Why The Best Flies Are Home Brews

There are reasons why some fly patterns sell by the thousands of dozens every year. The Copper John, arguably the most popular nymph pattern on the planet, simply sinks better, faster, and is just flashy enough to grab a trout's attention. You can turn over a million rocks in rivers and never see anything that looks like a Copper John, but the fly is brilliant. The Parachute Adams is equally remarkable for its drab simplicity. Developed in northern Michigan nearly a century ago, the Adams proves to me over and over that trout care more about profile and presentation than they do about exact colors and detailed body accents.

Thing of it is, I have also come to believe that familiarity breeds contempt, at least in the context of trout and the dry flies they see every day. I remember a couple summers ago during the green drake hatch, all my buddies were turned onto this specific V-winged pattern that rode a little lower and flatter on the surface. I tried it, and yes, it worked great. But after a few days on my favorite river, the trout wouldn't eat it anymore. The drakes were still hatching, but I think those trout, even with pea-sized brains, were able to register the fake after all of us bandwagon anglers had show the same bug to them over and over again.

I've always thought that having a unique twist on a fly and home recipes often worked best for that very reason. This is a pattern my grandfather tied, and it's one of the only dries he'd use all season. Spring mayflies, caddis, terrestrials in August...didn't matter. He called it a "mosquito" though, in truth, it's about 70 times larger than any real mosquito that's ever bitten me (It's about a size #14). Simple hook, black thread, spaced peacock herl wound up the body. Grizzly or brown hackle, and wings made from wood duck feathers. That's it.

I think the trout liked the fly so much because A) Grandfather knew how to fish, and he could present just about any fly in a way that made it look appetizing, and B) because he was the only guy throwing these bugs that looked just like they do on his stretch of river.

He's gone now, but I found a box of these in a drawer in the cabin last summer. Most were rusted and couldn't be fished. But there were a couple that worked like a charm. Probably because the current generation of trout hadn't seen them before.

I'd tell you how to tie them, but I haven't quite figured it out myself exactly. Besides, some recipes are best kept secret, and your own concoctions will probably work better on your own waters. I've never been a big believer in the "secret" bug. But I am a believer in the "unique" bug.