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Waxing Philosophical

Rick Zieger
By Richard Zieger, Iowa
There was a question asked on the Warm Water section on the Bulletin Board. It was why we tie on flies that are not our favorites and then after not catching fish, go back to our favorites? Why not just go with the favorite flies at the start?

I have been letting this roam around in my mind, (a dangerous situation?) for the past few days. I know that I carry my favorite flies for each species I fish in a fly box. I have my crappie box, my bluegill box and a box for bass. I have a box of poppers, a box of ants, a box of beetles and hoppers, and a box with midges and pheasant tail nymphs. These carry my favorites and then I have another 5 to 6 boxes with other flies that have come in on swaps or that I have found that I want to try.

I think this is where the dilemma begins. All of us like to catch fish. That is the reason that we go out fishing. We enjoy the outdoors, the wildlife we might see, other folks we are with, but most of us consider trips more successful when we catch fish. The other side of the coin is, will another fly work better than the flies I am using now.

Many times I will go out with just a couple of boxes of flies. These will be the flies that I want to try to see how they work. It forces me to really fish with them. I may concentrate more with my favorites, because I expect to catch fish with them. When I don't have my favorites with me then I may pay more attention to what I am doing, as I don't have my favorites to back me up.

I am not sure that this is the best way to test new flies, as I don't know if the fish would have taken my "go to flies," but it is the way that I experiment most of the time.

The other way that I try new flies is on a day when I am catching fish. After I have caught several fish the nagging question starts stirring in my head, will they hit another fly? I don't think that I am the only fisherman to have this quandary. This is when I begin experimenting.

I will tie a new fly on one rod and leave a "go to fly" on the other. I then begin to alternate cast to see which will catch fish, or I may troll with the wind pushing me. When trolling I try to keep the flies fairly close together so the fish can see both of them and make a choice between them.

When I find a fly that works well, I then move it into my favorite's box and tie some more up. Most of the flies I tie I have in two or three sizes. I store them in multi compartment boxes so I can always tell when I need to tie more up. If the fly does not work that day then I put it in the top of the box to try another day. I change the orientation of the fly each time I try it, so I know how many times I have tried it. If it worked, but not very well then I put it in the bottom of the box, to try again another day.

At the end of the season I take the flies out of the boxes that are in the lids that have not worked and strip the materials of the hooks. I will have tried them at least four times. I toss them in an old hook box and then use the hooks as I tie for the next season. I usually end up ditching from 20 to 30 patterns a year. It may be the places I fish, but when they don't work I try something else.

I think part of it is in how much experimenting a person likes to do. Part of it may be that I am blessed with having many fertile ponds to fish in, with a lot of dumb fish. Catching fish is usually not a problem, and then those questions starting running around in my head. I am also somewhat curious by nature and that may help me to experiment.

In the end we all have to decide which fly we are going to tie on. Will we try a new one or will we go to the old standby's? I will admit to doing both at different times.

I hope you can get out on the water. ~ Rick ziegeria@grm.net

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