It’s interesting to me that two of our sport’s most iconic “hatch matchers” also were enamored with “attractor” dry flies. After all, attractor flies are, in a sense, the opposite of these tyer’s well known hatch matching patterns. This little observation should stand as a lesson of balance for all us Midwestern fly fishermen.
Doug Swisher, along with coauthor Carl Richards, wrote the classic book “Selective Trout“. In it they describe a new fly they invented, the now legendary “No-Hackle” (not a very catchy name!). This fly is the epitome of hatch matching flies.
Gary LaFontaine, with his book “Caddisflies“, taught us how to fish this prolific hatch. His Sparkle Pupae and Emergent Sparkle Pupae patterns are extremely effective hatch matchers and a staple in many, if not most, fly angler’s boxes.
Okay, so these guys knew/know their bugs. But they also studied and came to understand the importance of pure “attraction” in regards to dry fly design and what triggers a trout to take a fly. Swisher invented the Madam X. Not only an awesome fly in its own right, but also the prototype for many subsequent attractor dries. LaFontaine wrote two books dealing with attraction: “Trout Flies: Proven Patterns” and “The Dry Fly: New Angles“. While less well known than Swisher’s Madam X, LaFontaine developed several innovative, effective attractor dry flies, such as the “Double Wing” and the “Air-Head”. Gary’s daughter Heather also designed a great attractor dry, the “Mohawk“.
It’s my observation that many angler’s here in the Driftless tend to overlook or marginalize the attractor dry fly. If there is not a hatch going on, many of us default to dredging nymphs. If we see an occasional rise, we may tie on whatever hatched recently, generally going smaller if the fish won’t take our initial offering. Of course, these methods do catch fish. But I’m here to tell you that if you are not fishing attractor dry flies, you are missing out on some fun, and maybe some nice trout!
Stay tuned for Part 2, where I’ll talk about some specific patterns & how to approach fishing an attractor dry fly in the Driftless. In the meantime, please read my latest fishing report, which tells of the effectiveness of the attractor dry fly on our local streams.