I had been spending an unproductive morning on the main branch
of Michigan's Au Sable, pounding my way upstream with a dry.
Lovely fishing, catching left much to be desired. At the path
from the water up to my camp-site I met a guy who had been taking
the easy way, that being, swinging a nymph downstream. He had
covered several times as much water as I and also had caught
quite a number of trout.
He was not new to me as I had watched him on various occasions
use his nymph with seemingly deadly results. I was not a fan of
such methods, having taken the time and learned all the scientific
names and only fished dry and with direct imitations of the
insects. When I hit it right, it was a highly productive game,
when I didn't, it became a 'lovely walk,' upstream.
He was not my choice for a fishing companion either, but as we
were both about to exit the river together at the steps, courtesy called for
some small talk.
"Hi, do any good this morning?" I ventured.
"Uh huh, 'bout like usual. Here look at these."
From his canvas bag type creel he gilled a couple of dandy browns,
perhaps in the sixteen-inch class. I had some time before given
up the habit of killing and eating the fish I choose to play with
and this ticked me off but I was also a bit jealous. He had
found some fun with these fish, I had not caught anything, although
my style of fishing was surely my choice.
"Hey, those are great, what did you use?" I replied, not
wanting to sound too envious.
"Fuzzy-bugger. Here, ya want one? I'm not much of a tier, but
I make these myself, lose quite few in snags and stuff," and
started reaching for a little box in his shirt pocket.
That about did it. He had not even been using a nymph that looked
like any of the insects in the stream. That fly was nothing more
than a gob of dubbing on a hook, and it looked like crap at that.
It was just a furry looking lump; no head, no thorax, legs, eyes,
nothing. I knew this water well, very well, and trust me, nothing
lived in it that looked anything like that fly. Any small amount
of respect for him that I may have had vanished on the spot. I
declined his most generous offer.
A few years have rolled by now and I may have mellowed a bit,
some probably hope I have mellowed a lot. Oh, I still like to
try to copy the bug or bait when possible, I still don't use
nymphs, and I will fight the current with a dry until the day
I die. I don't cover very much water or present to very many
fish this way, but I enjoy doing it my way.
So we have two schools of thought here, diametrically opposed,
both great producers. Which one is right, or are they both right,
or does it make any difference, or the big question, can they be
combined? He was obviously fishing an 'attractor' fly. It just
looked like it might be alive and it just might be food, so
why not take a shot at it to find out. I was a 'imitationist'
I made the trout eat what I wanted them to, he gave them options.
He caught more fish that morning than I did.
Let's consider this, photographs show conclusively that when
a dry fly with wings gets right on the edge of a fishes vision
'window' the wings are the first thing seen, and they are distorted.
That is, they are elongated, look almost twice as long as they
really are. There are some folks who purposely make the wings
very long on their dry flies. Now, those must look terrifically
long to a fish, but . . .they work too. You may have seen or
heard of the 'Catskill Flies.'
Does this mean that fish 'key' in on certain characteristics of
a food? Could be. Why did they inhale the stupid 'Fuzzy-bugger?'
Something made them want it, or was it just flotsam in the stream?
A lot of things must, or at least can be thought about and figured
in when we fly fish and tie our own flies. Direct imitation, or
represent a food type, or how about . . . just make it look 'alive?'
Here we go again. Another factor to add to the mix. There is a
fly which is just hackle, nothing else, all hackle. I've been
told recently is centuries old, comes in brown and grizzly,
deadly thing. Actually we have used it on many occasions when
the trout were keying in on a very specific insect, often caddis.
We tie it in several more colors. This thing does not look
anything like a caddis to us, but, it works very well. It does
look like a life form, especially if you skate it.
When viewed from underwater all it looks like is a bunch of footprints
that wiggle. Like caddis wiggle. The trout love it. So do we. Are
the fish' keying in' on the footprints?
Lots of think about, isn't there? Have fun, and if you ever get it
all figured out, let me know, I am still working on it. On second
thought. . . ~ LadyFisher
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