Sunday Classic / Realistic Flies Are Worthless Without Movement

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Realistic movement in fly patterns is just as important as having a realistic look. Photo By: Louis Cahill

Worthless may be a little overboard, but there is some truth behind it.

Every year new fly tying products burst onto the scene that are specifically designed for making our fly patterns look extra realistic. I’ll be the first to admit many of them are amazingly cool and innovative. I mean, who wouldn’t want black eyes on their tungsten beads, or a perfect set of pre-molded wing pads or stonefly legs you can plop on a hook to make your nymphs look ultra life-like, right? Seeing these new innovative materials for the first time always gets me giddy, like a fat guy spotting a 5 for 5 deal at Arby’s. But here’s the real question I think we should be asking ourselves. When it comes to purchasing and tying our fly patterns, should we only be focused on how realistic they look?

I say hell no, but you’d be surprised how many fly fishermen out there believe “a realistic look” trumps all other attributes in a fly. Ask a fly shop owner why they carry them if they don’t catch fish, and they’ll quickly tell you, because they sell like hot cakes, that’s why. I think a fly being realistic is great, but there needs to be more working elements in a pattern than just a flashy realistic look. I’ve personally found, that a lot of the time the more realistic you go with fly patterns, the more unrealistic they end up moving and looking in the water. And if they don’t look good in the water, chances are, they’re probably going to be worthless for catching fish. For me, the key to tying and picking out successful fly patterns from the bins over the years has been to always make sure a pattern incorporates equal parts of realistic features and movement.  When you can find both in a fly pattern, you’ve got something special.

If you want to get the most out of these new realistic tying materials on the market today, I suggest you compliment them by pairing them up with natural tying materials that have lots of movement in the water. Doing so, you’re flies will both look and move super realistic, and I guarantee you that most fish will find that combination irresistible.

What’s your thoughts?

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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10 thoughts on “Sunday Classic / Realistic Flies Are Worthless Without Movement

  1. IDK,

    Look at patterns like Kaufmann’s Stone…old school almost all natural material w/ the exception of the rib and almost no movement. Has accounted for hundreds of thousands of trout and Steelhead caught over the years. Tumble the fly through riffles and it killed for decades. There are tons of “old school” flies that are mainly natural materials where movement and wiggle were not the key to success…Elk Hair Caddis, Pheasant Tail, Hare’s Ear, Adams, Moose Turd, the list could go on forever. I think realism through materials generally get a bad rap through first impression at the shop rather than actual time in the water!

  2. No matter what fly you tie if you don’t get it into the trouts feeding line your doomed and for me here in New Zealand I have had to tie more generic patterns with natural materials becuase one they’re easier and quicker to tie and two you lose so many , two Kiwi killers are the Woolly Bugger and Hare and Copper – simple as 🙂

  3. I could not agree more…using gear and fishing for bass, I’ve caught hundreds on a soft plastic Strike King bait named “Smokin’ Rooster”…including dozens of pike and a dozen or so musky.

    Look it up – it resembles nothing a fish has ever seen, but it is all about movement…and it works like crazy.

  4. Wow, there’s some dissonance here.
    I generally go for the impressionistic flies. The plastic, fantastic stuff just doesn’t appeal to me and I don’t think that they would be good catchers, either.
    On the other hand, a well tyed, sized and colored hatch matcher,usually works well. I’ve done better than Jay in post #2, with Oliver Edwards flies when chosen as above. Variations on the Flatwing work better for me than other streamers, and they carry “the illusion of life”,also.
    I like semi-realistic to impressionistic flies tyed with mostly nature materials. There is something wrong to me in casting a stonefly that looks and feels like a gummy bear.
    No matter what you tie on, one has to have confidence in what you fish and in oneself.

    • I agree…confidence and preference has a lot to do with how much we enjoy fishing…and the successes I’ve had with lures and flies that look like nothing in nature lead me to believe that location and presentation are more important than realism.

      I’ve caught bunches of pike and musky on big firetiger streamers that look like nothing that swims…and I’ve caught trout on Chernobyl Ants…and firetiger Clouser minnows…

  5. One of my go-to flies that almost always produces is The Pickle. So simple that it seems stupid… it looks like a turd with legs. Wrapped chenille and some spanflex for legs placed strategically on the hook. But when you chuck it out there, the movement of those legs really just sets the fish off. I’m a believer in both… I think a pattern needs to have enough realism and look close to the profile of what you’re trying to get it to look like, but by no means does it need to be exact. They’re just fish and they need to eat to survive…

  6. I’m of the “Impressionistic School” of thought. Most fish caught are by “Impressionistic” flies and not “Match the Hatch” sort of flies. Sure there are occasions when “Match the Hatch” is the only way, but it’s all like Pareto’s Law of 80/20. In fact I would go as far to say 90/10. 90% of flies that are well presented, look alive and generally of the right size and well presented will usually do the trick! The near/exact imitations are often works of art, but they seem to lack that “certain something” for me personally when it comes to choosing a fly for the occasion, but then it’s more important what the fish will take! 🙂

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