It’s easy to go overboard when selecting your early season trout flies, however, it is important to have options. We never really know what the river will throw at us from day to day, and so we must counter that with a well-organised fly box.
For me personally, having a range of sizes and weights on hand is more desirable than having dozens of patterns. I choose a handful of designs that I’m confident in and build up numbers from there. Some may have a penchant for blingy, more colourful flies while others may enjoy the subtlety of smaller, more natural patterns.
But hey, brown trout will eat brightly coloured patterns and some days it’s a case of simply needing to get your fly seen.
SAVE YOURSELF SOME TIME AND JUST LOOK AROUND
By turning over a rock in your local trout stream you will soon determine the most predominant bugs in that system. These are simply what the trout are eating. If you match the size, colour and profile of what you see crawling about then you are on the right track.
Chances are most of these nymphs are likely to be small and dark, easily represented by a size 14 or 16 hare and copper, or pheasant tail nymph, and this is why many fly collections are built up around these ever popular patterns.
However when the invertebrate drift is heavy, or when fish won’t look at your PT, you need options.
Caddis, stoneflies, snails and chironomids are present in most clean water streams and offer a range of sizes and colours to catch the trout’s eye. We are fortunate here in New Zealand that trout don’t tend to lock on to any specific food source with exclusivity, with but a few exceptions, and so it’s a case of simply catching their eye and making your fly behave the way they want.
MAKE THE TROUT SEE YOUR FLY
Unnaturally coloured beads, accents and hotspots are employed to stand out and catch attention, or to show up in low light or discoloured flows. If there are hundreds of size 14 dark mayflies in the drift, a pink bead or coloured thorax can be your point of difference.
Orange will stand out and hold its colour as your fly sinks through the pool, whereas in clear conditions a subtle lime green or similar accent may stand out without raising suspicion.
Some anglers subscribe to the "dark streambed, dark fly - light coloured stream bed, light coloured fly" mantra while others do the opposite favouring the contrast.
CONSIDER THE MATERIALS OF YOUR EARLY SEASON TROUT FLIES
Hare's fur and other soft fibres create an uber buggy effect, while materials such as pheasant tail, quills and the like are great for creating slim profiles which slip through the column with ease. Soft hackles, rubber legs and CDC collars bring your fly to life, an essential when fishing slower, deeper pools, softer edges or for more pressured fish.
A wired abdomen can aid in getting smaller flies deep and there are more than a few deadly double tungstens of different shapes, colours and attributes in the Manic Fly Collection to really get you down into the zone.
The recent surge in popularity of jig hooks now mean we can load heavier beads onto smaller hooks, ideal for contact nymphing techniques, and by riding hook point up, jig nymph snag less when they’re working through the zone.
FLY SELECTION SHOULD BE SIMPLE
The key points in my eyes are choosing the right weight of the fly to get down where it’s needed, and the correct size of the fly to match what’s going on. Everything else is there to play with. Go out and try something new. Consider your selection. Expand on your ‘tried and trusted’ with different patterns, colours, and profiles and fish them confidently no matter the conditions.
A FEW NEW EARLY SEASON TROUT FLIES
Keller's Matte She Demon Stone - Black
Keller's Matte She Demon Stone - Sally
Tom's Seismic Stone - Amber
Tom's Seismic Stone - Green
Early season often means getting deep to fish in cold water or run-off conditions, and you can pack a lot of weight into the length of a stonefly nymph. Two new additions to the Manic Stonefly Collection are the Keller’s Matte She Demon Stone, and Canterbury guide, Tom Hodge’s Seismic Stone. Both feature a load of life imitation via rubber legs and all the weight you could want.
The She Demon Stone in size 12 sinks like a, err, stone and taking it up a notch, Tom’s Seismic Stone throws down both weight and profile in sizes 6 and 8.
IT'S THE UGLY, BUT SMALLER
Simon's Ugly - Pheasant Tail
Simon's Ugly - Hare & Copper Red
Looking for weight in a compact nymph? Well, you asked and we listened. The Kiwi sensation, Simons Ugly pattern is now available in all the colours your local trout love, and now down to size 14 throughout the range.
Come eat me rubber legs, two tungsten beads and a variety of colours designed to perform in varying light and water clarity.
You now have more choice for weight and size, ensuring even those warier fish are not so safe anymore.
A NEW MATAURA STAPLE
DEEP DROP MAYFLY NYMPH - Black
DEEP DROP MAYFLY NYMPH - Olive
DEEP DROP MAYFLY NYMPH - Red
I can see these flies paying dividends in clear conditions when the fish just need something they haven't seen a lot of before.
EURO FOR YOU BRO
Jig Blowtorch - Copper
Jig Blowtorch - Red
For the Euro Trash crew we have the Jig Blowtorch range with a collar full of movement and a butt to catch the eye. In 12 and 14 with either an olive, red or pink bead/butt combo you can give the fish something to excite them, whatever the conditions.
RUSSELL ANDERSON’S CREEPER FLY
Russell Anderson's Creeper
With the increased early season flows a number of more resilient food items find themselves dislodged from the stream bed and entering the drift. If you have never seen a headwater trout race the width of a pool to engulf your fly, then you need a handful of Russell Anderson's creepers in your collection.
Creepers, or dobsonfly larva securely cling to the underside of structures in our bouldery, headwater streams and only occasionally make it onto the menu. However with their size and presence when they do, they’re a mouthful far too good to turn down.
A high water favourite fished either solo, or with a smaller trailer.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE DRIES
Hi Viz Parachute Adams - Red
Of course it's not all about nymphing come October, for many streams can turn on some mighty fine hatches. However, low reflected light and dull, early season days can make tracking your dry a chore. If ya can't see them eat it, ya can't strike ‘em, and so high viz dries are essential.
The trout don't care about the colour of the wing and in an all-round red hi-viz post, the Hi-Viz Para Adams is a stalwart in my selection.
With over 400 patterns in the Manic Fly Collection, all tied on quality branded, japanese steel hooks, I’m sure you will find a selection of early season trout flies that serves you well.
ABOUT CHRIS DORE:
Chris Dore is a battle tested fly fishing guide with over 15 years of professional guiding experience, battling the demanding, ever changing conditions that our New Zealand rivers throw at us.
In 2006 Chris became one of the first New Zealanders to successfully pass the internationally recognised Federation of Fly Fishers Certified Casting Instructors examination and has since taught many thousands of anglers to up their skillset.
For more in person and on river fly fishing advice and upskilling why not book Chris for a day or three?