I would think that after such a long time of fly fishing and
having so many flies accepted and far more refused, a fellow
would know why they either get taken or refused. I do not
know. I do not know for sure which a fish (trout) does when
he sees a dry fly coming within his grasp.
Back when I tried to learn about turkey hunting a buddy
gave me this example and it might apply to fly fishing too.
When a turkey see's something in the woods he says to
himself, "man or tree." Man; and he is out of there. Okay,
the turkey figures everything is a man unless proven differently.
What does a trout do? Does he presume that everything that
is floating toward him is food unless something is wrong with
it and it spooks him?
Or does the fish wait until there is some small thing or set of
things (keys) that starts his interest and he rises. And here is
the clincher. Does whatever is going on change? In other
words, does he start out on a pleasant evening and notices
something drifting overhead. He watches it with growing
interest and just before it gets past him, he pops up and
snatches it from the surface.
In a minute or so another one drifts into view. Looks pretty
much the same. He ‘sniffs' it and drops back and takes it.
Does he, on each succeeding bug, require fewer and fewer
keys to trigger a take? Do you know; for sure? I don't. I
have a whole creel full of theories, each about as good as
the other, but nothing for sure. I do think they get a bit
relaxed during a hatch or spinner fall. I do think they don't
look as closely at the twentieth bug as the first ones.
I am sure they rise out of reflex sometimes when you practically
hit him on the head. Just instinct and automatic reflex, bang, he
takes it, usually with a big splash. Or, I have seen one come up
several feet to grab a fly when there is absolutely nothing else
on the water. I have pounded up many trout with a Royal
Coachman just that way. To this day, I still have no solid
facts why it works, but it will sometimes bring up a very
So, when you make your cast, your presentation, does it
matter if the fly drags? I mean, a breeze could make a
natural insect do that. A struggling bug might look like that.
So, does it matter to the fish if it looks different from the
real thing. Or, does a perfect drag free float do better? Get
more takes? Remember, with a perfect presentation the fish
gets a far better look at it. Maybe he can spot something
In the end I think that we may even change how we judge
these things. We may start out and pound several miles of
stream and do quite well by just plopping an attractor fly in
a lot of fishy looking places. In time we may get better at
accuracy and even the knowledge of which fly to use on
each occasion. Then we get to the point that we feel we
need a perfect cast with an exact imitator. About that time
along comes the kid with the cane pole and the worm and
Oh well, I need to whip out a few more flies today and maybe
get in some time on the lawn with my practice rod. It's all good. ~ James Castwell