A REALLY Good Fly
Some flies work well, some not so well, some not at
all. What is that magic ingredient that makes a good fly? Here’s the secret: A good fly appears to be ALIVE!
All bait fishers know that live bait is best. Same with a fly. So how does a fly tyer ensure
that a fly will seem alive? And what should an angler look for when buying flies?
To begin with,
a good fly should be durable and neatly tied, attributes of all high quality flies. That’s a must. But those attributes
do not make a fly look alive. Attributes like mobility, profile, proportion, size, flash, sparkle, eyes, fluorescence, floating
or sinking properties, color, and how the fly fishes do. And we are just beginning to experiment with sound, vibration, odor,
holography and taste in flies.
Some of these ideas are not really new. I recall some
of the old-timers on the St. Mary’s River dousing their salmon flies in sardine oil, and that was close to 40 years
ago. Others felt that the odor of mothballs used to protect fly tying materials would repel salmon. Still others felt that
washing a freshly cleaned fish in the river was sure to frighten other fish or “put them down”. Similarly, peeing
in the river was a definite no-no.
There are good flies and REALLY good flies. A really
good fly is one that is taken by a fish in preference to the natural it was tied to imitate. Why does it trigger a take? How
is it that a baitfish imitation says “Eat me!” when fished in a huge baitfish school? One reason may be the “wounded
minnow” theory. Another may be that it appears to be escaping. Maybe a larger size than the natural will be irresistible
to a hungry predator. So, our imitations need not be realistic in the excess, but more interesting and alive. That’s
a really good fly.
Some mayfly imitations are tied today with attached
nymphal shucks, imitating a mayfly struggling to take free itself and take flight. This fly imitates the odd handicapped mayfly
always present in a big hatch. A really good fly looks and acts almost the same as the natural, but somehow different and
Let’s not forget about the other end of the line, the end that the angler controls
all presentation and movement of the fly. But that’s for another column. I hope this one is thought-provoking and helpful
to your fly fishing. At very least it may make your fly fishing more interesting. There’s a lot more to a fly than pattern,
size and color.
Another attribute we haven’t mentioned is texture. It seems the texture of clipped
deer hair makes for a great fly. Examples are the Muddler Minnow, Buck Bug, Carter Bug and Salmon Bomber. Here’s a fly
by Sheet Harbour’s Chris Williams that combines texture with several of the attributes we’ve discussed. Chris
tries to see a fly from a fish’s perspective!
Bronze down-eyed streamer hook, such as Mustad 79580, 3665 or 9672,
Large bunch of copper Krystal Flash
Copper Polar UV chenille, clipped short
Bunch of copper Krystal Flash clipped to reach tip of tail
Pine squirrel tail, sparse
Light rusty-brown deer hair flared as a collar
Light rusty-brown deer hair clipped Muddler style, and then 2 coats of Pro Lac head cement
Please send comments and suggestions
Please stay on the line