Trust. A fly fisher’s relationship with his or her confidence flies is rooted in the belief that one pattern will get the job done over the others. Our best patterns have caught so many trout that we trust they’ll work again. But that trust is earned over time, and there’s no substitute for the confidence gained by a full net — over and over again. It does not take an army of creative flies to catch a ton of fish, and good anglers know this. Rather, it takes a few key selections, a couple trusted patterns, and perhaps some material variations.
I fish with just a handful of flies. Literally, I could hold a full season of confidence flies in the palm of my hand. (Okay, a couple of the streamers may overflow the edges a bit.) And while I thoroughly enjoy testing new patterns, my get-the-job-done flies, by this point in my fishing life, are irreplaceable. I trust them.
Instead of carrying a dozen different mayfly dries, I rely on two: a Parachute and a Comparadun. I vary the dubbing color for the bodies of both, the hackle shade on the Parachutes, and the deer hair on the Comparaduns to either light or dark. With these, I catch trout during every mayfly hatch of the season, and rarely do I feel under-gunned.
Instead of carrying a box-full of caddis larva, I trust just one, and I vary the theme. I tie Walt’s Worms in about six different ways, altering the color of the body dubbing, the finish of the bead and the color of the thread collar. I tie them with a fairly tight body profile, and if the fish seem to ask for it, I’ll rough up the dubbing to make it shaggy. I use these variations instead of carrying multiple other patterns because I have tons of confidence in a Walt’s Worm. It’s simple, and it suits me. I also streamline my selection on the stream, so I’m not burdened with too many options.
Likewise, my streamer selection is a small set of trusted patterns, with a few variations on each — basically, the same streamers with one or two material changes.
I know that most fly tiers do this too: We often tie a new pattern by the book, take it from the vise, and turn it in our fingers to think for a bit. Then we grab another hook and get to work on changing things. As we grow as anglers, we build trust in certain materials, and we might substitute those materials into another fly. For example, I have so much confidence in black Krystal Flash that I work it into about half of my streamers. Similarly, I wind a lot of copper ribbing, I mix Hare’s Ear Plus in with a lot of other dubbing, and my bobbin of red Uni-Thread is always at the ready for a hot collar.
These are my trusted materials, and by including them I transfer some earned faith into every fly.
So I have those trusted materials and trusted patterns, like the Comparaduns, the Walt’s Worms and my favorite Bead Head Pheasant Tails. And when the Sulphur hatch is on, my go-to nymph doesn’t change — I simply swap the red collar for yellow. When the Grannoms are popping, I use a Bead Head Pheasant Tail with dyed dark-olive feathers and a chartreuse collar. I therefore transfer my familiarity and trust with the pattern along with the variation, and I keep my confidence in the fly.
The trick is to be moderate in the alterations. If you change too many elements in a fly, it becomes a new pattern altogether, and the confidence meter is reset to zero. Vary just one element, maybe two. Keep the overall theme, keep the confidence, and bask in the simplicity of life.
Fish hard, friends.
Enjoy the day
T R O U T B I T T E N