“What fly you tying on?”
It is a question asked on every day of fishing with my brother. He asks me, or I ask him. Sometimes we ask because we expect one knows more. Sometimes because an unexpected fly piques curiosity. Sometimes I ask, so I know what fly to switch to after watching him fight a fish upstream and out of earshot. I wonder if he caught that on his…
But another reason we ask, “what fly you tying on?” is to know what fly not to tie on ourselves. Because when dialing in on bugs trout are eating, it helps to share the work and show them different flies.
Neither my brother nor I fish a river enough to be distinctly in tune to exactly what insects a stream’s trout population is most keen on eating on any given day. Like many, we rely on what worked in the past, the accuracy of the latest on-line fishing report, or a fly shop’s recommendation. And in the abyss of total unknown and indecision, there are always confidence flies.
The more days I have on the river with fish in the net, the more days under my belt feed my belief that presentation matters more than the fly presented. But the notion that a trout is swimming below, passing on my well-presented fly, for reasons unexplained except for preference, is one that persists deep in my conscience. And so, I continue to search, and fly selection continues to puzzle me.
Increase Your Odds.
Climbing out of the truck is the first opportunity to share the work of fly selection.
You go with what you think will work. It can be easy to catch a bit of group think, and tie on what each other is using. After all, if they catch fish, you will be missing out right?
When you decide that a certain fly will be best for certain reasons, you can close the door on others. You never really know until you start fishing.
Sharing the work means increasing your odds of finding a fly that the trout will want by tying on different flies or at least different versions of the same fly.
One great reason to fish a dropper is to fish a searching pattern. You can fish a fly you are confident with and easily swap out the dropper until you find something that works well. The same principle applies with sharing the work with those you fish with. If they are fishing a dropper, you now have four flies in the water instead of two.
Tweak What Works.
Even after you have narrowed it down to what flies are fishing well, you can still share the work. If the zebra midge has caught fish, try having one angler fish a different color. If a bead head hare’s ear is the hot fly, then share the work on fishing different droppers. If one angler fishes a different size of the same dry fly, you may discover that fishing is good on a size 16 Adams, but it is incredible on a size 18 Parachute Adams.
Trout can be picky, and even if fishing is good with one fly, there is always a chance it could be better with even a slightly different color or size. It is the beauty of it all really. Problems solving. Progress.
If there is anyone in tune with what flies are working on a fishery it is “Hopper” Juan Ramirez, from Colorado Springs, CO. He guides there year round on the South Platte and Arkansas rivers. When I asked him how he picks colors and sizes of flies to use the conversation turned towards this concept of sharing the work with clients:
“…if I have three people on a trip, we’ll set them up differently. I might do a little different rig on all three rods.”
– “Hopper” Juan Ramirez
Rejoin and Share.
If I am not fishing alone, the odds are high that I am fishing with someone I care about. I like it this way. My father, brother, or a close friend. Sometimes we fish close enough to fish a section together. To be a part of each other’s experience on the water. Sometimes we split up and enjoy the river alone. Even in the drift boat we will stop and go our separate ways for a time.
I always look forward to even the briefest reunion on the bank, to hear a story and share what we have learned. The flies we fished always comes up.
Even though, the flies we tie on are not the entire puzzle, they are a piece. Sometimes a big piece. Working together to find the right pieces helps us find the “right” fly faster. I enjoy working together with the people I share time with on the river. Maybe I am unique, but I doubt it. Wadeoutthere.