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Why is that?

Ever notice how a used bug will outperform a new one? I was fishing the Williamson River in Oregon a few years ago with size 16, Pheasant-tail Nymph and I could see the giant rainbows swimming around and every once in a while we'd see a jumper, so I knew I was going through the fish. After maybe an half an hour and countless drifts through the bucket I finally got a grab, and fought and landed a beautiful, big rainbow trout. As I removed the fly I noticed it was slightly torn up, and I was excited and said to myself, “that's OK,” and started casting and drifting through the same hole again. This time, however, it only took 3 or 4 drifts and I was hooked up again, and went through the same routine. I fought the fish, landed it and released it, and noticed my little PT nymph was really falling apart. So, for the heck of it I tossed it once more, and maybe the 2nd or 3rd cast I was hooked up again, but this time I lost the fish and the beat-up fly. Then I tied on a new PT fly of the same size/color and continued to fish for about an hour before I hooked another fish, and then another and another in shorter time spans......WHY ?

I do know that some gear guys will only use quick fish and lures that have already been chewed on and have tooth marks all over them.

Some fly guys seem to think after the fish "slime" the fly it works better or is more attracted to other fish. I know when I am in Mexico, my beat- up flies seem to work better than a brand new one, but I still don't know why. Is it that I fish the chewed-up flies with more confidence? Or perhaps I pay better attention to the drift and know more of what to watch for? Just something to think about.

Carl Blackledge


  • clampmanclampman Posts: 130 Deckhand
    I don't know about streamers, nymphs and lures, but I know that as a kid just into high school I had a similar experience with drys in Maine. Brookies were rising all over the place and mayflies landing everywhere and I was getting nothing. Finally, I caught one, and noticed the palmered hackle had come loose and was dangling at a weird angle and like a corkscrew. But I cast it again and hooked another, and another and another. By then it was getting hard to see, so I change to a good fly. Nothing. Retied the old one and caught a couple more before it got dark and they shut down.

    Ever afterwards, when I couldn't get trout to take a dry when feeding, I would snip the palmered hackle and let it dangle. It worked often. Then years later I read about "emergers". So I figure that's what they were taking instead of the adults flying around. Probably a slam dunk meal from their perspective.

    The battered nymphs and streamers I don't know. Could be fish slime (which I doubt) could be they aren't tracking right and look injured, could be enough hackle missing they were now tied more sparce. But that's a good question. Be curious to hear about other guys experience.

  • Permit RatPermit Rat Posts: 2,283 Captain
    I've had the same experience, countless times with nymphs. I always attributed the difference to the more indistinct silhouette of the tattered fly. But Jim's mention of the emerger makes perfect sense. Emergers are nymphs that are rising in the water, not sinking like even an unweighted nymph would do. I can easily see where trout would be selective in that regard. In Jim's case, the body of his fly would represent the nymphal case and the unfurled hackle might be the emerging wing of the new mayfly. In your and my case, the added bushiness of the tattered body, probably slowed the sink rate...enough anyway for an eventual take.

    Anyway Carl, as you know, there are several emerger patterns out there. Maybe you could adapt one for a pheasant tail. Tie in one of those tiny foam beads that make up the cheaper Styrofoam coolers and use that in your PT nymph, in lieu of the bead chain eyes.
  • Carl BlackledgeCarl Blackledge Posts: 674 Officer

    PT Nymphs don't have bead chain eyes
  • Permit RatPermit Rat Posts: 2,283 Captain
    Should have said, "bead head." Gimme a break...it's been 25 years or more, since I tried to use a PT on a western stream. :rolleyes
  • Carl BlackledgeCarl Blackledge Posts: 674 Officer
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