April 6th, 2009

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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Simply Red
By René van de Ruit - A FAOL member
Edited by Larry Gibbs (sagefisher)

Editors Note: René is part of the Fly Anglers OnLine family. I 'speak' with him on the FAOL Chat Room site every so often. He wrote this article about the use of red with flies and sent it to me. He does not write in English so he used a computer software to translate his article from Dutch to English. I then asked him if I could edit the article to conform a little more to how we use the English language. He agreed and this is the end result.

Why are brothels in red light, and why are red dresses bold? Why is red lipstick considered exciting? It is because the color Red has an effect! And, with simply red, I don't mean the popular pop group from England. The color red has a big influence on people. But, not only on mankind, also on fish! So, I titled this, Simply Red … Why then simply red?

To start with, we generally have quite a lot of red around us when we look at fishing lures. Take spinners and plugs for instance, with such a large variety of models and colors available, one of the colors almost always present that is quite striking, is the color red. The same goes with us fly fisherman, we frequently find this color in our wonderful creations of flies, whether wet or dry, nymph or streamers.

Some examples are the classic Red tag, San Juan worm, and a red fluor-Nymphs, and many others.

The Red Tag fly with that small piece of red wool or poly-yarn is pretty easy for us to see at a distance. We can even change the colors to fluorescent, like red-green or yellow. The Red Tag Nymph, what does it imitate? A larva of a mosquito, or something else? Who knows. But the Red Tag nymph works, with a bead or without. The fish strikes, your line draws tight and you know you have a big fish on your hook. Almost everyone has seen it during our fishing hours.

But that red,…What is happens when red is on a fly? Many fishermen among us will have to agree that sometimes when a single form of red is present or even a lot of red is present on our fly or Nymph, that sometimes better results are achieved than when the red was not present.

The question is, can a fish see colors … or the fish distinguish colors? A number of factors play into this issue as to the clarity of the water and what depth we fish with our imitation. Research has clearly shown that, for example, the bream takes red imitations first instead of white. What do fish see? A small scientific explanation of this whole is as follows.

What a fish exactly sees depends on the type of sensory cells in their eyes. There are two different types: one type of record weak light and the other strong light and color. Fishing on a larger depth of life, where all the bad lighting conditions is difficult to observe and uniform in color, have almost exclusively sensory cells of the weak light type, while fish to the surface or in shallow water life many cells of the second type, they can not only see better, but also distinguish colors.

Colors show. What colors a fish (species) can distinguish depends on the depth and type of habitat. The sunlight has an initial broad composition so that fish in shallow water (to about 10 m) almost always are trichromatic.

In sea water the blue light penetrates (short wavelength, about 400 nm) but more so in fish - as they go deeper - the sensitivity to longer wavelengths (red - orange - green, 500-600 nm) are missing.

In fresh and turbid water, it is the other way: blue light is the first to be eliminated in greater depth so fish are more sensitive to longer wavelengths (red and green).

This has nothing to do with the refractive index of water, but by scattering molecules (in salt water (Rayleigh scatter) and absorption by organic matter (in turbid fresh water).

Young fish and species in shallow water are often sensitive to UV.

Infrared observation. Under infrared in this case means the far-red (remote control, security) of about 800 nm. There are fish species with a greater sensitivity to longer wavelengths than humans can perceive. This sensitivity has to do with a special composition of visual pigment., number of rods and cones.

Rods and cones. For most species is that they initially only have cones. During growth, this number is increasing and developing the bars with great speed. Eventually, the number of sticks so much bigger. Numbers of receptors (cones and rods) is therefore with the size of the eye and can vary between species. In addition, the numbers within the retina, where most cones are in that part of the retina of the fish forward looking.

When we fish in fresh water, like many of us do, then that red color is clear to see our brothers and sisters there under the water. To the eyes of the fish, red is very sensitive. Immediately followed by the colors orange and yellow.

Science does not stand still and further research is ongoing. One of the latest studies indicate that fish that are down deep in the sea can indeed see the color red as the color red. The scientists looked at a color filter, and saw under water suddenly a spectrum of red around them. Normally, the deep red color is black. This discovery has shocked some scientists in the world of the ichthyologist (fish expert). Further scientific research will disclose even more 'secrets' .

Personally, I fish regularly with a red Nymph and/or a small red mini-streamer. Roach, (Fish called roach are members of the carp and minnow family Cyprinidae), bass, and even bream are often caught with a little red mini streamer. Yes, bass, a lot of bass have been caught with that little red sock (the mini-streamer). On a warm summer evening, this is really literally a winner.

Anything can be used as red: wool, ibis, and so many plastic materials. Red has an effect! It is known that in Roman times around the 3rd century AD, they used hooks which were bound with red wool.

Here in the Netherlands where I live, I cast my fly line and have great fun with this wonderful sport known as fishing.

I love … a setting sun, a fighting bass causing rippling waves . Oh, is it good to be a fly fisherman.

Say, do you think it when you tie? Don't forget the color red. You will not regret it. ~ Rene van de Ruit

Additional info:

Red mini streamer - Tiemco 5230 #10

Hexe tiemco - Tiemco 5230 #14

Red mini Nymphe - Tiemco 2487 #22

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