Outdoor Writers Association of America
This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

April 10th, 2000

What's Your Game?

I always enjoy reading my email - well not the spam stuff, but real letters from our readers. Quite often those letters spark some idea, or recognition we have missed something really of interest. This one had to do with how hard should your fly hit the water.

Good question. Missing was which type of fly the writer was asking about.

If it's a dry fly, the fly should flutter down gently. Wet flies, you want them to sink but not cause waves when they hit. Terrestrials, which usually are considered a dry should hit the water quite hard - like they had just accidently fallen in. This is especially true of grasshoppers, beatles and such. Ants aren't as big and would hardly make a ring in the water falling in. You have to temper how hard the fly hits the water by what it is and the size of the insect it represents.

But the thought the question sparked was how difficult it must be for folks who are really just getting into dry fly fishing. For those of us who love it, we've pretty much worked out how we want to play the game. In many ways it is a game of choice for the angler.

Is it presentation? Or is it imitation?

Some of course do a little of each, present the fly pretty well, and the fly has to be pretty close to what the fish are eating.

There are some good books on presentation, Gary Borgers Presentation is excellent. Lefty Kreh also has a book on presentation out but I've not seen or read it. Presentation can be very involved - your choice.

Imitation becomes the fly tiers art. Tying to match as exactly as humanly possible the insect one wishes to imitate, in the range of sizes possibly available and just using the fly which is appearing is not easy. Store-bought flies might exactly match only a very small percentage of what is really hatching.

The folks who claim to be 'presentationists' believe it is the perfect cast, at the perfect place at the perfect time which catches fish. Good luck with that, don't think I've made the 'perfect' rating ever. Got lucky a few times and caught fish. Add the absolutely perfect fly to that and you've got the winning ticket to the lottery.

There is another group who believe the fish are pretty dumb, with less than a pea-sized brain that's not a bad idea. And top that idea with the fact fish have to eat to survive. They will eat what is handy if it looks like food. Probably is why there are a zillion different flies on the market.

Some folks never fish a dry fly. Nymphs and streamers work for them. Most of those folks never met a Wooley Bugger they didn't love. I think they are missing the thrill of seeing the fish take their fly on the surface, but it is certainly their choice. If it happens to be on a fly you've tied it's even better!

As we head into the major hatch season of the year, what is a person to do?

You could research the insects which are expected in your region, tie or buy the nymph, emerger, dun and spinner of each in a couple of sizes and go for it. You could fish the impressionistic type of flies which represent more than one insect. The standard Adams fly for example is one of the most popular flies ever - for good reason - it works. The Adams represents a life-form. It's generally thought it represents the life form of a Mayfly. In reality it was tied originally to match a Caddis hatch, which explains the color. If you tie, again tie it in the colors of your local insects. It may not be exactly the same as what is hatching, but with a decent cast and drift you will catch fish.

Having seen the Flies Only series a number of times in its slide form, I urge you to keep reading that series here. You will learn to see the insects and flies differently.

One of our friends, after seeing the series years ago changed his fishing habits entirely. He no longer carried a fly to match every possible insect. Instead he carried 3 sizes of flies, small, medium and large, in an off white and either black or dark brown. (This is dry flies, not nymphs or emergers - although I suspect it would work for them as well.) His catch numbers actually increased. Unfortunately he was a surperb tier and the lack of need to match everything known to man cut down on his time at the tying bench. He went on to build a wonderful 42 foot Ranger sailboat.

The point here is we each make up our own fly fishing game. If fishing only nymphs is what floats your boat, fine. If tying the most involved match for a specific insect is your game, fine. If spending hours learning the flow patterns of a specific riffle or pool works for you so you can get that perfect drag-free drift, go for it.

Aside from the rule of gentlemanly etiquette on the stream, and a common sense approach to preserving our fish for another day, there really aren't any rules. Some things work better for some folks than others.

I've got my game. What's yours? ~ LadyFisher

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