The Artificial Fly

Artificial flies imitate insects and other creatures fish eat such as minnows, crayfish, etc.

They are made by tying feathers, yarn, etc. onto a hook with thread. In the world of fly-fishing, the three basic theories of imitation are: exact, impressionistic, and attractor/stimulator.

Imitation Flies

dry fly - realistic may fly

Example of very realistic Mayfly design. Only one way to find out if it catches fish. Photo courtesy

Exact imitations are photo realistic with precise shape, color, and minute detail.

It takes a lot of time, skill, and effort to create these. Are they worth the hard work?

Probably not, except for the satisfaction of making such a fine copy.

Experience on the trout stream proves that such flies may look unnatural. Why?

Because they are often hard and opaque, unlike many insects that have soft bodies that some light can pass through.

Impressionistic Flies

palmer type PMD fly fishing dry fly

Palmer type fly tied to leave the impression of a Pale Morning Dun type Mayfly.

Impressionistic flies look lifelike due to softer materials and the way light reflects and passes through them. Like impressionism in fine art, they may seem more alive than a photograph.

The top experts in fly-fishing tend to favor impressionistic fly design.

Attractor/Stimulator Flies

attractor - stimulator type fly fishing dry flies

Grasshoppers, large elk hair caddis and stonefly. Examples of dry flies that could be used as attractors.

What about an attractor fly that just looks interesting?

Some color combinations and shapes just look good. Such imitations may suggest a new food to the fish.

When trout feed on specific insects that are hatching in large numbers; they tend to ignore flies that don’t look like the preferred ones.

In contrast, when no insect hatch is happening, flies of many different patterns catch trout. Some streams, especially small brushy ones, have hungry trout that eat a variety of insects every day; they are likely to take any bug that comes along.

Tying doesn’t have to be complicated. When camping in the mountains, we saw a nice trout in a small stream and wanted to try to catch it; trouble is, we didn’t have fishing equipment. After a search in the camp trailer, we found an old bait hook and a piece of nylon monofilament line. That’s all, there was no rod or reel.

Here is a good way to get started tying your own flies”

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We could have used bait but decided to make an artificial fly. Materials found were a piece of yarn from an old army blanket, a wild bird feather, and a length of thread teased out of the cuff of a pair of pants. Hand holding the hook, I attached the yarn and feather and finished with a couple of half hitches to secure the thread.

Tackle consisted of a willow pole about eight feet long and an equal length of line with the fly tied on the end. We went back to catch the trout. Keeping low and out of sight, I lowered the fly and let it start to sink into the pool. The beautiful 14 inch cutthroat swam from under some logs and took the fly without hesitation. I quickly pulled out that gorgeous trout.

Catching selectively feeding brown trout in a river calls for good equipment and well designed flies. The best ones are often quite small and difficult to tie without the proper tools, skill, and materials. Beginners should work on easy patterns and buy the difficult ones until they gain more experience.

Catching fish with a fly I have tied myself has always added to my angling enjoyment. If you decide to make your own, get some personal instruction. Keep it simple and gradually improve your skills, but be advised, the challenge never ends; artificial flies catch fishermen too.

Example and Instruction for a Very Simple Nymph that Catches Fish

The video is my young cousin tying his first fly (sow bug). Later that day, he caught fish on that same fly.

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