I am privileged to have an excerpt from Bob Wyatt's book,"Trout Hunting, the pursuit of happiness".
Gary LaFontaine was on the right track with his theory of attraction. His assertion that an unfamiliar food-form had to be seen by a trout many times before it was recognised as food fits accepted search-image theory. His idea that a good trout fly has to stand out from the naturals accords with what we understand about predatory behaviour. He designed flies to contain some exaggerated features, what behavioural ecologists term supernormal stimuli and which are well documented in scientific literature. For fly-fishers, the search-image idea means that if you havenít alerted a trout to your presence and havenít frightened it by your casting, a well-presented fly that is roughly the size and shape of some familiar food is usually not refused, if it gets noticed.
Fly-fishers have known since the earliest times that a rough impression of an insect is more reliable than an attempt at close-copy of the natural. To my adolescent dismay, my grandfather used to rough up my newly tied flies, turning the beautifully positioned wings into a scruffy, frayed mess before they even touched the water. He believed that slavish attention to detail and neatness actually worked against the flyís effectiveness. Whether they know it or not, the majority of experienced trout anglers tend to be of the general impression and primary trigger camp, putting the emphasis on basic design rather than details of pattern. The problems of delicacy, translucency and a convincing impression of vitality make exact imitation practically impossible anyway. The great trout flies of the world are invariably of the impressionist type, and for every Grey Duster, Adams, or Elk Hair Caddis there are a thousand forgotten ďrealisticĒ patterns. True, this may be partly due to the comparative ease of tying the old favourites, but it certainly isnít the whole story.
Some hatches are famous for the extreme selectivity shown by the trout, usually on the type of water known as eutrophic, typified by spring creeks and chalkstreams. The North American Tricorythodes hatch is among the most difficult of these and is regarded as a situation where true expert anglers earn their stripes. The Trico hatch has its own lore, some of it approaching mythic proportions, with accounts of trout scrutinising and selecting only the females from the midst of a mixed fall of both males and female spinners - a claim that has been met with a certain amount of scepticism by knowledgeable anglers. For one thing, the male spinner is normally on the water at different times, and anyway, just how does one ascertain the sex of the size 22 to 26 insect that has just been eaten by a trout? The answer is that after spurning all else the trout has eaten that anglerís meticulously tied female Trico spinner pattern. This is accepted as proof of the troutís extraordinary intelligence, and by extension, the anglerís outstanding skill.
The range of variables in trout fishing makes such a claim impossible to prove or refute, but it should be kept in mind that the experience of many top anglers on the same rivers varies widely. Most of them have their own special and often quite distinctive designs for the same situation. The last thing Iíd want to do is diminish a brother anglerís triumphs, but speaking for myself, the real reasons for success is preferable to an ego-boosting interpretation.
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