Choosing Fishing Flies


It’s been said that the first fish hooked by a fly or a lure is the fisherman who buys it in the store. It seems that fishermen are as attracted to shiny, pretty things as much as the fish, maybe more. Just look at the guy who has tackle boxes full of lures of all styles, shapes and colors, or the fly fisher who has a fishing vest loaded down with enough fly boxes to anchor his boat in a river.

We like to be prepared for any eventuality. But, have you ever noticed how, even though you have enough to last a life time you continue to buy more, and how you so often end up using the same lures or flies over and over again, regardless of the vast number you are carrying with you?

This post is mostly about fishing flies, hand tied, pretty little things that come in various sizes and fly patterns. The premise is that they are made to imitate bugs and flies that are alive in the natural world. I admit, some do, but on the other hand, I have numerous flies that if I was to see buzzing around my head, I would probably head for home and hide under the bed.

In the store, arranged on a nice display, the fully dressed flies, resplendent with all the colors of the rainbow, are certainly appealing. There is no question that bright flies often work on fish. Today I am not discussing colors, that is an entire article in itself. Today is about the amount of feathers and fur etc, usually called ‘dressing’ on a fishing fly.

Over the years, my flies have changed. As a beginner fly tier, I was guilty of packing the feathers to the flies, especially dry flies, under the auspices of either making them look better, or, in the case of dry flies, making them float better.

I have since learned differently. There are two types of flies. The ones that catch fish, and the ones that catch fishermen..and fisherwomen.

The ones designed to catch us, are usually tied full, with lots of materials, the ones that catch fish, the ones found in the fly boxes of experienced fishers, and fly tiers, are usually tied quite sparse.

I have found that even dry flies, tied sparse, will float, perhaps not quite as good as a fully dressed fly, but almost, and they will catch more fish. One theory I have to explain the reason, and it is merely a theory, is the magnification of the water. A fly, floating on top of the water, seen by a fish under the water, must be magnified somewhat by the water. The same holds true for a wet fly seen under the water. Try it yourself. Look at a wet fly in your hand, then in the water. It appears bigger, so if you are trying for a small presentation, the smaller the lure is in the first place, the better.

My success with salmon and trout, has always been the best when I was using small almost underdressed flies. Wet flies with a wing consisting of two or three individual moose hairs, or squirrel tail hairs. One wrap of hackle around the head is often more than enough.

With the exception of a few flies designed from the outset to be tied very thick and full, dry flies with bodies tied full with tinsel etc, are fine, but the hackle and the tail should be fairly sparse. Trust me, they will float, and if they don’t float as well as you might like, dip them in some fly floatation gunk first. However, don’t underestimate the power of a dry fly barely floating in the surface film of the lake or stream you are fishing.

QUICK TIP
Make sure your tackle boxes and fly boxes are dry inside before storing for the winter. It is not a happy moment to open your lure box in the spring and find all the lures and hooks gone rusty from being put away wet. It’s also a good chance to check the caps of any liquid in your tackle boxes or fishing vest, (such as fly floatant, or bug off liquid) If allowed to leak in your vest or tackle box over the winter, it will be a sticky mess come spring fishing.

Don’t get your feet wet!

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