While looking through flies in the shop with customers I hear allot of interesting things as to why people think certain flies won’t work or why they don’t particularly like to fish certain patterns. Often they are some of my most used patterns. Sometimes it’s that they aren’t the right color, there is too much fluff to cast or that the pattern is tough to see in the water. Many times I hear that I’d love this pattern if it was pink, green, brown and so on, if it floated better, if it sank better or was easier to see. I want to share with you some of my tricks to make some adjustments on the water or before you head out to cure some of those problems that keep you from fishing what are some of my most productive flies.
My first little trick is no secret in the industry if you don’t like the color of a fly simply change it! I have two sets of oil based paint sharpies in various sizes one for in my backpack ( a mobile fly shop) that I have with me at all times and one at my tying desk. I have two different shades of brown and green and one of each pink, red, yellow, purple, and black. If I’m on the Bighorn and there is a black caddis hatch I simply change a regular caddis into a black caddis with a swipe of the sharpie, If a pink hopper is working better than the rest and I’m low I simply make it pink and so on. The best part is that on most flies if you use the oil based sharpies that it soaks into the fly and stays that color and if you need to change the color of that pattern again all you have to do is run the sharpie over it again and it’s a new color (this works on most bugs especially foam but you have to make sure that the paint coat has dried first). I’ll also add stripes dots and so on to the patterns particularly hoppers.
The next task I use my sharpies for is visibility. Often time’s flies with white posts are hard to see in a flat light with glare or when you’re fishing a foam line like I commonly am. To resolve this I’ll simply take my sharpie and run pink over the white post and boom now you have something you can spot on the water I do this with many of my hoppers, chubbies, and parachute patterns. Sometimes when I’m fishing close to dark a black post puts out a better silhouette and that is what I use. The other thing I’ll often do to make a fly easier to see is take the fly home and stick it in the vice and add a chunk of high Vis material or a wing to it and I’m good to go.
My next fly adjustment I commonly make is changing to floatability of my patterns for making sure my bugs float I drop my bugs in Loon’s hydro-stop and they are good to go. The stuff is pretty impressive. The other thing I do is often I like fishing some of my dry flies as emergers or drowned bugs. What I do for that is one of two things I’ll either dunk them when I get to the river and apply no floatant or I’ll apply henry’s sink it by loon. I fish them below a dry and use the dry as my indicator just like you would with a hopper dropper rig. After some frustrating days where I had to take a break and have a beer to keep my sanity I watch the water and see many of the bugs on the water getting sucked under by hydraulics in the water. Last year after sitting on the banks of the Bighorn wondering why in the hell they wouldn’t eat my hopper I started catching them and throwing them in to see if the trout would eat a live hopper. After a few seconds the hoppers would get sucked under and I’d see a flash. I thought back to my youth before I did much fly fishing and would catch hoppers and put them on a hook with a split shot and wrecked fish. I threw on a second hopper and drowned it a foot or two below the surface and first cast caught a 21 inch rainbow. This strategy was once again confirmed a few weeks back when I was on the horn watching people fishing a split shot and hook with a hopper hammer fish. A few days back I did extremely well fishing a sunk caddis behind my chubby.
My final trick I’ll share with you involves my favorite type of fishing … streamer fishing. I guided in Alaska for three summers and was very lucky to have a head guide who really took me under his wing and taught me all kinds of great tricks. There I used most often is taking a light weighted or non-weighted streamer and getting it to sink and get to the desired depth. I’ll take an articulated pattern such as a Zoo Cougar or a Buck Rodgers and break off the glass beads that keep the two hooks spaced out and keep the fly from fouling on itself. Right where the beads were located I will pinch on split shot. By doing that I still keep the fly from fouling and it allows it to get down without hindering movement, actually I like how it moves better. It makes the head and tail pop up and the middle of the fly sink and makes it look like it has a broken back. One other trick I picked up from the Bighorn was watching guys throw what we call a dirty red or yellow ( some bucktail coming off the back of a muddler head) on a spin rod with a three way swivel and a bell sinker so it gets down. They put a hurting on fish and I’ve seen more 30 inch fish come off that set up then anything else including bait. They let it get down and then give rod jerks and then pause the light fly flutters all over the place even when sitting still in the current. My version of this is fishing an extremely long leader and a ton of shot and jerking it across the bottom and I do extremely well with this method.
Again these are just my personal methods with some of the bugs I use but I do suggest trying to mix it up and do your own spin off of these tricks. Just don’t limit what you can do on the water, think outside the box and make adjustments accordingly.
Your friendly neighborhood shop bum, James
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