One of the aspects of advanced fly tying that's very often overlooked is vision.
By that, I mean the mental vision to see things differently than most other people
and act on that vision. Haven't you ever asked yourself why a certain fly works
so well when it doesn't look as much like the natural critter as another fly that
doesn't work as well?
Fly creation involves much more than just making a fly that looks a lot like a
natural insect or minnow. It involves a mental vision of what the fish sees and
what triggers the fish's instinct to feed on what he sees. Why does a fish feed
on a minnow? Is it the flash of the scales or the color of the body? Do fish
feed on an elk hair caddis because it looks like a fluttering caddis returning
to the water to lay its eggs? Finding that trigger is often the difference between
a fly that works a little and a fly the fish can't resist.
Those of you who have followed my fly tying instruction here on FAOL from
the beginning are familiar with my pattern called the SHWAPF. Did you ever
ask yourself why that particular pattern works? What does it trigger in the mind
of the fish that bites it? Is the trigger merely a similarity to enough natural insects
that fish are willing to try it? Is it more than that? Could it possibly be the shape
or profile of the fly that triggers an instinct as old as that particular strain of fish?
Since it works on so many different types of fish, maybe the instinct it triggers
is older than just one strain of fish.
I'm not trying to tell you I know all the reasons fish bite that particular fly. In fact,
I'm sure I don't know more than a few of the reasons; but it does work on a
variety of fish. Tied in the colors pictured in my recipe in the beginning fly tying
series, I've caught five species of trout, crappie, bluegills and sunfish, largemouth
and smallmouth bass, rock bass, whitefish, goldeneye shad, a couple of variations
of chubs and even suckers. I also caught several red snapper on a SHWAPF
tied with orange crystal flash hackle and a pearl tinsel body recently while fishing
in Belize. Something about that fly triggers a feeding response in fish.
I'm not trying to tell you that a SHWAPF will catch everything. Bonefish ignored
it completely, but a variation (or maybe offspring) of the SHWAPF I call a Shrimpf
was a killer on bonefish and worked well on jacks. Why did I feel confident my
new fly would work on bonefish when I hadn't ever fished for that species before?
The same vision I'm trying to describe to you now.
The Flash-Pan Crayfish is one of those flies created using that type of vision.
It isn't hard to tie, and it doesn't involve difficult skills; it requires vision. Bass,
trout and virtually anything that eats crayfish will take it if you fish it in the right
places; and if you twitch it so it swims with an erratic motion common to a
fleeing crayfish, fish will find it hard to resist. It was created to capitalize
on several items that trigger a feeding response in fish.
First, the Flash-Pan Crayfish looks vaguely similar to a real crayfish with claws,
a shell and legs; but the attraction goes beyond those features. I tossed in a
couple of other triggers to add to the attractive qualities of this fly.
I placed orange crystal flash near the hook bend to add several features I've
noticed fish find attractive. Adding a touch of orange to a crayfish pattern
seems to be a trigger that often causes fish to take that fly when they've
refused others that were very similar. An orange and black wooly bugger
would be a good example. Also, the subtle sparkle and translucent qualities
of crystal flash often triggers a feeding response in fish that will ignore the
same fly without it.
I formed the back and shell with some prismatic tape, but I didn't try to make
it look very realistic. In fact, I covered it with hair so the flash of the tape would
be slightly subdued. If you've ever fished with hardware like spoons, spinners
or spinner baits, you know how attractive flash is in any lure, so why not in a fly?
Slightly subduing that flash by covering it with hair that moves and breaths in
the water adds a touch of mystery to the fly. The fish see the flash and
instinctively feel an urge to investigate. Then, as the hair waves in the water
with each twitch of the fly, the flash appears to move like a living creature.
Not only is the fly moving through the water, it appears to have a motion
of its own because portions of the fly are moving or breathing and the flash
seems to be moving with them. Add to that the fact that prismatic tape
flashes in many different colors, and you have a trigger most fish have a
hard time ignoring. Even the bead chain eyes have a subtle flash that
attracts the attention of fish.
Do you have the vision required to create a fly that triggers a feeding response
in fish? As we tie this pattern, try to see a fly in your mind that incorporates
similar triggers to attract fish. Maybe it'll be a variation of my pattern, or
maybe it will be something completely different. If you're going to advance
beyond copying other people's patterns or merely experimenting until you
luck into something that works, you'll need a vision of what triggers a feeding
response in fish, and the ability to put that vision to work in your own pattern.
It's time to take that next step in your fly tying progression.