As an avid fly fisherman, you come across a lot of different beliefs, folklore and trite expressions and sometimes, it is hard to interpret what is real and what is make believe. Here is an example: “The flies are for the fisherman not the fish.” I believe there is a lot of truth in this statement considering the thousands of patterns available to us these days, but I will be the first to tell you that I have some “Go To” patterns that I feel I can’t live without. These are my confidence patterns, patterns I trust and believe in so much so I feel like I can will fish to eat them. We all have them, and we all believe in them for multiple reasons. Some like the color while others like the fly creator and almost all like them because they catch fish, but do they work for everyone?
After conferring with several of the guides and shop staff, I have compiled a list of “Go To” patterns and the reasons why these are must haves. They are the “when nothing else is working” flies, the “must have” flies and the ones we believe in. Kind of makes you wonder why we just don’t start with them. Trying to get this exclusive and secretive info was like pulling teeth, but in the end, I got them to reveal a few.
– Fly Shop – This is a hard one because I see hundreds of new patterns annually and more so because I really don’t want to give up my go to patterns, but I realize the longer I do this there are no secrets anymore.
- MICRO MAYFLY – This is a Mike Mercer pattern and I have been a huge fan of his patterns ever since I first came across this pattern back in 2003. I remember having instant success with this pattern so much so that my buddy and I ended up nicknaming it the Magic Fly or Mag for short. It worked so well we laughed about it. I would put this on when all else failed but quickly found myself tying it on first.
- PERDIGON – This Spanish style fly is a great bug to penetrate the fast current and get down to the bottom quick. Its sleek body cuts through the water quickly and puts the fly in front of the fish in hard to reach places. When I’m Euro Nymphing, I almost always have a Perdigon on.
- PARA WULFF ADAMS – This is a spin off of the Para Adams but it has 2 posts instead of 1. I love the profile as it imitates a large variety of insects and the 2 posts makes it easier to see. I like to fish sizes 10-18. When I want to add a dropper to this, the 10’s and 12’s allow me to put a small nymph behind it without sinking the Wulff. It works on any water period!
- PLATTE RIVER SPIDER – This fly does it all when it comes to a streamer pattern. I like it because its lite and billowy. Made up primarily of Marabou, this keeps the fly in the feed zone longer. Marabou also has a lot of movement in the water making this pattern look more realistic. Its great alone or as a trailer on a bigger set up. It is my go-to when swinging flies with my two hander.
- HOME GROWN SPECIALS – I love to tie flies and this allows me to get creative and, in the process, I have found a few gems that I call the Silver Bullet, or the Coyote Ugly or the Harey Situation that are now my “Go To’s” for different situations but those I keep in my private stash. The reason I am mentioning this however is to encourage you to get wild and crazy with your patterns and find some that work for you.
– Guide and Fly Shop – As a guide on the river throughout the year, my selection of flies changes with the seasons. However, some of the patterns seem to slide into a season after season for me and for good reason, they are the flies I rely on most often.
- THIN MINT– This heavily weighted fly, for its size, is the perfect streamer for any size of water. It seems to always to end up on my line when I am fishing smaller creeks and beaver ponds. However, it has also produced well on larger rivers and lakes. You can also upgrade to the Double Mint for some added articulate action!
- DARTH BAETIS – A Greg Garcia original, this fly is killer. Each color variation works to mimic various baetis patterns seen on the local waters. I use this primarily as a dropper behind my other flies. The selection of materials on this fly give so much character to this little guy, that I have more of this specific fly in my collection that anything else.
- CHUBBY CHERNOBYL – Hopper patterns, do I need to say more? There are so many hopper patterns out there that it was very difficult to narrow down to one. I switch to the Chubby come late spring to late fall. I ditch the indicators for my clients and let them use a highly visible pattern, like the Chubby to indicate a strike. The Chubby is a tough fly, made of only a few materials it can stay afloat after many failed casting attempts, drags after a drift or after those surface eats!
- FUSION NYMPH – This fly is one of my favorite patterns, created by Bob Reece, it is one of those flies that seems to make its way off my tying vise in different variations to mimic different hatches. With the wrapped wire around the ostrich hurl, this fly is delicate in presentation but withstands just about anything. We spent many hours talking about this fly in the shop. I never run out of these flies in my box while guiding.
- GT – I must give credit to my Dad on this one. He tied this fly up one night before a big weekend fishing together. As a Wooly Bugger variation, I ended up fishing this pattern all summer the year it was created. I gave it the name “GO TO” that got shortened to GT, because every time I tied this fly on, I produce a fish. Now, this fly comes with me all year long and I even keep some of them pinned in my truck roof as a reminder of the “one” fish or a trip that carries special memories for me and my dad.
– Guide – I have a lot of flies. A lot. Over the years I’ve begun narrowing my selection and carrying fewer patterns in more sizes and variations and leaving the rest at home. My boat bag and wade bags are much thinner and happier because of this.
- RENEGADE– 100-year-old pattern that holds 100% of my heart. I don’t fish a ton of “old school” flies- but I will fish a renegade anywhere. Attractor pattern which imitates Tricos, Midges, Terrestrials- very buggy.
- SCULPZILLA –As the name references- a sculpin imitation streamer. This pattern is heavy with a thin profile for a very fast sink rate, allowing it to fall into those deep dark spots where the predators live. When the fly is retrieved, the combination of marabou, rabbit strip body, and stinger hook in the tail allow for lifelike sculpin movement.
- MISSING LINK – Originally tied as a caddis imitation, I like to use it as an everything pattern. Works especially well in blanket hatches or when there are several different types of insects on the water.
- “COFFEE FLIES” bead and a size 14 jig hook? Let’s do some damage! I like to tie a half dozen flies with my coffee before a trip and sometimes they resemble popular patterns, other times they resemble cartoon characters or sports team mascots. Sometimes they work really, really well.
I believe I read somewhere that “eventually all flies are the right flies” and I guess if you fish long enough with a certain fly it will eventually catch a fish, but who has the time to figure that out? In the end if you have confidence in a fly, it will work. Confidence comes with experience and in this case the help of some knowledgeable staff and guides, so get out there and try them and see if they work for you and if you’re up to it, share some of your “Go To” patterns with us.
Blog written by Brett Elkman, Justin Carr & Emily Dmohowski.