Two Rules for Choosing a Fly Pattern

The good news is that I figured out the hot bug that (in part) won the Friends of the Upper Delaware River One Bug event this past weekend.

The bad news is that I wasn't the guy throwing it.

Instead, I broke my own cardinal rule, and I paid for it. Of course, hindsight is 20–20, but it's good to review your mental game film, whether good or bad, after you go fishing. Understanding your mistakes is what helps you improve, and I will definitely learn from this one.

My major failure was that I didn't spend enough time looking at the water before I selected my fly. Instead, I went with an all-day strategy. I wanted to fish a big, durable fly, and I wanted a fly that I could easily spot on the water. I had heard all the reports, and word was that March browns were starting to happen. So I chose a March brown emerger dry fly and decided to hope for a hatch, rather than going with what was already apparent on the water. I was dumb. I ended up seeing about eight March brown naturals over the course of the next 8 hours.

Meanwhile, a steady flotilla of blue-winged olives, and slightly fewer Hendricksons, littered the surface all day, and the trout ate them, albeit sporadically. The Hendos and olives were there at the start, and they were there at the end. The answer was right in front of me.

Granted, had the March browns shown up in force, I could have gone from zero to hero in about 20 minutes. But that didn't happen.

Here are my takeaways.

Rule 1. Watch the water before you pick a fly. I picked my fly in the parking lot.

Rule 2. Don't try to impose your will on the fish. Listen to what the fish are telling you. I wanted very much to fish a sturdy bug and heavy tippet. But the fish told me to fish a size #14 loop-winged emerged pattern on 5x. I just didn't listen.