers, and reached a defining conclusion: “You know what?” Druckenmiller recalled. “This place could rival any of those fisheries if we just had more cold water during summer.

Druckenmiller enlisted scientific credibility for guidance, in the persona of Dr. Robert A. Bachman.

Bachman is legendary among fishermen familiar with his studies on trout behavior. After a career in the Navy, including intelligence work examining aerial imagery of Soviet submarines, Bachman transitioned to ecology. He spent three years observing trout behavior in Spruce Creek near State College for a seminal study published in 1984 for his doctorate from Penn State. He went on to serve as Maryland’s director of fisheries, where he led pioneering development of tailwater fisheries.When Druckenmiller learned that Bachman had retired to his home roots in Denver, Lancaster County, he called him and said, “Dr. Bachman, I think I have a river you’d be interested in.”

Bachman quickly became a believer.

“It has the potential to be the best drift boat fishing east of the Mississippi,” he said of the river below Lehigh Gorge, “30 miles, and every bit of it trout water.”

At Bachman’s urging, they organized a band of sport and professional fly fishermen who shared their affinity for the Lehigh.

Reading Eagle | Dr. Bob Bachman.

Instead of high-visibility but often low-impact endeavors associated with local conservation, Alliance members chose to press their cause within the bureaucracy that controlled the river’s fate. They lacked numbers (current membership for $30 annual dues is about 100) and money (current bank account is about $11,500), so they embarked on coalition building with sportsmen’s groups and a lobbying campaign with elected officials and government agencies. Bachman’s record and his later appointment by Gov. Ed Rendell to the Fish and Boat Commission helped open doors.

Seeing the river as their best advertisement, they hosted multi-boat flotilla fishing trips with state and federal dignitaries.

“I felt like I was in a different state,” retired Col. Robert J. Ruch, former commander of the Corps’ Philadelphia district, recalled of his first experience on the big river. A fan of trout on the fly, Ruch came away impressed with the Lehigh’s allure, and with the work of the Alliance. “They have built a lot of relationships at the right level,” he said. “I think they have been very effective at keeping the interest up.”

Read more about fishing:

The Alliance won a seat on the Corps’ Flow Management Working Group, composed of representatives of government agencies and private concerns that had a stake in the recreational and environmental issues, to establish annual release plans for the reservoir. The managment group shared the Corps External Partnering Team Award in 2006.

“Free-flowing cold water that can support a wild trout population is one of the rarest compartments of water on Earth.” 

 Dr. Bob Bachman

“It’s been a major project, and the LCFA has been a very good partner,” said Wildlands Conservancy President Christopher M. Kocher, whose organization was part of the management group. He called the Alliance “one of the most effective grassroots conservation groups that the Wildlands Conservancy has ever worked with.”

Their strategy was evident at a recent meeting where Alliance leaders weighed their next moves. The departure of friendly incumbents after the 2018 election created the need to build fresh relationships with elected officials. What inroads could they make to new officeholders? The pending Corps study required matching funds from nonfederal sources. Could the Alliance buy a seat at the table with a $5,000 pledge? There was self-recognition of their personal limits. Could they secure grants to pay for a full-time executive?

Conservation activism like this is an exercise in tedium; its adherents commit to running a long race. But, except for fishermen, why should anyone care about cold water for the Lehigh?

Bachman, the scientist, answers with the wisdom of his 85 years.
“Free-flowing cold water that can support a wild trout population is one of the rarest compartments of water on Earth,” he said. “Most of it’s in the ocean, or in warm great big lakes or rivers. Some of it’s in ground water. Some of it’s in the bodies of plants and animals. But free-flowing water that’s cold enough to raise a trout is spring water. That’s drinking water, and it’s the scarcest water on this planet.

“If we want to look to the future, we should be concentrating on protecting and sustaining and restoring as much free-flowing cold clean water as we can. That’s what we need for human beings to live on this planet.” 

Grant Mahon is the design editor at the Reading Eagle, a compulsive fly fisherman and a casual member of the Lehigh Cold­water Fishery Alliance. Contact him at 610-371-5005 or

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