The spring mayfly hatches are under way, and any day now, we’ll be faced with a choice we look forward to making all winter: which fly to use?
Some fly-fishers have known for months which fly they’ll tie on when they encounter their first rising trout of 2009. They expect the first mayflies of the season to swim to the surface of the streams and wriggle free of their exoskeletons to be little Blue Winged Olives or Blue Quills, or maybe the bigger, meatier Hendricksons, and they’ll have the appropriate pattern ready to go.
Others will play it more by ear. After all, sometimes, the first surface action you get to experience isn’t a mayfly hatch, it’s an emergence of caddis flies. You may even find trout sipping midges, or lunging after early-season stoneflies returning to the stream to lay their eggs after mating. Or the trout may not be rising at all, and you’ll have to fish sub-surface if you want to catch anything.
Whether you walk to the water with a detailed plan or simply plan to play a hunch, picking the fly that will fool the wary trout is part of the fun.
My friend, Mike Bokan of Charlton, owner of the Flyshack in Gloversville, tells me his top-selling trout fly — locally and to his Internet customers across the country — is the Adams Parachute.
“It’s just such a great all-around imitation of so many different bugs,” Bokan said.
He noted that parachute-style flies ride with their bellies flush on the surface, and can suggest either a newly hatched dun or a spinner that’s already mated and returned to the stream to lay its eggs. Trout love them both.
Actually, the Top 10 list of Flyshack flies wouldn’t make a bad basic selection. The No. 2 choice of Bokan’s customers is the Blue Winged Olive dry, and with good reason — these little guys are often the first fly you see in the spring and the last one in the fall.
No. 3 is the Bead-Head Prince, the buggy-looking, deep-sinking nymph that doesn’t imitate any insect but suggests many, especially stoneflies. I love it. No. 4 is the Elk-Hair Caddis in tan, another must-have throughout the season. The same fly in olive is the Flyshack’s ninth-most requested. The No. 5 fly on the list is the black Bead-Head Woolly Bugger (the olive version is No. 8).
The traditional Adams, with the grizzly and brown hackle feathers tied around the hook shank in a vertical plane rather than horizontally around the wings, is No. 6. It was originally designed to imitate caddis flies, even though the Adams has a tail and caddis flies don’t. In the right size, you could use it for any hatch of medium-to-dark-colored mayflies or caddis.
The Pheasant Tail nymph is No. 7
on the list. I would have expected it to rank higher. In small sizes, it’s a brilliant representation of Blue-Winged Olive or Sulfur nymphs, and tied larger, it’s a great match for many of the bigger species.
Rounding out the Top 10 is the Bead-Head Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear, the shaggy, impressionistic bug that has saved the day countless times for generations of anglers. It is a good choice at any time.
The list of Flyshack best-sellers has a few glaring omissions. I’d feel unprepared if I didn’t have some light-colored mayflies, small and large; terrestrials such as ants, beetles and hoppers; some caddis larvae and pupae; emergers, like the Klinkhammer Special or the RS2; a few soft-hackled wet flies; and some egg patterns for cold-weather fishing.
Of course, it’s possible to get carried away. Some cranks like to
argue that two or three different flies will catch most fish. But where’s the fun in that?
The Flyshack is located at 15 West Fulton St. in Gloversville, and at www.flyshack.com.