Match, Match, Match: size, color, shape, actions. The majority of your fly tying and presentation will be to match the stage of an insect or fish food source. As a beginning fly fisher you strive for success, for certainty. You will have little patience for far afield experimentation. When you read that article or go into that shop you are looking for answers, specifics that hone into the magic bullet.
But, yes the but, attractor patterns are often touted as something to break up the routine in the fish’s life. Something that stands out, provokes a response. With attractor patterns, be they nymphs, emergers, dries or streamers there are colors, size, wiggle factors that stand out. I don’t have a serious opinion by virtue of not having a lot of attractor patterns. I have had the same Humpy’s, Royal Coachman’s, Spruce Fly’s for years. They have worked on rivers and streams. There are quite a few out there now. I too have to pause and consider a change up to an attractor pattern. It is a psychological exercise to give up on the matching game unless you are just done trying to figure it out and say ‘what the hell do I have to lose. I’m not doing squat anyway.’
For the last few years you read more about the dry + dropper (hopper/dropper) combo. That dry sometimes is a large attractor style pattern that acts as a strike indicator and might just take a fish. Other wise I fish attractors in pocket water, seams, skitter them on a lakes surface. I experiment and provoke and have fun. Last resort or maybe just some relaxing experimentation behind that boulder or in under those trees. Think of them as fun.