This is a question that I wonder about all of the time.
Since I don't have a good answer, I usually end up tying
flies both ways. Even worse than that is that I might use
two sizes of metal beads and even a glass seed bead to
get different drop rates.
In the spring I usually fish flies that are unweighted.
The fish are shallow and there is no need for weight. As
the summer progresses and the water gets warmer I start
using more weighted flies. My thoughts were that they would
get down in the water column a little farther and be more
This works about as much for me as it doesn't. I find
there are days that I have to be deeper to catch fish
and there are days when I can't have any weight on the
fly at all. There seems to be no rhyme nor reason for this.
Today was an example. I was out at the lake over my extended
lunch hour. This was due to a cancellation of an appointment.
Nice that it was the 1:00 and not the 3:00 one.
I had been catching some gills and some bass along the
one flat on the lake. The water is about 3 to 4 feet
deep out for about 20 feet and then slopes down to about
15 feet over the next twenty feet. I can usually manage
to catch a fish or two in this area all summer. I think
they swim along the breakline.
Today I was using a couple of flies with very small beads
on the front. I was not having any success. I looked in my
box to see what the next trial was going to be. I decided
to tie on a Gilly, but to use an unweighted one. I did this
because the weighted flies were not producing any fish.
The wind was at my back so I could get a forty foot cast out.
I was letting the fly drop when I saw the end of the fly line
moving sideways. I sat the hook and brought in an 8-inch
crappie. This was a surprise as I thought they spawn was
over and all the crappie were out in deep water.
I released her and made another cast. The same thing
happened. Each time I let the fly drop I would hook a
fish. I did this 12 times in a row.
I decided to tie a beaded Gilly on the other rod to see
what would happen. I cast it out to the same place and
nothing. I let it drop and I retrieved it slowly. Not one
single fish. I went back to the other rod and caught seven
After the crappie stopped biting, I started retrieving the
fly very slowly in. When the fly was about 20 feet off the
shore, I hooked a nice gill. I thought if it works once to
try it again. I cast out about 25 feet and let the fly drop.
I had just started to move it when another gill hit the fly.
Each time I would cast the fly and let it drop and just
twitch it I would have another fish.
I tried the weighted fly, same size and all, with no luck.
I even changed to a fly with a seed bead on it and no go.
The fly had to be unweighted to do anything.
My thoughts are that I may need to fish unweighted flies
more often. When the flies that drop faster don't work,
or flies that I need to retrieve are not working, then
it may be time to use the flies that don't have weight.
I am also finding that I am tying patterns in smaller sizes.
I have more 10, 12, and 14 size patterns in my boxes than
I did before. These are the same patterns that I used before,
but just smaller sizes.
Let me know if you have any thoughts on this.
I hope you can get out on the water and experiment with this.