January 12th, 2009

Works For Me
By Neil M. Travis, Montana/Arizona

There was this guy that I knew many years ago. I say that I knew him, but in reality I was only aware of him. If I ever knew his name I have long since forgotten it, and I doubt that I could pick him out of a photo lineup after all these years. I suspect that we may have spoken less than a dozen times over the years but I was aware when he was not around. He was a loner, not sullen or unfriendly but someone who seemed to enjoy his own company.

While I never actually fished with him I watched him fish many times, and he always seemed to be hooking his share of fish. It was also obvious that he enjoyed the sport because I usually saw him each time I was on the stream. We shared a log along the stream one late afternoon and the conversation got around to fly patterns. My vest was bulging with a multitude of boxes crammed full of a variety of imitations tied to cover every possible bug that I might encounter. His vest only had a few pockets and even fewer fly boxes. To be exact he only had one box, and it contained only two types of fly patterns; light and dark. There were light colored dry flies and dark colored ones. There were light colored nymphs and dark colored ones. They were tied in a variety of sizes, but they were all basically two colors; light and dark and mostly just varying shades of gray. "Works for me," he said.

Over the intervening years I have spent an inordinate amount of time trying to fool a fish that has a brain the size of a pea. The list of patterns that I have tied and tried would fill a sizeable book, and yet the patterns that are consistently productive for me have remained relatively small. For me there is a certain sense of comfort which comes from having a pattern I know will match anything I might possibly encounter even if the chance of encountering that one oddball hatching situation might only occur once in a lifetime. It works for me.

I rarely use a strike indicator preferring to detect the strike by watching for that slight hesitation made by my leader when a fish mouths my fly, or by watching for that subtle flash as the trout inhales my offering. Do I miss lots of takes? Probably, but it works for me.

I rarely use a leader much longer than ten feet, and seldom do I feel the need to use a tippet finer than 5x. Over the years I have found that by careful wading, informed observing, and good presentation my "fish hooked to casts made" ratio is generally on the plus side. Do I get an occasional inspection/refusal that could be attributed to subtle drag which might have been negated by a smaller tippet? Probably, but the number is inconsequential and besides it works for me.

I occasionally have a tailing loop when I'm casting, I have hooked more than my share of trees and streamside grass, and at the end of a long day of fishing my leader may have a knot or two that I did not tie. I've lost more than a couple fish by errors I committed trying to bring them to net. I could eliminate those errors by being more focused, but overall I am content with my performance. Since I'm not trying to please anyone but myself it works for me.

Perhaps, the guy whose name I may have never known found the 'Holy Grail' that so many people spend their lives searching for and never find. He had a simple philosophy for matching the various hatches and while he might not have a perfect match for every situation he was content with his solution. It worked for him, and in the final analysis that really is all that matters. Over the years I have discovered that his simple approach to fly fishing might not appeal to everyone, but being content with what works for you really is a precious gift. If you haven't already figured that out you might give it a try this season. ~ The Chronicler

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