Patterns, Patterns, Patterns
How many times has selecting the right pattern created a great day of fishing for me? What about the day I used the Green Weenie on the McKenzie River near Eugene, Oregon? At the end of that day-long float trip my guide, Ken Helfrich, asked me for more Green Weenies so his clients could use them the next day. What about that recent trip to northern New Mexico's Red River and how the bead head Glo Bug saved the day? By the end of the day all four of us fished that same pattern with much success. I also remember that trip to Lee's Ferry in Arizona on the Colorado River and how the Zebra Midge caught more trout than any other pattern. For more than two hours one of the three of us has a trout on the line with that deadly pattern. I'll also never forget that trip to the Little Colorado and the tremendous day we experienced with the bead head Wooly Bugger. Four previous hours of fishing gave way to an afternoon of plenty of trout thanks to the Wooly Bugger.
In January my new book, How To Catch More Trout, comes out on the market. An important part of that book and any strategy you might have to catch more trout is pattern selection. In that book I suggest that you choose 6 to 12 patterns that have worked well for you when you're not fishing the hatches and you stick with them. But, those 6 to 12 patterns must be dynamic and are ever changing. Just look at my selection of patterns I used in 1990 versus those in the year 2000. In 1990 my top patterns were dry flies like the Light Cahill, Wulff Royal Coachman, Adams and Patriot; and wet flies like the Green Weenie, Green Caddis, Wooly Bugger and Lady Ghost.
By the year 2000 my select list of patterns that I use when there is no hatch had changed dramatically. The only two that I have kept in that decade of fly fishing are the Patriot and the Green Weenie. To those I have added the Bead Head Pheasant Tail, Bead Head Zebra Midge, Bead Head Olive Caddis, Bead Head Tan Caddis, Bead Head Glo Bug, Bead Head Wooly Bugger streamer (some modifications from the one I used in 1990) and the Flashback Nymph
You can readily see that the group of patterns that I rely upon has changed dramatically. In a decade I've gone from a fly fisher who has relied mainly on dry flies to one who now mostly relies on wet flies-and most of these wet flies have bead heads. I often use those wet flies in conjunction with a dry fly as a strike indicator-I call it the tandem. I force myself into believing that that dry fly I'm following has no trailing wet fly-but it does.
Has this new strategy worked? I've kept records of every fishing trip I've taken since 1967. In those records I list the patterns I used and the number of trout I caught. The number I've caught since I've been using the tandem (wet fly and dry fly) has increased dramatically. By using the tandem and bead heads I have more than doubled the number of trout I've caught on trips in the past 10 years.
When do I add new patterns to my master list and where do I find these patterns? I often set Wednesdays aside as a day of experimenting. That's the day I often fish new patterns. Boy, have I tested some losers. I've fished some far out patterns an entire morning without having even one strike. Those losers have definitely not made my preferred list. Then there are others like the Bead Head Glo Bug that I've tested for just an hour or two and have decided that they're worth elevating to my select list of patterns.
What are some of the criteria I use to select my list of preferred patterns? First, they've got to be effective over a good number of streams and rivers across the United States. In fact, the Patriot worked to perfection in New Zealand. Twelve of the 13 largest trout we caught in that fantastic island nation we caught on the Patriot. Second, they've got to be more effective than other patterns I'm presently using. How do I determine how effective they are? As I just stated I experiment and compare these potential patterns with the present ones I'm using.
Where do I get my new patterns? Usually I get new pattern ideas from other anglers. How often have you fished a stretch of water, and have not done too well, while another nearby angler is catching plenty of trout? Do you swallow your pride and ask that angler what he's using? I do. I'll never forget that afternoon last year on the Colorado River at Lee's Ferry in Arizona. Two nearby anglers caught ten trout while I managed to catch just one. I asked them what they were using and they replied in unison, "a wet fly." That really bugs me when successful anglers won't share their pattern with others. I not only tell anglers what I'm using when I'm catching trout I often offer them one of the flies to try.
How can you catch more trout? One important ingredient is pattern selection. That pattern that you decide to try can make or break your day. It can mean the difference between a lousy and a successful fishing trip. Select 6 to 12 patterns and stick with them. This is of course when no hatch appears. When a hatch appears try to match the hatch. Always keep your eyes open for new patterns-more productive ones-that you can add to your list of preferred ones.
There are many other strategies that you can use to catch more trout. How can you learn about more of these important tactics? How to Catch More Trout will be on the market in January 2001.