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speybum 11-23-2003 05:04 PM

Dose Size Really Matter (When it comes to Flies)?
I have been chatting with several people over the last couple of weeks about the size of the new winter Steelhead flies.

In these chatting with Atlantic salmon Dresser they reminded me of the Philip’s Dundee Salmon Irons (as well as other hook makers) many of which were up to 7 inches long.

So large flies for Salmon fishing and Steelhead fishing are not new.

Ed Ward’s Intruder was not the birth (IMHO) but a rekindling of a theme from the past.
I must ad well done to Ed for Ingenuity in the intruder I like this fly and the way it is dressed.

I have seen the Syd Glasso’s dressed Flies on 6/0 and 7/0 N-style partridge hooks.

What could these flies represent?

I would say the last thing that the fish fed on before coming into freshwater.
This theme is repented well by the Intruder and Jack Cook’s Steelhead Prawn and many of Paul Miller Creations.

There is one other theme that is represented with large flies and that is of the Nest Robber theory used by the plug pullers. In other words they will remove the offending fly the only way they can.
By using their mouth.

My $.02 worth

What are your view ?????????????????????????????????


Willie Gunn 11-23-2003 05:39 PM

From a salmon anglers point of view
My take on large flies.
In days gone by before salmon anglers had modern fast sinking lines the only way to get a fly to fish deep was to have a heavier fly. In order to put more metal in the hook you made it bigger. This is why salmon anglers fish big flies in the spring as it was the way it was always done. I am beginning to think that 3” Willie Gunns are too big and think that maybe fishing a 1” waddington might be more successful.

Of course the size of the fly depends on the speed you are fishing it relative to the current, a small creature cannot swim against a strong current so a small fly must look natural. A bigger fly suggesting a bigger creature would be able to swim in a stronger current.

metalhead 11-23-2003 06:45 PM

size and action do matter
i think size matters with regard to the size of water being fished, current speed, clarity, temperature and how much the fish have been pounded on by fisherman.i also believe you have to match a flys action to the type of water you are fishing but that is another subject to talk about.

t_richerzhagen 11-23-2003 06:57 PM

appears to matter a great deal in the Great Lakes region with small being better much of the time. I have not had a chance to try the intruder style in the waters I fish, but will soon. I will go with the standard size/patterns, then follow with the Intruder. Of course, if the latter begins to really produce, I might begin there.

highlander2 11-23-2003 08:58 PM

size does matter
In relation to steelhead flies I think size matters. I like fishing flies on the larger side exept in the gin clear flows and even then at times I will go to a large fly." I want a reaction from the fish, " and with the big flies there is no doubt in my mind there going to see it swimming by. I believe the larger flies draw out the more agressive fish and thats what I am looking for. In very clear low water I may go to a more neutral color like olive but Its still a big fly. I guess my early years of fishing gear taught me that its pretty hard to go to big in the winter, just take a look at some of those plugs guys use on the Sauk and Sky or the pink plastic worms that are 7" long that seem to be so deadly. Excessive mending with big flies does spook fish but thats another story.


roballen 11-23-2003 10:32 PM

Something to think about

1. in winter very few fish are aggressive compared to summer fish

2. of thoes aggressive fish a smaller % of them will act aggressively towards a fly compares to summer fish.

3. aggressive fish willing to take a fly and are selective to size or pattern are even yet a smaller % of the small % we are already talking about.

With this in mind I think size matters only to the point that the fly is visible to the fish. There may be an exception where a fish will respond to one fly but not another but thoes I think are very very rare. I think such exceptions are rare in fact extremely rare.

Everyone has their pet theories abuot flies and why fish take them but one thing is true. None of us really have an accurate clue let alone an understanding of why fish take a fly. I have found that effective fishermen are effective regardless of the fly they fish. I believe it's about presentation and determination.

flytyer 11-24-2003 04:23 PM

I agree with Malcolm's observations that the truly large irons were used to get the fly down in high and fast water. This can be readily seen in Kelson's book when he talks about using smaller flies in cold, clear water than in higher, more colored water. Since we have madoern sinking lines, I don't think we need to fish flies larger than a #1/0 or 2/0.

I find that many time people I meet on the river are surprised at the size of the flies I am using. In winter I don't fish spey flies larger than a #1 1/2 Alec jackson and most of the time I am using speys tied on Alec's #3 hooks. In summer, I often fish low-water featherwings tied on #8 hooks where only 1/2 the shank is used for the total size of the fly.

I strongly suspect that fish hit a very large fly out of aggrevation; however, I have seen fish run in terror from very large flies that simply ignored smaller ones.

I prefer to fish the smallest fly that I think is reasonable for the water clarity, water temp, and water flow.

Philster 11-24-2003 06:03 PM


Originally posted by flytyer
I have seen fish run in terror from very large flies that simply ignored smaller ones.

That statement says alot, but at the same time says very little, unless it was the same fish that ignored a small on repeatedly and was then "moved" by the big one :hehe: Of course I have never considered having my fly ignored a success.

I fished an entire summer 3 years ago with skunks tied on a size 4 tmc 200R using most of the shank. Caught 'em in June, caught 'em in August, caught 'em in October.

Big flies don't always mean big fish, but I strongly believe in the adage that if you are going change flies, CHANGE FLIES. If I start the day fishing a fly Flytyer would favor, which is normally my prefered size I have to say, and suddenly feel inspired to change flies, you can bet a Prawn/intruder/mega fly is going on.

It's all fun...

t_richerzhagen 11-24-2003 06:08 PM

flytyer can you give us a brief overview of size vs temperature & clarity? Is one more important than the other in this selection?

flytyer 11-24-2003 10:03 PM


Hands down, water clarity is the most important consideration for me regarding fly size. The dirtier the water, the larger and darker the fly I use. In water that has 3 feet or less of visibility, I have found that either black or dark claret are best.

Water temperature is also important for fly size; but I found it works a bit differently than many think. A sudden change in water temp I have found is when it is time to either go much smaller or much larger (at least 2 hook sizes, 3 or even 4 sizes is better). If the water temp goes up by 3 or 4 degrees in a 48 hour period, I will drop fly size regardless of the time of year. Likewise, a decrease in water temp by 3 or 4 degrees, I will increase the size of my fly regardless the time of year.

A fly and tactic that I have found to be most effective in clear, cold water during the mid-December to end of January period is fishing a smallish spey fly tied on Alec jackson #5 hooks. And the colors I have found most effective are red, red & blue (a favorite of mine), orange (Glasso's Orange Heron is a favorite), or black & purple (my Night Dancer Shrimp is a favorite).

I know this goes against what most people do when the water temp is down there with the clear, cold water of December and January; however, I have caught more fish on these small spey flies in those conditions than on large flies.

Likewise in summer/fall after the rivers drop to low summer flows and before the fall rains raise the rivers, I use wet flies not larger than #6, with a decided preference for low-water featherwing wets tied not larger than 1/2 shank including tail on #6,8, and 10 low-water hooks. Waking flies I fish on #6,8, and 10 hooks. And exception to these low-water wets in summer is Ally's Shrimp tied on #8,10, or 12 hooks.

kush 11-25-2003 12:02 AM

Lets face it, the only guys who say size doesn't matter - are those guys who don't have a big one :smokin:

I tend to base the size of the fly on the end of my line with light and clarity levels. If it is bright and clear I will downsize somewhat, (as I use tubes length is my only measurement) say 2-3". However, with sunk flies as in spring or winter fishing I am less concerned than I am when summer fishing with a floating line.

I will use outright huge flies. Even before I saw first hand how large some of Ed's Intruders actually were I had used my Voodoo Child and Raging Prawns in lengths up to 7" - with success.

The probable reality of this fly size colour debate is most likely that the only thing that really matters is that the guy who is fishing actually believes in the fly he's using. If I don't believe in it I NEVER seem to catch anything. But if it is one I believe in - I KNOW I am about to catch one!

We've all done the 10 casts and switch routine while searching for the "magic" fly - I wasted so much time at that that I decided to throw out all but the 2 or 3 patterns I really believe in. I have them in a range of sizes - but it makes the choice issue real easy.

These debates are fun and often informative, but my sincere advice is to settle on a few patterns you have confidence and fish the hell out of them.

inland 11-25-2003 12:50 AM

As has been previously said- the most important point is getting your fly in the zone most likely to illicit a grab.

The rest of the pet theories work because that is what the angler believes will work and they fish with confidence. Many times I have been caught up with the adrenaline of a good fish thinking "Aha, I am on to something" only to have it exploded shortly there after. Changing colors, sizes, etc. to conditions just will not significantly change your odds. If you stick to what you believe, and make consistant changes to what makes sense, then you will have results that are consistent to those changes. If you get in a mood and do it all backwards, chances are you will get the same results as your normal routine.

Put your mind to work and think about every move you make. Don't just autopilot because what worked an hour/day/week ago might not be best for the current set of variables. If you always do the same set of moves you might, or might not, be taking the best approach. The only way to find out is to experiment and constantly push your personal envelope. If it was always about catching fish, bait is a hell of a lot more effective.

I look back at one of 'those' days winter steelheading. The fish were in this run thick as thieves and on the grab. Between the four of us we caught the hell out of them using different flies and tips of various sink rates/lengths. The one thought that constantly comes back to me? Why did I not try a waked dry over them? Or why did I not go after them with a traditional 'greased line' presentation? These fish were holding in less than three feet of water that was perfect with a touch of green. Probably would not have worked, but the world will never know. If I am ever lucky enough to encounter such a situation again, my first two passes will not be to get the fly too deep.

I have three words: presentation, presentation, presentation.


Willie Gunn 11-25-2003 05:44 AM

1 Attachment(s)
I was reading "The finer points of Fly Fishing for Salmon by Neil Graesser" last night and came across an intresting picture which illustrates my point about making heavy flies. This is a 9/o Garry dog.

Willie Gunn 11-25-2003 05:50 AM

1 Attachment(s)
I then tried to duplicate the photograph using a modern waddington . I hope you appreciate I am no Striblue I tie to fish with not to admire, so keep your eyes on the size and not the dressing. Also note trebles are still the weapon of choice in Scotland, barbless.

flytyer 11-25-2003 02:45 PM



Absolutely regarding using a few patterns that you have faith in that are carried in several sizes. The two big reason I do not use the really huge flies is 1) I don't like casting them; and 2) I have seen them scare fish.

Then there is the question of thoe using the really huge flies as compensation for not having a really big one:devil:

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