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Fly Fishing in Patagonia: A Trout Bum's Guide
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Regarding Steelhead, is it dark fly on dark day, bright fly on bright day, OR, bright fly on dark day, dark fly on bright day? I have heard both arguments from many equally reputable fly fishers. Also, how does water clarity factor in? I don't know who to believe, so i've just been fishing purple in all situations with decent success. However, I feel that if I knew more about the logic underlying fly color selection to suite various water/light conditions I could increase my success rate. Does anybody have any definative answers or insights? Or maybe there is no definative answer to this question? I would eagerly welcome any thoughts on the topic. I wonder what Dennis Dickson, the undisputed Steelhead King, has to say on the issue. Thanks for listening to my aimless babble,

Tight Lines

-BM
 

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What's the truth behind the conflicting fly color doctri

I think there are conficts because on any given day, any color will work or none. Generally, the most important thing is to get the fly in front of the fish. That said, Dick Van Demark wrote a book Called STEELHEAD FLY FISHING IN LOW WATER , a different approach published in 1996 by Forrest Park Publishers, P.O. Box 29775, Bellingham, Washington 98228-1775, (360)647-2505. He explored color extensively in low water conditions and the book is well worth reading.

Randy

<Sorry Randy, the forum had Dick's first name set in the language filter. Fixed now. Chris>
 

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What's the truth behind the conflicting fly color doctri

Have seen at least three color theories applied to steelhead: (1) Fish dark colors (purple, black) in low light conditions and bright colors (red and orange) in high light conditions because that is when they are most visible. Alec Jackson says that this explains the lack of green steelhead flies. Look at Trey Combs steelhead fly plates and you will see very few pure green flies. They are in the middle of the color spectrum and thus don't show up very well regardless of the day. (2) Fish imitative colors. Orange or pink for shrimps. Black, brown or Olive for sculpin imitations. (3) Fish a color which is different. Gear and plug fishermen don't use black much which may explain why it works so well for fly fishermen.

My personal experience is that there is something to be said for black or purple flies under low light conditions (e.g. very early morning or at dusk) because they are visible especially when worked on a floating line.

It makes sense to change colors on the second pass through a pool. On the Sky there have been several occasions when I have unsuccessfully worked through a riffle with a bright fly only to catch a fish on the next pass through with a dark fly (or vice-versa) to think that sometimes color matters.
 

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Fly Fishing in Patagonia: A Trout Bum's Guide
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134 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
What's the truth behind the conflicting fly color doctri

I just read a book called "What Fish See" that gave me some insights, but left many questions unanswered. It's not geared toward fly fishing, but it does a great job at explaining how steelhead see colors in all types of water, and also explains why fly fishing for them (other then the inablilty fish deep effectively) is less productive than spin fishing for them. Give this book a try, it's very interesting.
 

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What's the truth behind the conflicting fly color doctri

I would like to say that color is a factor but here are some arguements:

A steelhead has trout like habits right? With trout flies the least important factor to consider when is picking a fly is color. Size, shape and action seem to be much less limiting factors.

The most popular flies for summer run fish for me seem to be all dark flies with a hint of bright or sparkle. None of my flies are completely dark. A green butt skunk is white winged fly with a black body. It also has 2 colors that are abnormal; red and green.
The undertaker also has red and green tags which works well for me.

Purple seems to work when nothing else is working. It also works at all depths. (surface to bottom)

For winter runs, bright flies in clear water seems to work consistently but in dark water, dark flies are the only ticket.

In the fall, all of the strangest colors work well. Orange, green, yellow, etc.

Yes, I know that there is no pattern!!!

I don't have an answer really. We are talking about an elusive mutant fish that eats bugs when it isn't supposed to be feeding at all yet will strike a fly that looks like nothing in nature.
But needless to say, color is important to some varying degree.
 
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