That is a good question and l do not think there is a absolute answer, it is more the individuals train of thought, at least that is mine.
Of course there is a major difference say betwen a Adams and a hook with just a copper wire winding on the shank, they will both catch fish, thats is a fact.
I know that this very issue has caused a geat deal of controversy in the past and has lead to certain named (FLIES) being banned from use for one reason or the other.
In the real sence the art of fly fishing is to use a fly that is in some way a representation of a food source a fish is likely to see.
A fishing fly, lure call it what you will is a means that you use to decieve a fish, nothing more. You cannot duplicate the intricate structure of a natural organism for a great many reasons, which l am not going to deal with here, but you an get close enough to decieve the fish.
In the past few months I have been experimenting with soft plastics on my 9' - 6/7-wt. for bass fishing. They enable me to fish in dense vegetation, brush and heavy timber - areas that I would not have been able to effectively fly fish before. And they work well, too! In the past two months I have caught 5.5# and 4.8# bass using Tiny Senkos.
To me the fun is in sport of fly fishing, not the art of fly fishing. To others the enjoyment comes from the art of fly casting, the art of fly fishing, etc. Each to his own. I use what enables me to catch more and bigger fish while fly fishing.
It is not for any of us to form judgement against another for the way they choose to fish, be it with a fly rod, a bean pole or whatever else. It is your own choice which way you want to go.
I also have fished small artificial worms with the fly rod for smallmouth bass, on creeks and water like that, great fun, and it takes more to do it that effectivly than most persons would think . In some ways the use of the fly rod and how you can fish the lure is in my view more effective than by other rod and line methods, in those circumstances. You really do have some great means of control by way of depth, getting into tight spots and fishing the lure. Of course l could tie a san juan worm, but hey all that amounts to is a chunk of chenille tied to a hook.!! Nothing very innovative about that one.
My Halford and Mr Skues, had of course a considerable difference in how they approached catching fish with a fly rod. Halford was very likely the person who was responsible for what is called the purist way of thought.
Dry fly, upstream ole boy,--- in fact that still is the rule on some private beats of the chalkstreams in the UK. But that is ok, you are aware of the rules before you choose to fish such waters. Your choice to or not.
One of my old friends back in the UK wrote at one time, If it is your choice to go and cast a dry fly all day on the water for little or no fish, that is your choice. Mine is to be out there fishing and catch em, as many as l can by the rules and regs that apply. And l agree whole heartedly with that.
One of his thoughts was that many of those that were critical of his success were not either able to fish the way he did ,or it was a means to justify the reason why they could not, ( the purist attitude )
I agree with that one also.
A fish is a fish, regardless of species. Many may well hold the trout in high esteem, but consider other species to be a trash fish, l have never really understood that way of thinking.
At the end of the day you are of course entitled to draw your own conclusions on this matter.
Bet you would not be sad if you nailed a 20lb Brown on a plastic worm ! How many would say nothing about that catch !!!!.
Tight lines, by whatever means you can achieve them
"One of my old friends back in the UK wrote at one time, If it is your choice to go and cast a dry fly all day on the water for little or no fish, that is your choice. Mine is to be out there fishing and catch em, as many as l can by the rules and regs that apply. And l agree whole heartedly with that. "
there are also fly fishers who would rather catch a few bream on popping bugs, than go deeper with nymphs and catch a lot more, and bigger, bream. Everyone to his, or her, own - that's what makes the world do around.
I read an article about a guide on the San Juan named Andy Kim (I believe he's Korean) who ties the majority of his flies with nothing but thread. Most are #24 or smaller, and a #20 is the largest he ties. He had several, and the article said the secret of the fly was how he manipulated the thread, i.e., flat or tightly wound to segment the fly.
It would seem the definition of the 'fly' would be essentially whatever it takes to represent a likeness of the prevailing food chain item available to the fish at the time. This could be from a tiny nymph or worm, to a bug, to a small fish or frog, large worm or snake, etc.
Yes there are purists, as we all know. But to me, if you're fishing, then it's catching the fish that makes it interesting. If you don't want to catch them, why put a hook on the end of the line. Or, for that matter, why not just tie the fly on a straight strip of wire.
I'm not after the perfect cast. A guide in Colorado told me all that fancy false casting isn't going to catch fish, the fly has to be in the water. Just get it there the best way you can and as much as you can.
Boy, did that ever get off subject...... Sorry guys.