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Flashy, synthetic flies may fish better than natural furs and feathers

I used to believe that fish would prefer muted-color flies and that one tied with original materials such as natural furs and feathers would be better than the new synthetic material. I have always believed that the earth tones such as olives, browns and tans were among the best colors.

All of this has gone out the window in the past decade, as I have begun to use more and more synthetics in my own fly creations. The reason I began doing so was that I started to view more and more underwater footage in both stills and video format.

What I saw convinced me that synthetics may be the only way to imitate just what I was seeing. My own underwater experiences confirmed that what I saw underwater undoubtedly was the same as what the trout were seeing.



In many cases you could see a massive number of what appeared to be lights. They were in fact glistening air bubbles that the emerging insects created.

Now how can you imitate such a sight with just furs and feathers?



The answer was that you really could not by tying them. You could dress the fly with silicone to retain air bubbles, but that is a lot of trouble.

I originally viewed synthetics as much too bright and sparkly to create effective trout patterns. Bright and sparkly? Maybe a fish would see the fly tied with the synthetic material as a point of light, much like during a major emergence.

Flies such as the lightning bug have capitalized on the bright and flashy nature of the synthetic materials. Tied with a mylar body and a bead-head, it reflects quite a bit of the available light.

Apparently the fish seem to like the fly because it has produced just about everywhere it has been fished.

I have a similar fly that is tied with a flashy material called ice dubbing ” material placed on the hook shank to imitate the body or a portion the body of the fly ” that really works just about anywhere that I fish it. As a result, I have incorporated more synthetic material into just about every fly that I tie.

I have always used synthetic dubbing (since it was created) for my dry flies, primarily because I felt that it wicked moisture from the fly and allowed it to float better. It also has a sparkle to it, as well. Using synthetics for my nymphs and streamers has given some very productive patterns.

A recent trip convinced me that the flashy flies tend to out-produce the tried and true older patterns.

One of my favorite flies has been the pheasant tail nymph or PT, as it is simply called. I like fishing the bead-head version and it has been super productive for me, whether I am in a lake or stream environment.

For some reason, the conventional bead-head version of this nymph did not work well, but a fly that is very similar but made of synthetic materials seemed to work extremely well. In fact, it worked so well that my friend and I caught most of our fish on that particular fly.

Before you go throwing out all of your old flies, I have to tell you that I have had days that do contradict this trend. I have caught fish on the fur and feather versions of the flies when the flashy ones have not worked. These days seem to be fewer and farther between of late, though. The synthetics have really arrived.

The next time you stop by a fly shop, take a good look at the flies for sale. I am sure that you will see a pretty good assortment of flashy materials displayed on them.

Whether it is subtle or downright loud, flash seems to catch fish! Try some of these flies the next time that you are out.

Bruce Ajari is a Truckee resident and regular fishing columnist for the Sierra Sun and other area newspapers.


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