#101 Summer 2020/21 The rise of functional generalist fly patterns

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    Really liked the article on the fly fishing/tying philosophy of Gordon van der Spuy  , good stuff in there , and am hoping the book will turn up in my Xmas stocking in a few weeks time .

    I had my mind jolted just after reading this piece by one of the kids showing me a National Geographic article about the worldwide decline in insect populations from earlier in the year , the article referrencing the Krefeld studies as well as other studies from around the world and the commonly observed ‘windshield effect’ … i.e the observation that there are far fewer bugs on the windshield these days ( think about the last time you had more than one hopper stuck in the wipers ).

    So , perhaps jumping too quickly to conclusions ( a fault , yes ) , I wondered if the rise in generalist type or functional type fly patterns , and the decline in match the hatch style imitationist patterns has paralleled the scientific communities observed decline in insect population since the 70s .

    I have read/watched a number of fly fishing media lamenting that hatches aren’t what they used to be from all over the world and got to wondering .

    Now I’m no Entomologist , and being a Victorian have fairly limited hatch driven fishing , which in my local waters seems mostly the same to me compared to a couple of decades ago , but it got me thinking .

    So …what are everyones lived experiences on hatches? I’d really love to hear , and am curious about any thoughts on the decline of imitationist patterns ( and yes , I’m quite convinced that outside of a hatch heavy enough to induce keyed in type behaviour that they really are more effective ).



    Hatches this spring in NE Vic have been the best I have seen in quite a few years.

    In terms of patterns, nothing beats a good drag free drift. Or put another way presentation trumps pattern every time. Well in my experience anyway. Perhaps I just don’t spend enough time fishing for sophisticated “educated” trout. Or maybe that’s just a part of the mystique and mythology we weave when we stroll back to the car defeated by a creature with a brain smaller than a kidney bean.


    p.s. a lot of juvenile hoppers in the long grass atm



    Really nice to hear micmac about the NE hatches this year , which I’ve felt have been a bit light on for bugs for a few years , I’ve only had limited time on the water this spring and so far seems about par for hatches to me .

    Got my fingers crossed for LaNina delivering a hopper bonanza too!

    I guess what I was trying to get at was whether the opportunities for hatch driven fishing have decreased over the last few decades ? As opposed to whether presentation versus imitation is more important ( I think we are all hard headed presentationists as we rig up …who nevertheless long for a selective riser around the bend )   And that this is reflected by the continuing decline of strict imitationist patterns and the continued rise of functional generalist patterns.This seems to be the case to me for Europe and North America looking at them from afar.

    Anyone from the Monaro or Tassie midlands/lowlands or NZ got any feelings on hatch prevalences recently ?




    I wondered if the rise in generalist type or functional type fly patterns , and the decline in match the hatch style imitationist patterns has paralleled the scientific communities observed decline in insect population since the 70s .

    It’s complicated because the climatic overlays influencing water temps, cloud cover, levels, flows, turbidity etc in our part of the world are so variable, and hence hatches have never been well synchronised. The contrast between this season and last season for example could not be more dramatic. But no doubt the long term degradation of our inland waterways and related intensification of agriculture is affecting insect populations and hatches.
    Re the quote above, we need to make a distinction between generalist patterns, like the Royal Wulff for example, and the philosophy behind functional flies (Wyatt and Sloane books come to mind) which can be entirely hatch driven and aimed at selective feeders, imitating the key aspects of prey in terms of form and function. To me ‘functional flies’ do imitate specific trout foods in the key areas of colour, profile, posture and movement, but don’t focus on exact visual replication (in the vice).



    Point taken about distinguishing between a generalist and a functional fly , perhaps it comes down to the original tiers intent , though all patterns tend to morph I guess and become adapted by use… I understand the original Wulff was tied to represent Isonychia mayfly hatching in rough water of upstate New York , but Lee Wulff actively encouraged its adaptation by other tiers as well as himself into a series of flies and the Royal Wulff found fame as perhaps the all time most popular attractor dry .

    I’d regard Bob Wyatts celebrated Deer Hair Emerger as the quintessential modern generalist given its adaptability to almost any hatching bug scenario whether Mayfly , Caddis , or even midge if you tie it small , and certainly its also a great functional style fly which I love to tie on .

    Any Monaro folk or Kiwis have thoughts on their hatches ?

    I’d love to hear some long term views , even if it’s hard to untangle causality ( whether long term weather , environmental or land use ) . And fwiw that National Geographic article on the global decline of insects is really interesting .



    Attenborough’s extinction doco the other night was very sobering too. And if you are after a good Christmas read along with van der Spuy, Dougal Rillstone’s lifelong Mataura journey is highly recommended.

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