Fly sizes......
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Author:  Dave M [ October 4th, 2018, 8:10 am ]
Post subject:  Fly sizes......

Am I alone in thinking that fly sizes are getting smaller and smaller?

I’ve been tying for going on fifty years now, so I may have some perspectives that guys/gals that started tying after the millennium may not have.

As I’m presently tying for a Landlock/Brookie trip mid-October I’ve been tying up a lot of #16 Soft Hackles and #22 Tiny BWO’s. Sixteens are about average.......22’s are small. When I first started fishing there I’d say an average Nymph was a #10 or maybe #12........now I’d say average is probably an 18, and I fish many, many 20’s and 22’s.

As Orange is perhaps my “go to” October color I tied up a few Orange Marabou Muddlers.......on TMC 5253 hooks......#4 , 3XL’s. They looked freaking gigantic compared to the 22’s that I’ve been tying. I used to think that 4’s were average streamer hooks.

Just some of Hutch’s navel gazing this morning.

Dave M

Author:  1weight [ October 4th, 2018, 9:53 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Fly sizes......

I haven't been tying as long as you Dave but I do remember that available fly sizes and articles that spoke of #18's being tiny. Very rarely would 20's get a mention. Except for when Lee Wulff caught that salmon on a #28 to prove a point.
Small being discussed in the afternoon Tue. on the EO had a fish hammer a #6 Orange muddler the minute it hit the water and it never stopped as it popped my tippet. In the AM they liked a Black Ghost streamer.


Author:  Hunter [ October 4th, 2018, 12:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Fly sizes......

I have boxes of so 22 through 26 hooks that I was given that originated from a tyer’s collection in the 1970’s. Folks have been tying small for a long time. I think the big difference is that more people are fishing nymphs these days, as opposed to focusing on dry flies. With that shift, a larger percentage of the flies being sold and fished are small nymphs.

Author:  Jeff Reardon [ October 4th, 2018, 2:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Fly sizes......

More and more of our fishing is in tailwater rivers, where the hydrologic alteration shifts the insect community and you get very abundant populations of small mayflies and caddis flies. Ditto for waters that are enriched by human activity. And spring creeks, which have a similar shift due to natural conditions. How many freestone, unregulated rivers are on the list of America's most-heavily-fished-and-hyped waters?

Small hooks have also gotten a lot more widely available. If I correctly remember it, Ray Bergman's "Trout", mostly written about fishing in the 1930s, talks about a Western trip where the "tiny midge flies" were 16's and 18's.

Come back to the dark side and fish ponds! I do fish some BWO and midge patterns, but only on rare occasions when the trout won't eat a #12 attractor dry or, failing that, a #16 parachute Adams. Subsurface, a #10 or #12 is a small leech or baitfish pattern . . . .

Author:  brian foley [ October 5th, 2018, 3:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Fly sizes......

Are the actual bugs getting smaller or do you just need smaller flies to catch fish? I've fished popular streams where you needed to fish tiny flies to catch fish, regardless of what, if anything was hatching...I've had a theory for a long time that generally speaking, smaller/tiny flies catch you more fish on popular streams, because the fish are used to seeing so many large, identifiable imitations - conversely, I've never (hardly) had to resort to tiny flies to catch fish on truly wild streams...maybe that plays into Jeff's notion - that said, I'll be happily casting a meaty, beaty, big & bouncy sz 4 fly when I hit the river on Monday - tight lines no matter the size of your fly!

Author:  titleguy [ October 8th, 2018, 8:11 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Fly sizes......

I just spent a week fishing 18 dry flies-heaven.... I threw on a 16 once and awhile and never had to go down to 20. I am ready to head hunt this weekend if I can find some blue wings and some fish; although it will probably be a let down after the number and size of rising fish I just visited...

Author:  pushaw [ October 9th, 2018, 12:00 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Fly sizes......

I think it's a mix of throwing something different and the tailwater effect, as mentioned. One more piece might be the seasons -- as more people fish more in spring, fall, and winter, the bugs that are available are smaller. I have a specific box that only includes small midges and BWOs that I fish out of from September to April each year. The rest of the year, I rarely go to that box, mostly fishing bigger flies.

I have had at least one situation where I spent a long time working fish that were midging, 6X, bunch of fly changes in the 20-24 range, and then went the other way (size 6, foam) to great success. That was definitely a spot where those midge-eaters had been educated up by better fishermen than I, but my change of direction worked.

With all of that said, most of my fish caught in the last 6 weeks have come on small flies, including on the freestones. I pounded up a few fish on streamers and hoppers and ants in September, but the size 18 and smaller stuff has been the ticket more often than not.

I probably saw 30 fishermen on Sunday on a local popular water and there's not much doing except midges and BWOs this time of year. I did very well on a size 18 purple parachute followed by a size 18 brooks sprout baetis for a couple hours in the afternoon. This was not a nice day, 30s and drizzle, but it was very good fishing when the BWOs started popping. That has me thinking this move to small flies might have to do with better waders and outerwear. Gore-tex stocking feet waders, with good boots + fleece pants, synthetic baselayers, favorite wool sweater, fleece hat, and gore tex raincoat = comfortable enough to fish several hours on a cold raw day when small flies are the ticket. Once those small flies are in your box, in your vest, you think about trying them other times, too.

Author:  maineangler [ October 10th, 2018, 1:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Fly sizes......

pushaw wrote:

I have had at least one situation where I spent a long time working fish that were midging, 6X, bunch of fly changes in the 20-24 range, and then went the other way (size 6, foam) to great success. That was definitely a spot where those midge-eaters had been educated up by better fishermen than I, but my change of direction worked.


I had a very similar result out your way, back in the final days of August. Fishing a very crowded river, drifting #22-#24 griffiths and spent trico spinners to browns which would only feed within a foot of the willow-lined bank. Then, per local fly shop suggestion, I would switch it up to a #6-8 foam hopper and those same browns would smash it, if it was presented carefully. Nearly equal success between the two extremes.

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