Fly tying with UV bright materials

mule52

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A guy at my local store shined a UV flashlight (black light) on several Veevus threads I was looking at, showing me which materials light up more than the others. Fluoro orange was the brightest, yellow, white followed. I wound up picking up thread and dubbing that was brighter in UV light because he said this was all I needed. What will happen to these nymphs underwater? Will they be brighter than my brown and olive perdigons? They are certainly brighter when I shine the UV light on them, but I can't imagine sunlight will light these up 1-4 feet under water like the UV light does. Thanks.
 

bigjim5589

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Have you ever seen a fish with a UV light? I'm kidding some, but not all fish species see or react to UV light in the same manner. It appears that the trouts do have a positive reaction, so using it doesn't hurt, but whether or not or to what degree it might improve your flies and success with them is probably not something that can be measured. So, if you have confidence in using it, you're probably making a good choice.

There have been other discussions here about what fish see, and the affect of using UV or fluorescent materials in flies. Silver Creek has posted some excellent information in those discussions, so a search should provide a lot for you to read.

I don't do much trout fishing, more for warmwater fish, and will use some of these various materials, but frankly, they only seem to have a positive impact in low light, not in all light situations. It's just another possible variable that might improve the effectiveness & productivity of a fly, but in over 50 years of tying, I've never found anything that was a guarantee, so proceed as you wish. IMO, it won't hurt.
 

Ard

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I use various UV enhanced colors / materials on salmon flies here for kings & silvers, whether or not my catch rate has went up resultant I don't know. My trout & steelhead flies are almost all 90% black or dark brown with just a wee bit of color added for contrast. I would not use UV products if I were fishing for wild brown trout in the lower 48, I caught way to many using traditional patterns for me to consider that those no longer work.

I guess that means my answer / opinion is: good for king & silver salmon but stick to the old standbys for trout and char.
 

silver creek

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A guy at my local store shined a UV flashlight (black light) on several Veevus threads I was looking at, showing me which materials light up more than the others. Fluoro orange was the brightest, yellow, white followed. I wound up picking up thread and dubbing that was brighter in UV light because he said this was all I needed. What will happen to these nymphs underwater? Will they be brighter than my brown and olive perdigons? They are certainly brighter when I shine the UV light on them, but I can't imagine sunlight will light these up 1-4 feet under water like the UV light does. Thanks.
What you are asking about is UV fluorescence. The material absorbs the higher energy UV light and re-emits a lower energy light in the visible spectrum so the material “looks” brighter to us because it converts what is invisible to us UV into visible light.

Take the material outside. That will show you the level of brightness in natural sunlight that has CORRECT proportion of UV light to visible light. Shining UV light on tying materials that are in a fly shop is not a "natural" setting.

Water absorbs UV light. Here is the light absorption graph for distilled water. The higher the curve line, the greater the absorption of that light spectrum. You can see the minimum absorption (maximum penetration of light) is at violet, just before UV begins at 400 nm.

A very easy way to remember this curve it to visualize water as a “blue filter”. Just correlate water with the color of a blue ocean, and that water lets the color blue penetrate the deepest. You will be very close to the actual light absorption curve of water that is below.

NOTICE that under 400 Nm (near UV) that distilled water begins absorbing MORE energy. So there is LESS penetration of water by near UV light energy. Near UV is the light spectrum of the UV flashlight that the fly shop guy used.




Although the curves are not the same, notice that in each case red is the first to be absorbed and then orange and yellow. So red always drops out first. Also the the shape of red and orange end of the curves are very similar. Red gets filtered at about the same rate in both locations. It is the UPPER higher energy end of the spectrum INCLUDING UV light that has much less penetration in coastal waters that are less pure.

Therefore, we can expect less penetration of UV in the waters that are near shore or in rivers.





The bottom line is that UV fluorescent materials will make flies brighter BUT they do not look natural since natural food items like nymphs, scuds, larva do NOT fluoresce. So fluorescence and fluorescent flies are ATTRACTORS and NOT imitators.

Secondly, this attractor effect is degraded by particulate matter and coloration like tannins in natural streams and lakes so there is less UV penetration.

Thirdly, shining a UV light source at fly tying material is not a representation of what happens in nature where there is no UV flashlight under water illuminating the flies.

Fourthly, before UV, there were other ways of making flies more visible and that is the use of reflective materials like flashabou and tinsel.

I think the proper place of UV fluorescent material is on attractor patterns or for "hot" spots that are used to "catch" the eye of the trout.
 

Davebuech

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I agree with Silver's summary in that UV stuff is great for certain applications, IE "hotspots" I use UV stuff in my streamers frequently but hardly ever in nymphs.
 

mule52

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Thank you all for the responses to my questions. This was informative.

I tied a dozen or so nymphs, and all those I fished yesterday had fluoro orange hot spots. I used six flies and they all caught fish. I didn't catch as many as I had my previous trip, but I will keep experimenting. The cool thing is that I can tie what I need and adjust to see what works, rather than spend $2-3 on each fly.

The bottom line is that UV fluorescent materials will make flies brighter BUT they do not look natural since natural food items like nymphs, scuds, larva do NOT fluoresce. So fluorescence and fluorescent flies are ATTRACTORS and NOT imitators.
When (what conditions) should I be using attractors and imitators? Before this conversation when my wallet dictated what nymphs I'd use, I was fishing imitator nymphs. I would not have wasted my time on hot spots because I thought trout would consider them fake. I did not catch as many trout yesterday, I am not sure if I should blame my attractor nymphs or not just yet. When do you recommend hot spots? Is it a certain time of year? Is it only in the tail and/or just below the bead head?

One more thing, this shop owner (referenced in my original post) did tell me the "flashback" is marketed to the buyer, not the trout. He says the nymphs are upside down in the water anyway, so the flashback (wing case) is pointing at the bottom where the fish never see it. My favorite perdigon, the Spanish Bullet, which has a flashback, I always thought was working because the flashback added some realism, but maybe I was wrong?

I've also never caught fish on my rainbow warriors, but my store bought ones had glass bead heads, so they are lighter and don't sink as much. The ones I tied and used yesterday are heavier, so they worked. I am learning all kinds of things now that money isn't the object, but fly tying creativity is.
 

bigjim5589

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Thank you all for the responses to my questions. This was informative.

I tied a dozen or so nymphs, and all those I fished yesterday had fluoro orange hot spots. I used six flies and they all caught fish. I didn't catch as many as I had my previous trip, but I will keep experimenting. The cool thing is that I can tie what I need and adjust to see what works, rather than spend $2-3 on each fly.



When (what conditions) should I be using attractors and imitators? Before this conversation when my wallet dictated what nymphs I'd use, I was fishing imitator nymphs. I would not have wasted my time on hot spots because I thought trout would consider them fake. I did not catch as many trout yesterday, I am not sure if I should blame my attractor nymphs or not just yet. When do you recommend hot spots? Is it a certain time of year? Is it only in the tail and/or just below the bead head?

One more thing, this shop owner (referenced in my original post) did tell me the "flashback" is marketed to the buyer, not the trout. He says the nymphs are upside down in the water anyway, so the flashback (wing case) is pointing at the bottom where the fish never see it. My favorite perdigon, the Spanish Bullet, which has a flashback, I always thought was working because the flashback added some realism, but maybe I was wrong?

I've also never caught fish on my rainbow warriors, but my store bought ones had glass bead heads, so they are lighter and don't sink as much. The ones I tied and used yesterday are heavier, so they worked. I am learning all kinds of things now that money isn't the object, but fly tying creativity is.
IMO, it's always a judgement call when to try any fly type. Obviously, if you see some indication, such as a hatch, you go with what you see first. But, otherwise, since you have to start with something, you just make a choice.

I remember being told many times, when I showed flashy flies that I had to someone on a stream, they would usually remark, "that won't work here, try _________". However, I found out that even those attractor flies had a time they would produce & better than the imitative.

I read a magazine article many years ago, written my Joe Brooks about fishing wet flies. He mentioned a fishing buddy who was an accomplished tyer & wet fly angler and posed a question about why these flies worked, particularly flies such as the Coachman, with it's white wing, since it may not look like an insect in those waters. The response was perhaps it was mistaken as a fry, or other small baitfish. So, the point is, just because the fly is tied as a "nymph" doesn't mean that's what the fish mistake it to be. I believe that's why my flashy flies worked well at times.

It's been several years since I have had the opportunity to target trout, and the last one I caught was a small Brown on a size 8 Clouser Minnow style fly, white Arctic Fox fur over Polar Flash, with pink bead chain eyes. It was even tied on an Aberdeen hook, not a fly hook. I remember it because I had tied it with Crappies in mind, and that day, other flies I had tried were too heavy, and too large. The water was very low, and I needed something small & light, and that fly was in my box. I'm sure it was one of those "that won't work here flies too"!
 
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