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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'd like to pose a question about what other fly fishers have experienced in their pursuit of fish on a fly.

Do you think you have caught more fish on a natural imitation (match the hatch) or on a fly pattern that does not represent any natural food source?

As a fly tier I've tried to come up with the ultimate killer fly. My definition for that fly, simple to tie and catches fish. ;) It seems like some of the patterns that I have had good success with look nothing like anything in nature.

I mostly fish flat water now and use almost completely different flies than I fished on the stream.
Fishing a stream is a lot different and maybe it's more important for you to match the hatch but I have caught fish on a stream using patterns that don't represent the existing food source too.

Any thoughts from you fly flingers?
 

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Sometimes the presentation and/or timing is more effective than matching the hatch. Sometimes..

I've caught many fish on beat up flies that resemble a piece of nothing that matches nothing too.

Was it Goob who had good luck with a potato chip fly or something similar?
 

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Depends on the stream for me. West slope cutthroat on a float trip would eat anything you threw at them and were gluttons. Some of the smaller, unpressured streams I use to fish also didn't seem too picky.

When I tried fishing sections of the Henry Fork a few summers ago I couldn't match the hatch close enough because I can't really see or fish the smallest flies anymore. Those "PhD" trout have inverted the game and are little sadist.

Lakes: 80% whatever I want to toss seems to work, but they are from the classic collection of options.
 

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My take is you’re going to have to get very creative to tie something that doesn’t resemble something in the food chain.

Once you get things in the water, the vast majority of flies (I use that term loosely, as an egg pattern is a “fly” in this concept) are going to at least resemble SOMETHING that fish has eaten before. We can match just about anything up to something. My old friend fishsnoop used to brag about the “nothing fly” a friend tied up for him. He never would show me one of those flies.

I’d like to see your creativity in pics, TOgden!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
My take is you’re going to have to get very creative to tie something that doesn’t resemble something in the food chain.

Once you get things in the water, the vast majority of flies (I use that term loosely, as an egg pattern is a “fly” in this concept) are going to at least resemble SOMETHING that fish has eaten before. We can match just about anything up to something. My old friend fishsnoop used to brag about the “nothing fly” a friend tied up for him. He never would show me one of those flies.

I’d like to see your creativity in pics, TOgden!
I'll be happy to share some of the flies that I've tied as long as you don't make fun of them. I told you my goal was to keep things simple since I'm not the most accomplished tier.

You'll notice that I tie most everything with a bead head, either glass or metal, on my flies. There are a couple of reasons, one is the head is tied off behind the bead so it is better protected from coming undone. The other reason is that when I was getting into nymphing I read where the nymph gathers an air bubble to help it reach the surface to hatch. I use a lot of just plain clear glass beads for that reason.

There are times when any one of these flies have caught fish and there have been times when any one of these didn't catch fish too. 😕


Insect Arthropod Pollinator Organism Dragonflies and damseflies
Arthropod Insect Dragonflies and damseflies Dragonfly Wing
Flower Plant Twig Wire fencing Pollinator
Plant Artificial fly Insect Fishing lure Cable
Eye Arthropod Pollinator Plant Pest
Plant Insect Arthropod Terrestrial plant Pest
Pollinator Flower Twig Arthropod Pest
Food Ingredient Rectangle Cuisine Recipe
Artificial fly Arthropod Insect Bait Invertebrate
 

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As a fly tier I've tried to come up with the ultimate killer fly. My definition for that fly, simple to tie and catches fish. ;)
All I will say is if you ever come up with that ultimate fly, send me some.


It seems that most of the stuff I use on the river does match the stuff the fish often eat. However, I know a good number of flies that catch a lot of fish do not.
As for stillwater? What do wooly buggers imitate and do leeches really look like a real leech? :unsure:

As for your last fly, add a little more flash in that and you have the Jordanelle smallie smasher. The color is about right. Can I put in an order?
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
As for stillwater? What do wooly buggers imitate and do leeches really look like a real leech? :unsure:

As for your last fly, add a little more flash in that and you have the Jordanelle smallie smasher. The color is about right. Can I put in an order?
I'm not sure if the fish take a woolly bugger thinking it's a minnow, leech, or a dragon/damsel nymph. As most everyone knows they are one of the best Stillwater patterns there is, regardless of what the fish think they are.:)

The mohair leech is almost as deadly on stillwater as the woolly bugger, and yes, when they are wet and tied real thin, they do look like a leech.

That last fly has been good for walleye along with most species of trout.
 

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That last fly has been good for walleye
Probably in fisheries with a perch forage base. (Starvy?) That general color scheme works amazing in plastic baits as well as flies, for warmwater species that are eating a lot of perch. That tidbit of knowledge admittedly helped chop down my learning curve a good bit when I started going for bass on the fly last year.
 

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I'm trying to remember the name of the halloween fly with brown hackle and duck flank wing.....it's from Idaho and I just can't remember it. It is supposed to be a stillwater SLAYER.

I've had it both ways. For stillwater, I don't know if matching the hatch is critical. Color can be very critical. I don't know how fish see color, and what the color looks like at depth (I know there's UV tables, but I've never been a fish). A blue pine squirel leech can be one of the best flies ever on stillwater. Don't know there's blue leeches around or not. I've caught fish on scuds, midges, leeches, calibaetis, caddis, streamers, and who knows what else I tried to make up when I was a kid.

Rivers, I think that the river, current, depth, clarity, and pressure are critical determining factors in matching the hatch. Freestone mountain streams are usually more forgiving in fly selection- a fish has a short amount of time to decide to eat or not eat. There's usually quite a bit of water and oxygen in the way, and I'd think that it can impact selection.

On waters like Henry's Fork, that water is usually pretty skinny with LONG drifts giving fish quite a long time to examine a fly and eat it. South fork for example, riffles and PMDs can be maddening- with refusals on a seemingly perfect fly and drift.

Streamers are a different game. There's no way a fish has seen something like a se* dungeon, or a host of Kelly Galloup's pervert names- but they slay fish. That becomes a reaction/territorial response. All are awesome.
 

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Streamers are a different game. There's no way a fish has seen something like a se* dungeon, or a host of Kelly Galloup's pervert names- but they slay fish. That becomes a reaction/territorial response. All are awesome.
On the contrary, most of those big articulated streamers like a xes dungeon look an awful lot like a fish swimming in the water. I do think that there is a reaction and territorial response, but those flies are very good representations in the water of another fish. Fish eat other fish.

Safety glove Bermuda shorts Cooking Seafood Wildlife biologist
 

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On the contrary, most of those big articulated streamers like a xes dungeon look an awful lot like a fish swimming in the water. I do think that there is a reaction and territorial response, but those flies are very good representations in the water of another fish. Fish eat other fish.
Fish eat other fish, for sure. I love fishing streamers. A lot.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I'm trying to remember the name of the halloween fly with brown hackle and duck flank wing.....it's from Idaho and I just can't remember it. It is supposed to be a stillwater SLAYER. .
You're right the fly pattern came from an Idaho angler named George Biggs. The fly is referred to either as the Biggs Fly or the Sheep Creek Special for Sheep Creek Reservoir in Nevada. The original was tied with dark olive chenille. It is a productive pattern for sure.

Even with all the whizzbang new flies, the old patterns still catch fish. :)
 

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I think "matching the hatch" is much more necessary if you're fishing on top of the water than below the surface, and that goes for moving or still water.

Of course, matching the hatch isn't the only way to catch something on top, but it seems more necessary. All that said, I'll reiterate that the vast majority of the flies tossed into any water at least resemble in profile something these fish have eaten in their lives. It's not universal, but it's probably pretty close.

You've got me thinking about my fly boxes, TOgden. I may have to dig them all out this week just to stare at them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I think "matching the hatch" is much more necessary if you're fishing on top of the water than below the surface, and that goes for moving or still water..
I think you are right about that.

As you can tell from my flies, I don't fish the dry flies so I can't speak to that type of fly fishing. When I started fly fishing I read somewhere that between 80 and 90 percent of the fishes diet is below the surface so I went with the odds. :LOL:
 

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You're right the fly pattern came from an Idaho angler named George Biggs. The fly is referred to either as the Biggs Fly or the Sheep Creek Special for Sheep Creek Reservoir in Nevada. The original was tied with dark olive chenille. It is a productive pattern for sure.

Even with all the whizzbang new flies, the old patterns still catch fish. :)
Yes, Sheep Creek Special. I've always wanted to tie and try it. Still looking for a good snail pattern. Lots of stillwater fish are full of snails.
 

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I think I've caught more fish on wooly buggers than any other fly. I don't know if that puts me in the "match the hatch" or "doesn't represent a natural food source" category, because my buggers are all pretty ugly creations!

But maybe this will help? My theory on fly fishing has always been that the challenge of fly fishing isn't to present something that the fish wants to take, but rather to convince a fish to take the fly whether it wants it or not! So, take any of those flies pictured in the thread above, mail them to me, and I'll give my honest, best effort to catch a fish on each one.

you're welcome!
 

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I'm trying to remember the name of the halloween fly with brown hackle and duck flank wing.....it's from Idaho and I just can't remember it. It is supposed to be a stillwater SLAYER.

I've had it both ways. For stillwater, I don't know if matching the hatch is critical. Color can be very critical. I don't know how fish see color, and what the color looks like at depth (I know there's UV tables, but I've never been a fish). A blue pine squirel leech can be one of the best flies ever on stillwater. Don't know there's blue leeches around or not. I've caught fish on scuds, midges, leeches, calibaetis, caddis, streamers, and who knows what else I tried to make up when I was a kid.

Rivers, I think that the river, current, depth, clarity, and pressure are critical determining factors in matching the hatch. Freestone mountain streams are usually more forgiving in fly selection- a fish has a short amount of time to decide to eat or not eat. There's usually quite a bit of water and oxygen in the way, and I'd think that it can impact selection.

On waters like Henry's Fork, that water is usually pretty skinny with LONG drifts giving fish quite a long time to examine a fly and eat it. South fork for example, riffles and PMDs can be maddening- with refusals on a seemingly perfect fly and drift.

Streamers are a different game. There's no way a fish has seen something like a se* dungeon, or a host of Kelly Galloup's pervert names- but they slay fish. That becomes a reaction/territorial response. All are awesome.
Reminding me of a color variation of the Sheep Creek Special. Typically tied with olive chenille body. Been a great stillwater fly for me for years and years.

TO some great looking flies there. I like the little "red serendipity" looking fly too. and a renegade "ish" fly. Some great options there.
 
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