Match the Hatch?

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by wichaka, Oct 16, 2013.

  1. How many of you actually do that?

    I am a dry fly trout fisher, so lets keep the discussion to trout dry flies and Washington fishing streams only. Here's the discussion;

    Have been looking over many forum threads, books, on line articles etc. over the past few years and I keep coming match the hatch talk, but how many really follow it?

    Are trout really that smart? Let's face it, most of what's tossed in the water doesn't look like the real thing. Spinning gear for example???

    Every month in most fly fishing magazines, there's usually an article about matching the hatch, with some specific bug featured along with a fly tie to match it. I guess we can all pull our hair out over the zillions of patterns out there.

    So lets be truthful many actually match the hatch, and how many dry flies do you actually use in the course of a year? What are they?

    I took note this year. I've been on the water about 15 times this year and used eight different dry flies and did not fail to take any fish, be it Brook, Rainbow or Brown.

    Here's the eight I used;

    Black Quill Dun
    BWO Parachute
    BWO Sparkle emerger
    EHC - Tan
    PMD Hairwing Dun
    PMD Parachute Dun
    Red Quill Hairwing
    Royal Wulff
  2. Hi wichaka,

    Am moving your question to the Fly Fishing Forum, where you will get much more response to it.

    Best regards,
  3. The question itself brings to mind an old saying that 90 percent of what a trout eats is 1/8th of an inch long, brown and fuzzy. There are times when I've found the fish to be very selective on a couple of rivers here in Montana where I've resorted to matching the existing hatch, but it is rare. My go to dry patterns this year have been the EHC, Stimulators and the good ole' Adams.
  4. I do what my pappy told me to do years ago, "Match the hatch but fish the Adams." I sometimes will willfully disobey him by using an EHC, or worse, a Royal Wulff. ;)

    dfl likes this.
  5. Sometimes it's necessary; sometimes it isn't. Sounds like a non-answer, but it pretty much boils down to that.

    Many cold western freestone streams have a diversity of bugs, but no overwhelming hatch of any one of them at any time, so the fish are opportunistic so that they take anything that reminds them of food. But there are others, including many tailwaters, where the bugs emerge in large numbers at different times and the fish develop a search image that maximizes there reward per unit of energy expended. Then you need to be able to match what they are keying on. At times, the fish in the Yakima can be very selective, but the fish in the Middle Fork Snoqualmie almost never are.

    I like your list of flies. But I think it begs the question why do you think you are not "matching the hatch?" Most of those patterns were designed to represent one or another type of aquatic insect. The fact that you may not see caddisflies emerging at the time you are fishing, doesn't mean you are not fooling a fish into thinking it is taking one when you fish an EHC. Likewise for the mayfly patterns.

  6. Yes, when necessary or productive. I have flies in my box that match local color variations and are for particular streams. As it turns out, of course, other areas have the conditions that caused me to tie them. The "it depends" part is based on how selective the fish are. I tend to like generalities, but when the fish are not on the same page, I get specific. By the way, this goes for dry, wet, and nymph fishing - not just dries.
  7. Limitations so noted.
    Mark Kraniger likes this.
  8. What doesn't a parachute Adams match?


  9. A caddis or stonefly. :)
  10. When I lived and fished in Washington State I always fished Dries. My favorite dry on the S/F Sauk was a yellow Caddis. It was something I tied up. It worked better than anything else. In the summer time on the N/F Stilly I liked to use a Royal Wulff And Stimulators.

    Since I moved to Montana about 7 years ago, I wondered what I should use now that I'm here. I found that what I used in Washington also works here. But I use the same flies but on a smaller scale. But here in Montana I use a lot more nymphs than I ever did in Washington where I used none. But I believe that if I used nymphs there I would of caught more fish.

    You live and learn.
  11. Wichaka posed the same question on this thread on another BB.

    Here is my answer in Part I:

    The underlying principle that is being discussed is selectivity as a feeding behavior. What is it and why does it occur? Why do fish sometime eat sticks and hit strike indicators, and at other times will ignore a well presented fly that imitates the current hatch?

    There are several principles that need to be understood.

    The first rule is that any behavior is population based. What I mean by that is that when we are fly fishing, it is our nature to assume that the behavior we see is the behavior of all the fish. It is not. Just because one fish takes a fly or refuses a fly, we cannot assume that all the fish will do the same thing.

    In fact, the behavior we observe may be an atypical one. This is called sampling error. When we fish, we are sampling the populations for those fish that are susceptible to the method we are using; and therefore, any success we have is based solely on statistical variation. We are more likely to be successful when using a method that targets a greater proportion of the population, but we often forget that fishing is a statistical sampling method.

    The second rule is that selectivity is a survival mechanism and is not based on intelligence.

    The third rule is that selectivity can only occur in fertile watersheds.

    The fourth rule is that larger fish must become more selective than smaller fish if they are to survive.

    So with those principle in mind, here is my view of selectivity.

    Selectivity occurs only in situations where there is abundant food. If the fish live in a stream where food is scarce, they will feed opportunistically. They cannot be selective to just a single food source because there is never a large or sustained hatch to become selective. So selective feeding occurs only in nutrient rich environments.

    Selectivity is the most efficient method of feeding. An organism can only survive if the energy it gets from food is greater than the energy it expends to catch and eat the food. Selectivity then is a biologic necessary method that optimizes survival. It is a biologic adaptation that gives the organism that uses it a survival advantage. That is the reason that the fish feed selectively. They cannot help themselves from becoming selective feeders.

    Another biological cause of selectivity is the size and age of the fish. As fish grow older and larger, their energy (calorie) requirements become relatively greater. A large fish requires more energy to chase food and yet gains fewer calories per body weight when it eats the food. Because larger fish expend relatively greater energy to catch food, but receives relatively less energy when it captures food; it must feed effectively if it is to survive. What is crucial then is not the total number of calories in a food item, it is the ratio of the calories spent vs the calories consumed per body weight.

    For large fish, selectivity is more important as a survival strategy than for smaller fish. That is why we see smaller fish chasing food and our flies but rarely do large fish chase a fly unless it is a large fly that promises a large reward in calories.

    Once a fish feeds selectively, it cannot help itself from feeding on our fly, if the fly meets the criteria for food.

    How then does a fish become selectivity? Well, they don't do it through intelligence. Trout cannot reason. What trout can do is sample; they sample what they think is food. If the item is food and it is abundant enough, the trout will feed on it often enough that the visual pattern of the food eventually becomes imprinted. Then the fish then begins to search for this food pattern exclusively and ignores most other items that could also be food. If the food is very abundant, the fish will begin to both narrow the area it searches ( the fish feeds only on food that is in a narrow "feeding" lane) and the fish will develop a feeding rhythm. The fish mechanically moves up and down, taking the food item that happens to be in its feeding window.

    The psychologist term for the development of selectivity is Operant Conditioning, Operant Conditioning as first described by B. F. Skinner. The fish is rewarded when it feeds on an item that is food and if there is enough of this particular item, the fish becomes conditioned to feed only on that food. That conditioning is what we call selectivity.

    The fish does not reason, it takes whatever is in the window that meets its search pattern. It is all automatic and the fish cannot help itself from taking our fly if it meets the search pattern, and it is in the right place (feeding lane) at the right time (rhythm).

    The question then becomes, what are the fishes search criteria (triggers)? Everyone seems to agree that size, shape, behavior and color are search criteria. We know this, not because of positive evidence, but because when the fly does not meet all or most of these criteria, the fish refuses to take the pattern when it is in the right place at the right time.

    When discussing selectivity, or selective feeding, we must realize that we are discussing a biologic system. In any biologic system there is variation in the population and there will be a variation in behavior. So although the discussion above treats a population as a single unit of identical behavior, the reality is that there will be a variance in both behavior and timing, so that what we find is similar to a bell curve distribution. Although the majority of fish may be feeding on a given stage of emergence, some fish may be still feeding on an earlier stage or may have progressed to a later stage.

    Combine this variation in behavior with overlapping or simultaneous multiple hatches, and the possibilities become confounding to the angler who is trying to "match the hatch".

    This confounding behavior, however, is not a conscious attempt by the fish to fool the angler. It is just the result of an efficient feeding method superimposed on a fish population with biological variance.
    The Duke, Jim Speaker and Taxon like this.
  12. I posted on another forum for a more wide spread discussion, but I wanted a more local discussion for us here in Washington.

    As was posted on the other forum, maybe I should have asked this question instead...How often does selective feeding occur on the waters you fish?

    I would say 90%+ of the time, I can't see any type of hatch or rising trout happening when I arrive.

    Sometimes I sit back and watch to see if a hatch or trout rise, but most times I tie on one of my go-to flies, and off I go.

    After reading over quite a few 'hatch' books, seeing mayflies up close and personal, it appears the bodies of most flies tied should be closer to a 'quill' type tie, as just about every fly body I've seen tends to be segmented looking.

    I have noticed that when I try a more segmented looking fly, they tend to work better than those that are more 'rough' tied, or have a more of a yarn look to them. What's your experience?
  13. Oregon waters are allowed as well. I'm looking for what others are experiencing locally.

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