What do you use to guide fly selection? [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: What do you use to guide fly selection?

10-16-2003, 07:26 PM
Having cut my teeth on trout using nymphs and dries, I've always observed the rule of "matching the hatch" in fly selection. That was also the way I've approached how I've nymphed for steelhead in CA. Now that I am swinging flies more and more for steelhead, I'm wondering if any of you follow a particular approach when it comes to fly selection? I'm particularly curious since I have the perspective (feel free to correct me if you'd like) that many if not most of the classic salmon/steelhead patterns are at best, impressionistic. Is it more of what you feel confident with or does the pattern actually matter (trial and error until something works). Alternatively could someone swinging an articulated leech do just as well as someone who switches patterns (everything else being equal)? Not here to provoke anything but would like to hear the full range of perspectives and learn from it.


10-16-2003, 09:45 PM
Always a very good question and one which provokes a good debate. While I believe that any pattern will work when the stars are aligned, I do believe that general pattern choice does matter.

My rule of thumb is to fish bigger bushier patterns when the water is cold and/or discolored (winter) and smaller, less gawdy patterns when the water is warmer and clear (summer). These are just suggestions though and often is the case when the opposite works. I know of one regular here that swings big bright and scary patterns well into July when the rest of us are fishing small patterns. Sometimes fishing what nobody else is works wonders.

My favorite colors in order of preference are purple, black and orange. I like my purple and orange patterns to have some red in them and my black ones to have some purple.

I believe movement is important no matter the time of year or conditions but becomes critical in low visability water.

All this aside, in the words of RHB, "It is good to remember that more steelhead will be hooked on a piece of yarn than on the fanciest fly ever tied".

10-16-2003, 10:39 PM
Those of us who are of as sure of ourselves, offer the simplistic approach of the "Deer Hair" which is always on top, always afloat, and never part of a Nymphomaniac approach to the what was that all about??
How about those Marlins aren't they fisheys? Apoligies to all!

10-16-2003, 11:47 PM
My philosophy is that since the steelhead is not feeding actively, the fly must solicit a reaction that has manifest itself at some other time in it's life - from fry, parr, smolt, young oceanic nomad, or last week before it came up the river.

It may be that some reactions are stronger at initial entry to freshwater than others which kick in as the trout comes out again, but for the most part I am soliciting the memories of the warrior at moments of weakness. It's all about psychology in a brain the size of a peanut, for what it lacks in size it sure makes up in potency and ability to frustrate anglers.

But at any given moment there is a range of flies that may very well solicit a grab, but if you're out of that varietal range you lose. Within that range, if the October caddis are hatching you will get a better response from sedge patterns, if sculpins are prevalent on a February morning you will connect with a natural bunny rat on a sinktip on a Peninsula stream, etc. So I believe that within the realm of effective patterns there are some influences that are stronger than others for the goings-on in the river.

I don't know how scientifically valid my philosophy is, but I have enjoyed higher-than-average success over 21 years of steelheading in the pacific northwest, 12 of which I enjoyed as a resident of Washington State. It's about this time of year that I long for the luxury of bountiful rivers at my doorstep, and again in April.

Swinging flies is the only way IMHO. Move the fish to the fly like a man I say, wet or dry :devil:

10-17-2003, 11:52 AM
All due respect to those that have gone before me here but ,on my river Rogue ,the summer fish do feed,as the earlysummer fish,april, could not survive all summer into fall before spawning,and the bite's on after the spawn for the winter hens,march-april,it,s an interesting subject;matching the hatch,i pull plugs too,or used to,hey,i fish ALL the way down river,,,one can learn a lot there that relates to THE HATCH,for instance,smolts in june,crayfish in sep.,so on,but i tell those folks that won't step up and FLY,the glory of a steelhead river is;they're on the move,not resident fish per se,so they don't know what's around the next bend,there's lots of watermelon corkies and worms????,what hatch is that??,so get yer butt out there,an' get it on ,fish what you want,that's STEELHEADING,where ARE those rules??:D

Capt. Mel Simpson
10-17-2003, 01:28 PM
Great Question!

I only fish two steelhead rivers anymore, The Dean and The Deschutes and only for a week or so each at that. My selection of flies is very exact and very different for each river.

The Dean is a new river for me (in the last 5 years), so I use what I have come describe as "big fish big flies" type patterns. They are 2 to 4 inches long on 1 to 2/0 hooks in either all orange/gold or all black colors. I get to really cut loose on my tying here, even using some of the tactics I use in saltwater.

The Deschutes River is completly different, it's where I grew up and have fished it and it's tributaries all my life. Having been around some great steelhead flyfishermen from back in the 60's and 70's, I developed this love for tradition based on a rivers own patterns. I even tie my size 4 and 6 Deschutes Skunk, Deschutes Demon and Max Canyon on heavy wire, bronzed and ringed, down eye hooks.

Nothing scientific, just what I like.

10-17-2003, 01:29 PM
Personal observatiion only, but I've found certain patterns/hook size work well on one given stream, and zip on another. Year round black, dark brown or green, will draw more strikes than almost any colour on the upper Rogue.

Exceptions are at this time of the year when we have thousands of spawning Kings. There egg patterns may be 'king ....' assuming the colour used reasonably matches the colour of the natural eggs.

Hammer does make an interesting point as (Rogue-Elk Park area) we're developing quite a resident population of craw fish. This time of the year they're in the bright (very bright!) red spawing(?) colours.

Historicly, I've never hooked a fish on a General Pr., but with these fellows in the area a 'large prawn pattern' could be interesting to try.

10-17-2003, 02:39 PM
I've never hooked a fish on a General Pr.

Gp is BAD pattern. Not work at all. Should never fish GP. Fish hate GP. Throw all GPs out of box and into garbage. Black GP worst of all. GP scare fish away. GP cause baldness and impotence. GP responsible for world's ills. GP keep Red Sox out of series.

GP BAD, GW GOOD :devil:

10-17-2003, 03:10 PM
GP's, BIG BLACK/PURPLE ones. Tied on tubes 6-7" long. Or in a pinch a giant Intruder :whoa:

10-17-2003, 03:17 PM
Originally posted by sinktip
Gp is BAD pattern. Not work at all. Should never fish GP. Fish hate GP. Throw all GPs out of box and into garbage. Black GP worst of all. GP scare fish away. GP cause baldness and impotence. GP responsible for world's ills. GP keep Red Sox out of series.

GP BAD, GW GOOD :devil:

Is that you Strong Bad?!?!?

10-17-2003, 03:18 PM
Seriously, a few years ago I streamlined my fly boxes, I have as my mainstays Black and purple GP's (The Voodoo Child) in sizes from 1" to 7", as well as orange ones (Raging Prawn) and some bright light low water flies - Dana's Thompson Stone and some Green-butt Spratelys - also on tubes. Recently I have expanded the repetoire to include Ed ward's Intruders - but they are so big they live in their own box!

To address the original question I feel the biggest factor is confidence - if I don't believe in the fly I might as well not cast. That said, like Duggan, I do pay attention to the light and water conditions and adjust the size of the patterns according to my convictions.

10-17-2003, 05:24 PM
anyone in the northwest territories ever use an Alley's Shrimp??,looks a lot like a lantern,comet,et al,gent i bought some tackle from sent me one in the original color;red/org.,said the atlantics HATED it,wanted to kill em' every time they saw one:hehe:

10-17-2003, 05:40 PM
Like sinktip and Kush, I vary the size of the fly depending on water temperature, height, and clarity. The darker (dirtier) the water the darker and larger the fly I will fish. The clearer the water, the smaller the fly.

That said, there is also a difference in the flies I fish in winter, summer, and fall. In winter, I like large flies in orange, orange and red, black, purlpe, red, or red and blue. However, I will fish medium sized flies in very clear water during winter and much prefer to fish spey flies, Allys Shrimps, or full dressed feather wings over other flies in winter.

During summer, I fish small and dark or small and very bright (flashabou tails and bodies, G.P. crest wings) low-water flies after the water drops in late June or early July. I also fish skated dry fies in summer.

In fall, I fish small and dark wets or skated dry flies early fal. As the temps drop and river levels go up, I go bigger with the same flies.

Bob Pauli
10-18-2003, 10:19 PM
To quote John Hazel: "When they're on they'll eat your car keys!"

10-18-2003, 10:28 PM
G.P. crest wings.As I can't tie a GP to save my life, wouldn't mind one or two to 'test drive' on the upper Rogue (read 'beg here')


10-19-2003, 05:40 PM

Check out the Kelson Sun Fly on the steelhead flies section to see one.