Monday, November 14, 2011

Choosing the Right Fly

I have said that the context determines your fly choice, at least in a fishery where the fish are not selective, as on the Laguna Madre. I use only four flies for 95% of my fly fishing: the VIP popper (March through November only), the Kingfisher Spoon, the Mother's Day shrimp pattern (or Crimp as an alternative), and the Clouser. That's it. Regardless of what anyone tells you, you don't need more than these four flies. Of course, there are other great flies, but each of them is roughly equivalent to one of my four choices, but probably inferior for various reasons.

You need a weedless popper, not only for great action, but for line management in conditions that are too grassy for anything else. The popper needs to cast easily in the wind, break the surface tension of the water without sinking (so it stays in place during the strike), not make noise on the back cast, and produce a high percentage of hookups (with a wide-gap hook). The VIP does all of these things. It's easy to tie, and cheap to tie.

You need a spoon fly in two weights for fly fishing the flats. I usually use the lighter weight only, and switch to a Clouser instead if it's deeper than 18 inches. A weighted spoon is fine, but harder than a Clouser to cast in the wind.

You need a light-weight weedless shrimp pattern, or one that doubles for a crab. My Mother's Day fly, or the Crimp, satisfies this need. You can weight some with lead wire, or heavier eyes.

You need a weighted fly that casts easily in the wind for grass-free venues. The fly needs to get to the bottom, because that's where the reds will be looking. A size 4 or 6 Clouser cannot be beat. We usually use bead-eye or brass eyes; that is, lighter than lead.

Your decision about which fly (and which weighted version) to use also depends on whether you are wading or fishing from a boat. If you're wading you can use a slower sinking fly and lead the fish a bit more so as not to spook him on the cast. However, if you're on a boat, you need a faster sinking fly--to get it to the fish before he looks up, but also to get it down in the water column so he will see it quickly without looking up.

I never use poppers from the boat, at least with clients. Typically, clients do not see fish in time to make a long cast to them. So casting a popper to close-in targets will bring the fish to the surface within sight of the boat. That's self defeating.

Redfish will always eat--almost. If you use a fly that is suited to the context, then your choice cannot be faulted. If the fish doesn't appreciate your fly, it's probably due to another reason: poor presentation. Next time, I'll talk about presentation errors and how to correct them.

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