Having guided on the coast of British Columbia for
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Fly Fishing Column - OctoberBy Bill Luscombe,
October brings the cooling effects of autumn and the fish in most waters should again be active. Unfortunately, fall does not bring with it many insect hatches and most of us have to chuck and chance it with patterns that imitate year round food sources, or attractors.
Fish, contrary to what some fishers (liars . . . all of us) would have you believe, are generally very dumb creatures. They rely entirely on instinct for survival, often feeding on a whim, especially during periods of low food variety. It is always a good idea to carry several different attractor patterns specifically for this situation, but especially during the latter part of the season. Although the scud and leech imitations are the bread and butter patterns for fly fishers at this time of year, attractor patterns can often produce better in certain circumstances.
In the low light conditions of a cloudy fall day, I often try different attractors that contain silver tinsel. The bit of silver seems to add that little something that catches the fish's attention and often induces strikes where the staple patterns fail. Nation's Silvertip and, of course, the Doc Spratley, are two of my favourites.
On bright sunny days I try a Royal Coachman (wet), a red Carrie Special, or patterns that incorporate bronze peacock herl such as the halfback or fullback. Bright coloured patterns (especially red) can often produce fish on a sunny day, especially in the fall when the insect populations are down. Peacock herl catches the light and looks much like the bronze/black carapaces of many insects.
Why do the gaudy attractors work when they don't imitate anything that a fish usually eats? The key is in combining many attributes of the fish's normal food into one pattern. Let's look at the classic Doc Spratley as an example. The body is relatively fat and black, which many aquatic insects such as dragonfly nymphs have. In small sizes, the beard resembles the gills of a chironomid and in larger sizes the beard resembles legs or swimmerettes. The swept back wing imitates the shellback of assorted insect nymphs or can also be mistaken for the underdeveloped wings of other nymphs or pupae. Thus we end up with a fly that does not look like anything in nature, but to a hungry trout, it can represent a wide array of potentially scrumptious delicacies.
Although scud and leech patterns are the staples of fall fly-fishing and will usually outperform all other patterns combined, every so often you will find a situation where they do not work. In those cases you should switch to attractor patterns rather than slogging it out with your "old reliable" leech. A change of colour, a flash of silver or gold, or a major change to something outlandish, may be all it takes to trigger a positive response; it all depends on the trout's state of mind. But one thing is for sure, every so often you have to go against what seems right and do something wild and different. Ultimately it can mean the difference between a mediocre day of fall fishing and a successful one.
See you on the water, and bring along some bright, ugly flies, we'll fish 'em together and fool a few silver torpedoes.
Bill Luscombe has been hunting and fishing for most of his 42 years. He has been flyfishing for 20 years. He instructs flyfishing, and has done so for the past 12 years. He also instructs the federal FSET firearms course and the BC CORE hunter training course. He is an award-winning outdoor writer and has been writing freelance since 1987. He has been published in BC Sport Fishing Magazine, Outdoor Edge, BC Outdoors, Western Sportsman, Island Fish Finder, and the BC Hunting Guide.
Bill Luscombe was born an army brat and raised in Ladner (Delta, BC) where he was raised hunting waterfowl and pheasants. He presently resides in North Cowichan on southern Vancouver Island where he has lived and worked full time as a professional forester since 1982.
He presently works in Nanaimo for the BC Forest Service and continue to write the fly-fishing column for BC Sport Fishing Magazine as well as contributing articles freelance to various outdoor magazines in western Canada. Bill Luscombe is also a BC Director of the Northwest Outdoor Writers Association.
"Catching fish is not hard. You simply need to understand what makes them tick. If you think like a fish, you will catch fish. It´s as simple as that."- Bill Luscombe