Simple Ways To Always Have The Right Fly
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Simple Ways To Always Have The Right Fly

Yesterday my brother and I were kicking around the Always A Good Day nerve center with a beverage talking about how many times we have had to play Macgyver while fly fishing. Typically these conversations devolve into a fishing story about a fly fishing trip that was saved by a little ingenuity.  After a few minutes of re-living past kerfuffles and the fixes we used, Shane brought up the time the numerous times we didn’t have the right fly. This is something that we have all experienced at one time or another.

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Staring at refusals is frustrating. A little ingenuity can often solve this issue.

One of the most recent times was while we were fishing Hosmer Lake in Central Oregon and the only fly that would work was a doctored up black Elk Hair Caddis fished like an emerger. We had flies that we thought matched the hatch exactly but they seemed to scare the fish more than make them hungry. Then two hours of frustration and a million fly changes he broke down and painted a black caddis even more black and trimmed its wings back. Suddenly there was a fish on almost every cast for three hours.

The question was and is how do you solve the problem of not having the right variation of fly still be successful? The answer, ingenuity and the right tools and gear. Here is a list of things that I developed when guiding and now never leave home without.

  • Sharpies – Indelible felt tip markers were my best friend when I guided. Stu and I both agree that you can match almost any hatch with a few basic colors of pen. Black, green (dark and light), and yellow are the three I would suggest having in your bag to start. Silver and brown are go-to colors that I also always have in my gear.
    Sharpie ink pens
    Match the hatch instantly!!
  • Light Cahills – These go along with the pens because they are easy to color and match a variety of mayflies.
  • Hare’s Ears – Another a fly that matches almost every nymph that is super easy to color like the Light Cahill. Don’t be afraid to try a red dot on the butt if nothing else is working⏤don’t ask me why, but it seems to work every now and then.
  • Scissors – These will make sculpting your Elk Hair Caddis into a Serendipity or that Wooly Bugger into a Damsel nymph.
  • Thread – A piece of thread can be tied to the butt of a fly to look like a shuck or tails. Cut to size. You can also use it to save that last fly when it starts coming apart. Which brings up…
  • Super Glue – OK I love the stuff! It has not only saved my fishing and I have also used it as a first aid kit. A drop on a disintegrating fly can save it. You can use it to give a nymph some extra shine or as an air bubble on a midge. Besides fly repairs, I have also used it to glue a fly line together and to seal cuts. The fly line fix saved my clients day. When I was head guide at Kulik Lodge it was a mandatory piece of guide equipment.
  • Lead Core Line – Instant sink tip! This isn’t a fly but a piece of lead core has made all the difference. It makes casting a little tricky, but a foot or two on a dry or sink tip line can sometimes be the difference if you don’t have the right line.

These are some simple tools that we have used as emergency solutions hatch matching situations when fishing. These handy items don’t take up much space. You won’t use them very much, unlike me (I tend to use the Sharpie far too much). But when you need this stuff, you will be glad that you had it.

Follow Sean Johnson:

Sean was raised in Northeastern Oregon in the Wallowa Valley. It was there that he learned to hunt and fly fish. After receiving his history degree from the University of Oregon, Sean guided fly fishermen from Alaska to Chile. There were a few interludes where he sailed as a crew member on a ship and even worked in the craft brewing industry. Eventually he found his love in writing about the outdoors. His articles and fiction stories have a unique style and voice that conveys his love for the natural world. Currently he is the main writer for Always A Good Day, freelances and is working on a book of fiction.