Flies of the year 2010, part 3.
Winter has since long arrived, which means that fly tying becomes increasingly interesting around in the homes of salmon fishers. As I write this, December is well underway, which is a nice time of the year for several reasons. The Christmas feeling has arrived, and that longing after being on the river again, many good vibrations is filling us now – yes this is indeed a beautiful time. For me, the closer it gets to Christmas the more I want to get started with fly tying, for me this has become a tradition. But before I sit down at the fly tying vise this year, I will conclude this article series on my best flies of the 2010 season. And what's better than writing an article on salmon flies with al these good feelings flowing around?
This is part three of this year's article series on my best flies, butt his article will not just be about this year's third best fly, but also a bit about how I plan the content of my fly boxes.
The difficult fly choice.
Many people find it difficult to choose the right fly for salmon fishing, and very often it is the flies being blamed for poor catches too. People feel that they just use the wrong fly for a particular day of fishing, and that is why it resulted in no catch. I meet many fishermen during my fishing courses, and I have a pretty good idea as to how difficult people think this is.
Red Butt nymph.
Red Butt Spey, fly tier Ole Kristian Skaar.
However, to experience successful and not to mention stable catches on the salmon river is determined by a lot more than just the choice of fly. This is important, no doubt about that. But if I were to compile a list over the most important elements, the fly choice would not come out on top. Aspects such as local knowledge, choice of fly line, casting technique etc would be further up the list than the fly choice. But you can read about all this in other articles on my web page. After all, this article is all about flies.
How many different patterns do we need in our fly boxes? It can be difficult to determine this, as conditions may change so much from one day to the next. The old basic theories for fly selection are often based on light conditions. As early as the 1900's it was concluded that light flies worked best during light days, and vice versa. And many people still use this theory today, myself included. This is a nice basic rule, but no rule without exceptions.
Granbokohrva double hook.
Granbokohrva tube fly.
Granbokohrva Spey, fly tier Ole Kristian Skaar.
I plan the content of my fly boxes in the following manner: No. 1 is the June box, no. 2 is the July box, and no. 3 is the August box. The reason for this is that the weather conditions change throughout summer, and as such the river conditions change with regards to water levels and temperatures. For me it is then obvious that the flies must also change accordingly.
The June box is dominated by large tube flies with long wings and plenty of flash materials in the wing and body. These flies are as such adapted to fishing on big and cold rivers. When the Spring floods are over (around June 15th – 20th here in Trøndelag) it is time to pull out the July box, and that is the end of using the biggest tube flies for me that season, unless we get a large Summer flood. The July box contains many of the same patterns as the June box, but now they are smaller and do not contain as much flash. This box also contains a few flies tied on ordinary hooks as well, but still I mainly use the same patterns. And in addition there are some darker patterns to be used for evening fishing. The box that is most distinguished from the rest is the August box, because now the river is lower and not to mention warmer. Thus, in this box you'll find small salmon flies, dry flies, nymphs, attractor flies, riffling hitch flies and a few shrimp patterns. However, now there are also a few other things which are important in terms of the salmon behaviour when compared to the first two months.
Grey And Green Spey, fly tier Ole Kristian Skaar.
What is most important to consider when choosing a fly?
Well, what is most important? Light conditions, temperatures, or water levels? I believe that elements from all these factors should play a part when selecting a fly. This is why I have three different fly boxes prepared before the start of the season, all well planned. But to try and make it a bit easier to compile such a selection of lies I will give you the following advice: light conditions would be one of the most important factors for me, especially for the June and July boxes. With light conditions I mean the "total light" available in relation to the colour of the river and sky. You can use most of the same patterns in both boxes; the secret is to tie the flies in such a manner that you adapt them to the river conditions, which are very different during the first two months.
As a good example I can tell you that I use the following patterns in all my three boxes: Green Higlander, Teal and Silver, Granbokohrva, and Filmflua. These patterns are then tied both as large Spring flood tubes, standard tube flies, single and double hooks, spey flies, and not to mention nymphs for low water fishing. This makes it very easy for me to control the patterns I use, and of course this makes it much easier to tie the flies so that the efficiency behind the tying vise and on the river is top notch!
Filmflua Spey, fly tier Ole Kristian Skaar.
The point is that you will experience the same light conditions in different situations, you may for example have a high and cold river with no discoloration in the water and sunny skies. If you have had good experiences with a pattern during certain light conditions I can guarantee you that you will succeed with the same pattern in the same light conditions during other river conditions if you adapt the fly to the conditions. Take Green Highlander as an example. I tie this as a long-winged tube fly with lots of flash for fishing in June. For July the same fly is tied both as a tube fly and a hook fly in smaller sizes, with less flash, due to less and warmer water. I also use this as a spey fly and small hook fly in July and August, and also as a nymph when the river gets really low and warm. I very much like to plan the content of my fly boxes like this, and the best thing about it is that I always have a fly that I know may give me a fish, even when the conditions change!
Consider that most fly patterns have their own main colour impression, e.g. the Highlander flies have the green and yellow colours, whereas the Red Butt fly have black and red. These are well established patterns fishing well in the right light conditions, and these patterns have worked like this for many decades; I strongly believe that there is a reason for this. Most things in nature is camouflaged in terms of its predators, and it is this which both frighten, trigger, and tempt the attacks. It is the same way with salmon, and thus the different main colour impressions of the fly will provoke the strike in different light conditions. And based on this one can adapt how strong or how camouflaged this colour impression should be during any given conditions. You vary this yourself by selecting different materials. In one version for flood river fishing it is synthetic materials in the wing and body which create enough light for the salmon to notice the fly early enough. In a different situation it may be the natural materials in "earthy" colours and completely without flash materials which will tempt the salmon to strike.
Granbolænder Spey, fly tier Ole Kristian Skaar.
Now you know a bit about how I think and plan my fly boxes. I have most of my patterns available in different variants. Then there will not be as many patterns to keep track of, and you feel you have a lot better overview over the selection.
The fly, or rather, the flies which came third in this season's "competition" was the category Spey flies. I have fished a bit with spey-hackled flies previously, but I have never really used them in my fly concepts until two years ago. It was Ole Kristian Skaar who offered to interpret some of my own patterns as spey flies. I found this very exciting, so he got started on the Granbokohrva, Filmflua, Red Butt, and the Granbolænder flies. When I saw the flies I was in no doubt that this was going to be very good, because spey flies have such a unique movement in the water when they swim through the pools during summer conditions. I really liked these flies, so I asked Ole Kristian to tie flies such as Rotenon, and Grey and Green, modern patterns which had never been tied like this before. The most common spey flies have their origins from the old patterns such as Green Higlander, Lady Caroline, Silver Doctor etc. Thus this was really exciting, to get the most recent patterns interpreted as spey flies, as there is no doubt that spey flies will fish very well in certain conditions.
The feedback from the boss of the pool came immediately, I caught several nice salmon on these flies during this season. And it was a great feeling to fish my own patterns as spey flies, it was just like something fell into place because spey flies have a strong position in the history of salmon flies, they are classical, nostalgic and completely beautiful to look at. So on the first go with the Filmflua in a spey version it did not matter that I didn't catch anything, the feeling was massive anyway. The take came later anyway!
I think about colour, size, shape, and not to mention movement when I select flies. All these elements are important in different conditions. And movement becomes very important when the river is lower and warmer, and this is why we fish with nymphs, dry flies and attractor flies in such conditions. And very often we use small flies in these conditions, however I have often had the feeling thaht a bigger fly will fish well in low water conditions too – this is based on the "opposite theory" just because most people fish small flies during these conditions. And it is not easy to fish a pool that has been fished hard and mostly with flies of similar sizes. And the few times when a bigger fly is used it is mostly to drag a big Sunray tube fly through the pool on the last go just to have tested the other extreme. And there is not much natural life in a Sunray tube, when compared to the movements you get from only sift materials. And this is when the single hook spey flies are most useful, they are slim and very lightly dressed with soft hackles, which makes them swim perfectly through the currents. They are also very camouflaged in terms of their main colour impression, which is very important when fishing for spooky salmon. And together with the movement they have in the water, these flies are often the best flies to fish in such conditions.
Again I would like to thank Ole Kristian for his help with interpreting my patterns, it hasn't just been easy, because you have to stick to the "guidelines" for tying spey flies in order for it to be a spey fly, technically speaking. But with the help of many phone conversations, test fishing, and social gatherings at the river the flies are finally "approved" both by the originator and the boss of the pool. Ole Kristian and I have several projects ongoing with modern flies interpreted as spey flies, but it's not always easy to substitute the colours of modern flies because of the different materials used in spey flies, but it is exciting.
Flies of Norway.