Catch 22 Flies: What would make your shortlist of essential fly patterns?
It’s a classic question: if you could only take a handful of flies fishing, which few would make your selection? Chris Ogborne has his own favourites, along with some interesting thoughts on those fly patterns we’d hate to be without.
“If there is a single paradox in fly fishing that provides the sport’s ultimate ‘catch 22’ it has to be fly selection. It’s an immutable fact of life that we all have our favourite flies and so our own circular logic develops. The more we fish with those best-loved patterns, the more we catch; the more we catch, the more likely we are to keep fishing with them. The ultimate Catch 22 situation.
But within that inescapable sequence of reasoning, there is usually some really good advice. Those timeless, favourite flies of all time don’t attain that status without good reason, and with the fishing season now well and truly under way it’s worth taking a look at our fly boxes and stocking up with a good supply of banker patterns.
These are the flies you WILL need, come rain or shine, high water or low. Whether it comes to a tough day on your local stream, or travelling to the ends of the earth, there are patterns you’d simply hate to be without. Most important of all, flies that inspire confidence and seldom let you down.
We all have our biases then. Picking can be hard, like trying to narrow down your music to a handful of albums or your bookshelf to just a few classic fishing books. But having fished and travelled between many rivers and stillwaters, the following would be my slimmed down shortlist.
At this time of year my thoughts immediately turn to the large reservoirs, such as Blagdon. But the following patterns will catch on all stillwaters, natural and manmade. For just about any lake, I would start with buzzers, as these are present throughout the season.
There are so many variants, but it would be hard not to venture onto any reservoir without buzzers such as the classic Black Epoxy Buzzer (1) to fish at depth, as well as classic variants like the Shipman’s Buzzer (2). After all, some suitable flies to represent or suggest the number one food item in the trout’s diet simply cannot be ignored.
CRUNCHERS are one of the newer breed of imitative/suggestive flies, but so versatile in appeal and already a solid standby. Fish them as a nymph, instead of wets, pulled fast or slow and steady. Crunchers are one of the must have stillwater fly patterns without a doubt, so I’m taking the basic Cruncher (3), plus at least one variant such as the UV Thorax Cruncher (4).
HOPPERS Probably one of the best all-round dries or semi-dries of its generation. I’ve caught fish on Hoppers on every continent, from the cold lakes of Iceland right through to gin clear ponds across Europe. Not species specific, but a deadly general impression of a whole range of terrestrials. Close to the ultimate ‘don’t leave home without it’ pattern in my book! I wouldn’t be without these in basic colours so lets add a Black Hopper (5) as a bare minimum.
BLACK GNAT. Or more specifically for me, the HiVis Black Gnat (6). This is probably my number one default choice and almost always the first fly that goes on the leader if there are no natural insects visible or there’s no hatch taking place. On rivers large and small, moorland streams, chalk streams – the black gnat is an all time classic
ADAMS. An American fly with a massive following worldwide, and with good reason. It looks like so many naturals, with those key trigger factors that have seen it in good stead for generations. The classic Adams (7)very rarely fails, which is why it makes my shortlist.
EMERGERS are another must for any list of essential river flies. Parachutes style ties in the classic Klinkhamer mold are not just practical and easy to spot, but often taken in preference to conventional dries by hungry trout. For my list, I’ll pick a barbless version- my General Emerger (8), which works on just about any river you can name.
Is there any nymph, really and truly, that has caught more fish the the humble Pheasant Tail Nymph or PTN (9)? I doubt it. From these early days of Frank Sawyer, across generations of anglers and right up to the present day, the Pheasant Tail has been a top pattern. There are hundreds of variations but the original, which is a study in simplicity, is still the best and makes my list every time.
HARE’S EAR: No modern selection of river flies would be complete without a bead head or two in the mix. They don’t come much more simple, or useful, than the Gold Bead Hare’s Ear (10).
Short lists are always a subjective matter, but those would be my ten flies.
Which patterns would make your shortlist?”
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