ATTRACTORS VERSUS IMITATIONS
For the person that is just starting to fish with dry flies, and wants to know how to go about it, things can seem pretty confusing at times. If some time was spent watching other anglers on any stream that has decent dry fly fishing one might see two very different methods of approach or schools of thought that would increase the confusion. Let's take a look at what the newcomer might witness that would cause this confusion.
There are those who will only cast to trout that are visibly rising and will only use patterns that they feel imitate what the trout are feeding on. These individuals seem to spend a great deal of time looking at the bugs and discussing the size, shape and color of the naturals. At times they even call these insects by funny sounding Latin names. Upon spotting the rising trout, they often resemble a Great Blue Heron, in as much as they appear to be slowly and carefully stalking their prey. They often talk about feeding lies, line control, slack, and the problems of drag. But yet, they are often successful in moving the trout to the fly.
Then, there are those hard-bitten characters that never match the hatch nor seem to care if the trout are visible or not. They employ patterns that seldom look like any mayfly found in creation, except perhaps in general shape and seem to be casting here and there with little regard for feeding lies or careful approach. They refer to the insects as bugs and often ignore anything else including the size. Still, they seem to land a fair number of trout.
OK. Now what?! Who's right? Which method should I choose? Or does it even matter?
Sound familiar? Well it should. I think many of us have been in this position at one time. It's called getting started and it can be very overwhelming. But it doesn't need to be. So we're back to what should I do, and which method is right?
Both! There are times when matching the hatch and carefully casting to visibly rising trout will be critical to your success. But, there will also be times when nothing is hatching or the hatch is very sparse and the trout don't seem to be keyed in or all that interested in the hatch. During those periods you often times use an attractor pattern and cover the water and enjoy considerable success.
The major point being that NO ONE METHOD is always right. To become the best you can be, you need to master all the methods and techniques of fly-fishing. I was once asked to name the best fly fisherman I knew, and quite frankly I could think of several very successful fly fishers that would meet that classification. The best all around fly fisherman are not necessarily the best casters, or the most effective with a dry fly, nymph, wet fly, or streamer, but they are able and willing to use any method that is needed at any time to be successful.
Therefore, as a step towards increasing your knowledge base, the angler/tyer should learn how to tie and fish both attractors and imitations. Someone once told me a little saying that I strongly believe in, "KEEP YOUR EYES AND MIND OPEN AND YOU WILL CONTINUE TO LEARN AND IMPROVE. CLOSE THEM AND YOU WILL STAGNATE AND WHITHER".