Pattern Dependency

Pattern Dependency

Martyn White | Thursday, 26 September 2019

With the massive typhoon hitting Tokyo last weekend, I didn't get out to fish. Luckily that's the extent of how it affected me, others weren't so lucky and are still cleaning up or waiting for electricity and other services to be restored.

Anyway, it left me more time to tie and think about a few things. I'm tying a lot of trout flies recently and it’s making me think a lot about patterns and how we think about them. Most of the fly anglers I know are often very fixated on specific patterns, often at the expense of considering the forage species available to our target species. I'm also guilty of this at times. 

The thing that made me think about this was a weird discussion about iron blue duns. Mooching around fly tying pages online looking for something interesting to tie I saw a picture of an iron blue dun dry with wood duck wings. The original poster was looking for a pattern name, presumably so she could order a few more flies. Fair enough.  Aside from the usual dross comments calling it everything from BWO to March brown to caddis. There were a few posts correctly calling it an iron blue, each followed by replies saying it was actually an iron blue variant because it didn't match the pattern published by Bergmann.. 

Utter pish! The iron blue is an insect and there's no single pattern that exclusively matches it.  The appeal to Bergmann doesn't really stand up for me either. First because as regular readers will know, I've no time for dogmatically following pattern lists and second because Halford, writing 60 years earlier  listed 5 possible imitations of the iron blue. I've attached a picture of an iron blue usual, which has mole blended in to the body dubbing to get the colour I wanted.. Not the "correct" dubbing but it's a great iron blue dun and it's still a usual. 

Now this isn't isolated to the iron blue, it happens with all sorts of patterns. The thing is though.. Fish don't care. Not a bit. They don't even know what a fly pattern is called.  As I'm sure most of you know, size, shape, colour and presentation are the things that fish usually care about. Sometimes they don't even care about that - it's probably for this reason that the x caddis is so effective as a small mayfly imitation.

For me, patterns don't matter that much. In all my fishing flies I'm looking for proportionality, and the suggestion of life. And although I often find myself scouring ebay for odd materials or old taxidermy pieces, I wouldn't worry if a pattern calls for a material I don't have as I've certainly got something that will do a similar job. You shouldn't worry either, the more you experiment and break away from proscripritive materials lists the more you will learn and develop as a fly tier.