FREE Chapter 1 from Patterns, Hatches, Tactics and Trout -The Charles Meck classic. You'll be introduced to a method that could forever change the way you fly fish!
Patterns, Hatches, Tactics and Trout by Charles Meck
Copyright Charles Meck
Do you prefer using dry flies? Do you enjoy fly-fishing because you can see the action unfold on the surface? What do you do when you go fishing and no hatch appears? What do you do when few trout rise? Do you just stand around waiting for that odd trout that comes to the surface for some food? When I originally wrote Meeting and Fishing the Hatches in 1977 that's how I felt. I detested using anything except a dry fly‑‑and most of the time I felt I had to match a hatch. That has all changed recently. Look at two recent incidents on the same stream.
Just this past year Pat and Paul Antolosky and I headed for a couple hours of fishing on central Pennsylvania's lower Bald Eagle. A sporadic hatch of light cahills emerged, but only three trout rose during the two hours we fly-fished. Three trout rose sporadically in a quarter‑mile section where maybe a dozen or two should have surfaced. We caught only two trout that entire evening. Most of the time we stood, watched, and waited for a trout to rise.
I fished the same section the next evening with Tucker Morris. This time I tied on a tandem rig. A tandem rig consists of two flies‑‑usually a dry fly and a wet fly. As I said, for more than 40 years I've relished seeing that dry fly riding high in full view. With the tandem rig I assured myself that I could watch the dry fly while also covering subsurface-feeding fish with a weighted wet fly. If the floating dry fly sinks then I know I have a strike on the wet fly. In other words, the dry fly acts as a strike indicator. Fishing in this manner you can catch trout on your strike indicator or dry fly as well as the wet fly. Two trout did strike the dry fly that evening.
On that same section of the lower Bald Eagle where Pat and Paul Antolosky and I caught two trout on dry flies the night before, I caught 10 trout on the tandem rig. Does it work? You bet it does! You'll find further information on the tandem rig and how to use it in Chapter 2.
But tactics and strategies represent only a small portion of what this book contains. Patterns, Tactics, Hatches, and Trout also includes a great deal of information on the hatches. Did you know that entomologists now classify many Pseudocloeon species now in the Genus Baetis? Did you know that many of the pale evening duns once included in the Genus Heptagenia scientists now classify in a new Genus, Leucrocuta? You'll find this and much more new information on some of the major hatches in Chapter 3, which also includes an up-to-date emergence chart to give you a leg up on matching the hatch.
You'll also find dozens of patterns that have produced trout when others have failed. "How in the world can you make any sense out of pattern selection?" a beginning fly-fisher once asked me. Indeed, with literally thousands of fly patterns, how can an angler who wants to succeed at fly-fishing pare the number down to a productive few? Just how many patterns do you have from which to select? In his classic book, The Fisherman's Handbook of Trout Flies, Donald DuBois listed almost 6,000 patterns. DuBois wrote that book in 1960, and in the intervening thirty-five years thousands of additional patterns have appeared. Today you have to select from more than 10,000 patterns. How does one just starting to fly-fish narrow the enormous possibilities down to a manageable number? In Chapters 4 through 10 you'll find some topnotch patterns that have worked for me. In Chapters 4, 5, 6, and 10 you'll find discussions of and patterns for nymphs, emergers, duns, spinners, and downwings.
What about patterns that don't match mayfly, stonefly, or caddis fly hatches? You'll find Chapter 7 devoted to attractor patterns, including the exciting new Patriot. If you haven't used this exciting new pattern, Chapter 7 will tell you why you should.
Aren't terrestrials important to copy, especially in midsummer? Chapter 8 includes some productive patterns for land-borne insects like ants, beetles and grasshoppers. It also includes information on some productive caterpillar and moth patterns.
What about larger patterns like Wooly Buggers and Muddler Minnows? Chapter 9 examines several productive large underwater patterns.
In Chapters 3 through 9 you'll find a section titled "Tandem Connection." Here you'll find ways to use two patterns at the same time. For example, in Chapter 6, on spinners and spinner patterns, you'll see that you can tie some of your smaller spinners like the Trico as the point fly a couple of feet behind a larger dry fly. If you have difficulty seeing and following a small spinner pattern, this might help.
You'll also find a lot of information on patterns to copy the hatches. In Chapter 10 you'll find patterns for nymphs, duns, spinners, and emergers. If you've fished the hatches for the past several years, you already know how successful Z‑lon shucks have become. Chapter 10 includes shuck colors for all major hatches.
But Chapter 10 includes much more than just patterns for the hatches. Look also at many of the new materials available to the fly-fisher. Larva Lace can make hundreds of productive patterns; krystal flash and sparkle yarn have proved successful in many new flies; and chenille comes in new fluorescent colors and sizes. New materials and millions of new fly-fishers in the 1990s have created an overwhelming desire on the part of many anglers to limit the number of patterns to select few. In Chapter 10 you'll find some of the new fly-tying materials and how to use them.
How do you prefer to tie your dry fly pattern? Many anglers prefer using comparaduns; others prefer parachute patterns; and still others use the more conventional high‑riding Catskill‑style dry fly patterns. We'll examine the advantages of each type of dry fly also in Chapter 10.
But does selecting the proper pattern really make a difference between success and failure on any given fishing day? Look what happened to me just this past year. Phil Hopersberger and I fished a local stream, the Bald Eagle, in early October. For more than two hours I carefully covered every section of one of my favorite runs on that stream. On a normal day I might catch a half dozen trout in this productive area. On that particular day I had not even one strike. I fished the water thoroughly with at least a half dozen patterns without any success. Then, with a great deal of apprehension, I tried a new pattern, a Bead-head Pheasant Tail Nymph, that a friend, Walt Young, had encouraged me to try. On the first cast with that bead-head I saw a swirl. On the second, another swirl. I grabbed the pattern and added a small lead shot and again cast in the same productive glide. In the next half-hour I hooked and released six heavy brown trout on that bead head. In a section where for two hours before I caught no trout. Pattern selection makes a difference. In fact, selecting the proper pattern can mean the difference between a mediocre day and a highly productive day that you'll never forget!
Will the patterns I've listed work under all circumstances? No. I'm certain you've had days where nothing works, when no pattern you try catches trout.
There are some streams and rivers that require patterns almost unique to them. Visit a dozen famous trout streams and you'll find that most of them have a specific pattern that seems to work well there. On the Waikaka River on the South Island of New Zealand, many anglers favor a pattern call Dad's Favorite. I tried the pattern and it did produce some heavy trout. On Spruce Creek in central Pennsylvania, George Harvey uses a pattern he calls the Spruce Creek Special, which has been a proven fish taker over the past few decades. When you visit a stream talk to a guide or local and find out what patterns produce the most trout. But under most circumstances and on most streams, the patterns listed in this book will catch trout.
So take a journey through the following pages with an open mind. You'll read about some unconventional -- almost bizarre -- tactics, patterns, and recommendations. As I've often said in talks I give to fly-fishing groups, keep an open mind and keep learning new ideas. Keeping up with trends, developments, and advances in fly-fishing has an analogy with the technology age. In this time of continuously growing fishing pressure, if you don't keep up with the new developments, you're going to be left behind.
Few anglers would argue that for the majority of the day trout feed under the surface. They rise to the surface often only when a heavy hatch appears. So while I'm usually flailing away on the surface prospecting for the rare trout that would rise, most of the fish feed beneath the surface. For years I almost totally neglected subsurface patterns except for during high water and the early season. As soon as water temperatures rose above 50 degrees I resorted to dry flies. Even when no trout rose and few insects appeared I prospected on the surface with dry flies. I'd consider it a successful summer evening when no hatch appeared and few trout rose to catch three or four trout.
After observing trout more closely during the last decade or so, I began to realize that most trout feed out of sight of the angler, beneath the surface. If this is true then why not use a pattern that covered that situation? I still preferred the dry fly but I compromised by using a floating fly as a lead fly that also acts as a strike indicator, and a subsurface point fly that covers much of the area where trout feed. With the tandem rig I average six to seven trout on the wet fly for every trout I catch on the dry fly.
An angler once told me that he knew of only two ways you can fish a fly: "on the surface and underneath." In a way he spoke the truth. Wet and dry flies cover where a fish feeds. But there's a third possibility: fishing on the surface and subsurface at the same time. Many nymph fishermen who frown on using any strike indicator might say that's heretical or that it wouldn't work. But believe me, it does work! More on that later.
In the following pages you'll find six chapters devoted to fly patterns. Patterns that copy the hatches, terrestrials, and spinners make up three chapters. Within the past decade, with the advent of renewed interest in fly-fishing, thousands of new patterns have appeared. Many of these have made an important contribution to fly-fishing. Just a few years ago North American anglers knew of bead-head patterns. At the moment these sinking patterns have become some of the most productive available to the fly-fisher. You'll find bead-head patterns in Chapter 4.
How did I select the patterns included in this book? I've fly-fished for more than 40 years and have used all of the included patterns on Eastern, Midwestern, and Western waters.
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