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Adam412May 13th, 2016, 12:02 pm
Pittsburgh

Posts: 2
Hello everyone. New member to the site here. I'm from SW Pennsylvania and have been fly fishing for about 6 years. The true obsession started in the last 2 years, which I suppose is why I'm here. I just recently got into tying and have really benefitted from the wealth of information provided here. Thank you!

Apologies if this conversation has been worn out in the past. I have a two part question:

1. You see people tying these flies (Instagram, online etc) that look beautiful. They are almost exact replicas of some flies you see at the stream. Some of these flies appear to take 10-20+ minutes to tie. Personally I would have a hard time seeing someone dragging the works of art against the stream bottom. The general question is: From your experience are these super realistic flies worth the time? Would a perfect nymph tied with artifial parts, casing segments, legs etc generally out perform a common p-tail? What are your thoughts?

2. Legs on a dry fly? I have never heard of someone trying this before. Sometimes it's baffling how consistently trout can storm toward your fly and stop 2mm away and turn it down as if to say "I'm on to you!" You never see a trout do this with a real fly (at least in my experience). There are the obvious things: Hook hanging from it, line attached to it. And oh yea, it's made of bird feathers and dubbing. I feel that a huge difference between a real fly and a dry fly would be some legs swarming around beneath it. I plan on tying some up and giving it a go, but I was curious if anyone has ever tried it and has an opinion.


Thanks!

Adam
TroutnutMay 13th, 2016, 3:12 pm
Administrator
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2550
Hi Adam,

Welcome to the site! And good questions.

I think sometimes there is a useful purpose to realism in fly tying, although some people take it to a level of detail that's more about artistic satisfaction than catching fish. That's fine, though. It's fun to see and to try.

In general, flies have two main goals:

1. Get the fish's attention.

2. Seal the deal when the fish gets a close look.

These sometimes conflict with each other. A drab, ultra-realistic imitation of a tiny midge is not going to get a fish's attention from five feet away, because a real tiny midge doesn't get its attention at that distance either. Sometimes it's good to be unrealistic in attention-grabbing ways to draw the fish in from farther away, but not if these features cause the fish to turn away at the last second and reject the fly. So the benefits of realism depend a lot on the situation, on what the fish has been eating, and on what kinds of other things are competing for the fish's attention.

As for legs on a dry fly, that's common for things with prominent legs (hoppers, craneflies, beetles sometimes, etc). But for things with smaller legs the hackle typically plays that role.
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
WbranchMay 13th, 2016, 4:17 pm
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2557
Hello Adam,

Here is some sage advice from a fly fisher of 54 years. I think those very realistic flies are beautiful and if I could tie them like that I would and put them in a pretty shadow box and hang it on the wall above my fly tying desk.

I have caught thousands of trout and hundreds of 17" - 24" trout on dry flies. Quite a few bigger on streamers too. None of my flies would be considered realistic in the sense of those artfully created flies you see with legs, dainty looking wings and other body parts that seem very real.

Of course it is important that the fly you are using (I'm discussing dry flies) is the same size, shape, and colors as the flies that might be emerging. That is not to say though that on some waters that are swift a trout might come up and grab a Royal Coachman Humpy while there are caddis on the water. In swift water trout typically feed opportunistically. They can't wait around and examine it. They have a split second to decide or else it is gone. But on slower riffles and flat water your selection should meet the criteria I mentioned above. Add to that a nice long leader with a 4X - 6X tippet depending on the size of fly you are using. Then you need to assess the situation and determine how best to present the fly to the fish. I always try to get above and slightly to the side of a rise form. Then I strip off the line needed, lay down a cast so it is going to land about 2'- 3' above the rise form, check the cast so when the fly lands the tippet kind of puddles up behind the fly and let the current pull the fly right down over the rise form. You can also lengthen your drag free float by stripping off some more line, before the cast starts to drag, and flip the rod tip up and down to "shake" more line down through the guides.

Regarding your inquiry about legs on a dry fly - well if you use your hackle wraps sparingly, no more than 3 or 4, you are emulating legs quite well. Also the parachute hackle style alights on the surface quite nicely, sits low on the water surface like a natural, and the hackle barbules being parallel to the hook shank resemble mayfly legs.

Some of those really life-like flies are just too stiff to fish well in my opinion. Also think of it this way if the fly you are using is so perfect, so much like the naturals that are emerging you might have less of a chance of getting a take because your fly is now just one of hundreds, or thousands, that are floating down river.
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
TimCatMay 13th, 2016, 9:12 pm
Alanson, MI

Posts: 121
Hey Adam,
I am a novice, but since I became addicted last year, what I've read and experienced personally is stated wonderfully by Wbranch's post (with much more experience to back it up!).

This topic of realistic vs suggestive is an interesting one for sure. I am convinced that the suggestive school of thought is on the winning side too. Think of all of the simple patterns that have worked time and time again for years. People have caught plenty of fish with nothing but yarn wrapped on a hook. The english style soft-hackle/spider pattern, which is nothing but some dubbing or thread for the body and a sparse soft hackle collar, has caught fish for literally centuries. The extreme side of this argument could be summarized by traditional Tenkara anglers, who ONLY FISH ONE FLY PATTERN!! Matching the hatch has it's place, but the representation doesn't need to be a perfect replica.

Size, depth, and color are the only things I really focus on when trying to match the hatch. Sometimes my fly box isn't properly stocked due to my inexperience, but I think the reason I don't catch as many trout as the more seasoned angler, is because I need to work on my presentation more than anything. Last year I fished hoppers in the middle of a mayfly hatch that I didn't have a close representation of. The trout were sipping some type of sulphur-ish species and I caught quite a few with a yellow hopper pattern in the middle of all of it. Now If I was on a stream with a lot of pressure from other anglers, that may not have worked, but here they were hungry and I gave them something that looked like a yellow bug with a good drift and they ate it up. I don't know...

What I love about fly fishing most (besides being on the river) is that it isn't easy. There are sooooo many variables. Figuring a few of them out and getting a trout to chomp down on your fly wouldn't be as fun if it wasn't a little tough. I figure that if I can get a couple key variables for the given conditions on the stream right, I can catch fish. Something like the number of legs, or shape of the wings, etc, is not one of those variables I personally worry about. I'm not at that stage of expertise anyway!
"If I'm not going to catch anything, then I 'd rather not catch anything on flies" - Bob Lawless
WbranchMay 14th, 2016, 12:41 am
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2557
Tim Cat wrote;

is because I need to work on my presentation more than anything


Yep, line management skills and presentation are easily as important, if not more important, to success than having an exact copy of the fly emerging.
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
WiflyfisherMay 14th, 2016, 8:17 am
Wisconsin

Posts: 612
I feel presentation is number #1. If you can't present the fly properly in a natural manner to the trout and place the fly in trout's feeding lane the odds of catching that trout are very slim regardless of the size, shape and color of your fly.

Since we know trout can see tiny midges there is no doubt in my mind they can see your hook. If they wanted an exact duplicate of the real insect I doubt I would ever be able to fool a trout.

I have taken a lot of trout on a Royal Coachman (wet & dry), Royal Trude, etc. and I love to fish them since I was a kid. What aquatic insect are they an exact match of?

Until we can find some talking trout we will never really know why they eat our flies. I am just thankful they eat mine from time to time. :-)
John S.
https://WiFlyFisher.com
WbranchMay 14th, 2016, 8:25 am
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2557
Wiflyfisher wrote,

I feel presentation is number #1. If you can't present the fly properly in a natural manner to the trout and place the fly in trout's feeding lane the odds of catching that trout are very slim regardless of the size, shape and color of your fly.

Since we know trout can see tiny midges there is no doubt in my mind they can see your hook. If they wanted an exact duplicate of the real insect I doubt I would ever be able to fool a trout.

I have taken a lot of trout on a Royal Coachman (wet & dry), Royal Trude, etc. and I love to fish them since I was a kid. What aquatic insect are they an exact match of?

Until we can find some talking trout we will never really know why they eat our flies. I am just thankful they eat mine from time to time. :-)


Yep, I agree with your entire post 100%.
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
Jmd123May 14th, 2016, 4:14 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2398
"I have taken a lot of trout on a Royal Coachman (wet & dry), Royal Trude, etc. and I love to fish them since I was a kid. What aquatic insect are they an exact match of?"

Ah yes, the good old Royal Wulff is one of my all-time favorites.
The fly they will hit when they refuse everything else, even imitations of ongoing hatches. Last Thursday at the Pine a #12 Light Hendrickson drew nothing but tiny ones, yet a #12 Royal Wulff got a couple o 9-ers to hit - not big fish, but bigger than the ones that took the Hennie! And of course there's the 18" smallmouth that took a #6 two summers ago...

Jonathon
No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
PlanettroutMay 15th, 2016, 10:37 am
Los Angeles, CA / Pullman, WA

Posts: 53
Like Wbranch said, realistic fly patterns look very nice in a shadow box, hung on a wall over your insect collection on pins. Dave Whitlock, in the Winter Issue 2013 of the Flyfishing & Tying Journal,(pg.20),lists four degrees of imitation that are used for Trout:

1. Suggestive
2. Simulator
3. Close Imitation
4. Exact Imitation

He states, "Exact Imitations are often less effective than Close Imitations because the materials required to construct such anatomically correct models are seldom naturally textured or have natural movements or durability."

I do not tie or use them...


PT/TB
Daughter to Father: "How many arms do you have, how many fly rods do you need?"

http://planettrout.wordpress.com/
Adam412May 15th, 2016, 3:09 pm
Pittsburgh

Posts: 2
I appreciate all of your in depth replies!

I never really thought of the hackle representing legs but that makes perfect sense to me. I'm sure 50 years ago more hackle was necessary due to less floatant technology? I'm always intrigued to learn how fly fishing has changed since I have only been in the game for a couple years!

It seems, unanimously, that I should be spending my time making different variations rather than trying to make "the perfect imitation." That's good news for me because I'm a scrub level fly tyer :D I also like the point about fly movement. A lot of the synthetic materials used to tie some of these flies don't have the nice movement you can get with feathers and fur!

Thanks for the casting tips WBranch. I spend little time fishing dries unfortunately. A windy day like Pennsylvania had yesterday really can be humbling when it comes to casting technique! I definitely need to improve my presentation. Of all the "controllables" in fly fishing, it certainly seems to be the hardest. Aside from that, I'm learning how helpful it is to have a variety of fly types. Learning about about different styles (catskill, comparadun, parachute, emerger etc) has been eye opening. When I approach a stream with a nice sulphur hatch going on and only have one size/style/color of imitation I feel very unprepared. Jokes on me though because I find at the end of the day they were slamming primarily small tan caddis :D I love how this hobby always keeps me guessing.

Adam

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