Realistic fly patterns are incredible, but is that what the trout see?
I’m always amazed at today’s fly tiers who can create exact replicas of various insects – even the tiny ones that force them into size 22 and smaller patterns, the kind of flies I have a tough time tying on a tippet.
I’ve seen flies that are so realistic I expect them to fly away or skitter across the table. It’s incredible, the talent some of these tiers have.
But that doesn’t mean I fish those flies.
That’s because what we see above the surface is very much different than what a trout sees when it looks up into the water column. And that’s why, too, so many fly patterns that seemingly look like nothing have been catching fish for decades.
Over the years I’ve adhered to many of the philosophies of Gary LaFontaine, a noted fly-tying innovator and passionate fly fisher who put his theories to the test on so many waters, even SCUBA diving to watch a trout’s reaction to his newly developed fly patterns.
Gary was, in my mind, a fly-tying and fly-fishing genius, and his untimely death at the age of 56 due to Lou Gehrig’s disease left a huge void in the angling fraternity. He is still missed today.
But his theories live on, and thousands of fly fishers today consider themselves Gary LaFontaine disciples, their fly boxes jammed with his innovative patterns like the Emergent Sparkle Pupa, Double Wing, Air Head, Creature, Mess, Mohawk and so many others. Anglers use these flies, quite simply, because they work. Not all the time, but in certain situations when conditions call for them.
LaFontaine’s chief theory in fishing dry flies, the one behind virtually all his dry fly patterns, is that of color attraction. In short, it means matching the color of the fly to the color of the light at that moment. That, in turn, intensifies the color of the fly on the water. Gray fly on a gray day, red fly in red sunlight, etc. It works, especially when combined with basic entomology so you know why fly is hatching at that particular moment. Combine the right pattern, the right size and the right color, and you will have a memorable evening on the river.
I’ll still marvel at the creations of some of these realistic fly tiers. But when I dig into my fly box as a trout or two rises out in front of me, I’ll be selecting something that may not look remotely like the insect hatching at the time – at least to me.
But it looks like something the trout wants to eat. And that’s the important thing.