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Rambling Reflections on Flies

Rick Zieger
By Richard Zieger, Iowa

There has been an ongoing discussion on one of the fly tying lists about fly colors. Questions are being raised about how colors are affected by the turbidity of the water, the angle of the sun and the depth they are being fished at.

There have been a few articles in fishing magazines lately about this also. I know that I fish differently when the water has more color to it. I find that I fish shallower in the water column. I also tend to fish more in the shallower water.

My reasoning is that the fish will go shallower because they cannot be seen. I find that I catch a lot of fish in two feet of water or less. I use flies with no weight and a floating line. I try to cast the fly so that it lands right next to the shore. I catch several trees and bushes every time I do this. I move the fly very slowly. I vary the retrieve from strip and pause to a steady retrieve until I find out what the fish like. I also try to keep the fly in the top foot of the water column.

Many times I can see the bulge of water as the fish takes the fly. The fish are not in schools at this time so it is catch one and move a little to get to the next one. Most of the ponds I fish in are shallow enough that I have a wide area to cast over. This allows me to fish many places without moving the canoe. I think the fish are cruising through these areas. By casting around I can, at times, catch several fish from the same general area. I do have to wait a while before another fish comes in.

I also fish out over the deeper water. I experimented with a few flies this year for this fishing. As I wrapped the thread down the shank of the hook, I tied in a very thin piece of foam. I wanted to see if I could make the flies suspend a little bit more. Some worked better than others did. I think I will have to vary the amount of foam depending on what materials the flies are tied out of. I am still very early in this process so I have no advice to give, but to try it.

I would anchor over water from eight to 12 feet deep. I would fan cast around the canoe. I would retrieve the flies very slowly. Most of the time the fly had to move at least ten feet before a fish would take it. Many times it was farther than that. The more turbid the water the farther the fly had to move. It did not matter if it was a bright or dark fly.

What I think is happening is that the fish see either the fly or the movement and slowly come up to see what is going on. With the fly moving slowly it gives them a chance to see it and slowly move up, without expending a lot of energy for something they might not catch. I found that if I moved the fly too fast, I would not catch any fish. I would move the fly an inch or two and then let it pause for a time period, up to about ten seconds. I let the fish tell me how long to make the pause.

Here in Iowa it is legal to have two lines in the water. I would cast out two flies about four feet apart and bring them back at about the same rate. For anyone watching me do this it must have been an ugly experience. I had line laying in the bottom of the canoe and had to wash the lines every time I did this. I had the rod against the side of the canoe and stripped the line from between two of the guides and not at the bottom near the reel. When I hooked a fish, I had to hold the line against the rod and pull the previously retrieved line through the rest of the guides, pick up the rod and fight the fish. A real picnic if two fish hit at the same time. I told you it was ugly.

I would alternate the casts on each side to see if a bright or dark fly worked better. By keeping the fly in the top foot or so of the water column I found that it did not make much difference in the color. I did find that flies that had marabou for the tail or a wing seemed to do better. I am guessing this is because there was more movement.

This is something that I am going to spend more time on next summer. I am going to try this while the water is clearer in the spring. Hopefully I might be able to see a little more of what the fish are doing.

If you have any experiences or thoughts about this please let me know. Or, as my wife would say, straighten me out.

Hope you can get out on the water. ~ Rick ziegeria@grm.net

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