On the Fly: Confidence flies make all the difference

Scott Spooner
On the Fly
Preeminent fall confidence fly, Tim Heng’s Autumn Splendor
Courtesy photo

Finding fly patterns you can rely on day in and day out becomes daunting, especially if you’ve had a tough day recently. Every angler has those “confidence flies” in their boxes they tend to bank on, but what makes a fly an old reliable? 

The more you fish, the more you tend to trust certain flies, but this can change from season to season and from year to year. Every time we are consoling a guest who has lost their fly box, we remind them that this is their chance for “tabula rasa.” Their new box will be a clean slate and, hopefully, filled with reliable flies versus all those oddballs in the corners that never get used.

Many flies catch fishermen but not fish. When it comes to selecting flies, rely on those shop gurus or guides you know and pump them for information. By keep a fishing journal, you’ll learn pretty quick what works and what doesn’t from your own experiences through the seasons. For this part of the fly fishing world, there are four things to consider in your fly patterns — size, shape, color and action. Trout get super focused on what food sources they are seeing the most (and tend to ignore all else); therefore, your fly has to be on the money. When you fish a confidently, it translates down through the rod and line, and the fish seem to be more obliged for some reason.

Size and shape are the most important when the fish are focused on a particular insect, especially when they are keyed in on a particular stage in the insect’s life cycle. Nothing beats putting your scientist hat on and using your powers of observation streamside if you are in the struggle box. Just sitting by the river, flipping over rocks or simply watching the action can be extremely helpful instead of flailing about, especially if you don’t know what the fish are focused on. 

The moral of this story is to rely on advice, pay attention to what works and let the fish tell you what they want versus what you think they want.  Fish with confidence!

This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374 or

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