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Discussion Starter #1
I have heard that tiny flies are the only way to catch fish in certain waters in the West, but when I have tried to fish some of these waters, I have found that I can stay with larger flies, if they are extremely realistic, rather than the impressionistic patterns that are mass-produced.

Has anyone else tried this with success? It's more fun to tie realistic flies, than tiny ones.
 

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which waters are you talking about and what exactly do you mean by tiny impressionistic vs large realistic? I certainly will throw the biggest fly I can but often times tiny means realistic. This time of year its midges and more midges and Im sure you know natural midges don't get much bigger then a 20 and thats even pushing it. Ive heald a 22 RS2 that I was fishing as a sunken adult midge next to a natural and my fly looked like a gorrilla compared to it. Still, Im not about to go to a 24. I might get a couple more hits with it but I will cetainly get a "swing and a miss" type day with a 24. Bottom line though, I think you can go pretty tiny and still be realistic. I tie a fly called a UV midge that is a great go to fly when midges are out. If you want this pattern let me know.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
At this time of year, virtually any fishable river worth fishing will be lined with guys fishing tiny mide imitations. I've tried that, and it works ok, but oddly, I've also landed lots of finicky fish by floating a very realistic-looking extended body mayfly in about a 16.

Maybe it's just me, but whenever I've been told the fish are hard to trick and are biting only small flies, I've been able to do as well with slightly larger realistic drys and nymphs.

I think you have hit on one of the real issues, though... The small flies are realistic precisely because they are small.... so perhaps the real story is something that looks more like an authentic insect with work better for picky fish (period). I'm just curious, because my personal experience has not been that fish are truly selective for a particular insect, but they just seem to have elevated standards in waters where they see a lot of feather wads drift by.
 

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That could very well be....from my experience though, the closer I can get to the natural then the better and even though there might be guys lined up fishing the same midge, I really am not about to give a fishes brain enough credit to say they have the ability to "wise up" to a certain fly if it in some way resembles the real thing.
 

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Im kind of caught between the two theories of "small" vs "big" and "realistic looking" vs "its kinda close..."

Sometimes i think profile is whats most important...especially with midges. if it resembles the natural in shape and diameter, that is usually good enough for me. size in this situation is important, epecially if the fish are keying in on one type of insect in particular. ive spent alot of time trying to tie a dead on exact imitation, and for the most part havnt had more success with something that appears to me as a dead on match. this has been the case a lot of times with midge dries....ive fished stuff that looked exactly like the real thing, and have had the same success as with something that was just close. who knows...i dont :)

There have been times also when ive thrown the usual small stuff and havnt had any luck, and then tied on something that was totally out of the norm and just slayed fish. sometimes they want something that is just different than the usual fare. once again..who knows :)

I think the most important thing no matter what fly you fish is PRESENTATION...if it is drifted poorly with drag or not at the proper depth (as far as nymphs), the fish wont hit it no matter how close a match you have. work on drag free drifts and pay particular attention to what depth the fish are feeding at. also watch the fish and see how they are feeding...fish hugging the bottom sometimes arent eating, and more often than not the ones you want to target are sitting higher in the current and are moving about with thier mouths opening on occasion as they take insects out of the current. ive seen alot of people fishing over fish that were not eating...which is more a less a waste of time if there are other fish about that are actually eating and not just resting or spooked and sitting on the bottom. over the years i have narrowed down the patterns i fish, as for the most part i think a generic midge imitation (like a brassie, miracle nymph, or black beauty) works 95% of the time if you fish it correctly...and in a size 18 or 20. i usually dont have to go much smaller. USUALLY i said, lol, sometimes only a size 22 works.

so as far as me dissagreeing with what anyone posted here...well i dont. you all have the right idea, it just depends on the mood of the fish that particular day, and how good your presentation is. everything you guys mentioned here is a key factor at one time or another. start with you basic rig and your favorite pattern, and just adjust from there once you determine what mood the fish are in. the biggest mistake is sticking to one type of fly and presentation, you gotta say fluid and adjust your fire when you deem neccisary.
 

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I often wonder about how exact I have to be compared to the real thing. I mean, the current is moving quite fast, even in a slow stream, and a fish doesn't have much time to make a decision whether to bite or not. When something is moving so fast, I would think that color discrimination isn't so good. I'm tying a lot of very small midges right now (22,24, even 26) and I wonder how they can even see them in the current. Still, I have had good success with BB's and miracle nymphs and I'll keep on making them in quantity. Those trout must be amazingly well adapted insect eating machines to see such tiny objects in fast moving water.
 

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Great reply Rottal.  I have a question on a dilema I've had in the past that you kinda hit on in your post.  Often times, people fish over feeding fish, but occasionally I think I am fishing under them.  If I see fish, rising not on dries but most likely emergers, at what point do I take my split & indicator off and attempt to target these fish feeding in the middle of a rivers water column? Furthermore, how many fish do I need to see tailing on emergers at the surface or slightly below to consitute a change from an indicator dead drift, to an unweighted wet fly type swing? I have become a very good split and indicator fisher as well as a dry fisher,but the inbetween kills me.  I've tried dropping an emerger behind a dry when this situation I described above occurs but Im willing to bet I would catch just as many sinking my flies. But then again, maybe if I worked at improving my unweighted swing I would catch more fish this way when fish are in the middle to surface of the water.  Also, what do you think about shortening up on my indicator to about 4 feet in the emerger situation?  I'm not sure if you completely understand this issue I have but any suggestions would be helpful.
 

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SILICONE BOY...dont always worry about an exact imitation.  as you said, the fish dont always get a chance to get a good look at what they are eating...if its the right shape and profile, and at the proper depth, thats often all you need...they will eat it sooner or later.  as far as fishing small flies, when you do and are nymphing, use a larger attractor pattern in conjunction with your small midge imitation.  my favorites are San Juan worms and scuds.  even if the fish wont eat it, it will usually get thier attention long enough for them to key in on your smaller fly that they might be feeding on at that particular time...and then boost your chances of a hook up.

TOPSLUGGER...I tend to watch fish more than i fish for them.  this way i am certain on what depth the fish are feeding at.  Dont flock shoot a group of fish (well not always, anyway, but sometimes you just have to) and target one particular fish when possible...when a hatch is happening not all of the fish are feeding at one particular depth.  i cant tell you one certain point to switch depths, you have to just see how frequent the majority (or the fish you are fishing for) are feeding at the depth you are set up for.  i tend to work the top feeders first, and as they are put down i switch to a sub surface pattern.  ive noticed alot of times fish that appear to be feeding off the top are actually taking emergers just under the surface.  when this happens i remove all split shot and just fish the fly with no indicator.  when you do this you have to watch the fish closely, and try to determine the area, (not the exact location, which is hard to do sometimes) where your fly is...set on anything fish that opens its mouth or displaces to where you think your fly is.  as far as indicators, i tend to remove it all together...and fish more by sight than anything else.  an indicator can be a useful tool also in this situation, but can spook fish if they are picky.  it just depends on how the fish are that day.  sometimes a large bushy dry fly pattern as an indicator works best in this situation...and you never know, a fish might take it.  remember, fish mostly feed subsurface, so dont always limit yourself to fishing on the top when you think they are rising to dries.
 
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In order of importance...Size, Shape Color.

There are always flies of the larger variety in any of the waters you have mentioned, nymphs will commonly work of the larger variety if the depth and presentaion is correct.

When fish are keying on small midges and there is feeding going on, you can catch as many as you like with relative ease as long as the fly you are using matches the insects in the water coumn.

Presentaion is critical when fishing any pattern but especially so when fish are focusing on the smaller insects in the coulmn. I do not want to make it sound like if you throw a midge out you will catch a fish every cast. Nymphing this time of year with small flies is delicate and fragile, you can easily spook fish this time of year so subtle and delicate is the rule if you are on a freestone river or tailwater, if you are on a lrger river such as the Rado or Gunny then you may use larger flies with more motion and weight without the dramatic spooking affect you see on the smaller rivers.

Another tool I find increases my catch rate is Flourocarbon, smaller, stronger and less visible are all great factors that can help with your success.

It is fishing and you really never know what might hit and when but to be more consistent and have more fish landed in a day on waters such as the pan, s. Platte, Blue etc. try the full picture of your best small fly for the water, your best leader and tippet, your most precise and delicate casts and do not false cast over the area you are fishing and make sure to land your presentation gently and cast as little as possible.

Tight Lines.
 

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Many have mentioned presentation. It all comes down to a drag free drift. Fish by nature are opportunistic feeders, if it halfway looks like food, and is moving through the water as a natural would, the fish will eat it.

It is not rocket science. You are trying to fool an animal with a brain the size of a pea.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
silicone boy said:
... the current is moving quite fast, even in a slow stream, and a fish doesn't have much time to make a decision whether to bite or not.
Not always, Fishing tailouts at the bottom of riffles in some of the deeper pools, the surface can be quite slow moving, and when you're floating dries, realism can be very important. Elk hair caddis not so good in large pools, but more realistic mayfly immitations often work better there. Rougher/faster water, elk hair caddis is just fine.
 

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Yep, #1 has to be presentation. You can be dead on in size, shape & color and the fish won't touch it if it's dragging across the water or the direction from which you cast is up where the fish see motion or fly line. So I guess it's presentation from the right possition? My eyes aren't good enought to tie on anything smaller than size 20 and those can be tuff. I mostly use Adams or BWO parachutes in those situations. If I get the drift right, I usually do pretty well.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
ClackaRam said:
Many have mentioned presentation.  It all comes down to a drag free drift.  Fish by nature are opportunistic feeders, if it halfway looks like food, and is moving through the water as a natural would, the fish will eat it. 

It is not rocket science.  You are trying to fool an animal with a brain the size of a pea.
This is something else people say a lot, but there are many fish I couldn't catch until I intentionally caused the current to drag my line, or dragged it myself.
 

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Well hey whatever works for you cut. If you can drag big unrepresentational flies through a run at a differant speed then the current is moving, then more power too ya....you're obviously onto something I haven't yet discovered.
 

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TopSlugger4 said:
Well hey whatever works for you cut. If you can drag big unrepresentational flies through a run at a differant speed then the current is moving, then more power too ya....you're obviously onto something I haven't yet discovered.
He's real smart top, workin on a phd and all, jk Cutt ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D
 
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It is the beauty of fishing, you can do it many ways and be succesful.

A drag free drift is a critical precursor to size shape and color. Of course there are more than just a few times when the fish want to see and hit the nymph on the move. When the caddis are emerging this can be one of the very best times to twitch or drag your nymph.

In the winter though I prefer to achieve the most natural drift. Sublte is how everything reacts so to present subtley is another critical factor.

Then again on the Rado I use Wooly Buggers all winter and have great success. :eek:
 

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This is something else people say a lot, but there are many fish I couldn't catch until I intentionally caused the current to drag my line, or dragged it myself. 
That sounds like a "swing" type drift, its pretty popular technique for fishing caddis emergers in the spring...it basically mimics a caddis pupa emerging off the bottom out of its case and rising to the top to hatch. This is why many caddis pupa imitations are tied to appear to have "gas bubbles" in them...which real pupa have as they prepare to hatch and rise to the surface to expose thier wings.

Ive only fished this technique a few times...but ive seen articles on "swing" drifts, it can be found on the internet if you search it. its basically as you stated though....dragging a fly through the water. it wont work alot of the time, but as you proved, sometimes it does... ;)
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Interesting to learn all the terminology that has been cooked up to describe techniques you learn from experience. I see this all the time, now. I've been fly fishing since I was a kid, and when I got older, I learned what others had decided to call all the different casts I had tried. I think it's funny, but it really does help new people learn to flyfish, to have all these things defined and to be able to show all the nice diagrams of how to achieve them in magazine articles. It seems most technical advances in fly fishing methods have mostly been in just describing how experienced fly fishers solve problems when fly fishing. It's the accumulation of all that knowledge as fly fishing evolves that makes it interesting, I think. It's like an academic pursuit.
 
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