Sunday, February 16, 2014

Seminar speakers spread the word at Cabin Fever fly fishing expo

In the late 1980s, holding a fly on a Lake Erie tributary, Jeff Blood noticed how different it looked when it got wet.

Experimenting at the tying bench -- dunking prototypes in a glass of water -- the Cranberry fly fisherman came up with an easy-to-tie translucent egg pattern that is equally hard to resist for steelhead and anglers.

He'll talk about the creation of the Blood Dot egg and tactics for successful steelhead fishing at Cabin Fever, Western Pennsylvania's biggest fly fishing expo. Casting and tying demonstrations, dozens of exhibitors, a fly gear flea market and additional seminars are among the events scheduled at the annual fund-raiser for Penn's Woods West Trout Unlimited.

"I started experimenting with materials and then fishing the fly, and I don't want to tell you how many fish I was catching," said Blood, once a part-owner of International Angler. "I walked into the shop and said, 'I want to show you guys something, but we're not going to sell this fly. It's too effective.' "

In time, Blood's conservation ethic came into balance with his desire to share what he'd learned with other anglers. And as Steelhead Alley discovered the Blood Dot and its appeal spread nationwide, the fly's inventor conceded that no fly can ever catch all the fish.

"Commercial tiers started selling it, and guides started calling it Blood's Dot. That morphed into Blood Dot," he said. "People misconstrue what the dot is. It's not supposed to be blood. The dot is the yolk, like in a chicken egg."

Simple but effective, the Blood Dot is generally tied on No. 14-18 hooks. For the body, Blood uses Glo-Bug yarn (pulled apart to be thin). The dot is a contrasting color of the yarn (trimmed shorter than the body material). Colors can vary; Blood recommends natural tones. The body is ruffled over the dot, and when wet it looks remarkably like a darker yolk inside a translucent egg. Blood fishes it deep, larger sizes in cloudy waters, and says it's particularly effective during spring runs.
Despite the popularity of the fly that bears his name, Blood doesn't cash in on the Dot.

"I tried tying and selling them for a while, but I learned something from one of my major mentors, Lefty Kreh. He told me, 'Don't demonstrate your knowledge, share your knowledge,' " said Blood. "That's part of the intrigue for me -- no matter how much you know, you can't know enough to catch them all."

Eric Stroup doesn't catch them all, either, but the Central Pennsylvania angler says it's particularly gratifying to catch them when conditions are tough. That's among the topics at his two Cabin Fever seminars.

"When the fishing's good, everybody's catching fish," said Stroup. "But when it's low and clear, or high and muddy, or there's sun or so many other conditions that make it tough, it can be really difficult to move fish."

Catching trout in tough conditions is the topic of his new book, due in the fall from Stackpole.
"It's about strategies on approaching the water, evaluating conditions and food availability to determine the trout's location," he said. "All of those variables change depending on the time of year. It's about observation. We have a tendency to over-think things. Look past the obvious. Use your eyes, not your intellect."

Too often, said Stroup, fly anglers make their first mistake soon after leaving the car.
"They barge into the water. They fish too quickly," he said. "Sometimes I see guys who fish a place for 10 minutes and leave, when they should spend an hour or more there. ... Other times, they stay on a spot where there's no fish."

To avoid rushing, Stroup recommends focusing on habitat and season.

"When I get to the water, I'm not fishing. I'm in a searching mode," he said. "I'm looking for the habitat where the trout are likely to be in a given season at that time of day. Sometimes the fish are on the edges of the current, not in the main current. There are a few hatches where the nymphs swim to the edge of the stream, and you'll find fish near the banks picking those things off. You have to know that and be there."

Stroup's seminars will also draw from his first book "Common Sense Fly Fishing" (Headwater, 2009), and include casting to set up the subsequent drift, and practical lessons from his "Face Time Fly Fishing" video series posted on his website,

WHEN: Feb. 23
WHERE: Four Points by Sheraton, Cranberry
TIME: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
FEE: $10, free for 12 and younger.
10 a.m. Eric Stroup, Common sense fly fishing
11 a.m. Scott Loughner, Fly casting
1 p.m. Jeff Blood, Steelhead tools, tactics, techniques
2 p.m. Eric Stroup, Casting for the drift
3 p.m. Scott Loughner, Fly casting

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