What Flies Work Best for Trout in Pennsylvania?

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The camaraderie of fly fishing motivated the state’s, and perhaps even the country’s, best fly fishermen to share their advice and experiences Wednesday during a reunion in Seven Springs.

Among the dozen or so fly levels (sometimes spelled fly tyers) were Jeff Blood of Cranberry Township, maker of the Blood Dot fly for Great Lakes steelhead; Josh Miller, the head coach of the USA Fly Fishing Youth Team; Tom Baltz, legendary guide from Boiling Springs in Cumberland County; and Chuck Furimsky, founder of the national The Fly Fishing Show.

Blood caught his first steelhead trout in Erie in 1961, when he was seven years old, and has aggressively pursued them ever since. He said fly fishing has taught him the process of problem solving by observing what happens to the fish on the water.

“For Great Lakes steelhead, eggs are one of the most important food sources. Trout are generally determined in advance to eat them no matter what. It is part of their innate abilities. So a good egg pattern is necessary in any trout water,” he said.

His Blood Dot egg fly is based on the size, color, translucency and behavior of the eggs he sees in the streams. The pattern, made primarily with Glo Bug Yarn, has a dark stain that some people think mimics blood. However, the design is called a Blood Dot by his friends because of his surname, not because of the fly’s appearance. “It was Blood’s Dot and then it became Blood Dot,” he said.

Blood has studied trout eggs as they hatch from the fish and how they change over time. “They can be bright orange or faded,” he said of the appearance.

He has fished many places around the world and enjoys fishing in Erie.

“Erie doesn’t understand what they have in their backyard as a tourist attraction,” he said. For example: “In the last three weeks, as far as I know, thirty people have flown in from faraway places.” Blood said those people eat, rent cars, visit sporting goods stores and spend money. “It’s world class. I have literally fished all over the world,” he said of the quality of fishing Erie County offers.

Miller from Pittsburgh likes to have flies of different sizes when he goes to the stream. Some of his popular choices include the Wooly Bugger streamer and a variety of nymphs such as the Pheasant Tail and Green Weenie, Walt’s Worm and Hare’s Ear. As a coach and owner of Trout Yeah Guide Service, he said anglers should have some designs that are more pushy and others that have more finesse, based on what fish prefer that day. “You need something that allows you to fish over the fish multiple times, lots of drift without spooking them,” he said of some of the smaller fly and nymph designs.

Baltz ties paranymphs in different colors to catch trout. Heavy rainfall has caused water levels to rise and become muddy, making it difficult to find good days for fishing. “It’s been terrible so far this spring,” he said. “It’s too high, too cold, too whatever.”

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He chooses the color based on the weather and the watercolor color. For example, on sunny days he likes a black design. “I use the same fly for everything,” Baltz said of paranymphs who work 12 months a year wherever he goes.

Furmisky, formerly of Somerset County and now living in Ocean City, NJ, enjoys using leather to create designs that imitate worms. He previously owned a leather shop in Seven Springs for 42 years and knows how to make thin slices of leather that move well in the water.

“I used to tie flies and I had leather in all different shapes and sizes, and I decided to make my flies out of leather,” he said. “I have access to a machine that can make it as thin as cigarette paper, which is very nice. I tie baitfish patterns, crayfish. I’m making some worm patterns now. It’s flexible and strong and it wobbles like crazy.”

He created The Fly Fishing Show in 1989, which is held in various parts of the country and his son, Ben, now operates it. “He did shows in Denver, Boston, New Jersey, Atlanta, Seattle, San Francisco, and the last one was in Lancaster (Pa.),” he said.

Lenny Lichvar, chairman of the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited Council, and promoter of the Seven Springs reunion, spoke to people about conservation and fly fishing.

“There has always been a social aspect to fly tying and fly fishing, simply because there is a lot of information and a lot of detail about how to tie flies and there are always new ways to fish them,” he said. The event attracted fly fishing enthusiasts who are all well known among fellow anglers. “They are international celebrities in fly fishing and fly tying,” Lichvar said.

“There’s just a camaraderie of people in the sport sharing information like never before,” he said of online resources and book writing.

John J. McFarland of Ligonier is returning to the hobby after years away and will soon be ready to retire. He attended the event at Highland Sporting Clays to meet some experts and plan some lessons.

“I’m fed up with the rat race,” he said of his work. “Going up the stream is soothing, it’s satisfying,” he said.

Brian Whipkey is the outdoor columnist for USA TODAY Network sites in Pennsylvania. Contact him at [email protected] and sign up for our weekly Go Outdoors PA newsletter on the homepage of this website under your login name. Follow him on Facebook @whipkeyoutdoorsand Instagram on whip outdoors.