Fly Selection Strategy [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Fly Selection Strategy

04-15-2006, 08:01 PM
This has probably been threaded a 100 times, but I'm too lazy to search it out.

What are the fly selection strategies you use on a given river at a given time?

I remember a very cogent piece by Bill McMillan discussing this topic and how his thoughts on matching conditions led to a number of his original creations. One in particular stands out, namely the Washoughal: he designed the fly to match the ambient colors of the stream, feeling this was the proper way to seduce summer steelhead.

Big Water: Big Fly. Early Season (high water, bright fish): Big Bright Fly. Late Season (low water, stale fish) Small, Buggy Fly.
Familiar water: Whatever you have the most confidence in. For me, on the Deschutes, this choice utimately evolved to a modified Ackroyd (orange butt, hair or turkey wing), especially after August 15.

What's right for you on what river at what time under what conditions?

Curious in Waldport,

-- Eric

04-15-2006, 10:51 PM

I don't think I have many hard set rules except small during low and clear and large during high and colored except when the water allows big in clear conditions (like bouldery rapids) or smaller flies work in high clear water along soft edges. Also try to dial into time of year influences, like sedge patterns in fall and much more surface action then as well.

In late August / September just as the days start to get cooler the orange husks of fall sedges line the stones like petals of some kind of insect flower bloom. Inspired by this I created a pattern that Leland Miyawaki gave a good name to, "the creeper".

I also have great luck up on top with a sedge muddler at first light riffle hitched or short-lined around boulder pockets - talk about heart stopping takes!

I also do well in these conditions with small black herons, purple perils, and various other un-named creations that look like the signal light or skunk.

Also when the flows are a little higher or colored up a bit I go bigger as you mentioned, and add more color whether it's black for contrast or purple / blue or multi-layered marabou barb wing with oranges over mustard over white with a red streak.

I also like tube flies in either the orange, natural colors or black/purples and throw the occasional intruder on to wake the fish up in the pool. In muddy water I use the biggest brightest things in my box.

Frankly most of the time I don't think consciously about it, I open the box and fall into a mesmerized stare and my fingers involuntarily meander to a fly and tie it on. I think I subconsciously prepare for the next fly change as I fish a fly thru the run, and look at it while it is swimming, or if fish react to it that registers in my brain for the next time of reckoning.

Interesting question!

04-16-2006, 01:05 PM
2002 was my last 175 plus day fishing season. I played a little game that year, and retired every fly I caught a fish on. Not just the particular fly, but the pattern wasn't used again the rest of the season. I put them all in a little plastic box. If I look at that box, it's surprising. Muddlers (standard, purple hazel style, coon, lemire, etc), skunks (green butt and original), popsicles, caddis(orange, pink, cinnamon, white), golden edge orange, boss, herniator, variety of speys (deep purple, orange herron, grey herron...).

What did I learn? Nothing... Caught fish on all kinds of stuff. I did follow my own little rules in terms of light conditions, but that's about it. I believe we overthink color selection. Just because a color isn't going to be visible in a certain light or water color situation doesn't mean our fly won't be if it is in that color. Just because we take advantage of ambient water and reflected light color doesn't make the fly more visible to the fish. Just brighter. How popular are yellow patterns? But bright light and clear water would often dictate yellow a color of high visability. An agressive fish will hit anything that enters its turf.

I am as confident fishing for summer steelhead with a skunk or a pink bodied coon muddler, the latter especially in the fall, as I would be fishing whatever fly "name your favorite guide" would hand me on "the river he always fishes". For winter, anything black with movement would keep me fishing with hope. But I still carry dozens of patterns :biggrin:

04-16-2006, 11:54 PM
My fly choice for use in low water on two "S" rivers and the rivers on the OP is a small (AJ Steelhead Iron #9) peacock or black bodied Spade. In winter, I will use a Glasso Orange Heron, a G.P., or an Ally's Shrimp on large hooks.

04-23-2006, 01:39 PM
Fly selection for me is more of what type of river I'm on and what run of fish I'm fishing for. Inland rivers get the more buggy of my patternhs (Skunks, Muddlers, larger soft hackles). Whereas on the coast I tend to go brighter (pinks, reds, oranges) in variuos sizes and configurations. At the end of the day however I look back and realize that at one point of the day I had fished an purple a-leech. Such is live.

Good Fishing,


04-30-2006, 03:40 PM
"You can have any colour you want as long as it's black."

Regardless of water conditions (personal experience only here) the vast majority of the fish I've hooked were on a 'dark' fly. Boxes of lots of colours but, big or small ties, "dark" is the colour that gets it 'done.':smokin: