Flies that get the Love

David Anderson narrows down his small-stream fly selection

Einstein, it needs to be said, was slightly off the mark. The definition of insanity is not ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’ as much as doing the same thing over and over again and forgetting the inevitably poor result. This is my fly life and it works like this… Every third or forth season, as regular as someone who only eats raisins, I will find myself streamside, locked in paralysis, staring into fly box after fly box unable to find any inspiration despite the hundreds of choices. All the classic patterns are there, lots of shiny and new, a smattering of local talent scammed off my guide friends, and the scraps of my own now long gone fly-tying adventures, most of which are one hit wonders right up there with My Sharona, Tainted Love and MMMBop. ‘Enough!’ I will say, and before the next trip I empty the fly boxes out of my vest and pack, jam the lot into shoe boxes and start over with a single, likely-new box and a small collection of flies that I tell myself is more than any fool could ever possibly need for something as simple as a trout. Soon enough, normally after just a single outing, I inevitably find myself back in a fly shop, or on the phone scamming, or rifling through shoe boxes adding a few more patterns — just a couple, or six dozen flies at a time, in a little box, film can, or maybe a mint tin stuffed into my vest. In one recent case, it was FSFOMO or Fly Shop Fear of Missing Out. I was at the High Country Outfitters with a couple of mates on the way up to the Snowy River and suddenly everyone except me was raving about the latest greatest dry fly. Micah bought a couple of dozen and then Ash bought a couple of dozen more, and fearing a freak global downturn in fly production, I bought the rest. If there’s any good news in this anecdote beyond the fly shop’s annual turnover, it’s that Manic Tackle’s ‘Indi Klink’ — a chunky, parachute style pattern with silicone legs and a high-vis wing — works as well on trout as it does on fly fishers. Not long after that another ‘just in case’ fly box will find its way back into service from the shoe boxes, with more specific stuff like those CDC flies I always buy but never use, or perhaps some classic patterns like Royal Wulffs and Stimulators, but all in size 6, you know, just in case there’s a late afternoon locust plague. Being sensible, and now likely running out of room in my vest, I normally stuff that box in my pack — right next to the big box of beadhead Woolly Buggers recently shoved in there in case the tiny stream I’m fishing breaks out into a 30-metre wide ripple and the 2- or 3-weight I’m using becomes capable of swinging large wets. Trust me, it could happen at any moment. So, I won’t pretend this is about the only — pick a number — flies you or I might really need, or that I would ever leave the house without at least a couple of hundred patterns. Rather, let’s just call this the few that get the most love in an otherwise crowded relationship. And with love in mind, from the very first time I saw one of RiverFly’s ‘Scruffy’ dries (FL#87) I just knew it would hoover up fish in my home waters of North East Victoria as well as Tasmania, and now, some 6 years later, in size 14, it has become one of my most loved and far flung dries. While we all know deer hair is good, and deer hair that sits just in the film better again, the Scruffy also casts well with none of the leader twist you can get with Stimulators on fine, small-stream-weight tippet. There are two shaggy, slightly sparkly dubbed body colour options under the natural deer hair wing — claret or orange — and while the intended wisdom is claret for browns, orange for rainbows, I find the claret works on both in the streams I fish, and I’ve caught plenty of browns on the orange version too. Honestly, I don’t often worry about the colour when tying one on, though I tend to use orange more often. Another very simple but deadly tie, the 1864 Blue Damsel, is a cracker for dry dropper rigs and will float even with a solid tungsten nymph riding underneath. It’s also perfect for very tight, overgrown creeks where repeated water-hauling tends to drown out more traditional dry fly patterns after just a few casts. A common thread is that these flies are all well tied, simple in design, and tough. The toughest though is the 1864 WMD Hopper. Its tight, bullet style deer hair head over a long foam body and silicone legs will literally float all day and, if the trees aren’t biting, catch fish after fish throughout a summer without coming apart. While on hoppers, a new favourite this past season is the ‘Roger That’ from NZ’s Category 3 Fly Company. The subtle, largely all-natural colours are light enough for me to see in fast water and, in size 12, make this fly a very close match for all the little high-country hoppers bouncing around the alpine meadows of Kosciuszko National Park. Another new-to-me from Category 3 that now has my full attention is their foam Blowfly that, thanks to the liberal (read greedy) use of foam in the construction, floats like a tiny yet tenacious cork. It also fishes well early in the season, unlike other hoppers or larger dries, and is another first pick for double rigs. While all of the above are great flies, they are all fairly chunky and can be a bit full-tilt boogie when finesse is called for. For that, I generally tie on Manic’s High Vis Parachute Adams in size 14. With the exception of the hot pink wing, it’s a subtle, finely tied dry fly that sits lightly in the film and seems to work right through the season during any mayfly or caddis hatch and when there’s no obvious insect activity. It’s also a very handy small-stream searching fly that is easily cast on the lightest rod and finest leader, and easily seen, even in white water or poor light at the end of the day. Really, it’s the perfect blend of a classic pattern and modern thinking. As much as my dries are diverse, the nymph side of my box is quite the opposite, and the majority of time in the drink (for the moment) is going to five variations of Category 3’s lovely yet simple tungsten beaded Hare and Copper nymph. Hare dubbing is to the artificial nymph what deer hair is to the dry, and while not great for fussy, highly detailed and anatomically accurate flies, it always seems to work well on the rushing small streams I like. This very buggy version is tied with a short body on excellent wide gape Tiemco hooks and, like a lot of modern fly adaptations — particularly those tied for New Zealand — it also has some sort of fine synthetic UV sparkle dubbing added in with the hare. Whatever it is, it certainly works, and these are deadly general nymphs. While I could probably get away with fishing the natural-coloured gold bead version in size 14 almost all the time, I also carry a black beaded version for poorer light or less than perfectly clear water, and a red beaded version for early season rainbows or late season browns. A size 14 tungsten beaded nymph is, in my experience, a good balance between actual nymph size, sink rate and casting comfort on very light rods in combination with a small indicator. That said, I also carry a size 12 gold bead version for very deep and fast water — like plunge pools — and a red beaded version in size 16 for thinner or slower water and as a lighter option to hang off a smaller dry fly. Lastly, I would have given a heroic shout-out here to Bob ‘One Fly Guy’ Norris’s amazing Possum Emerger (The West Branch, FL#89), but I’ve only got one left and — criminally — it’s not commercially tied. Sadly, Bob’s BS radar also seems more than up to the job of protecting him from any of my attempts to scam more.

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