It’s easy to go overboard when building your fly selection, 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.
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.
Hare & Copper
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.
Crystal Chironomid Tan
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.
And you can’t go wrong with a size 8 bright red squirmy...
Consider the materials in your fly. Hares 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.
Iron Maiden Copper Black
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.
Jig STB Hare's Ear
The key points in my eyes is 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.
So I won’t throw out a selection of flies to kick your season off 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.
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 that serves you well.