Flies, as fly fishermen we are totally fixated on the fly at the end of the line, it becomes even more of an addiction if you tie your own! We have boxes upon boxes all filled with variants of variants, some with added hotspots and others with particular shades that have to be right for them to work. I can remember carrying four of the salmon size fox boxes in my wading jacket and having to manoeuvre my arms around them to make a cast and yet with all those flies you were always on the lookout for the killer pattern.
So when armed with a few hundred flies at your disposal how would you even go about picking a fly, what makes you pluck that one particular pattern out from the masses? Is it the sensation, a notion like I talked about a few weeks ago? Is it a habit, were you pick the same fly because you have caught on it before? Or do you take into consideration the conditions, time of year, position of Venus or whether its fresh or stale fish you are casting over? In the shop you hear all sorts of great theories, with every salmon caught there is a story of how and why it happened. I have had the pleasure of hearing some great ideas, thats one of the true gems of being involved in the angling community.
This isn’t how I would choose a fly but wanted to share an interesting theory I was told from an experienced angler one August night who was a river Faughan man. After the usual fishing craic we got on to talking about fly choice. He had noticed I had a tiny stoats tail on the dropper while he was fishing a Faughan Purple Shrimp fly, quite a big one for the conditions in my opinion. He asked why was I fishing so small and I explained my ideas behind the fly choice, now, when looking at his fly I could see it a mile away, the colours really stood out in the low water but I asked him to share his reasoning behind his choice. The gentleman was well into his sixties and had obviously many years of experience under his belt but he believed that you should match your fly choice to the colours that are on show at the time of year. “Every month nature gives us a different colour” he pointed over to the fox gloves and the montbretia, he then opened his box and took me through the season with the white and yellow flies in preference early on with the snowdrops, daffodils and primroses on the ground. Then during the summer more colours come out and towards the end of the season we move more towards the reds like the fuchsia on display. I thought it was an interesting idea and amazing how that notion plays a part in the flies a lot of us are actually using at the time of year.
My fly choice reasonings are now a real mix of ideas I have picked up from numerous anglers all around the world, but an aspect still remains from the very first teachings from my biggest influencer yet. Its also quite hard to convey it in written words but you want the fish to be able to see the fly just enough to catch their attention and then at the same time not enough so they don’t have time to figure it out. When I look back to the very first patterns I tied they were really simple. Three cock hackles of various colours and combinations, but the logic behind it was very simple and tied in with the show them enough but not too much thinking. Whites and yellows were the colours for when the river was in a big flood, in the peaty waters of the north west the yellows really shone through, the whites worked exceptionally well when many anglers said it was far too big for the fly. As the river cleared and the sediment began to filter out we would drop on to the oranges, there might have been a bit of yellow still in there for contrast and as it kept fining down the colours would continue to become more sombre. With clarity improving the oranges would quite quickly become too visible, I want my fly to barely be visible at around the 3’ mark so then the reds come into play, red has been one of my absolute top producing colours, whether its because it suits the waters I fish, perhaps it confidence or maybe its simply the fact if I looked back its been my most used colour. As the river height really begins to fine off and you start fishing low conditions again then out comes the browns and blacks. That small black stoat I mentioned above for several years was a top producer for me during the summer months when the conditions were low, other anglers had the cascades on in small sizes and that little fly out fished them numerous times, I think its because the fly is unseen for so long then it suddenly appears in front of the fish is one of the main reason the take it, the salmon dosn’t have any hands so the only thing they can investigate with is their mouth, by hiding the fly it forces them to make a decision in a split second. But, thats just my thoughts, the salmon never said so.
On the flip side, I know many anglers who do the complete opposite, the black flies are the ones they use when the river is big and carrying colour, black has a strong silhouette and will show up better. Its something I have honestly never tried, as soon as that big flood comes I have full confidence in whites and yellows, confidence is key. You must know by now I am a fan of the sinking line and getting the fly down to the fish, in the peaty rivers the background down at fish level is just more dark peaty water, so imagine what your fly looks like, spend some time at the rivers edge seeing what colours show up, what colours disappear. For my own fishing, I aim for the fly to disappear out of sight at around three feet, if I can see it from further away I drop down to a more sombre colour.
How do you pick yours?