Re: Bonefish telepathy post thread "Fly odor" [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Re: Bonefish telepathy post thread "Fly odor"

10-19-2006, 09:24 AM
Hey gang,

Interesting topic re: "Bonefish telepathy". Seems the thread had evolved to include the effect of "fly odor" so I'll offer my opinions in that regard.

Fly odor resulting by any means in my mind is unavoidable. The moment we open our tying desks and storage bins, we're assaulted with a wide array of moth balls, cured hides and feathers, dyes, solvents, cements, glues and epoxies as well as many other man-made synthetics. The flies we carefully craft carry all of these scents. With this in mind, I'm for the most part carefull to "season" all of my flies outside in a dry, well ventilated place for at least a few weeks/months before their intended use. "Re-seasoning" a fly after catching/loosing a fish on it by rubbing it in the muck or bottom has sound reason.

I'm fully aware that many fly fishers are "anal" about scents (myself included). "Scents" to me is a relative word because they can be broken down into at least three (3) catagories... "repulsive", "attractive" and "masking".

- "Repulsive" would involve negative scents such as "fright phermones" or "man-made un-natural/un-familiar synthetics".

- "Attractive" would include natural and/or man-made scents that mimic the bio-base of the local eco-system ie" conch guts or "Dr. Juice".

- "Masking" I suppose would be scents that aren't unfamiliar to the fish species sought and elicit neither a fright nor feed response. Likely the goal of all "purist" fly fishers.

Let's say that there were such a thing is "Shrimp flavoured" sunscreen...would an angler be guilty of artificially adding a scented attractant to their fly? Sunscreen comes with many assorted smells...without exception, not one of them smells remotley natural and I don't think any of them could be considered an attractant or even odor-masking. We're loosing the game already because we definitely "need" to "cream-up" before heading out into the suns rays in order to persue our passion. Sure, we take great care not to contaminate our flies/leaders with unwanted scents (or at least we should be...I do!).

Okay, it seems to be fine and accepted among "purist" fly fishers to muck up a fly in the bottom or whatever to "mask" an unwanted odor. Yet, in the same breath, it isn't acceptalble to mask an unwanted odor with an attractant? To me, the application of any type of scent, whether to "mask" or "attract", boils down to just that!...the application of scent not originally found on the fly.

I'm getting to a point here so please bear with me!...

Here it is!..."Flies Smell"...and for the most part, they smell bad (mabey!). Just open any fly box you have laying around and take a fresh sniff. Smell something?...Yes? will the fish. At least those sensitive to...or those that rely on odors to select their prey.

Bottom line!. I spend thousands of dollars annually chasing the grey ghosts of the flats and I'm not about to go fishless because my flies stink and/or because I'm too proud to admit it. That's why I "season" my flies. BUT!...that's why I also carry a "SPECIAL" fly box that has duplicates of the flies in my "go-to" box but has one significant difference. It also carries a small cotton ball soaked in "Fish Formula" (shrimp scent). There is no "direct" application of scent on my flies other than through osmosis or whatever, so in my estimation, I'm not guilty of "juiceing my flies. I'm convinced that a "negative" has to be counteracted by a "positive" in order to reach "neutral". Match "negative" against "neutral" and you still have some "negative" left and unless the fish are aggressive and/or're up against a challenge.

Finally, all that said...I rarely feel the need or motivation to go to that "special" fly box because I've always experienced good results with my standard flies...even with picky fish. Although, it sure is a confidence booster (real or perceived) to have that "Special" box to go to should things go sour.

Or mabey that's what it's all about..."Confidence"? Okay...forget everything I said above!!!

Best regards folks and have great fishing...even if that catching doesn't meet your expectations.

Henry Will
Oshawa Ontario

10-19-2006, 11:40 AM
I will not tie with, buy or fish anything that has been near moth balls. Even putting one in the box messes up all the others.

Use airtight containers instead.

10-19-2006, 04:22 PM
Henry thanks for your thoughts....
the first thing I thought when you said you air out your flies before a trip is that the packing and storing of baggage in the hold of an aircraft for hours on end could negate all the good you did.

Your other idea seems interesting ... soaked cotton ball in the fly box... I will try that one this fall and winter when I do a trip....

10-20-2006, 03:10 PM
Well said Henry! Though I disagree with you on your statement that "To me, the application of any type of scent, whether to "mask" or "attract", boils down to just that!...the application of scent not originally found on the fly." I not saying there is anything wrong with using an attractant scent as opposed to a masking scent, but there is a big difference between the two. An attractant scent is just that--an attractant. You could cast your fly out and let it sit for minutes or hours, and the attractant scent will spread thru the water, and a fish could come from far away, following that scent directly to your fly (in theory anyway). A masking scent is designed to hide any repulsive odors on the fly, and does not attract fish. So I believe there is a significant difference. Not saying using an attractant is wrong, just quite different from masking a repulsive odor on a fly. What about tipping a fly with a small piece of conch--this would be an attractant also--pretty much the same as using shrimp juice on a fly (I know you don't apply it directly to the flies, so not talking about you here) Only difference is that there is more substance to the piece of conch, rather than just oils of shrimp with the juice. It all makes for interesting debate.

I think there are many factors that affect why a fish refuses a fly, or gets spooked seemingly for no reason. I don't wear watches on the flats anymore--I'm convinced that something shiny could reflect light and alert fish to your presence.
Somedays the fish will eat anything, some days they will not.
Tide, weather, lighting, predators in the area that are visible, or that are not visible (they were there before you arrived and left-maybe leaving their "scent" behind), your presence as well as the presence of other anglers (I know I'm forgetting something) all affect and can influence bonefish behavior. We'll never know for sure what really causes them to spook or refuse when we think we've made a great presentation and are undetected, but it's fun to think and talk about. If they ate every time we presented a fly to them, it would get boring.

10-21-2006, 02:45 AM
I believe the ultimate goal for me would to be able to create flies with no odor at all. It sure doesn't help starting out with the unavoidable handicap of smelly materials. I think I'm going to experiment with Baking Soda (renown as an odor remover). I'll still "season" my flies then store them in an "airtight" container (thx Juro) along with a small cloth bag containing the soda. Couldn't hurt might possibly help by absorbing any chemical smells especially from glues, epoxies and cements which are quite vaporous. It just drives me nuts when a bone is in hot persuit of my fly yet slams on the air-brakes and bolts like stung by a bee after being only inches from committing to my fly.

One other observation I'd like to mention is one I've seen repeated time and time again that reinforces the idea of repulsive pheremones. I've encountered bonefish on flats happily feeding even though they're in close proximity to numerous preditors (sharks and cuda's). I've seen the bones litterally swim circles around their enimies without a care in the world. It's almost like they know that they're not going to be attacked. How do they know?. Is it a response to pheremones given off by the preditor, body posutre or even colour?...or perhaps a combination of the above. Yet, in other situations, I've seen a flat entirely cleared of bones in seconds upon the arrival a lone shark or cuda. Seems to me that bones (as are likely all species of fish), are absolutely keyed into their environment. They take queues from a wide variety of sources that dictate when they move, when they feed and when they take flight. One negative queue received by a group of feeding bones changes their situation and will likely change their behaviour to some degree.

Could smelly flies be one of those negative queues?...I think without doubdt it must have some sort of impact. Thereby my strengthened resolve to bring to rest (in my own mind) this issue. I'll sort it out just as I've sorted out the many other issues I've learned about fishing the flats for bones ie) flashy watches...he he, bright shirts/hats, heavy footfalls, coily leaders, casting ability and a host of others.

A little bone-porn for ya just to keep the juices flowing...

Best regards folks,

Henry Will
Oshawa, Ontario

10-21-2006, 11:10 AM
Nice porn Henry! Good point about the fish feeding with predators in close proximity. I too have observed this, and it's hard to explain. Keep up the experimentation--remember if they were too easy it wouldn't be nearly as much fun.