Today’s Friday Fly Day was inspired by an online conversation I had recently about modifying your flies when on the water, or simply fishing them differently to get the eat. We all know how many variations a fly tier can create of a single pattern but we don’t usually have a vice and a bunch of materials handy when tricky situations present themselves on the river. Here are a few ideas how you can make your fly selection a lot more versatile in an instant.
Clipping your dry fly hackle
Face it, not too many natural insects sit up high on their legs while drifting downstream for any amount of time. Why would they? They would fly off to safety. Most terrestrials, caddis and mayfly remain on the surface as they get stuck in the film, and ride low until they either free themselves, get eaten or drown.
Many times on wary fish, in flat water or after the refusal of my upright hackled dry I will simply clip the underside of the hackle so that my fly rides within, rather than upon the surface. This presents a much more realistic footprint to the fish. Try also clipping / thinning out the wing on that dry as the situation dictates, removing the tail for a different positioning in the surface or even clip down and streamline that Rabbit or Mrs Simpson. A pair of scissors on the riverbank can give you endless options.
From adding split shot to sink your beetle in summer and drowning ants anytime, to fishing your CDC spent spinner subsurface around the base of an autumn riffle, its important to remember that surface food will often waterlog, or get sucked under by the currents. These often provide the fish with a super easy meal and can offer a very productive alternative to your standard nymph pattern, especially when fish lock on to an abundant food supply.
Getting lighter flies down
Simply weighing down smaller, lighter nymphs with Loon Deep Soft Weight or Black Drops instead of reaching for a larger, heavier pattern can be the key to success on spookier rivers, spring creeks and stillwaters where a larger pattern can raise suspicion. Simply add the shot directly to the leader or if using finer, softer nylon consider a shorter, split tippet of several inches with the tag end of your blood knot left unclipped. Tie a simple overhand knot in the end of your tag to stop them slipping free and attach your tin shot to this. Where regulations allow, maybe just slide a tungsten bead onto your trace between your point fly and dropper for a little extra depth.
Try replacing the stinger hook on swingers with a hothead / beadhead nymph or egg pattern. Similarly a tungsten, or coloured plastic bead can turn your standard woolly bugger into a deadly egg sucking leech when needed.
Just as a fly tier should never marry themselves to an exact recipe, you should play around with your store bought flies and see what works. Giving the fish something different can often be the day maker, and a bit of creativity will give you many more options from your fly box.