Saturday, October 15, 2011

Fly Selection

One of my virtual fishing pals recently asked me what kind of flies I liked to fish.

I preface this by saying I am in a very small minority with regards to my opinion on this, so please take it with a grain of salt. Since I fish mostly for trout in moving waters, that has a pretty hefty influence on my opinions.

Popular consensus says, tie on a fly, strive for a drag free drift, if no results in a while, tie on a different fly and repeat. Hence the need for fly fishing vests which have lots of pockets with lots of fly boxes loaded with thousands of different fly patterns. The idea being to keep changing until you find the one that happens to work on that given day.

I personally rarely change flies, what I do change very frequently, often times on the same cast, is how I "animate" or move the fly I am using. I probably fish dead drift slightly less than 25% of the time, the other times I'm skating, swinging, twitching, dappling or maybe just pulsating the fly.

Perhaps that works for me based on where I fish, my home river is predominately populated with caddis fly species. I have never seen a caddis fly sit still on the water, unless it was just plain dead. I do admit that when there is a mayfly hatch going on, I do tend to tone down my presentation intensity.

Above and beyond the kinds of flies on the water, it seems to me that when a fly is dead drifted, one relies entirely on the outline of the fly to distinguish it from a stick, weed or cigarette butt that happens to be floating along. However when you add movement, I think that at least capture's the fishes attention. Weeds and sticks don't twitch around. One would think the right kind of movement would be something the fish key in on to indicate that something is alive, therefore a candidate for a light snack. As I think about it, we may be just the opposite. I never want to see any kind of movement on my dinner plate.

So at least when I'm fishing moving waters, I want a very generic looking fly, that I can fish in a variety of presentations, hopefully giving the fish just enough of a look to convince it that he better grab it while he has a chance. I like a fly that mostly floats, something I can twitch or skate. I do like to be able to give it a tug, so it breaks the surface tension, allowing me to swing the fly just below the surface.

I've been fishing this way for about the past 20 years, and my preference for fly of choice has slightly evolved. I've always pretty much settle on something in about a size 14, probably more or less based on the Goldilocks theory - something not too big, not too small, but just right. I do tend to maybe switch to a smaller fly as the season progresses, but a #16 is about as small as my old eyes can handle.

The first fly pattern I used to fish this way was something called a devil bug. It's an old Michigan based patterned, some deer hair lashed fore and aft over a thread or chenille body. It's trimmed close at the front to form a head. Then for a while I was fishing a Goofus Bug/Humpy, very simular, but with wings. I liked it, but I never got very good at tying a really nice looking one.

Next I went to a elk hair caddis. The palmer hackle helped when skating the fly. Somewhere along the way, I think while fishing an elk hair that had been dehaired after being mauled by a couple dozen trout, I wondered if it even needed a wing.

That's pretty much where I'm at now, a simple body with a feather palmered it's length. Picture a hairless elk hair caddis if you will.

To be honest, that was the appeal to me of tenkara, the long rod provides a level of control allowing one to provide fairly precise manipulation of one's fly. It didn't hurt to hear that many of the long time practitioners in Japan fished a single favorite simple pattern. Great minds think alike, right?

Well, that's my two cents worth.

What do y'all think?

1 comment:

  1. Your modified elk hair caddis sounds like a woolly bugger on a diet -- skinny & no marabou tail -- or a Woolly Worm on a diet -- skinny and had not tail to begin with.

    I rather think the wings of an EHC are for flotation, even though I sure Troth was inspired by their resemblance to a sedge. I told Al one time that I'd seen someone fishing an EHC that with bright pink elk hair for the wing, and asked if they guy had wrecked the fly doing that.

    "Nope," he said. "That will work fine." I was surprised, and still think of that whenever the subject of color comes up when flies are being discussed. I have a lot of respect for Al Troth.

    ~Paul Arnold, Bloomington, Indiana