Fly Fishing for Trout Home
User Password
or register.
Scientific name search:

> > Fly Arsenal questions...

MT319May 12th, 2010, 3:17 pm

Posts: 24
I’m a college student and don’t have loads to invest in fly tackle…and for non-monetary reasons I also only fish dries and streamers (no nymphs, no wets). I feel like casting skill and presentation is significantly more important than color and spend my focus on that aspect as opposed to worrying about color variance between flies….the questions I have are 1.) will I really not get takes on an 18 adams para when trout are on 18 sulphers/bwo’s to the degree that superior casting skill/presentation as well as correct fly size and shape cannot catch the same 3 out of 8 risers that the decent skilled angler using correct fly size, shape, and color will catch in the same situation on the same average pressured eastern river/stream? 2.) Is there any legitimate variance in Adams productivity for matching lighter colored mayflies (Cahill, Sulpher, female Trico etc…) vs. darker colored mayflies (BWO, male Trico etc…)? 3.) Do either Catskill style or Comparadun styles of dries out-produce or under-produce parachute styles and out of the three styles which is currently the most used?
SofthackleMay 12th, 2010, 7:16 pm
Site Editor
Wellsville, NY

Posts: 540
Wow! A lot of questions, MT. First, I think it is a mistake you are ignoring nymphs and wets, especially the wets of the wingless type, but others might have a different opinion. Just remember,trout (fish) do most of their feeding, underwater.

There are many ideas regarding presentation and matching the hatch. Your prevalent question pertains to that. I will give you my take, and you will get many more, I'm sure. It'll be your job to sort it all out.

Presentation, to me, is very important. More important that actually matching the hatch. You must present the fly from the best position to give the fish a good look at what you have to offer. It must be, for the most part, drag free. Movement and exposure to you must be minimal. Many people consider fly behavior part of presentation. I do not. Once the fly is on the water, the presentation is pretty much over. You are now fishing. Fly behavior, however, is no less important. The fly must behave like the natural, like food, like it is living.

There are times when trout feed opportunistically, and other times when they feed selectively. I believe the opportunistic mode is most of the time, however there are those times, and often times certain places where you fish, that require you to not only present the fly correctly, but match the hatch as well. It is up to you, as the angler, to determine how the trout are feeding and know the places you fish, and the fish you fish to. So under certain conditions, the fish may very well refuse your Adams when feeding selectively on sulfurs.

With all that said, one thing you have to remember, nothing in fly fishing is written in stone. What we believe one minute will be proven wrong by the fish the next minute. So, keep fishing. The more you do the more the fish will teach you. There are many ways to learn more and broaden your experience that don't cost a lot. Some are free! Don't fret that you can not spend tons of money on tackle. It does not mean you won't be successful and have fun.


PS Look into the wet flies!

"I have the highest respect for the skilled wet-fly fisherman, as he has mastered an art of very great difficulty." Edward R. Hewitt

Flymphs, Soft-hackles and Spiders:
EricdMay 12th, 2010, 7:22 pm
Mpls, MN

Posts: 113
Great questions and comments! I have high hopes for this (ongoing) discussion. I'm too new to comment intelligently, but I will say that I've found presentation to be more crucial than imitation.

MartinlfMay 12th, 2010, 9:12 pm
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3108
I'd add parachute light cahills (or any light yellow/whitish fly) in sizes 12-20 (if you change your mind about nymphs, bead head pheasant tails in the same sizes also), and I think you'll have most situations covered. Adams will often work for olives and other dark flies, but I think when light flies are hatching it's a good idea to show the fish a lighter fly. That's not to say an adams won't work. It might. But I'd feel better with some light flies for sulphurs and cahills. Later you can add other flies. I don't disagree with Mark, but just don't fish wets all that much becasue I don't know how to do so skillfully. That said, I just tied a bunch of them for sulphurs, and plan to try them in the film some.

Overall I think most fish that will take a comparadun will take a parachute. A few fish might prefer one over the other, but I'm not sure which would win out most often.

One other thing. One day you will run into a spinner fall. Some fish absolutely won't hit a dun when they are taking spinners. A very thin bodied parachute with a small post and sparse oversize wing is my fly of choice for spinners, so you can trim down your post on your parachutes and have a good shot at catching fish eating spinners, especially if the hackles are long and not too thickly tied. If they seem too thick and the fish aren't taking them, after you cut your post down some, use your nippers or scissors to thin the hackles and the tail out some and see if that works.

Ultimately presentation is very very important, though, as you say.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
Jmd123May 12th, 2010, 11:56 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2493
Get some White Wulffs and Royal Wulffs in sizes 10 and 12. These will work well as attractors when there are no hatches!

No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
WbranchMay 13th, 2010, 5:24 am
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2692
MT's fly selection;

Parachute Adams 14-26 -
Elk Hair Caddis Tan 14-22
Griffith’s Gnat 18-26
Parachute Black Ant 18
Royal Coachman Trude 16
Olive Stimulator 16

Wooly Bugger BH Black 12
Black Nose Dace 12

It's hard to respond to your questions without first knowing where you fish. Do you most often fish for stocked, or wild, trout? All of your flies have merit sometime and somewhere but depending on the natural aquatic insects in the rivers you fish I think your belief that casting skill and presentation is more important than color is flawed. I've written here a number of times that I believe presentation and line management skills are more important than pattern but I didn't mean to say that the chosen pattern can be totally different in size and color that the naturally emerging insects.

Admittedly I'm a slave to matching the hatch with patterns that I believe closely resemble the emerging insects. I have seen hundreds of times where a slight change in color, or life cycle stage, will mean the difference between catching fish or just watching them rise.

I tie flies so cost is of real no concern as once you accumulate various materials to tie different kinds of flies the per fly cost is minimal. I don't fish any traditional wet flies, or soft hackles, at all but do fish dry flies about 85% of the time, streamers 10%, and nymphs 5% of the time. When I was younger I fished nymphs more often, probably 50% nymphs, 45% dries, and 5% streamers. Often as you grow older your fishing interests change. When I was a kid I wanted to catch as many as possible, as I got older I wanted to catch bigger fish, but now that I'm an old guy I only want to catch larger than average trout on windless days when the temperature is at least 70 degrees and no one else is on the river.

I think you need to consider adding a few lighter colored flies to your spartan selection. Light Cahills, Sulfurs, and the larger Invaria all have similar body/wing/leg coloration. Try and find a pattern you like and stock it in #12 - #18. What are you planning to use if the water you are fishing has Brown and Green Drake emergences? The trout will laugh at your flies. What do you do when there is a Rusty spinner fall, what about a huge Coffin fly spinner fall? What do you use on a drizzly day when the water is covered with #18 Baetis?

Maybe you have been successful with your pattern selection but I think you could be far more successful if your increase the depth and breadth of your fly arsenal. PM me if you want my suggestions for the waters you fish.
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
MotroutMay 13th, 2010, 6:25 am
Posts: 319
I think it's kind of silly to totally rule out using nymphs and wets. Swinging a wet fly with no added weight and no indicator is a lot of fun and just as graceful as dry fly fishing in my opinion. I don't like the "fishing at your feet" type of nymphing that a lot of folks do these days, but when trout aren't taking flies on the top, there's no sense in fishing a dry fly, even though that's the way we all like to fish more than any other.

Other than that, I'd get a lot more Woollies in all different size and colors. You should have them from #4 all the way down to #14, and in every color from bright yellow to black. They are as close to a miracle fly as you'll find. I also noticed you didn't have any hopper patterns in there-you'll regret that come late summer.

Other than that, a lot depends on where you are at. The flies you need for a spring creek in Missouri will be totally different than the ones you need in Bitterroot in Montana.

By the way, I agree with your assessment that presentation is much more important that matching the food source exactly. I say this at the risk of offending the bug men on here, but that's just been my experience.
"I don't know what fly fishing teaches us, but I think it's something we need to know."-John Gierach
TNEALMay 13th, 2010, 6:42 am

Posts: 278
As a Northern Michigan fly fisher for 55 years, I agree with the Catskill fly fisher of 50 years. Trout often get "locked in" not only on size, but also on color, or at least a particular shade. Tie some of your Adams with yellow/tan bodies; that should help. I, too, ran the gamut from fishing mostly nymphs all the way back now to fishing mostly dries and not really wanting to match hatches. Starting in July, I rarely fish anything other than a hopper or a parachute (my own tie) Isonychia.
MT319May 13th, 2010, 9:35 am

Posts: 24
Being “successful” let’s keep in mind is subjective to the angler himself…some people measure success from the standpoint of raw productivity and there is no doubt nymphs and wets are extremely effective in that regard. To me however I spend my time fishing Dry since I enjoy the aspect of stalking risers, laying in smooth, precise presentations, and seeing trout actually come up and take. That’s the dynamic of the sport I find appealing and through carrying a thinned fly arsenal it further plays into that by putting a higher premium on casting skill/presentation to try and compensate for my lack of an exact match. Accordingly, if someone measuring success through productivity went out with a full arsenal of flies fishing dry, wet, nymphs etc.. and got four hits in an outing and lands one trout it’s not a great day for them, but for me fishing this same river dry with a thin arsenal it means quite a bit due to the varied circumstances and as a result that is what makes it fun to me. I also don’t use a net to land any of my fish partially from a financial standpoint, but mainly just for the entertainment value in trying to land them without that added benefit. Aside from fishing dry I do like banging around streamers sometimes mainly because when it is absolutely dead it’s good to be able to switch up especially if I travelled somewhere and also a lot of the larger trout you won’t see taking dries but instead sitting in holes or behind obstructions waiting for heartier meal to come by. I don’t like fishing streamers dead drift though as there is no fun to me in that tactic…I like to strip the dace from the shallows across the current and the silver body reflects light well even when overcast and I like to swim or bounce the bugger like a leech or wounded baitfish. As far as a grasshopper pattern I use the Olive stimulator for that and it works pretty well and has the added benefit of being able to imitate a broader range of bugs like caterpillars and stoneflys as well. I usually fish the East Branch Croton River since it is only 2 miles from my house but also the Farmington and Housatonic in Connecticut. Anyway though that should answers most of what you guys asked me…Parachute flies really aren’t able to pass for a spinners…it would seem that a regular catskill dun or comparadun wouldn’t, but a parachute seems like it would be diverse enough to pass for a spinner? Also I very frequently consider carrying two different colors of mayfly a light tan (for lighter colored) and an Adams or BWO as the other for darker colored…I can imagine an adams would be less effective for a light color mayfly like a sulpher or Cahill ,but not significantly less effective for a darker one like a BWO or Trico…whats your take?
TNEALMay 13th, 2010, 9:53 am

Posts: 278

A couple of things...

1) Parachute flies can be effective as spinners, especially if tied with over-sized hackle...

2) For your representations of dark-bodied flies... the Borcher's Special, tied parachute, will out-fish the Adams...

3) Pop for a landing net... you will kill fish by literally playing them to death without one.. if you're releasing your fish, land them as quickly as possible.
MotroutMay 13th, 2010, 4:14 pm
Posts: 319
MT319, I admire your dry fly only ethic. It really is noble, but to be honest I disagree with you.

Like you, fly fish more for it's inherent grace and difficulty than anything else. But I guess I don't see a difference between imitating a fly that has emerged vs one that hasn't emerged. Deciding you will only imitate one specific life form in any situation seems pretty arbitrary... Out of curiousity, can anyone tell me why it is in any way superior to catch a fish on a fly imitating the emerged stage of a fly than a nymph?

I think we should use imitations of whatever the trout are eating. That seems like the properly natural and down to earth way to go about it to me... Whether that means using a Blue Winged Olive imitation or an egg pattern, it makes no difference to me. What I enjoy about fly fishing is figuring out what the trout are feeding on, and then figuring out what fly I have that best represents it. I don't want to limit myself to one narrow category of forage to imitate. Fly fishing is a bit like putting the pieces of a puzzle together, and limiting yourself to dry flies only is the sort of like getting out the pieces of the puzzle and throwing 3/4 of them away because they aren't pretty enough.
"I don't know what fly fishing teaches us, but I think it's something we need to know."-John Gierach
MT319May 13th, 2010, 5:14 pm

Posts: 24
You make it like I'm going around trying to convert other people to doing what I do or denigrate everyone for fishing wet or nymphs...all I did was simply explain that I like fishing dry because I like stalking and laying in smooth, percise casts to risers and I like watching the trout take my fly off the surface where I can actually see it happen as opposed to subsurface where I can't...whats so wrong with that? Yes I would literally rather get one hit fishing a dry than catch 12 trout fishing nymphs as this is more pleasurable to me *personally*, but does that mean I look down on someone fishing nymphs or that mean I think everyone is the same as me in regard to I was a prep and junior hockey player until I blew out my knee at style of play was I was a really really good skater, really fast, throw the body alot, fight, 1st line penalty kill, could score and get assists just as well as the other forwards, but perferred to focus on being strong defensively, instead of just being all offense...does that mean I looked down on the goal scorers, the danglers, the playmakers, or the's just not how I *personally* perferred to play. I'm sure there are fly fisherman who just fish this guy the anti-christ as well? He's the total opposite of me and I find someone like that interesting, not something to be offended by.
MotroutMay 13th, 2010, 6:12 pm
Posts: 319
Hey, I'm not offended by how you go about your fishing. I actually think it's kinda cool...It's just that I'm not gonna be going about it that way anytime soon.

"I don't know what fly fishing teaches us, but I think it's something we need to know."-John Gierach
Jmd123May 13th, 2010, 6:26 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2493
MT319, I'm with you. I've done a fair amount of nymphing in my life and I've never really done well with it, leaving far more flies on the bottom of the stream than ever end up in the fish's mouth. To each their own, but I absolutely hate bottom dredging, "chuck-n-duck", or having a lot of "junk" on my leader besides my fly. I don't begrudge anyone their fishing methods (so long as they're LEGAL - no dynamite!) but I don't particularly enjoy nymphing. Wet flies can be fun, but there is something special about watching a dry fly get sucked under, or better still a big SPLASH (and I like bass bugging for the same reason). And I also LOVE the jolt going up my arm from a big fish hitting a streamer.

There are those on this site that seem to believe that it is IMPOSSIBLE to catch fish on dries unless there's a big hatch going on AND that you have to match it exactly. Don't try telling that to the ghost of Lee Wulff!! His Wulff patterns are absolutely deadly during hatches or during NO hatches at all. Case in point: a White Wulff in size 10 or 12 is my favorite fly for any white-cream mayfly hatch any time of the season here in MI. It has worked extremely well during Light Cahill hatches as well as Ephoron hatches, and it isn't an exact imitation of EITHER. And I can't remember how many times a trout came out of NOWHERE on a dead-quiet stream to blast a #10 Royal Wulff with nary an insect in sight (did it three times on the Maple last August, the worst time of the year to fish that stream - ZERO hatches). There is a range of colors amongst the Wulff flies and you can customize them if you like, but most dry-fly fishers worth their salt have at least a few of them in their boxes and you'll find more than plenty of believers in these flies.

I don't believe in making fly fishing too complicated when it's not necessary. I do plenty well here in MI with a few, mostly traditional, dry fly patterns (Adams, Light Cahill, Light Hendrickson, White Wulff, Royal Wulff, and Elkhair Caddis) and I don't run back to the tying bench to whip up some slight variant after each night on the stream. I also like hoppers, crickets (just an all-black hopper with grey wings), and katydids (just an all-green hopper) during the summer when these insects are around, too. I don't do tiny flies - size 16 is about as small as I'll go these days (can't tie anything smaller with my middle-aged eyes) and I'd rather have something I can SEE on the water (especially in the evening - that White Wulff shows up really well at dusk).

Just my humble opinions, but this is what works for me, at least here in MI...Your opinions may differ.

No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
WbranchMay 14th, 2010, 4:44 am
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2692
Motrout wrote;

"Out of curiousity, can anyone tell me why it is in any way superior to catch a fish on a fly imitating the emerged stage of a fly than a nymph?"

Where did MT319, or anyone else, write that? While I wrote that I now use dry flies at least 85% of the time I never think it is "superior" to other methods and types of flies used in fly fishing. It is just a method I have gravitated to over the last few decades. One of the reasons is that I prefer to fish certain rivers in NYS where most of the trout are wild. One of these rivers is quite wide and while it has a decent trout population it just does not have the 3000 - 5000 trout per mile numbers that many rivers out west possess.

It's easy for me to get bored if I nymph for an hour of more and not get a hook-up. The river I am referring to probably has no more than 500 trout per mile so the likelihood of a trout being on the stream bottom where my nymph is drifting is not very high.

Yet when the trout begin to rise they are easily seen and I can get into casting position and if everything I do falls into place correctly I'll rise that fish. So for me it is a lot about effective (productive) use of my time on the water. Of course I enjoy seeing the rise form and it does get me very excited but I'm no purist by any means. Often on days when the rivers are slightly off color you will find me out there with a WF#7 sink tip, a 3' 12# leader, and a #1/0 streamer. It is equally exciting to throw a 50' cast across the river and mend the line a bit to sink the fly and then initiate a strip retrieve and see a huge boil behind the fly and a split second later have the rod almost yanked out of my hand!

I'm somewhat like MT319 because I prefer to fish dry flies and streamers but I will still nymph if I find a good looking riffle. We differ in the fact where I would never get in the river without at least a dozen of each stage of the life cycle of whatever bugs I expected to see on the water that day. I have over forty five fly boxes and each is filled with season, or river, specific fly patterns. So as the season progresses I just take a few boxes out of the vest and add a few of the other boxes.
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
TNEALMay 14th, 2010, 5:45 am

Posts: 278
There's a lot to like about about Jmd123's methods...
Here in Northern Michigan, we're blessed with an abundance of large mayflies, which begin emerging in mid-late May. From then on through September, one can fish a size 10 fly with good results even when there's no hatching. Rarely does this fail to produce fish; usually a few very nice fish as well. They seem to be on the lookout for the biggest meal they can find. The best producer of consistently good fish is a scaled down Hex parachute tied on a #103x hook. We tie it with a trailing shuck, dirty yellow body palmered with grizzly, white post, and grizzly and brown hackle. This is a great day-time fly from mid-June to mid-July. Yes, some of the bigger fish still feed during the day at this time of year.
SofthackleMay 14th, 2010, 6:04 am
Site Editor
Wellsville, NY

Posts: 540
Hi Everyone,
It seems we have somewhat taken up an old argument that has gone on for years. You never know where the thread will lead us.

With that said, MT, ever consider fishing a flymph, upstream, just under the surface or in the film. It requires as much skill, finesse, and can be just as exciting as fishing a dry fly.

"I have the highest respect for the skilled wet-fly fisherman, as he has mastered an art of very great difficulty." Edward R. Hewitt

Flymphs, Soft-hackles and Spiders:
Jmd123May 14th, 2010, 11:05 am
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2493
I should mention that I have also done well during daylight hours with no hatches here in MI with a Royal Coachman, both in quill-wing and parachute styles. And, a Royal Coachman streamer is DEADLY for brookies...

No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
MT319May 14th, 2010, 1:08 pm

Posts: 24
I roll with a Royal Coachman Trude currently...I know the wulff is a bit bushier and as a result floats better particularly in choppy water but do you think realistically any trout that would hit a royal wulff wouldn't hit a royal trude or coachman or any trout that hit a trude or coachman wouldn't have hit a royal wulff in the same situation? Also see above my mayfly question regarding the adams at the end of my second post and in your opinion on a typical eastern river/stream if having to only carry two mayflys may-october which two patterns would you choose. Lastly I'm quite content with the Elkhair caddis but how does a cdc or another alternative caddis fare comparatively and what's the next most popular dry caddis next to the elkhair.
RleePMay 14th, 2010, 1:48 pm
NW PA - Pennsylvania's Glacial Pothole Wonderland

Posts: 398
If you start carrying #10 deerhair ants and plop them tight against the banks and in-stream cover, you can do away with the rest of your flies with the occasional exception of the Adams and EHC. Then you'll have more room in your boxes for soft hackles and nymphs...:)

Quick Reply

You have to be logged in to post on the forum. It's this easy:
Username:          Email:

Password:    Confirm Password:

I am at least 13 years old and agree to the rules.

Related Discussions

TitleRepliesLast Reply
no hatch
In General Discussion by Artk
Re: Friday evening at the Millpond in Harrisville (1st brown of the year!)
In the Photography Board by Jmd123
2May 5, 2020
by Jmd123
Re: Virginia trout?
In General Discussion by Steelnuts
3Jun 15, 2008
by Grannom
Re: My first Central Pa, brownie
In the Photography Board by IEatimago
4Jul 3, 2007
by BxRxTxK
Re: Nice brookies
In Fishing Reports by Ditch
6Jun 30, 2012
by Jmd123
Re: Small-stream fun on the east slope of the Cascades
In Site Updates by Troutnut
3Jul 4, 2018
by Jmd123
Re: Parachute Adams
In Fly Tying by JOHNW
10Nov 19, 2007
Re: Big Green River, Wisconsin, late September
In the Mayfly Species Baetis brunneicolor by Admiralb
1Sep 30, 2013
by Entoman
Re: BWO at last!
In Female Baetis Mayfly Dun by CaseyP
3Nov 15, 2009
by RedQuill27
Re: The Female Adams as an attractor/searching pattern
In General Discussion by Jmd123
8Aug 28, 2011
by Sayfu
Most Recent Posts
Re: Hookers fly shop
In General Discussion by Hunter1
Re: Fly Fishing for Bass
In Gear Talk by Grayson (Wbranch replied)
Re: Fishing with My Nephew: Sixth Annual Trip
In Fishing Reports by Martinlf
Re: Fishing with My Nephew: Fourth Annual Trip
In Fishing Reports by Martinlf
Re: Howdy!
In the Photography Board by PikeStrike (Troutnut replied)
Re: Mono Rig?
In General Discussion by Tangina20 (Martinlf replied)
Re: Scissors
In Fly Tying by PESCATORE (Martinlf replied)
Re: Olive No Hackle for a trip later this spring
In Fishing Reports by Martinlf
Re: No Hackle Sidewinder
In Fly Tying by Martinlf (Crepuscular replied)
Tying the willow fly by Barry Ord Clarke
In Fly Tying by Coha