Fish feed upon a great variety of water and land born nourishments. An angler’s artificial flies are designed to imitate these foods. Matching your fly to the specific fare that the fish are presently feeding upon is the key to success.
Land born foods are classified as terrestrials and water born foods are classified as aquatics. The significant terrestrials are ants, grasshoppers, mice, moths, lizards, earthworms, beetles, and crickets. The important aquatics are caddisflies, mayflies, stoneflies, midges, craneflies, dragonflies, damselflies, crustaceans, forage fish, leeches and eels.
These natural foods can be imitated by today’s flies. But first the natural food must be identified.
Knowledge of what the fish are presently feeding upon is essential to select the right fly. Time spent observing before fishing is well spent.
Start by watching the water’s surface for insect activity. Observe both the birds and the fish to see what they are feeding upon. I carry a pair of compact binoculars and use them often. Then I collect a sample insect.
A small aquarium net can help collect the insects. Place the net just under the water’s surface to catch the actively hatching insects. Also use the net to catch the airborne ones. Find a spider’s web and observe its contents for it contains a history of the available insects. A stomach pump can remove the fish’s recently ingested food. But first a fish must be caught. The pump is sold in most fly shops and is designed for its intended purpose. It is simply a rubber bulb with a plastic tube. Squeezing the bulb injects a small amount of water into the fish’s stomach; next the pressure on the pump is released sucking some of the fish’s ingested food back into the bulb. Then squeeze the bulb’s contents back into your hand or into a white container. Inspect the contents. A major disadvantage is that the pump only removes the small food items and not the large ones lodged in the stomach. The pump’s advantage is you can identify the small presently ingested insects.
A large screen is useful in identifying the assortment of foodstuffs in a stream. Such knowledge is useful when purchasing or tying flies for the specific stream. The screen is made by stapling a three foot section of window screen to two broom handles or one inch by two inch slat boards. Place the screen downstream from your waded position. Next, dislodge or overturn rocks with your feet and allow the debris to collect onto the screen. Take the screen ashore and examine its contents. It will contain a large sample of the stream’s aquatic foods. Save its contents in small bottles filled with eighty percent alcohol and twenty percent water.
Once the foodstuff is collected, try to identify it. Next, go through your fly box and make a match. Choose a fly that mimics the foodstuff’s size, texture, color and shape. Imitate the food’s action with the proper presentation and retrieve.
The size means the foodstuff’s measurements in terms of thickness, width, and length. Foods smaller than a half inch are best imitated as to their exact length; on the other hand, foods larger than a half inch are best imitated as to its exact width. Choose your fly selection accordingly.
The texture is the overall feel as to the food’s softness or rigidity. A fish’s mouth readily detects texture and a too soft or too hard fly will be readily rejected while a good match will be ingested.
The shape is the food’s silhouette. This outline is an important consideration in matching the fly. Suggestive and impressionistic flies that match the foodstuff’s three dimensional shape are the most successful. Suggestive flies can match a multitude of possible foods while exact imitations sometimes restrict the number of matches.
The color match is helpful but it is not as important as the other elements of imitation. Natural food’s color and patterns can vary in shades and tones. Select your fly as to the general color pattern of the natural.
Action is the foodstuff’s natural movement. The presentation and the retrieve mimics this motion. Action depicts a living movement that fish key upon while feeding.
An outline of the foodstuffs will be presented. Volumes of text could be written on the huge variety of foodstuffs eaten by fish. There are thousands of varieties of both land born and stream born insects. Try to classify your findings into one of the following general groups. Match the natural food’s size, texture, color, action, and silhouette with one of your flies.
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