by Ben Hope
We all carry too many fly patterns by the stream side. I don’t know why except a head shrink might have an answer. Some of the masters of the fly fishing world by example, illustrate a top fly fisher does not need to.Take the example of the Englishman Franks Sawyer who wrote the excellent book “Nymphs and the Trout”. Frank Sawyer in the 1940s and 1950s, became the father figure of nymph fishing as a follow-on from the immortal G E M Skues of the 1920s.
If you read Frank Sawyer’s book – and you must if you haven’t – you will learn Frank Sawyer used only four nymph patterns – the Pheasant Tail, Grey Goose, Killer Bug and Bowtie Buzzer. He did not carry 101 patterns, but just four.
The other key aspect of those four patterns is they are easy to tie -basically simple creations. Frank Sawyer’s Killer Bug for instance, is heavily weighted by a double even covering of wire and with the body simply of darning wool of a pinkish – fawn shade wound around the hook.
The Pheasant Tail, well known in New Zealand is very simple to tie, made from cock pheasant herl and copper wire. The Grey Goose is a herl or two from the wing feather of an “ordinary farmyard grey goose” of “a lightish grey, green, yellowish appearance,” ribbed with a gold coloured wire.
Frank Sawyer believed presentation of the fly to the trout was the most important requirement.
So do other masters like Charles Ritz, who wrote “A Fly Fisher’s Life”.
The other day I read a book on dry fly fishing by American fly fisherman Art Lee. He wrote that only a few dry patterns were needed.
“An obsession with matching the hatch and fly pattern rather than fly presentation wastes hours of fishing time as devotees change flies every twenty seconds to find the right pattern.”
Trout after all can’t rise to flies they don’t get to see and anglers–are certain to have the devil’s own time keeping flies on the water when a third of each outing is spent lopping off tippets and tying knots.
Then Art Lee in emphasis added “no fly is ‘right’ unless it’s fished correctly.”
So you could have the “buggiest” looking fly and unless it’s cast to and fished properly, it is unlikely to tempt the trout.
In a sentence, “presentation” of the fly is of far greater importance than pattern.
It might be interesting to go through a summer season and fish with only two flies, well two of each type.
For instance here are two nymphs I would restrict myself too:-
Hare and Copper: What does it imitate? I don’t know, but it certainly catches trout. Tie the nymph in sizes ranging from 8 to 16.
Pheasant Tail: Probably imitates a dominant mayfly (deleatidium). Great in sizes 10 to 18.
What of dry flies?
For summer you would have to have a cicada imitation – wonderful in mid-summer, from December to March.
Humpy – a great brown beetle imitation and top general dry fly, sizes 12 to 14.
How about lures?
Woolly Bugger. – good in olive and doubles in about a size 8 as a damsel fly nymph for Canterbury lakes and other still waters.
Hamill’s Killer – great fly lure anytime, anywhere, day or night and doubles as a great dragon fly larva imitation for lakes.
Within each pattern have a variation in sizes. For example a Hare and Copper nymph can be tied in Size 8 and down to 14s and 16s.
Some close runners-up. In nymphs perhaps he the Green Stonefly and Half Back Nymph.
Dry Flies – Parachute Adams and Royal Wulff.
Lures – Grey Ghost for whitebait time in lower river reaches and Mrs Simpson.
While it’s foolhardy in trout fishing to have a closed mind in restricting yourself too tightly, the words of Frank Sawyer, Charles Ritz and Art Lee are sound, practical advice – just a few patterns rather than a proliferation.
The basic message is don’t spend time snipping off and tying on flies and not fishing your fly.