What Fly Should I Use – Part Two

In a previous post we discussed part one of ‘what fly to use’, in part 1 we discussed finding out what kind of fly fishermen you really are…knowing that your ‘leanings’ would dictate what fly would be best for you in various situations. Obviously some of this is also based on what types of equipment you have available.

Today we are going to move forward, onward to choosing what fly might work best for you. Let’s focus on three more important concepts; presentation, size and confidence…all of which are very important in making our time out on the water as productive as possible.

Let’s start with the latter, confidence. Over the years I have developed a set of flies, 5 in fact, that I feel are my go to flies. I am confident that I can catch fish with these flies and confidence can go a very long way while searching for a fish. Just like John Daley and his 2 iron…if you are confident in hitting a certain club then it becomes your go-to club. For me…I love a 7 iron. I can rip it, take a bit off, cut it, draw it and chip effectively with it. Certain flies become much like my 7 iron, here is my short list: 1) a wooly bugger 2) baitfish pattern 3) bitch-creek nymph 4) crayfish pattern 5) small (size 6) black popper. I am quite confident with all of these flies and while I make subtle adjustments in size and color…when I take a patch of my ‘fab-five’ out on a stream or lake, good things happen. Part three of my series is very simple as I am going to do a quick review of the five patterns listed above…so, visit back in the future for more detailed info on how to better fish my ‘fab-five’.
One of the fab'five fliesNext, let’s discuss size. It should be pretty obvious that the size of a fly has to be pretty close (match the hatch) to get a take. Just this past year I was in NE Iowa on Waterloo Creek; Waterloo is in the very northeast corner of Iowa and part of The Driftless Region. About halfway down a long run I noticed a hatch had popped off…browns started surfacing, picking off the hatch in all directions. As you know I am a streamer-guy, but just like we discussed last week, it is good to be comfortable in fly fishing a variety of ways; thus on this day I quickly went to my small dry-fly box, tied on a smaller 5X tippet. The first three flies I chose received exactly…zero rises. Nothing, nada! I finally decided to tie on the smallest fly I had in my box…it was probably a size 20 and to be honest the reason I hadn’t yet tried anything this small was the fact that I couldn’t see well enough to tie the knot (if you are over 50 you will understand that part…and if not, just wait). I false casted and dropped this teeny speck on the water and immediately a ten inch native brown sucked it right in! Wow…was it that simple? Yep, over the next five minutes I had a number of rises and before I got bored with it all…I had landed several nice trout. Was my fly the right color, no…was it the right size, yes…and on this day size really did matter.

We streamer guys also know that if smallies are crashing on smaller two inch varieties of baitfish…that we can’t all of a sudden throw out an offering more the preference of a musky and get a reaction. The fly is simply too large and maybe only an occasional aggressive fish will strike. One of my learned tricks (which usually come via many hours/days of frustration) while fishing for finicky trout is to go to a size or sometimes two smaller. Just a slight change in size can often bring on the occasional strike and on days when things are slow….occasional is way better than getting skunked.

Lastly, we have reached what I truly believe is the single most important factor or difference between you having a memorable day or going home scratching your head…presentation. My two cents tells me that presentation trumps everything else. The main focus while fishing any type of water, moving or standing, is trying to present the fly in its most seductive manner. Get out the Barry White people…as you have to make your fly look so lifelike and appealing that your sought after specie simply can’t let it go. Every instinct that this fish has is being fired and provoked to attack and eat mercilessly.
fish with fly in mouthThere are always those few days each year when no matter how, what or where you chuck a fly…they will rush out and gobble it up. However, on those more common days when things are just a bit off, you will have to work harder in order to make your fly that much more appealing. Fish are kind of like electricity…how you ask, well they are both a bit lazy; in fact a fish has to be thinking about calories at all times. This is where your presentation has to be ‘juicy’ enough for the fish to overrule their tendencies to stay put…and swim over, all while expelling calories…to take a taste of your fly. Don’t expect the big brown that is hanging out in an under-cut bank to rush out five feet to smash your crayfish imitation…however, place the same fly up and under the bank and he may very likely give it a go. Ask any good guide where most of their clients make their mistakes and they will tell you that they are not aggressive enough or simply don’t possess the casting skills to ‘poke’ their fly into the ‘death-zone’ of any of a number of predatory fish.

Just this past summer while up in Heyward, Wisconsin… I visited one of my very favorite fly shops, The Heyward Fly Fishing Company (if ever in the area….it is a must visit). My fly-chat with the owner turned to the subject of big smallmouth and their adherence to the banks and the cover of the overhanging limbs…way too many osprey and other birds of prey. Anyway, he had just been out on a two-day guiding trip whereby he couldn’t get his client to man up and present his fly in/under the cover. He told them that if they got hung up he would tie on another fly or do the best he could to get them un-hooked. The moral of the story was simple…just a few feet may as well be a mile when it comes to catching the big carnivorous smallies.

Ok…so, we have tried to figure out what kind of fly-guy we are in part 1. Part 2 focused on confidence, size and presentation of the fly. Stop on back by in the future as we look more closely at my own list of favorite flies….my own ‘fab-five’.

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