Capt.Castafly

Sparse or not ?

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What's nice about the off fishing season, it gives some of us plenty of time to rest and digest what happen last season.

It also entertains many (here) to start interesting conversations on an array of different topics, as we watch the winter days slowly tick away.

It entertains us for the next several months and passes the time.

The winter months, gives us the chance to experiment and explore some of our observation we may have jotted down along the way.

The typing bench becomes our laboratory and sanctuary as we close the door to our man cave, working underground to give us an advance next year.

This article I wrote appeared in Fly Tyer Magazine in the Winter Issue, 2009. I hope you find it help, maybe answer some questions, maybe stimulate your creativity and cleverness.

Capt. Ray

 

Tying Sparse or not?

Sooner or later the debate arises with fly practitioners, just how important coloration is in presentation and fly design? Ask six experienced tiers and you’re apt to get six very different responses. After all, there are dozens of theories and every one of them sounds logical and convincing. Opponents may differ between philosophical foundations or scientific evidence. Anglers can make a very convincing argument for both. It may blend into one. Who’s right or who’s wrong? That’s what makes this topic of color blending so fascinating. There is no clear cut path to the truth; no one answer. Really!

Tiers that build baitfish designs have a much stronger perception about color concepts in general than bug tiers. Their flies move thru water, have faster retrieve rates, pulse and flutter between strokes. Therefore the actual image of a fly under motion is not as clear. It’s more about the way we fish our patterns and how they work, than viewing them statically.  Rapid movements of objects present an entirely different image to the eye and mind. As movement occurs, our eyes have sensory limitation about detail. There are upper and lower thresholds for movement in both humans and animals. If an object moves to slow like the moon above, it appears not to be moving at all.  The faster an object spins or travels, the blurrier it gets. More baffling still, is the object that appears to be still but moving at a high rate of speed, much like the rotational motion of a bicycle wheel. All is relative by the distance you are from an object. That gives us a datum point or benchmark. Now we can judge what is actually happening over space and time.  

Fading into the environment

Nature has ways of protecting each and every species on this planet. An animal at risk from a predator often stays stationary at first. This is an animal’s first line of natural protection. Call it instinct if you will. Their ability to blend into the environment serves them well and should be noted by any fly designer. Any movement will certainly give themselves away. This is why a fly may be effective when embodied in a school of natural baitfish as it keeps moving along.

Knowledge of colors is a key component to our baitfish designs. We often use the phrase, “sparse” while tying patterns.  We equate this with using as small amount of materials as possible. We suggest an image rather than duplicate it to exact standards. We have knowledge that some colors get absorbed into the environment.   Excessive materials (we are lead to believe) affect the action of the fly. But hold that thought for a second. Could the word sparse have a different meaning all together in tying?  Try to keep an open mind as you read on?

(Insert picture of any composite mackerel photos or use two single, focus and blurred mackerel photos)

A closer look at the above pictures of a mackerel streamer pattern reveals many interesting details. When duplicating any baitfish, one has to remember the primary effects of nature’s blending. There are two distinct areas to explore. The easiest to see are the dominate colors. The eyes certainly stand out along with any irregular patterns along the upper sides of the fish. These are the distinguishing patterns that help identify themselves as a certain species to us. Fins, gills, mouth outlines, and body shape also help contrast and greatly aid in forming this image. All these features are dominating areas to our sight.

The second area to look at is background colors. An example would be the “fill icon” on most computer photo software. It’s used to show the density and outline of objects and fish. It’s just as important as dominate colors especially during slow presentations of the fly. It’s what gives an object their size.  I use the term, “Latent Colors” in my seminar presentations. It brings to my mind the images that are stored on camera film prior to development. The images are recorded; you just can’t see them yet till you process them. It’s the beginning motion from a baitfish that first focuses our attention, especially against a blended background like the marine environment. 

Observations

A closer inspection of both photos reveals some interesting results. First off, let me make a blanket statement that might clarify the subject matter. We are looking at the way color and design patterns change by the effects of motion. This is a completely different subject than the way color spectrums get absorbed thru the water depths. Here are some basic observations with flies in motion.

Dominate colors like the darker blues, blacks; even shadows seem to get darker but loose detail of patterns.

Lighter colors start blending into the background environments especially if there are fewer strands of materials. Yellows, lighter greens, and grays seem to blend quite easily.

Flash materials produce more refection under motion producing a larger surface than actual size. Fish scales produce prismatic color changes. Maybe there is some truth to limit your reflective materials on flies after all.

Thinly veiled feathers like the tips of saddle hackles loose definition and suggest motion.

The dominate colors become more apparent as the speed of the fly increase. Increased velocity reduces latent colors around them, Look how the grizzly patterns of the saddle hackles loose definition.    

Elementary Deductions

Faster retrieval rates correlate to more color absorption from different shades of materials.

Geometric patterns are less defined as speed increases.

What does this mean to the tier?  Tying sparse may take on a whole new meaning by actually adding more latent materials to your fly.  It’s OK to buff ‘um up with more light tones to aid in size and depth perceptions. Yes! This could affect the swimming action of some flies, but there is a trend now toward stiffer flies. Bulkier looking flies should not hurt their visual appearance in the water.

Conversely, the use of too much dominate colors could change the appearance of the intended species.  Limit the amounts of dominate color materials when layering to improve image quality. Eventually you will find a balance with your methods and patterns.  

What’s Trendy?

(Insert picture here of either Bomber Plugs or Super spook)

Plug manufacturers have for years develop their own strategies of colors and patterns. Although it seems the action of a plug is still more paramount to its presentation, some plug makers have gone to extremes with life like finishes. Many are now producing exact reproduction right down to a fish’s scale. This includes multi faceted surfaces to increase the acoustical foot print thru the water. 

Do we really have to go that far in likeness? If my presumptions about motion are correct, than the answer would be “NO.”  Keep it simple. Many solid color offerings continue to catch fish and will do so regardless of the market hype. Exact replicas catch more fishermen than fish. You see by this illustration that one plug manufacture does capture only the dominate features of the intended species. He doesn’t go overboard with dominate color schemes. Your flies should reflect these principles. Remember to fill in your fly designs with more latent colors, but leave the dominate colors sparse. You will find that under motion your flies will look more realistic.    

Additional Photos with subtitles

(Insert picture of Anchovy here)

Forage like the bay anchovy naturally blend into environment for protection and lose of detection. The stomach and its internal organ produce an array of lavender, silver, and magenta shades. The stomach area remains opaque regardless of the surroundings. The neutral and transparent portions of the tail conform to the environment. In this case the tail almost completely blends into the surroundings.    

(Insert picture of Ultra-Bright Rattle Squid here)

Squids can instantaneously change their body colors to suit their demands. Tens of thousands of chromatophore receptors are controlled thru a complex central nerve system. Some scientists believe that this is the way they communicate using illumination and color changes during feeding frenzies and attacks. It is best to use free flowing synthetic fibers like Mylar materials for this duplication. The action of translucent materials as Angel Hair and slinky fiber can produce constant changes in color schemes. The reflective properties of Mylar materials also help duplicate the illumination process.          

Composite Mackerel Pattern1.jpg

Picture1.jpg

Img_0001.jpg

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Excellent article with some great reasoning behind it. I once had a tank with some scup in it at the school I teach at. I came in one morning, glanced at the tank from about 15 feet or so away, and wondered where the fish went. I walked up to the tank and saw that they were still there. I then realized that the reflective silver coloration reflected their surroundings, effectively camouflaging them. Color schemes on fish probably work in some ways that we aren't even thinking of. And, as Ray explains above, The ways we think they work while we're looking at a stationary fly in the vise, not moving and out of water, are not necessarily the ways they work in the fishes' habitat, in motion.  

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Few individuals ever factor in the concepts of motion of objects and how they are being visualized in a watery environment.

Add in light penetration, turbidity, who knows what happens with color changes and images to the fish's eye. 

 

I've always wonder how smart a 60 striper is? They have survived a very long time?

Is it just hit or miss, just luck, or they smart enough to know to avoid a fisherman's hook?

Than I think, that fish that large have been caught on radiator tubes with 6/0 hooks.

Perhaps the higher speed being trolled disguises the image in a blur, and instinctively and aggressively they hit it? 

  

Thanks George for your in sights. Love the scientific concepts and hands on experience your students get inside and outside the classroom.

How many times do you hear teachers take their students in estuaries, ponds and rivers? That's the real world, being involved in the constant evolution and changes to our climate and environment. Kudos !     

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Posted (edited)

Ray,

 

I have several points on the board in my mind that touch on some of those concepts.  The first was on south Monomoy when, while i  guide's boat, we pulled onto a 4-5' deep grassed flat that had a number of boats clearly concentrated for some reason.  We quickly found the reason they were there.  There was a large concentration of big fish that were laid up over the vegetation really not even cruising, just being gently pushed this way and that by boats floating through.  Most of the fishermen were gear anglers, but whatever they/we were using the result was the same.  No one was hooking up.  After working through the usual flies with no response our guide counseled....pull all the flash out of your fly (2 color clousers).....then cut the fly down shorter and pull out some of the material to make it more sparse.  Nothing yet.  We were retrieving modest speed but even then were catching bottom.

 

I decided to go to my fastest, deepest sinking head to get the fly right into the level of the dour fish.....and to keep it there and NOT on the bottom.....strip it like hell.  Longest cast I could throw, wait 10 seconds, strip like hell.  I got half the cast in when the fish took.  Everyone took notice and looked.  Bu the fourth fish they began inching closer to us.  And so it went.

 

Second time different guide, different flat (Brewster flat in CC Bay), but same situation.  Boats noticing the fish, 4-5' deep grass flat, laid up fish and dour, no one hooking anything.  After pulling out my hair for 30 minutes I remembered the Monomoy situation...and started pulling out hair from the clouser, shortening it up, put on a  fast sinking high density line, long cast, strip like hell.  Bingo!  I told my boat partner what to do.....and he hooked up.  I got a second fish before the rapidly changing depth (big CC Bay tides)  moved the fish off.

 

In the long run, in this endless, timeless process of dissecting the principles of physics, geometry, camouflage, etc., etc. in trying to determine the secret principles among the 1200 variables to each situation.  That is maybe about the same number of neurons in a striper's brain.  Even if there was a magical fly for every situation.......fate would dictate I would not have one in my fly box.  Tease, tease, tease, reward.  Tease tease tease, reward.  That is why we love it so much.

 

Other principles I have learned:  some types of bigger flies can, on the water, be made smaller.  Some types of "flash" in flies can be removed to look more subtle.  The closer you can get the fly in front of the fish....the better.  Tie those flies and your flybox is bigger, more diverse, than it looks.  And, SOMETIMES, the less time you give those 1200 neurons in a striper's brain to think about it....the better.  Whatever you try once you have found fish and know they are seeing your fly.....is.....something new that you haven't already tried and struck out on.  Even if it is completely "out of the box".

 

In fishing, there are few rules of common sense or general wisdom are are not.....made to be broken.  I have a friend who, while fishing with me at Harkers for the big Alberts, while we were drifting through fishey water and I was blindcasting for distance and retrieving like hell, he cast his intermediate line out, same fly, and didn't retrieve at all.  Just stood holding his rod and let it slowly drag with the drift of the boat.  He caught equal numbers of fish as I did.  And I was reminded of the times fishing dorado in Baja how often when landing a dorado it would empty it's stomach and there would be several "floaters", half-digested baitfish floating on the surface.  Then, once, I saw, minutes later, a dorado come up and take the floater.  So I started paying attention and eventually determined at EVERY regurgitated, dead, half digested baitfish floating on the surface.....was eventually taken.  Soooo.....dead-drifting dry streamers for dorado (and I presume many other schooling predators) anyone?

 

We'll never figure it all out.  But is is sure fun trying.

 

It's been a few years.  I hope you are doing well.

 

Merry Christmas!

Edited by Peter Patricelli

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21 hours ago, Capt.Castafly said:

Few individuals ever factor in the concepts of motion of objects and how they are being visualized in a watery environment.

Add in light penetration, turbidity, who knows what happens with color changes and images to the fish's eye. 

 

I've always wonder how smart a 60 striper is? They have survived a very long time?

Is it just hit or miss, just luck, or they smart enough to know to avoid a fisherman's hook?

Than I think, that fish that large have been caught on radiator tubes with 6/0 hooks.

Perhaps the higher speed being trolled disguises the image in a blur, and instinctively and aggressively they hit it? 

  

Thanks George for your in sights. Love the scientific concepts and hands on experience your students get inside and outside the classroom.

How many times do you hear teachers take their students in estuaries, ponds and rivers? That's the real world, being involved in the constant evolution and changes to our climate and environment. Kudos !     

      Thank you, Ray! I thoroughly enjoy your posts. You look at factors that most people never think about and incorporate them into your tying. That's one of my favorite parts of fly tying. Every fishing situation is a complex formula of many different variables working in conjunction with each other. Our job as fishermen is to solve those problems for a particular variable: what's needed to get the fish to eat.

    We have a tendency to thing there aren't any fish around if they're not eating our flies or lures, or think they left when we stop catching. I find that often, changing your presentation or your offering will resurrect the bite. It can be that the fish that were susceptible to the fly and presentation we're using were already caught and the ones left are the ones that would not eat for that particular scenario. Or they moved over a few yards and need to be fed a fly from a different angle. Or they went a little deeper in the water column. Or the current increased or decreased. Or something else.  Moral of this paragraph: If the fish stop biting, first thing to do is to present that fly differently: strip or drift, angle, depth, ... Second thing: use a different fly: different weight, size, shape, color.  As a matter of fact, if they don't bite in the first place, do the same before moving location. 

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Ray, are you presenting again in Marlborough this year? If so, what are you speaking about? That's always one of the highlights of the show.

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Posted (edited)

This is a good topic, 

 

Im often surprised that quirky ideas that pop up often work and it’s always a reminder that we don’t know much about the impression our flies give fish.

 

I truly enjoyed the part about latent color and also natures ways of hiding. For a few very aggressive species plenty of flash seems to help, yet most of the time I do best with nearly none or none.

 

I’ve had some very nice king mackerel bite off flies with no flash whatsoever, despite their reputation for loving shiny lures. Ripping flash out of woolly buggers is something I do quite a bit of.  It has made a huge difference under sunny conditions. I spin fish when it’s too windy, with white soft plastic being the main lure. Who knows how many bass have been taken on white plastics or white bucktail jugs with zero flash? 

 

For five years I was an avid spear fisherman, mainly targeting tautog. While swimming out to my spots I was often surprised by how dull the flash of peanut bunker appears underwater. Watching my flies from a dock, I’m surprised by how flashy my flies are.

 

Sparse flies are great for cheapskates like myself. And they do seem to catch. Even using a couple dozen of the brown hairs from the center of the bucktail makes a nice little fly.

 

Edited by Running Ape
Incomplete sentence

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Posted (edited)

20 hours ago, Peter Patricelli said:

Ray,

 

There was a large concentration of big fish that were laid up over the vegetation really not even cruising, just being gently pushed this way and that by boats floating through.  No one was hooking up.  After working through the usual flies with no response our guide counseled....pull all the flash out of your fly (2 color clousers).....then cut the fly down shorter and pull out some of the material to make it more sparse.  Nothing yet.  We were retrieving modest speed but even then were catching bottom.

 

I decided to go to my fastest, deepest sinking head to get the fly right into the level of the dour fish.....and to keep it there and NOT on the bottom.....strip it like hell.  Longest cast I could throw, wait 10 seconds, strip like hell.  I got half the cast in when the fish took.  Everyone took notice and looked.  Bu the fourth fish they began inching closer to us.  And so it went.

Hi Peter,

Always amazed at your adventures and observations of events. Once you figure out the puzzle in front of all, it's like being King of the Hill, a game we played as a kid. All the others want a quick fix to take advantage of this rare situation. Can you blame them?

 

There are several times during the season with stripers that they will exhibit this type of behavior. I call it "Staging". I know during migration periods, from North to South they stage in certain locations to gather other schools of fish in that area and continue on. Maybe too, since you were into the fishing season, the bass just exhibit  periods of time between meal just to rest, maybe waiting for another event to happen. We see it with birds, by the hundreds sitting waiting for an event to start. They know the routine of baitfish and can anticipate the event.

 

On deep sink lines in very shallow water, it's funny, I was talking to Steve, (puppet), the other evening about the same topic. Learned 25 years ago watching a guy catch sand eels using a wire line dragging a rake. He had bass all over the place following his trawls. I said, why can't I use the same principle? I started dragging a full sink line in three feet of water with a weighted Clouser. My clients thought I was crazy. It did move some sand, made the Clouser bounce along the bottom, caught a lot of schoolies with this method. 

 

You brought up another good point too, that the fish were getting closer to the boat each time. Your fly caught fish in a distance, now other fish saw this, trusted your offering, started to join the group. One important factor happened that goes un-notice. Lines pulled along the bottom on the bottom focuses fishes attention on the lure. Now with your boat overhead, your boat signature goes much un-noticed. Spook Zone is the distance fish will turn away when they see the presents of a boat. It varies on species, eating habits and aggression. Changes all the time. That's why weaker casting individuals  will not catch fish. They just don't get their fly past the zone.  

Quote

 

 

Merry Christmas!

 

Edited by Capt.Castafly

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On ‎12‎/‎9‎/‎2022 at 11:07 AM, baldwin said:

  We have a tendency to think there aren't any fish around if they're not eating our flies or lures, or think they left when we stop catching. They moved over a few yards and need to be fed a fly from a different angle. Or they went a little deeper in the water column. Or the current increased or decreased. Moral of this paragraph: If the fish stop biting, first thing to do is to present that fly differently: strip or drift, angle, depth, ... Second thing: use a different fly: different weight, size, shape, color.  As a matter of fact, if they don't bite in the first place, do the same before moving location. 

I love all your on the water logic, you certainly have put in your time on the water and educated yourself. You go one step further and start to analyze the physical evidence, (tide, wind, drift, etc.)  and bait / fish behavior to solve the dilemma.

 

One of my favorite shore spots is an outflow from an estuary. It's well know and when the fish are holding in the current they seem to be in one pocket. Only one fisherman will catch at any given moment. It takes for the tide to lower before they start moving to the next station. No matter what the others do, very little success. Only one person has the perfect drift of casting across currents, drifting the fly line, mend, correct length of line and when the fly starts to rise..... bang!

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On ‎12‎/‎9‎/‎2022 at 11:08 AM, baldwin said:

Ray, are you presenting again in Marlborough this year? If so, what are you speaking about? That's always one of the highlights of the show.

I will not be at Marlborough this year. Sorry! 

I'm trying to find more time in my personal life to enjoy a relationship.

I will be at the CFFA Expo in South Winsor.

Stop by with your students again and we can catch-up on things and educated those young youths.

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On ‎12‎/‎9‎/‎2022 at 2:17 PM, Running Ape said:

This is a good topic, 

 

Im often surprised that quirky ideas that pop up often work and it’s always a reminder that we don’t know much about the impression our flies give fish.

 

I truly enjoyed the part about latent color and also natures ways of hiding. For a few very aggressive species plenty of flash seems to help, yet most of the time I do best with nearly none or none.

 

For five years I was an avid spear fisherman, mainly targeting tautog. While swimming out to my spots I was often surprised by how dull the flash of peanut bunker appears underwater. Watching my flies from a dock, I’m surprised by how flashy my flies are.

 

Sparse flies are great for cheapskates like myself. And they do seem to catch. Even using a couple dozen of the brown hairs from the center of the bucktail makes a nice little fly.

 

I appreciate your very kind thoughts and your anecdotal information from your observations. It serves you well not only finding solutions that work, but eliminating the other negative possibilities that don't work. That saves times, gives you more productive time to catch.

 

It's funny you brought up the brown bucktail as you did.  Last week I was teaching a pattern that required strands of white bucktail.

The backside of the tail was facing the students, I than made a sly side comment, I wonder why, fly tiers buy brown bucktail? You and I are both fugal.   

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Excellent thread Ray!

 

All these considerations are fantastic and really highlights the power in a fly angler knowing how to tie flies. We get the enjoyment of exploring these details and unlocking some doors. 

 

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On 12/9/2022 at 2:17 PM, Running Ape said:

This is a good topic, 

 

Im often surprised that quirky ideas that pop up often work and it’s always a reminder that we don’t know much about the impression our flies give fish.

 

I truly enjoyed the part about latent color and also natures ways of hiding. For a few very aggressive species plenty of flash seems to help, yet most of the time I do best with nearly none or none.

 

I’ve had some very nice king mackerel bite off flies with no flash whatsoever, despite their reputation for loving shiny lures. Ripping flash out of woolly buggers is something I do quite a bit of.  It has made a huge difference under sunny conditions. I spin fish when it’s too windy, with white soft plastic being the main lure. Who knows how many bass have been taken on white plastics or white bucktail jugs with zero flash? 

 

For five years I was an avid spear fisherman, mainly targeting tautog. While swimming out to my spots I was often surprised by how dull the flash of peanut bunker appears underwater. Watching my flies from a dock, I’m surprised by how flashy my flies are.

 

Sparse flies are great for cheapskates like myself. And they do seem to catch. Even using a couple dozen of the brown hairs from the center of the bucktail makes a nice little fly.

 

 I often use hairs from the back side of the bucktail. On dyed bucktails it's not usually just brown. Yellow dye makes the back side perfect for the dorsal surface of some of the flies I tie. Same with green and some other colors. 

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   Of course, it's not as buoyant as the hair on the white side. When we start getting more proficient at tying we learn more and more that not all bucktail is the same. Some has longer hairs, some has shorter hairs. Good to examine and allocate them to tying flies of certain lengths.  Some are straight, some crinkly (good for tying sparse flies that look more dense). Some are more solid and less buoyant, some are more hollow and flair more when you crank down on thread (those ones are closer to the base of the fly, good for adding buoyancy or spinning deer hair heads).  

    Not only is the hair on different parts of each bucktail different, but there's a lot of variation between individual tails, too. That's why I never order bucktails online. I've got to examine them and see if they'll fit the patterns I'm planning on tying. Same goes with feathers, and most natural materials. I'll buy synthetics online, they're more homogenous in their qualities. 

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