I'm sure y'all have heard the story of the Louisiana fishing camp where they were all sitting around debating about what was the greatest invention of the 20th century. The cajun guide said it was the thermos bottle because it kept the water cold in the summer and the coffee hot in the winter. To him that was amazing because, as he said, "How do it know which?"
Well, this evening I was pondering the same question and decided it had to be the Wooly Bugger. That thing has argueably caught more fish than any other fly in existence (okay, except for my secret fly that I haven't told anyone about yet). The Wooly Bugger obviously looks like something good to eat to most fish and I guess some would say it looks like a sculpin and some would say it looks like a leech. Now fish obviously have a predilection for a particular food item which changes from day to day. One day they want to eat sculpins, and the next day leeches. The amazing thing to me is how the Wooly Bugger knows which to imitate?
Of course that led me to the question of what the most important invention of all time was and of course that would have to be the evolution of the marabou feather because if it weren't for marabou feathers there would be no Wooly Buggers. That is just my opinion. Some of you might say chenille or hackle or even the fish hook, but in my opinion it is the marabou that makes the Wooly Bugger work.
Okay, time for you guys to chime in and either tell me I'm wrong or tell me I have too much time on my hands. One or the other but I'm sure I don't know which!
Honestly, I haven't fished using a Bugger since around 1980. Shocking I know but they never produced as well as a well made feather wing streamer fly for me. Ever since I was a young fellow I liked fancy flies and although some simple patterns were rumored to work well I stuck to the streamers.
Best invention = the North East styled feather wing streamers
A lot of flies that work don't look like anything on this earth. I truly believe they work because we believe. If we don't believe, they don't work!
We may fish with what the guy at the fly shop said was working, but if it doesn't produce pretty quickly, we will always go back to the one we believe in.
I have one friend who fishes a brown 1/100 oz trout jig tied like a wooly bugger. He catches fish with it anywhere, anytime.
Another friend fishes nothing but a Thunder Creek with the same results.
Still another fishes only a deer hair caddis during a fly hatch and catches fish.
They may not catch as many fish, but they always catch some fish!
Haven't we all been in a situation where a fishing partner was slaying them on some pattern or other. So he feels sorry for us and loans us a couple and shows us exactly how he has rigged up and how he is fishing. We may fish that rig in what seems to be the exact same way he does but catch nothing. Usually, at least in my case, my heart is just not in it. I don't believe and no matter how I try to fool myself, I cannot make myself believe!
All part of why we love fly fishing. It is often not the most productive way to catch fish, but it is the most confounding method I know of. And when it all comes together, how sweet it is!
Funny you should mention another pattern that I embraced years ago but the glow soon faded. When I first saw Keith Flusher's Thunder Creek Minnow and Red Fin, I had to have them. I read an article wherein the flies were just knocking the spots off the fish so I began tying the pattern. (circa 1980) In all fairness I've never used the fly here on fish who are not too fussy but for the educated wild & stocked brown trout of North Central PA. the flies just didn't cut it. I still have some of the original batch in a wallet filled with deer hair streamers but haven't used one for decades. Maybe I should give them another go on the trout here.
I believe that the feather wing streamers work as well as they do because of many factors. Just a few of these traits would be the unending array of color you can produce - the basic profile which strongly resembles a bait fish - and of course that undulating, swimming effect of the hackle wings. I also strongly believe that fewer people experience success with feather wing streamers because they are somewhat difficult to produce and sometimes in very limited supply at shops. When I do see them offered at shops they are very much scaled down versions of their original patterns. I first began making them because I thought they looked cool. When I found that the patterns would almost always produce fish in tough conditions I was hooked. I've spoken to many fishermen who related that they had always heard that the streamers worked well but admitted they didn't tie them because of difficulty involved. Over the years I continued making many of them and learned how not to lose flies. This not losing flies part is important when you've spent the better part of an hour producing a well balanced streamer with all the right stuff to make it a fish catcher.
The last stage of any streamers performance evaluation is in the hands of the fisherman. How well a person can control the flies course as it traverses the rivers channels and the depth control are perhaps much more important than which pattern you choose to tie to the line.
The greatest invention is the wife or gf that lets you back in the house,,,,after you have been gone the entire weekend to an 'inaccessible by phone' location, catching fish you 'supposedly' released, and come home 'dead exhausted' but with a 'smile on your face.'
FDad, my post was all in humor,,for me anyways,,as I have a great wife when it comes to understanding my obsession with the outdoors. If she'd been one to 'keep me 'cabin'ized' I'd have died years ago. I just have to HAVE my time out in the natural world...can't live without it. Alas, I have had a few fishing and hunting buddies there weren't nearly as lucky as myself..and I have felt sorry for them.
That part about being able to control the movement or drift of the fly is, to me at least, dependent on that inner feeling that the fly is going to catch a fish. The belief in the fly I believe has a great deal to do with how well it is fished. Try as hard as you can, but if you don't believe, you probably won't catch many fish.