Sunday Classic / What is more important, presentation or fly choice?

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What is more important, presentation or fly choice? Photos Louis Cahill

By Kent Klewein

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to have the honor to participate in a podcast interview for It was an hour long conversation over the phone, with me spending most of that time talking about trout tactics on my home waters. Just as we were wrapping up the interview, the host Roger Maves, hit me with the mother of all fly fishing questions…..

What’s more important Kent, presentation or fly pattern choice?

I pondered for a few moments, before I gave a him a reply to the question that covered my butt. If I remember correctly, it was something along the lines of,  “well, you have to get the fly to the fish no matter what to have a chance at catching fish, but there are many times, when I’ve seen fly pattern choice the true deciding factor in whether you find success on the water.”

Since that podcast, I’ve been asked that same question by clients more times than I can remember. It’s kind of a joke to me at this point, and that’s because I feel the question is really a loaded question. In my opinion, presentation and fly choice are equally important. And in total honesty, you need both to consistently catch fish regularly. That being said, there are times when one can be more important over the other, but that all depends on the day and where you happen to find yourself on the water fly fishing.

For example, if there’s a strong hatch in progress or for that matter just a specific food source the trout are keying in on, it can be critical you have the proper fly pattern tied on that will imitate it accurately. In this situation, even perfect presentations may yield no strikes if you’re fishing the wrong fly pattern. Yes, you may get lucky and catch a couple with the wrong fly pattern, but an experienced fly angler, that is competent in entomology, can come in right behind you with the correct fly for the situation and humble you quickly. On the contrary, find yourself on the saltwater flats fly fishing and even if you have the perfect fly pattern tied on, you can stand damn near a zero chance for success if you fail to make a well executed presentation to the fish you’re targeting. In this case, pattern choice can be completely thrown out the window.

This past weekend, I volunteered my time to guide a trout tournament. Fishing was extremely tough due to high and stained water from heavy rains the night before. The fishing was ugly, with many of the anglers finding themselves skunked, after the first four hour morning session. I can tell you that there were a crap load of worthy presentations during the morning session that should have ended with hook ups, but instead, failed to get the fish to eat. In the end, success was only found by being persistent in fishing prime trout habitat, focusing on consistently making good presentations and constantly changing out fly patterns until one was found that would strike the interest of the trout. There were no clear food sources that the trout were keying in on during the tournament. Furthermore, there were no clear fly patterns in any of our fly boxes that seemed to provide us with more success over the rest. One fly pattern would catch a trout in a section of water, and then, that same pattern would get refused by the trout in the next spot. It was clearly a day with most of us pulling our hair out. Even clearer, it was a day of fly fishing that proved that neither presentation or fly choice alone will always get the job done. The winners of the tournament pulled out a victory because they managed to accomplish both together a little more frequently than the rest of the crew.

When you’re out fly fishing remember that both presentation and fly choice are important for success. Some days, one will stand out more important than the other, but fly fishers should always pay attention to what the fish are telling them and then focus their efforts accordingly.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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One thought on “Sunday Classic / What is more important, presentation or fly choice?

  1. What’s more important Kent, presentation or fly pattern choice?

    This “fully loaded” question presents a classic false dichotomy. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive. Doesn’t fly choice actually affect presentation? It is one big false assumption and never addresses the degree of skill and the nearly infinite number of fly choices.

    Who catches more trout?
    One guy who can’t cast 30 feet has tied on the perfect BWO fly?
    The other guy has superb casting and mending skills, but decides to use a bass popper during a BWO hatch?

    Mary Ann AND Ginger!

    Getting tiresome – thanks for calling it out.

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