Presentation and Color of the Fly

by Fly Fisherman

Many years ago, on the Manistee River in Michigan, I overheard a statement made by a fisherman, in skill with the rod and fly and in sportsmanship. The more I have thought about this assertion over the years the more convinced I am that he was right.
He said, “Forget everything about your fly except in its presentation to the fish. Make it alive—not by movement, but by realistic placement on the water, in the right channel and without any more drag than a real fly has. If you’re skilled enough to do these things consistently use any size fly you choose, but if you cannot present it accurately and with finesse, you must use smaller and smaller flies. The faults in your presentation and in your fly are much less noticeable as the size is reduced. The less skilled you are, the smaller the fly to get a modicum of action.”

Summing up this “size” subject, I must concur with the above declaration. I believe that a small fly, correctly presented, receives little more attention than a large one, correctly presented, if as much. However, one of the complexities with which we must contend is that on one stream a size eight would not be considered too large and on another piece of water a size fourteen would be regarded as a big one.

Up the ladder of importance is the fly PATTERN. Its form or design or silhouette, as you will. One could hardly expect top action from his simulated mayfly if there is a caddis hatch on the water. There are three major classes in the trout fly patterns. These are the impressionistic “naturals,” the impressionistic “fancys” and the true copies of the insect as closely as we can duplicate them. This latter type has been tied and tried at periodic intervals ever since the advent of artificial fly tying, but our crude efforts to exactly copy the real fly has, in the past, resulted pretty much in only mediocre results as far as their successful use is concerned.

The impressionistic “naturals” do, if you have a good imagination, look something like the fly you’re apt to see on the water or fluttering around your ears. These are the flies generally most effective both in normal fishing and during a rise. Example patterns are the Gordon Quill, Ginger Quill, Adams, Hendrickson, spiders, variants, etc. The examples of the “fancys” include the Royal Coachman, Wickham’s Fancy, Silver Doctor, Candy Fly, Flight’s Fancy, Professor, Jock Scott, Pink Wickhams, Butcher, etc. These flies resemble a natural about as much as Theodore Gordon resembled Cleopatra.

Of greater importance than either size or design is COLOR. Do not commit the error of believing that fish are color blind. They just are not! I believe they discern color and shades of color better, in their element, than we mortals. Science has not yet determined exactly just what fish see in our lures, why distinctly gaudy patterns are favored in certain regions and in others only the subdued colors are accepted by the same species of trout under comparitively identical conditions.

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