Friday, November 18, 2011

My Flyosophy

You have just arrived at the water you intend to fish and ask yourself the age old question....What fly should I use?  Every single fly angler asks themselves that question on each and every outing (sometimes repeatedly).  It's a simple question to ask but sometimes an extremely difficult one to answer.  First things first, what are you fishing for?  Second what type of water body are you fishing? Lastly, what are the weather and water conditions you can expect to face?  As you can see that first simple question has now spawned at least three more questions.  In a way that's not all that bad because these questions are designed to narrow the choices.  But when those choices fail it will only lead to more questions.  The experienced angler, however,  has learned with time what works and what doesn't and this eventually leads to each individual developing their own "flyosophy." 

The Usual created by Fran Betters
Any anglers flyosophy is unique to him or her but is usually the product of many different influences.  These influences can be anything from what your buddy uses to fish, to what was gleaned form an "expert" in a book.  In many instances there may be significant overlap of one anglers flyosophy with that of another.  This sometimes leads to "schools of thought" regarding which is the best fly to use and in what particular situation.  Sometimes this flyosophy comes to dominate how everyone fishes as can be seen with the use of dry flies on the chalk streams of England.  At other times the average angler will feel the pull of two opposing ideas.  I have primarily been a tenkara angler for the last few years and constantly move back and forth between the "match the hatch" crowd and the "one/any fly" concept (though I admit I lean heavily in the latter's favor).  Many ask which is better?  I don't think there is an answer to this question or should there be.  If you catch fish with either method and you enjoy it who cares?  If any method employed to catch fish didn't work then it would not last very long would it?

Olive Takayama Sakasa Kebari
This brings me to my own personal flyosophy on what makes a great fly (I am planning to write a future post about my ideal fly box).  In order to describe MY idea of what makes a great fly to use I feel I should quickly describe what my background is and where my influences have come from.  For the new arrival on the fly fishing scene this maybe crucial to developing his or her own ideas of what  fly to use.

The Killer Kebari created by Chris Stewart (aka TenkaraBum)
I was taught how to fish by my Dad at around 6 or 7.  I grew up using spin gear "chucking" worms or casting my beloved Mepps spinners for bass, pickerel, yellow perch, catfish and panfish.  Somewhere around 16 my interest in fishing faded while football and school took a front row seat.  I re-acquired my love for fishing about 5 years ago while living here on Long Island.  This was mostly spin fishing in saltwater for fluke, bluefish and striped bass.  Somewhere in the summer of 2009 I became aware of tenkara fishing and thought it would be a great way to get into fly fishing without all of the expensive equipment.  Fly fishing is something I had always wanted to do as a kid.  The thought of wading in a stream with a wicker creel catching trout on flies I tied always appealed to me.  So began my love affair with tenkara (and mild obsession with fly tying).  I eagerly read all the literature available on tenkara and every book I could get my hands on related to the best fly patterns to use.  I bounced back and forth constantly on what type of flies I wanted to tie and use.  Eventually the flyosophies of two anglers, made it to the top of the heap...Sylvester Nemes and Fran Betters.

Haystack created by Fran Betters
I admit I'm a little biased towards Fran's flies just because he hailed from one of my favorite places, the Adirondacks, in my home state of New York.  Ultimately though, Fran's flies are made from simple materials, they are durable, easy to tie, and most importantly they work!  I think these characteristics should always be considered when it comes to the selection of a particular fly. 

March Brown Spider a soft hackled fly
Sylvester Nemes' books, "The Soft-Hackled Fly" & "Two Centuries of Soft-Hackled Flies," are among my favorite fly fishing books.  Between these two books he clearly lays out his reasons for using soft hackled flies and a summation of the history behind them.  Soft hackled flies are very effective flies because they very easy to tie and give the illusion of "life" to a hungry trout.  Many patterns have been around for hundreds of years.  That alone testifies to their effectiveness.  

Royal Sakasa Kebari
Shortly after discovering tenkara, I discovered the traditional flies that developed alongside it hundreds of years ago in Japan.  I immediately fixated on the sakasa kebari with their reverse tied hackle.  They, like the soft-hackle flies of North Country tradition, were simple to tie and possesed similar characteristics that suggested life and a struggling insect caught in the current of a stream.

A nice brown trout caught earlier this summer.
With my background in mind, I now give you "my flyosophy."  Any fly that I carry with me to the stream will have the following characteristics.  The fly'sreasons of expense and ease of tying).  It should be easy to tie.  The fly in question should be durable and able to withstand not only the elements but the abuse doled out from more than a handful of trout.  It should lend itself to easy variation (for those anglers who lean towards the "match the hatch" school of thought).  It should be capable of being fished in more than one type of situation.  Finally it should look like almost everything and yet nothing specific at the same time.  Almost every fly I have used fits this bill.  I am constantly adjusting my fly box to have patterns that conform to these characteristics ( sometimes it's difficult because lord knows...I love to tie tons of flies). Examples of the flies I usually carry are the time tested flies such as Fran Betters' Haystack and Usual, the Partridge & Orange and Stewarts Black spider soft-hackles, Frank Sawyer's Killer Bug and Chris Stewart's Killer Kebari and most importantly several variations of sakasa kebari including my Royal Sakasa Kebari variation.  All of these flies are composed of 3 or 4 materials (excluding hook) or less.  They are also all a cinch to tie and I have been able to carry a small box of them everywhere I go from spring creeks and tailwaters to mountain streams and shallow weedy ponds and have success. 

One of my favorite brookies
Is my flyosophy for the right fly correct?  I don't know but it works for me.  Will it work for another angler?  Maybe, maybe not.  Each individual must find their own way on this path but hey...isn't that one of the greatest things about the sport of fly fishing?  My ideas are fluid and I may change depending on my own experiences reading the literature and actually being out on the water.  Where will I end up?  Who knows? However,  I do know that I will enjoy the ride.  Good luck to all in finding your own "flyosophy."


  1. Great post Kiwi.
    Fran's flies would not be a bad first choice.
    That brookie would be a favorite of mine also.

  2. Thanks very much Brk Trt. Had any luck with the hunting yet?

  3. I really enjoyed this post. I find that I fish the flies I think are beautiful, that aesthetically grab me...and so I tie them on. And I fish flies that I personally tie...for whatever reason I fish them better because I have confidence in them and take pride in them.

  4. Thanks e.m.b....I also like to go with flies I tie myself for the same reasons. Except I like to tie classic wet flies because of their beauty but I find it hard to fish them for the same reason.

  5. Kiwi,
    CT's gun season opened Wed. I hunted two mornings and saw nothing. I did get quite a bit of good thinking in.
    I'll keep at it though.

  6. That is a great selection of "go to" patterns. I would feel confident that you could go anywhere trout live and be in the game. Thanks for posting.

  7. Thanks Todd! Going anywhere with it was kind of the idea. I figure I would rather spend more time with my fly in the water than constantly changing them to find "the right one."