What Fly?

It’s not about the fly.

An imaginary scenario…………………… well mostly imaginary.

A boat angler is hammering them on a DI5 line fished out in the middle of the dam. He is making long casts of 30 metres or so, with a 20’ untapered leader of 6lb fluorocarbon, counting down the sink of his flies for fifteen seconds and then starting a slow pulsating retrieve, he pauses every few strokes. His three flies are exactly a meter and a half apart no more and no less.

He watches the end of his line where it leaves the rod tip for any hint of a tightening that could represent a fish taking a fly on the drop. When he gets to the last ten feet of line he sees the marker that he has affixed to the line and hangs the flies for five seconds before giving a long slow strip and hangs them again. Finally he roll casts the leader out of the water and smacks another effortless cast into the middle distance and waits once more for them to sink to the correct depth.
Every fifth cast or so he strikes into a glorious energetic rainbow trout between two and three pounds in weight, nets the fish and releases it. He is pleased, he changed lines three times to find the right depth, drifted various directions on the dam and covered different depths and bottom structures until he found some fish and finally mixed up the fly patterns on his leader until his catch rate was soaring to the point that it has now reached.

His boat partner isn’t such a good caster, he has a short leader about the same length as his rod because there is a large knot where the leader joins the fly line and he can’t pull that through the tip top guide. He isn’t sure of the breaking strain, it used to be 8lb at the tip but he has eaten some of that up changing patterns, and had to cut some out when he had a wind knot in it, it has been on the rod since last season so he isn’t quite sure if that was 8lb anyway, could have been 10lb but he thinks it is fluorocarbon, yes pretty sure about that.

Anyway, at least if he hooks a fish it won’t break off, that seems like a good call. He can’t cast three flies without getting a tangle so he uses one only on the point. He has a sinking line, he knows it is his sinker because it is brown and his other line, the bright orange one, is a floater and it is obvious that the fish are down deep. He has been watching his mate hammer them for over two hours now and he is using a brown line too. He might have had a take about half an hour ago, he had left his line to sink for ages whilst he was eating a sandwich and the line was just lying in the bottom of the boat until is sizzled out for a moment. Darn, never mind there will be another one. He recasts as his partner hooks into yet another fish that leaps from the water, trailing the deeply sunk line behind it. Feeling that perhaps he needs a bit of advice he turns towards the man with the bent rod and asks the perennial angler’s question. “What fly are you using”?

 

Most of the time "It's not about the fly"

 

I must have seen similar scenarios played out on rivers and dams on several continents, I have even seen the same thing happen with supposedly serious competitive anglers, neophytes, weekenders, float tuber’s, bank anglers and more.

What fly are you using?, it is like one of those action dolls that used to be common when I was a kid, you know before everyone switched to computer games and portable consoles, the ones where you pull a string at the back of the neck and it says the same catch phrase over and over,

“Go on punk, make my day”.. or indeed “What Fly are you using?”

Truth be known, it is something that I would have done myself a decade or so ago before I woke up, and it is an awakening make no mistake. Successful fly fishermen, like successful sportsmen of almost any discipline do things differently than the other 80%. The eighty twenty rule applies here as much as anywhere else and 20% of the anglers catch 80% of the fish and the other 80% out there on the water fight it out for the 20% left over. Why? Mostly because the 80% are so besotted with the idea that they have to have the “right” fly that they ignore all of the other stuff that is going on.

Sure there are occasions that the fly is critical or at least moderately important, but what about all the other stuff. What depth are the fish feeding at, are you getting good drifts, is the tippet sinking, can the fish see you, or see your rod or your watch flashing in the sun? What about the size of the fly? Is your leader fluorocarbon or mono? Is your line taking the flies to the depth at which the fish are feeding or perhaps going past them? Have you varied your retrieve, would you know if you got a take anyway?  Are you fishing in the right spots, are you covering fish, are the fish not there or simply ignoring your presentations such as they are?

There is so very very much more to fly fishing than the fly that I would be willing to bet that most good anglers would go out with half a dozen favourites and still kick butt most of the time if they had to. Of course they wouldn’t limit themselves like that, they are prepared and part of being prepared is having a variety of fly patterns in various sizes, but it is only PART of it!!.

Do your honestly believe that Pascal Cognard won umpteen World Championships over a period of years fishing in rivers and dams on various continents and numerous countries because by some miracle he had a fly that nobody else had?  Do you think that the guy in our little scenario is catching because he has the “right fly” and that if he gave one to his boat partner it would make a jot of difference? Probably not.

Fly fishing is or at least can be a complicated business and you can’t learn it all at once, you can spend time on the water, read as much as possible, fish with guys who know more than you do, go on a course, take a guide, watch videos and search the internet for information, all of which will help.

You don’t need to make it overly complex but the one thing that you don’t want to do is keep thinking that the reason for your limited success is the fly. Of course there are times when it could be but I am prepared to guarantee you right here and now that most of the time that isn’t it. By focusing on the fly you take your eye off all of the other factors that could be affecting your efficacy, and that is the real problem.

I would have to say the most of the time when I am fishing with a buddy, on a river or lake we rarely use exactly the same flies, frequently ones that are considerably different for that matter but that doesn’t affect us too much. We probably are however doing a whole lot of other stuff that is near as dammit exactly the same and that is what adds up to success.

I love flies, I love tying them and having hundreds gives me a sense of control and optimism that would be lacking if my fly boxes weren’t full. However I wouldn’t turn the car around if I had forgotten one of those boxes. Had I left the polaroids, the 7X tippet, the forceps, the hook sharpener, the leader degreaser or the fly floatant at home I would be pulling a 6 G “U” turn in the middle of the freeway. So don’t worry so much about the fly, carry a few trusted favorites, hopefully some variety in sizes and after that focus on technique and presentation, you will I am sure do a whole lot better once you catch on to this reality.  I just hope that you aren’t still worrying about that first scenario with our imaginary angler in the boat, because I sense that even now perhaps you are thinking, “but he never said what fly that guy was using”.

Brought to you in the interests of entertainment and instruction by

Inkwazi Fly Fishing Safaris and Stealth Fly Rod and Reel.

 

Brought to you by Inkwazi Flyfishing Cape Town's best fly fishing guiding service.

 

 

This blog was brought to you by Inkwazi Fly Fishing in conjunction with STEALTH FLY ROD AND REEL.

 

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One Response to “What Fly?”

  1. What’s Luck Got To Do With It? | The Fishing Gene Says:

    […] having correctly structured leaders etc are all probably more important most of the time. Read “What Fly ” on “The Fishing Gene […]

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