This means many different things to many
people and for a variety of contexts. These
descriptions of a "good" fly are just my
opinions and are not ranked in any way nor
are they influenced by actual fish thought.
Certainly, good can mean a fly that fish
respond to by taking it either for something
to eat or as an interloper into its territory.
Typically, a fly that imitates fish food is
said to have a certain "bugginess" to it.
Bugginess means to me that the fly looks alive
and imitates or suggests normal insects and
even bait fish that the prey fish encounters
on any given day. These flies typically have
a rather shaggy look about them and have parts
that suggest insect/baitfish legs, gills or fins
flailing away as they drift or swim. These flies
are often "good" flies.
There are those flies that don't even remotely
look like potential food, at least to our eyes.
Fully dressed flies and brightly colored Steelhead,
Salmon and Bass flies often just look like an artist
dropped his palette onto a hook. Over the years,
the topic of why fish react to these sometimes
gaudy flies has been debated by better thinkers
than I and the arguments still persist. It is
probable that some of these flies look like
potential prey that is fleeing the territory
of the predator fish. Fish may also see these
flies as interlopers and strike to protect its
territory. Others may just ever so slightly
resemble something that might be edible that
will tempt the fish to "taste" it. That the
fish do strike these flies is enough
rationalization for me. These are also "good"
A good fly may also be said to be a durable fly
that also exhibits the above traits. What achieves
this are things like wire or tinsel ribbing to
bind hackle or protect otherwise fragile bodies.
Other armaments can also be twisting wire or
thread with herl to make a kind of chenille,
coating floss bodies with head cement, adding
epoxy to heads of flies and so on. Again, "good"
A good fly can also be one that has stood the
test of time. For a pattern to endure and be
used decade after decade, it must be effective.
Spey flies are an example of this. They originated
in Scotland some hundred years ago. They caught
fish then and continue to this day.
Another meaning of a good fly can be the care
and skill that it has been tied with. A common
Adams with the often elusive tiny smooth head,
tapered body and upright wings that comes to
rest with the desired three point landing (Tail,
bend of hook and, hackle tips) is definitely a
good fly. Good is also the hallmark of a neatly
tied and well-proportioned fully dressed fly. It
exhibits even ribs, a smooth floss tag and body,
wing and veilings that sit upright with no twists,
a smooth, glossy and tiny head are just a few of
the characteristics of a good/well tied fly.
Good flies are also those that are the pride of
the Tyer. They may not be perfect in every way
but are the best the Tyer can do and they are
justifiably proud of their creations. We've all
tied these flies during our tying lifetime. As
we tie flies year after year, we develop better
skills and our flies improve. We were all puffed
with pride when we caught our first fish with a
fly we tied and many of us still recall the
experience years later with a fond recollection
of where we started in relation to where we are
now. I have a few of the flies I tied in the mid
fifties as a lad and at the time, those were the
best flies the world had ever been seen. At least
that is what I thought at the time. Now however,
the survivors are some of the homeliest flies I
have ever seen! They were "good" flies at the time
and in some special way only evident to me, they
When we hear someone else talking about a "good"
fly, he/she is discussing it based on their biases
and we listen and view the fly from ours. The bottom
line is that what makes a fly a good fly, can and
will always mean many different things to different
Frankly, any fly that induces a hookup with a fish
is a good fly! ~ RL