There is a relatively new cliché rolling around out there that says “fly fishing is as complicated as you make it!” Whoever first said this is 100% accurate. Long gone are the days where fly fishing is deemed as your grandfather’s tweed wearing, pipe smoking, elitist unaffordable sport. It’s completely the opposite! Today’s fly-fishing technology allows for anyone who can get out to a river or lake the opportunity to catch literally anything that is wet, and eats.
But if you’re new to either the sport or a body of water, what are the top five flies you should have in your box to maximize your catchability for multi-species? First of all, it’s important to have a basic understanding of what fish eat. In a nutshell, and to generalize, fish eat: other fish, bugs, small terrestrials, and amphibians and crustaceans. Here is an example of each of these food groups to get you into fish.
This fly is arguably the most diverse fly you can have in your box. It emulates so many different things in the water, most species can’t resist its presence. A black woolly bugger looks like a baitfish, a leech, a crayfish, or a very large hellgrammite, and is most definitely a great fly to have in your box of various sizes, both weighted and not.
Blane Chocklett’s fantastic pattern “the Game Changer” is just that! This single-hook, articulated fly mimics many different baitfish found in freshwater lakes and rivers. White could resemble a shiner, while a darker color could resemble a juvenile walleye for example. The movement these flies impart in the water often results in a reaction bite for most species in the system.
The bead-head copper john is one of the most versatile bug imitations out there. Whether you’re fishing it under an indicator, dry dropper, or tight line nymphing, the Copper John can resemble almost anything in the water, and most fish find it irresistible.
This attractor fly is a wonderful fly to entice a reaction bite from fish, or to act as a dry for your dry dropper rig. It’s big, bold, and boorish, mimicking anything from a small mouse to a frog or bug. Fished either dead drift or skated, a Chubby Chernobyl is a eye-catcher for many species of fish!
These freshwater crustaceans are a staple for most all species in both lakes and moving water. From big offerings of crawfish to small freshwater scuds, these creatures make up a huge percentage of many fish’s diets. Fished slowly along the bottom, they are also the perfect post front fly when fish may be displaying negative feeding patterns.
An older cliché in fly fishing that still rings true today is “match the hatch,” or mimic what the fish in the system you’re fishing are eating. Keep size profile in mind first and foremost when choosing your flies, then worry about color and the finer details. These five flies are definitely a staple in my box for most every species that swim in Northern Ontario!