SPEND a busy weekend or two working in a fly shop, any fly shop, it will change your lofty ideals on the art of fly selection.
You may have your own ideas on what is working or not, often well-tested choices, but there’s a fine education to be had in paying attention to the successes of others.
Your average weekend in the busy period will probably turn up 3 or 4 adamant pronouncements on which fly is working. I always ask on the area, if not the spot, where the luck was with our fly fisher. Perhaps the fishing gods have a fine sense or irony, or perhaps its just coincidence but its probable that at least a couple of these characters are fishing the same zone _ occasionally within casting distance.
Hence the first lesson is there is never just one fly that works on a given day, in a given river, even a given pool _ and there maybe something better still in your box.
Now every so often, as the tales are told, between the standard White River patterns, you’ll pick up a gem, something new and different, something to add into your databank of things to try in certain conditions, or place, maybe even to the fly shop bins.
But equally often the fly will be a true surprise, some poor misbegotten trainwreck of a fly, whose brutal lack of proportion and symmetry could only be enhanced by the mauling it had received in the mouths of many trout. I’ve been handed many of these flies over the years, sometimes furtively with declarative oaths about secrecy, other times with invitations to share, even publicize their effectiveness, for these are their owner’s magic flies.
And you know what _ they are the magic fly for their owner. You’ve probable heard me espouse my belief there aren’t any magic flies for trout _ that is one fly which works all day every day. But flies which inspire confidence in a fly fisher have a magic of their own, no matter their failings in tying technique, nor lack of fly bin appeal. These are snobberies which don’t outweigh the appeal of a bent rod.
The truth of it is that beautiful flies work but so do the “closing time beauties”. Every fly in our voluminous bins would work, one day or other to catch a trout. The biggest streamer fish on our walls, all of 15lb was caught on the ugliest, most dodgily tied streamer in the shop. After all fish get to choose what they want.
Of course a fly fisher raised in the presentation school can explain it all away by their ethos that getting a fly to act in the right manner is more important than the way it looks. The fundamentalists in this school might regard the imitationalists as somewhat superficial in that looks are everything. The imitationalists frown on the presentation first types as merely those that can’t tie a proper looking fly.
Confidence breeds success, and there is nothing like walking to the water with a fly you know is going to work. Confidence in your fly and rigging, depth & weight for a given stretch of water, puts you way ahead of the game. Its one of the reasons we fly fishers become such creatures of habit, particularly on our tailwaters where picking what worked last week will probably going to give you results next week.
On the other hand there is few more humbling experiences for a nymphing presentationalist than the realisation you have no idea where you need to be with depth, weight or fly choice. The imitationalist can continue their search for the “right fly” in these circumstances, happily obliviious to the fact that even the finest ties most productive patterns need to be fished in the right place.
Which is why it’s a good reason not just to rely on a single favorite fly: having more confidence flies in your box will allow you to fish better on more days. I do confess to being a tinkerer, once I caught a few fish, I’m changing that fly up for something else, perhaps its too long a time testing flies for fly shop bins, or a modern attention span, but it also means I have plenty of choices.
1: Start out like you mean it: Your favorite fly, fresh tippet and leader.
2: In nymphing if you aren’t catching fish go deeper or add more weight, unless you are in a all-out hatch of course.
3: Add a foot extra to depth as you go deeper until you hit the bottom, if you still aren’t catching fish raise it up 4” at a time.
4: Two flies can help you find the right fly faster. Heavy flies can make good disguised split shot.
5. The fly you think you need is always in the truck, your other hat or under your foot in your wader stocking.
6. Never be afraid to experiment.
7. Never tell your fishing buddy “that won’t work” of his newly tied creation no matter how ugly it looks.
8. Keep an open mind