Fly-fishing: Yellow flies send the right message to trout

Color is a big consideration when choosing or making flies, and yellow is a time-honored fish catche

I guess you know you’re hopeless when even supermarket tabloids make you think of fishing.

I was at the checkout, absently gazing at the headlines about celebrities cheating on each other, losing weight, gaining weight, etc., when I noticed something. There were four or five different publications, and each one had a different cover story, but they all had one thing in common: the color of the words in the blaring, trashy headlines. They were all yellow.

I don’t know anything about the publishing business, but I can’t imagine this was a coincidence. Font colors — and fly colors — are chosen for reasons. There must be something about yellow that’s especially noticeable, even in a cluttered environment.

Color is a big consideration when choosing or making flies, and yellow is a time-honored fish catcher. The most obvious example is the Mickey Finn streamer, with a silver tinsel body and a bucktail wing in yellow-red-yellow. The Humpy is a classic attractor-style dry fly that’s most often tied in yellow. And I’ve had great success on autumn browns with a yellow Woolly Bugger.

There’s a terrific saltwater bucktail called the Ray’s Fly, and I’ve heard people say the reason for its effectiveness is the yellow in the pattern. Any number of baitfish flies have olive backs and white bellies, but Ray Bondorew “thought a soft hue of yellow should be used as all bait fish display a hint of it,” according to his book, “Stripers and Streamers,” which introduced Ray’s Fly to the angling public. “This is the color of their fatty tissue.”

There are plenty of examples of yellow coloration in the things fish eat. The big Gray Fox mayfly of spring has a distinct yellowish tinge. The Yellow Sally stonefly is among the most common trout stream insects. On the cold tailwater streams of the Catskills, the mayfly species known collectively as sulfurs are the main item on the menu from July through September, in shades from the palest yellow to almost orange. There are golden stoneflies and golden drakes, and trout love them both.

Colorful streamers made from red, orange or yellow seem to be especially effective in the fall. Perhaps the yellow leaves that have been fluttering down to the streams all month put the trout in a yellow frame of mind. Maybe big trout, anxious about the chill in the water and eager to pack on some weight for the lean winter months to come, see yellow and think of the buttery-colored bellies of little trout.

Or maybe yellow just gets the trout’s attention. Maybe it shouts, in a language fish understand, a message just as untrue as a tabloid headline: “I’m helpless and tasty! Eat me!”


Paul Sinicki and the gang at the Capital District Fly Fishers may or may not be planning instruction in yellow flies when their tying classes start in January. Either way, these classes are a great introduction to fly-tying, and once you know how flies are made, you’re free to make them yellow or any other color you like.

The course consists of eight weeks of classes, and includes a fly tying manual, the necessary materials for tying 70 flies, as well as one-to-one instruction as needed. The classes start Jan. 14, and will be held at the Halfmoon Emergency Corps, 15 Crossing Blvd., Clifton Park. Class size is limited. For more information, contact Rodney Priddle at 664-3509 or [email protected] or Sinicki at 885-8257 or [email protected]

Categories: Sports

Leave a Reply