Posts Tagged ‘fly selection


Excellent Fly Fishing Advice: Steve Dally

I am linking to an excellent summary piece re fly selection and attitude by Steve Dally over at his excellent Ozark Fly Fisher Journal. There are many gems of wisdom in here for the novice and reminders for the experienced. It takes some of the pressure off trying to figure everything out and fussing over being right. Give the piece a read a couple of times.

Caddis Pupa Beard SwittersB


Eeny, meeny, miny, moe (Fly Selection)

I enjoy the wide array of options to choose from when fishing. Yes, once in awhile, the choice can be obvious by what you see taking place on the water’s surface. But, I actually enjoy searching too. Nothing apparent, so select various patterns that may solve the puzzle. Fly selection based on more than chuck and chance…based on knowledge of insects, habitat, structure, presentation to mimic movements…this is enjoyable. All that Winter fly tying is for these moments. Putting the what if’s and why’s together for success…hopefully. Eeny, meeny, miny, moe……..


Fly Tying & Fishing: Hello Butterfingers!

With the finger dexterity of a guy that has had his fingers broken by debt collecting mobsters, I stood mid stream last week pulling out one of my fly boxes. Where were those wets I had tied. I selected a fly and then like a lightening bolt the most elementary, most obvious thought popped into my brain….’what if you, right now, dropped that open fly box into the water’  Eek! I thought. Not just at the loss but at how careless I had been. Hundreds of flies, untold hours of tying last Winter. In loose compartments. What the hell did I have all that work in one spot; such enormous redundancy too. Like how many green Caddis pupa’s do I need to have with me? 20? Really? For a few hours fishing. So obviously careless.

As a beginner, or someone that should know better, size up what you are going to need for an outting, an afternoon/evening of fishing let’s say. This does require the effort of studying up. Or going over prepared. But, even then. NEVER take all your flies out onto the water. Take an assortment, a selection of most probables with a few long shot patterns. One box of a few nymphs, emergers, duns, streamers etc. Replenish the box or two boxes prior to each outing and reduce the chances of a catastrophic loss should you dump the open box into the drink. Lordy me!

Also, pick fly boxes with this in mind: opening them while in the water; rod under arm; wind and rain; fingers frozen; mosquito drilling away…so that you can replace a fly you just removed from your tippet and select a new one. How hard is it to open/close (the ones above are not the easiest to open/close. Do the flies fit loosely in a small compartment like above? This is a problem because the fly you select is often attracted to 3 others in the little cube hence extra manipulations over the water. You get the point. Take a good selection of flies with you but not the whole frigging enchilada!



Fly Fishing: Changing Flies…..When? Why?

Frequently changing flies is the sign of what? Impatience? A thought out progression of presenting  patterns? Giving up on ‘the’ recommended pattern(s) for that stretch of water? You paid $1.75 + for that little gem, why didn’t it work?

On  lakes, I change often. That rod is under my left arm/elbow every 10 minutes or so. As I search with trusted searching patterns, if  they don’t soon produce, snip, new pattern. I seem to have more faith in searching patterns that fit the standard stillwater food groups. I have an arsenal and I quickly change through it to find the connection. I feel more intuitive on a lake. Some would say it is easier; just find the cruising fish. I think it is presentation, manipulation through the horizontal/vertical pathways.

On rivers, I am more exacting. I study more. I plan upon what insects are in a certain drainage and which stages of the insect’s life are worth tying and presenting. If an insect emerges from the nymphal exo-skeleton well below the surface then in the surface film emerger/stillborn patterns are a waste of tying time. Better to tie wet, soft hackle, flymph patterns that replicate the emerging mayfly well below the surface, but swimming toward the top.

Stream habitat is more complicated than stillwater habitat re trout and their food sources (in my mind). There are often more options on the stream. If the clinger nymph rarely dislodges from the substrate and ‘drifts’, then stocky little nymphs are less useful. I study bottom to top. And, for some fly fishers it is the other way around: Rivers are an open book and lakes are featureless and boring.

SwittersB's Trout Chasing Nymph Tat

Research, then think before just tying on the ubiquitous Hare’s Ear Nymph or Adams Dry Fly and wasting a hundred casts, as the river pulses with life everywhere except on the end of your line.  And, again: location, the pattern, then the perfect manipulation/presentation. Random searching patterns are ok, for awhile. But, as you come up empty outing after outing, you will soon decide to learn more (insects, other fish food) about the specific waters you fish. Or, you might develop your own data through in the field observations. Check out a perfect example of this at Winona Fly Factory


Fly Fishing: Presentation Presentation Presentation

The number one reason why most fly anglers fail.

“I have guided clients from all over the world on our streams and I have taught dozens of local anglers the subtleties of approaching these catch and release waters and the NUMBER ONE reason that most anglers fail to get the results they should is because they simply don’t cast well enough.

When all is said and done most of us spend far too much time worrying about flies and leaders and all manner of gizmos without actually being able to use all that technology to good effect.

The expensive rod, the micrometer tuned degressive leader and the host of fly patterns all fail to work if the fly is  not presented properly and in the right place, and that means that YOU have to cast them. You aren’t out there with anyone else and don’t go blaming the wind or the trees or whatever, fly fishing is a sport where there is nowhere to hide, you are solely responsible and it amazes me how few anglers take their casting abilities, or too often lack of them, seriously.”  The Fishing Gene

I recall an evening on the Metolius River, near Allingham Bridge many years ago. Fish were rising. I shared the spot with a few other anglers. A caddis hatch was in progress. I tied on the EHC and commenced to cast, and cast. The angler above me was having great success. I was not. After several fish, I remarked upon his success and my lack of success. I even remarked how we were using the same fly and that I must be in the wrong spot.

The angler remarked that I was not in the wrong spot. It was my ‘presentation’. Huh? Within that brief period of time my focus forever shifted away from primarily the fly to how to present the fly. No longer did I obsess about match this and that. I spent for more time considering the approach, the angle, the currents, the seams and the likely lies. I thought about the ‘presentation’. That night, I was casting and oblivious to the drag and I am sure I was much too hard on my cast’s landing and pickup.

As much as we can become obsessed with gear and the secret fly, we can too, become obsessed with casting. Particularly for distance….  So, presentation, presentation, presentation. Best wishes, SB


Fish Vision & Color (Variables of Color for Streams and Stillwaters)


Water, however, presents a serious challenge for fish and fishermen when it comes to vision and color. Many characteristics of light quickly change as it moves through water. The first thing to realize is that the color of your fly in the water is almost always different from what it is in the air. I have to be a little technical to explain this, but I think if you bear with me, you’ll have a better understanding of how fish perceive color and how this impacts the flies we tie and use.

Absorption also restricts how far light penetrates into the water. At about three meters (about 10 feet), roughly 60 percent of the total light (sunlight or moonlight) and almost all the red light will be absorbed. At 10 meters (about 33 feet), about 85 percent of the total light and all the red, orange, and yellow light have been absorbed. This has a direct bearing on how a fish perceives a fly.

It should now be clear how the depth of the water or distance from a fish affects the visibility of your fly. In extremely shallow and very clear water, colors may look similar to their appearance in the air; as your fly gets just three feet deep or three feet away from a fish — or less if the water has limited clarity — the colors will start to change, often with surprising results.



Fly selection and presentation (two special points)

Fly selection..take your time

Fly selection..take your time

A critical aspect of flyfishing is matching the hatch or selecting a fly suitable to the habitat before you (sans a hatch). We can become easily distracted by all manner of stimuli….gear, process, elements, people, boobs. But matching the fly and/or presentation to the water before you is all that matters. Do not become distracted….no really, look here….do not become distracted. Ok, whatever… I think I like freckles. Next time, I may discuss natural v. synthetic components. I think they both have their merits.

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