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Undertaker
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
In general, I seldom change flies while steelheading. I ascribe to the view that the reason I'm not getting strikes isn't the fly. But sometimes it is. Yesterday I caught my first winter steelhead this year - about a month later than the last few years, just after changing flies to a heavier, barbell-eyed fly. A week earlier, in higher water, I was using a short T14 tip. After losing a couple of flies yesterday, I switched to a longer intermediate tip and stopped hanging up. But I wasn't getting any hits either. So, when I left the productive run and headed downstream I put on a Willie Nelson fly (a black bunny leech with a red head, think egg sucking bunny leech), tossed it into the too-fast chute and wham, a nice wild buck grabs it and gives battle. Sorry, no pics. I suck at photography.

I seldom fish weighted flies, mostly because I hate to hang up and having to re-rig. But sometimes they are the ticket - generally when trying to get down quickly in smaller slots, often with short casts. Matching tips and flies to water conditions is a big part of the winter game.
 

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I'm with you about not changing often. I usually stick with one fly and whatever tip I left on my head last time to fish through a run no matter what the conditions really are barring very low vis, high water, but then again, the fish I'm after aren't sitting out in the middle in those conditions, anyway.

I hate hanging up, and I know an aggressive fish (the one I'm after) will move to induce violence. There are times when I've switched flies then had a grab 3 casts later, but we'll never know whether that same fish refused the original or would have nabbed it too.

I do know that one of the most frustrating people to follow down a run is the guy that switches up everything constantly - fly, tip, head, etc... But it's always fun to pick his pocket 馃懣
 

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I seldom change flies unless I've went a long time without a grab/fish, as in hours, or if I've got a grab and no hook-up. If I am forced to, or communal enough to fish the same run as someone else, I try to fish a different style of fly and in a different way/depth whether or not they are catching fish.

As far as tip/polyleader changes, I select for the average depth I am going to find that nice "walking speed" water, be it at the surface or 3 feet down. I guess it takes a lot of eye ball estimating for that.

Your weighted fly probably just found that sweet spot in current speed.
 

Drags are for Sissys
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Firm believer here in changing flies as Steelhead where I fish are color sensitive. Finding the color that works at any given day can lead to success. I became a believer after hammering a usually productive run with the same usual fly, three passes through - took a few hours. Then changed to a freaky new colored fly for me (chartreus/blue/fiery brown) and quickly swung it into the most productive part of the run - whammo, fish on.
 

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Firm believer here in changing flies as Steelhead where I fish are color sensitive. Finding the color that works at any given day can lead to success. I became a believer after hammering a usually productive run with the same usual fly, three passed though - took a few hours. Then changed to a freaky new colored fly for me (chartreus/blue/fiery brown) and quickly swung it into the most productive part of the run - whammo, fish on.
Since it's January, I assume we are talking about winter fish. That said, do you really believe that fish was sitting in the same lie for a few hours?
 

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Winter:
Since I typically float I usually pick a type of water I want to fish for given conditions and then go with a fly I like for that type of water and stick with it. There are so few fish these days that I feel like I just need to keep searching rather than change tactics.

Summer:
I'll fish 3 rigs with totally different setups. Sunrise/set(dry fly), morning/evening(damp fly), mid day(sink tip, lunch, margarita and a cot in the shade)
 

flytie09
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By definition (at least mine) fishing is the act of an angler to search for the triggers to fish behavior of a population to bite. To choose to not recognize that these triggered responses may change within a population or as conditions do so with the water as a result (but not exclusive) of the season, water temperature, or daylight levels through out the day is just not productive.

You may have to realize at some point during a day of angling.......that you simply chose incorrectly. It's ok to be wrong....

The fly does and doesn鈥檛 matter. A fly may be too large, or too bright or too flashy. We鈥檙e looking to trigger the predatory cat chasing the mouse instinct in a fish. There are negative attributes a fly can have that will inhibit this trigger. It鈥檚 up to the angler to figure these out through a method using trial and error, experience and feedback. Watching a buddy or other anglers success or lack there of points you to the direction of what works....assuming of course that there are fish and they are willing participants that day.

In general, will a cat chase a baby elephant that鈥檚 drug across the floor? Or equally so, will it chase a grain of sand in the same method? Likely not. Will it chase a 2" sized fluffy nugget that's drug across them and does it matter if it's black or white or clown colored? It depends......but more times than not.......it doesn't matter if they are a willing participant to the game. Throw in environmental changes like light levels, rain, stress that alters their behavior....... well you're trying to crack the code now aren't ya? We can think of all of this in human terms....but sometimes you have to think like that fish. Sometimes we outfox ourselves.

What am I saying? I pick a fly I think will swim right, is appropriate sized, looks good to me and present it in a manner I think they will respond. If that doesn't work after some time or I see others around me having success and I am not...I will change. To what? That's where you're own brain will have to come into play. Because some things matter and some things won't. Have a planned systemic process where you cycle through colors, flash, speed, or water column depth,etc. There is no one process and no two fish behave the same......you're trying to appeal to the majority of the minority that will even chase your damn fly.

The above is all purely speculation and my theory to how the fish we target respond to the fly we present to them. Try to think of it in statistical terms. If you plot all flies that have caught fish ever on a chart and choose the single fly that's caught the most (a black leech let's theorize)......you have a pretty good chance of success under any condition. Now.....if you look in your box and just close your eyes and grab whatever......are you going to have equal success? If you're Adrian, yes....for us mere mortals....I'd theorize no. Some might say they'd could out fish you with a bare hook...I'm still looking to see that individual. Must be Bigfoot's brother.

Am I right? I've caught some fish....so I'm not 100% wrong is all I can say. Perhaps all that I do, and believe is pure and utter nonsense and is a blind squirrel finding a nut. I'd like to think not....... but at least I have a process I follow that gives me confidence with a given choice. Every cast and swing made....I think is the one. 99.99% of the time I've been proven wrong....so what the hell do I know?
 

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The day I figure this out and everything is "known" about why fish take my flies. I will quit fishing and do something else with my time,

To me, the puzzle of figuring it out and how different people are approaching it differently keep the sport interesting.

On many occasions I stood in the river dumbfounded by what the fish decided to do, or not do. Honestly, it puts a smile on my face thinking that a creature with a pea sized brain outsmarted me on that day. At least that is the romanticism that works for me.

Carry on, I am listening.
 

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I used to overthink it and change flies a lot. I spent a lot of my time wondering if I had the "right" fly on. Eventually the stress started detracting from my experience so I did a little experiment.

For a full year, summer run and winter run, I just fished a GBS. I had a couple sizes but almost always fished a #2 and tied them all the same. Sure I'd add a sink tip in cold water or run a dry line in summer, but for most of the year I fished a scandi with a slow sink poly leader.

Guess what? I caught just about the same number of fish as I had the season before. Since then I've put a lot more energy into what water I'm fishing than what fly I'm dragging through it.

The downside is that I've settled on a few go to patterns and have really lost my tying appetite. Started tying with marabou this winter just to do something different and I'm liking that again.
 

Undertaker
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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
The above is all purely speculation and my theory to how the fish we target respond to the fly we present to them. Try to think of it in statistical terms. If you plot all flies that have caught fish ever on a chart and choose the single fly that's caught the most (a black leech let's theorize)......you have a pretty good chance of success under any condition. Now.....if you look in your box and just close your eyes and grab whatever......are you going to have equal success? If you're Adrian, yes....for us mere mortals....I'd theorize no. Some might say they'd could out fish you with a bare hook...I'm still looking to see that individual. Must be Bigfoot's brother.
The concept of using statistics to identify the best fly is amusing. It would be one thing if we were hooking up every 15 minutes, or even hourly, but as we often have fishless days regardless of the fly, the stats would be difficult. And the experimental conditions constantly change, temperature, flow, color, not to mention the availability of the fish. And perhaps it is best we can't do those statistics and find that perfect fly (though we all have one), I mean, what would Adrian do? I happen to have several tomes of fly patterns, surely all the best at one time or another. Apparently, even when there were scads of fish in the rivers, the damn cats could be picky.
 

flytie09
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The concept of using statistics to identify the best fly is amusing. It would be one thing if we were hooking up every 15 minutes, or even hourly, but as we often have fishless days regardless of the fly, the stats would be difficult. And the experimental conditions constantly change, temperature, flow, color, not to mention the availability of the fish. And perhaps it is best we can't do those statistics and find that perfect fly (though we all have one), I mean, what would Adrian do? I happen to have several tomes of fly patterns, surely all the best at one time or another. Apparently, even when there were scads of fish in the rivers, the damn cats could be picky.
I鈥檓 talking about statics of all anglers over decades. Yes鈥 using too small a sample size is meaningless and would be amusing.

Pick a fly you have confidence in and keep it in the water. I personally think there鈥檚 a little more to it and fly design. To say fly selection requires no thought at all鈥. is wrong. As is cycling through an entire fly box in a day of angling. Yes, you can drive yourself nuts sometimes changing flies and trying to outsmart a fish that has the brain the size of a peanut. Keep it simple.

Everything in life can be broken down into statistics. Whether or not we know the laws that drive them is debatable.
 
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