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The Agony of Deceit

Posted on July 06 2011

Fly Selection
Presented with confidence. Photo: Tom Larimer

We’re right in the middle of our summer seasons at Alaska West and BC West, and the guest posts from our friends are pouring in!  Charles St. Pierre delivered our spey instruction program during our second week at Alaska West.  He knows more about casting though – he’s one heck of an angler overall.  Today we’ve got a guest post from Charles about fly selection.  Confidence is key!

A Simplified Theory of Fly Selection: “The Agony of Deceit”

Change is constant when it comes to water. Changes of wind, temperature, tides, structure, volume, color, and depth are only a few but the list goes on and on. Some of these changes are obvious while others are so subtle that we cannot, with our limited senses, perceive them at all. Whether obvious or subtle, these changes are, in a large part, what determines our technique when pursuing any migratory or resident aquatic species (both fresh and salt water) with rod, reel, and fly.

So we have taken into account what we can account for and determined our technique and presentation – now what do we tie onto our leader? A decision and a choice must be made. Some choose quickly or have already decided the night before. Some choose carefully. But nearly any angler can attest to having spent far too much precious fishing time staring into the abyss of their fly box on at least one occasion pondering this dilemma. Let’s go straight to the marrow of the matter…

As with most things, what it really comes down to is Confidence with a capital “C”. Confidence is the ultimate determining factor when choosing a fly to fish. Yes, experience is a key to confidence but what if you don’t have any with the gamefish at hand? If you’ve never fished for the species you’re after and you don’t have a guide, confidence will be extremely hard to come by regardless of the fly. Hire one and let them choose a fly from their box.

If at all possible, this should be someone of good repute and experience within the angling circle that surrounds your mutual quarry – not the surrounding county’s local sheriff office. You can learn a lot from a good guide, volumes from a great one. When they open their mouth or their fly box, you should close yours. If the flies in their box don’t work, they probably won’t stay in the fly fishing guide business for long.

If you have experience (decided the night before but have a plan “B” and “C” fly on deck) or enough experience to have some measure of confidence via success with this kind of fishing, you stand by your decision and pay attention to any anomaly that catches your eye that you either did not consider before or has changed since your decision was made; new pieces, new puzzle. If you don’t change color or size and technique on your second pass through the sweet spots, check the box marked “seeking some greater measure of experience”.

Confidence in fly selection can be summed up by this Yogi Berra-esque mantra: “If you’re not sure a fish is willing to eat your fly, you should be”. Whose choice do you really think this is anyway? You choose the fly and the technique but they choose everything else. Not the least of which is, to bite at anything at all…

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