Thursday, September 6, 2012

Does It Really Matter?

Matching the hatch. Does it begin with proper insect identification?
I awoke this morning to find overcast skies and mayfly duns outside of my little riverside studio.

I pulled out my copy of Western Mayfly Hatches (which I highly recommend) in an effort to identify this particular mayfly species.

As best I can determine, the bug in question is the Mahogany Dun. But does it really matter what species it is? A size 14 para-Adams would certainly take fish during this hatch.

This is a topic that a friend and I go round and round about. Generally speaking he could care less about what specific species of mayfly is hatching. His mayfly box consists of nothing but Adams in sizes 12-20 and a few sparkle duns for special occasions (ie: finicky flat-water trout). During a mayfly emergence he simply matches up the fly size to the naturals and catches more fish than most. My mayfly box on the other hand is stuffed with specific patterns for baetis, March browns, green drakes, gray drakes, PMDs, and such.

My take on the topic is that it does matter - at least in certain places and at certain times. What are your thoughts?


  1. Good topic.

    I do tend to carry specific patterns for each species in my fly box. But I can see the point that it may not matter all that much. I have run out of a type of bug before in the middle of a specific hatch, and switched to a color meant for another species and noticed no drop off in catch rate, so I wonder how much it really matters at times.

    Personally what I really do think is important though is having a range of patterns for each hatch phase. From emergers to duns I carry quite a few patterns with a slightly different profile.

  2. Size and general shade make a difference for me, but maybe only because I believe they do. I have a friend who I go round and round with about confidence and the self-fulfilling prophecy (same thing, basically). If I think this fly works, it does. So my answer to your question is that it must not really matter. Fish what you believe in (within reason) and you'll catch fish. Although certain places and times of year...

  3. 30 years ago I had 20 fly boxes when I'd go out, and take 3 boxes with me on the water. I tied every conceivable pattern of mayfly I could dream up. Now, it's one box of dries, divided betwix different sizes of purple haze, hoppers, and a few emergers. At least at this time of year. Dunno if it's age or plain laziness.
    Enjoy your posts.

  4. Will, I'm pretty sure it's JUST the FOOTPRINT that the bug makes on the surface film.. the closer we get to that the more takes we get.

  5. A friend of mine would say that he has never seen a hatch where the bugs had a hook sticking out of their back side. It's difficult to argue with that.
    On the other hand I've cast a hundred times to trout rising all over the river but not to my fly. All the while the fisher just down stream is hooking a fish just abut every cast. I finally asked and he was nice enough to share a couple of flies with me.
    Same fisher, same style of fishing...suddenly I was catching fish. I have also changed out a dark thread midge that was catching fish to a light color, no more catching until I changed back to the dark color. These are just examples of why I still have no idea what works and what will not.

  6. I think it may matter what color, size and shape of fly you are using, but I don't believe it matters much whether or not you know all the Latin names of the insect species or exactly what you're trying to imitate. I carry an assortment of Adams in different sizes and a number of other concoctions that come off the vise and work in various situations.

    My thought is that accurate imitation of a particular insect species can't hurt and is something I'll probably dig into when I arrive at that place in my fishing life. I'm sure it will be fun and add something to the sport ... I just haven't gotten there yet.

  7. I agree with Benji.
    His statement reflects that of David Hughes and others. A box with some nymphs, emergers, surface emergers and dries for a particular species should cover your needs as the day unfolds. Have each in two sizes maybe. Half a dozen each I suppose.
    Size then shape then that order.
    Now, throw all such advice out the window and cast a Royal Coachman two sizes too big and watch the water explode!
    However, I agree with Benji.