I spent the better part of last night and today trying to figure out where I’m at on the “what trout see” question in regards to my fly tying and fishing. It’s now dark outside and I’m no closer to a scientific data driven conclusion than I was when I started. The reality is it’s more like scientific data driven confusion. But it’s been a hoot reading the scientific journals and popular fly fishing literature on ultraviolet (UV) vision and trout, the visibility of fluorescent colors in “dirty” water and the impact of background color to what trout see.
I’ve always been interested in this kind of stuff, but the conclusions I come to often have as much to do with the angler as the science. Maybe your confidence in a fly pattern is as important as the science behind the materials you used to tie it. If you believe a certain material gives you an edge or a certain fly pattern gives you an edge, I say go with it until proven different. I also say don’t disregard matching the size, silhouette and color of a natural at least as a starting point. Mimicking the behavior of any naturals you see can’t hurt either. If a Blue-winged Olive nymph is actively swimming to the water’s surface during emergence it makes sense to actively fish your imitation, especially if a dead drift isn’t working that well.
Read the science. Read the non-science. Hang out with and learn from other fly tiers and fly fishers. Review all your fly fishing fundamentals. There’s still plenty of time for the razzle-dazzle and the solitary late night contemplation at the fly tying bench where you decide what to try next. Then go fish. Let the trout decide if it works.
“Success is mostly luck and luck is mostly persistence.” Whoever said that must have been an angler.