Gazing Into the Fly Box

Posted on April 05, 1999 at 19:52:37:

Gazing Into the Fly Box
By Gary D. Scavette

The waters of Maine come alive in the month of May. Reduced run off and longer days contribute to warmer water and subsequently increased biological activity. Aquatic insect emergence stimulates salmonids into the rhythmic feeding patterns that we dream of all Winter. In short, Maine's lakes ponds rivers and streams are once again awakened from their long winter's sleep.

This is the month that many of us will take a critical look at our fly boxes to see if we are prepared for the events to come. The streamers and heavily weighted nymphs that we started the season with in April will be left on the fly patch as we attach delicate winged offerings to long fine tippets. Diversity is the name of the game when the hatches start. The successful angler needs a fly selection that is versatile enough to handle a broad range of situations.

In my younger college years I marveled in the entomology of the productive limestone streams of Pennsylvania. I took pride in having a terrestrial or aquatic imitation of just about every natural trout food imaginable. My vest pockets were bulging with fly boxes , seine nets, thermometers, and collection jars. My brother Mike was my fishing companion who brought considerably less equipment to the stream and ironically caught more fish. So he got lucky right? Wrong! Mike consistently caught more fish. Smiling he'd toss a #4 Wooly Bugger to a waiting brown, raise the rod gently to bury the hook and say " Hey Gary they're taking Snicker's bars" . Today after having more experience I have come to the conclusion that Mike used fly patterns that were very versatile and adaptable to many different situations.
The versatile patterns that I am referring to are often called general purpose or all purpose patterns because they may imitate a multitude of natural trout foods depending upon the way that they are fished. No fly box should be without some of these all purpose flies. I do not intend for this to be a specific pattern index but more of a guide to a few of my favorite all purpose flies.

· Weighted (may have bead head) and non weighted
· light, medium, and dark colors (cream, olive, natural hare's ear, dk. brown, black)
· sizes 12-18
I construct these patterns similar to the classic Hare's Ear nymph. They may be ribbed or non- ribbed. Aside from imitating the genera of the majority of the mayfly order these nymphs may be picked out and fuzzed up to fish as caddis pupa imitations. They may be fished at any level contributing to their versatility.

· full collar of grouse, hen, hungarian partridge or other swimmable substitute-no wing case
· tail made of the same material as collar
· dubbed body of poly fiber and or natural fibers
· light, medium , and dark colors
· sizes 12-18
I have a genuine passion for fishing these soft hackled wet flies. They are extremely versatile and quick and easy to construct. If tied on light wire hooks with synthetic materials these flies mimic emergers or even spent winged spinners. If tied on traditional wet fly or nymph hooks the flies can imitate nearly any drift insect suspended in the water column. The material that the collar is made of undulates and traps air bubbles creating a natural appearance. In addition, the full collar assists the natural drift of the imitation. During conditions of high water I will often add a bead in front of the collar and fish this weighted fly as the point fly on a dropper system.

I'm not sure if there is such a thing as the all purpose dry fly. No single imitation can represent the great diversity of adult naturals drifting down the typical trout stream. I carry more different dry fly patterns than nymphs, streamers, and wets put together. I will mention a few things that I keep in mind when deciding if my dry fly selection is appropriate. Its not much but its a good place to start. When inventorying your dry fly box you should have patterns that include the following:
· variation in size
· variation in color
· upright wings, spent wings, wings over the abdomen
· high floaters(variants) and flies where the thorax rests on water
· emerger patterns

I have grown to be dependent upon relatively few subsurface patterns that allow me to mimic a variety of naturals. I often think that success is inversely proportional to the amount of time you spend staring into your flybox……… At least that's what my brother Mike tells me.


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