Saturday, November 21, 2009

Of Magic Flies and Psychos

Every fly fisherman dreams of the hot fly that works like magic when drifted through a run. The search for the elusive magic fly is one reason why there are so many different fly patterns in the world. Although we know there is not such thing as a fly that works all the time, that doesn’t me we don’t keep searching.

After nearly two decades of fishing the southern coast of Lake Erie for steelheads I have certainly developed a handful of favorite flies, but none is magic. There is no match the hatch requirements for Lake Erie steelhead -- no dry flies or emergers to worry about. Fly choices break into three categories: eggs, nymphs and baitfish.

In low water conditions – like we experienced today on Elk Creek (4.5 cfs on Brandy Run USGS gauge) – I tend to opt for the psycho nymph fly in size 12 or 14. Not sure who came up with the name or why it works. But I suspect the orange body makes it look a little bit like an egg. The purple collar may serve as a trigger – purple egg flies often outperform more naturally colored eggs. And the boits and yellow shuck give it the silhouette of a caddis fly. In other words it’s got so many things working that when the conditions are right, steelies love it. It’s not a magic fly, but on mornings like these it does the trick.

Steelies were packed into every slot of fast moving water that was a foot or more in depth. The key to fishing narrow, fast moving water is to use small flies and mend line constantly to create a natural drift. Fast water can push the leader and fly around easily, creating unnatural drag. In low water it’s easy to tell when your fly is dragging – rather than drifting naturally. The fish – sensing an unnatural invader of their territory – quickly get out of the way.

Today, the fish were more than a little skittish, and frequently scattered rather than tolerate my fly’s presence. But several fell for the psycho, including this one – which was wearing his fall colors with pride.

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