Age-old debate - part 2

...the steak theory

Rodney: Maybe you think those clone patterns of yours are less prone to drag. If you do, you're completely mistaken. The fish reacts primarily to the presentation and only to a lesser degree to the fly. Let me tell you something else. Only when the presentation is good does it make sense to consider the imitation. And always in that order. I'll give you an example. It isn't mine; it's Nick Lyons'. The name's bound to be familiar. You get served a nice, thick steak. And just as you're about to cut off the first morsel, the steak budges a fraction of an inch to the side. I bet the fright it gives you is enough to kill your appetite. At any rate, I'm sure that steak doesn't look so succulent any more.
Quillan: That's a pretty funny example, Rod, but I see it differently. If a thick, dark red, rare steak were to suddenly move on my plate, I'd think someone had kicked the table. So I'd gobble it fast in case somebody's after it. Now, if it was scrawny, tough and overdone, even if it lay there stone still, I sure wouldn't even taste it.
Moderator: Hey, you guys are making me hungry.
Quill: Obviously for the first steak, the dancing Daisy one.

...the dry fly myth

Flies declining in English chalk streams

Only streams with such highly alkaline waters and such regular flows and temperatures can support such an enormous quantity of insects and rich aquatic life. Nevertheless many mayfly species and species of other orders have been declining in recent years, causing alarm for English chalk streams. One of the more bizarre theories attempting to explain this decline points to the great amount of unused contraceptive pills poured down the drains. They dissolve in the water and affect the reproductive capacity of many female insects.

Mod: One thing is certain, fellows. Halford's flies haven't survived the passage of the years. And they caught thousands of extremely selective trout, feeding on duns and spinners on the surface of the crystal-clear waters of the mythical English chalk streams.
Rod: True. But they can't have caught so many trout when they ended up disappearing. Walt Dette says that a fly pattern that doesn't catch trout ends up disappearing no matter how pretty or how well-dressed it is.
Quill: Only a tenth of the hundreds of Halford's patterns ever proved to be really effective.
Many hours on the stream have convinced me that today's realistic patterns always work much better than a general pattern. When the insect is available to the trout, of course. I also maintain that the only realistic imitations that function as such are underwater patterns. I've got a theory about the dry fly.
Mod: Please be so kind as to share it with us.
Quill: Certainly. For some time now, I've been convinced that dry fly fishing has never existed as such.
Mod: Do you realize the transcendence of that statement?
Quill: I certainly do. The dry fly, taken as an imitation that floats like a mayfly dun, for example, is a myth. There is no way you can make an artificial float the way a natural fly floats. Try as you may, it's physically impossible. Because of the weight of the hook, because of the materials (all absorb more or less water) and because it's tied to a tippet that unbalances it, falls from above and adds extra weight.
Rod: Put that way, it sounds logical.
Quill: All the innovative patterns that have attempted to achieve this floatability have failed throughout history. What I'm saying is a cinch to prove. Take your best dun imitation and gently place on the water in a glass. Observe it for a few seconds. Do the same with an inverted hook pattern, a single-wing (thorax type), a palmer, a funnel dun, a compara dun, whatever you want. See the huge difference between the way they float and the high-floating, subtle, graceful subimago? Once you place them on the water, they all break through the surface tension to some degree. Note the tail filaments. Those of the natural flies barely touch the water. Those of most artificials are grotesque, indecipherable, semi-submerged appendages. And you placed the imitations on the water gently. Now tie them to a tippet and drop them from a certain height. Dismayingly revealing.
Now try it with one of Halford's classics. I can't understand how this fellow could think trout took these imitations thinking they were adult ephemeropteras. Those hooks were quite a bit heavier than today's too. And the materials he used weren't as hydrophobic as today's either. In spite of all this, a beautiful, romantic story was born: the dry fly.
Rod: Sadly enough, I think the leader often makes them more stable. It's funny. I set out the other day to count all the patterns, current and old, that try to imitate a Baetis Rhodani subimago. I soon had no less than 24 different imitations for this fly. And, except for the possible size variations, it's undoubtedly one of the best defined in color and physiognomy. Nobody uses many of those imitations anymore. It's certainly makes you think.
Mod: What does it make you think?
Rod: That there are only two possibilities. Either, like my debating opponent says, it's absolutely impossible to even come close to properly imitating these insects or, as I've been saying, the root of the problem lies elsewhere, in what really makes the difference between the success and failure of any fly. At any rate, I thought you defended the imitation concept above all.
Quill: I do, and well above presentation. But referring almost exclusively to today's realistic patterns.
Rod: Current realistic, underwater patterns.
Quill: Exactly. Although CDC gives you very good floatability—usually the first two drifts, you'll get very few drifts with the artificial floating like a dun.
Mod: Then, when you tie on a dry fly or what you think is a dry fly, what are you actually tying on?
Quill: An emerger at some floatation level of all the various possible levels. Just that. Definitely not a dry fly as we've just defined it, in any case.

(to be continued)