There is always that moment when I sit down at the fly tying table and stare at my Regal Vice wondering what I need to tie next. The problem with this is the sheer amount of fly patterns we as fishermen, think we need to catch a fish. I think at times having an infinite number of patterns prepped for the river, can, and will make a difference while fishing. I also think there are times when we as fisherman over complicate things and actually prevent ourselves from having a productive day on the water.
A few years back I was guiding in a six-boat party on the lower Madison River. The morning hours were filled with smiles from our clients as the fish were feeding on a great caddis hatch. This hatch made the guides a bunch of heroes as fish after fish was netted at the boat, and competition set in amongst our clients. Who could catch the most, biggest, and smallest fish were the terms to their competition. They continued to catch fish until the hatch dwindled around lunchtime. At lunch everyone was having a great time talking about the success they were having, and ribbing on a younger member of the party, who had tripped in the river while participating in a smallest fish victory dance. As guides this was the kind of day we always want to have. Everyone was happy and enjoying Montana while participating in the sport that we love so much.
After lunch, I tied on several different nymphs on both of my client’s rods, and began to fish the scattered buckets, and deep holes, scattered throughout the river. This was marginally successful and I continued to burn through every nymph I had in my fly boxes. The problem was is that I was beginning to over think things, and began to try the most technical flies I could think of to recreate the fishing my clients had earlier. The fishing had come to a halt and I was out of options. I decided to try some stimulator type nymphs to try and attract something to eat our flies. On both rods I tied on a size 12 Lightning Bug with a smaller dropper. I know this is a little big for a lightning bug but on this day this is exactly what was needed. The fish loved the fly and we had several doubles as we rowed through a few deep and distinct holes in the river. Near the takeout a twenty-five inch brown ate that big ridiculous bug leading to one of the best fish any of my clients had landed that year. This is a photo of the big guy here on the right!
Many times however, the vast amount of flies we carry on the river can lead to success. I know countless times I have watched fish feeding under the surface, seeing several silver bellies flashing periodically throughout a run, and watching my nymphs drift through these feeding fish without a take. After burning through a few patterns, I come across one that is just the ticket for the situation, and the fish I watched feeding begin to eat my flies.
While tying flies I try and imagine when I am going to use these flies, how easy they are going to be for a client to cast, and effectiveness on the river. This leads to tying huge quantities of those effective flies that there is no question are going to catch fish day in and day out. When these boxes are all full I begin to concentrate on flies that I “think” might work. I create new patterns and tweak older ones, that may work, however until I can classify one fly or another as “fishy” I only tie a small number of these flies. The fly bench is definitely the time to over think fishing, it is a place for creativity, imagination, and reflections of previous days on the water.
Some of these creations, and tweaked older patterns, will be shown on our YouTube video channel! Make sure you check back frequently to see our latest additions.