Tag Archives: San Juan worm

Behold the Power of Red

I haven’t been enough of a nerd lately. This post should even the balance. I mentioned in the preceeding post that I would show you all a halo midge pattern. Well, I felt there was a lot to explain about my tying mentality and how and why I am non-traditional and sometimes non-conventional when I sit behind a vice. The next bunch of posts are tips and tricks on how to trick a picky fish.

Dear Steelhead Fly Fisherman,
If you haven’t heard, red is important to you as well.

I’m about to automatically dismiss my steelhead catching ability. I HAVE NEVER ATTEMPTED TO OR HAVE ACTUALLY CAUGHT A STEELHEAD. With that being said, I am still a nerd and nerds are great for one thing. Facts.

In my fly tying, there are a couple simple rules that I follow. One of those has to do with triggers. You can perfectly “match the hatch” as much as you would like and still be a very successful fisherman. Then will come the day where you ask yourself, “why did that fish slowly and deliberately eat my indicator?” The answer lies in what triggered that fish to strike. There is no indicator I know that remotely resembles an insect. (More on why and where I use indicators later, and while I am on the subject, there will be more on how fish brains work too) Something about your indicator triggered that fish to strike. One of those triggers is color.

In humans, red is not our favorite color. In fact, it is only favorited by approximately 9% of people. There is a perfectly good explanation for this. The color red quickens respiration and the speed to which we react to things. As complex and misunderstood as the human brain, simple instinctual reactions to simple mechanisms generally span across lines of species. In other words, fish react in a similar manner. Even a fish brain, more specifically a trout brain, is 70% dedicated to visual response. This enhances their reaction to visual stimuli. Have you ever tossed a red San Juan worm to a pressured fish hanging out in the shallows? They react to it. You may see them line up for it, but they might turn it down as it gets closer. Distance and light distortion play a huge factor here. They may have wanted it when it was more colorless, but as it gets closer, they see its true color. Water acts as a filter. This is due to the harmonics of the hydrogen bond and complex physics that require a bit more than you want to read, if that hasn’t happened already. So, at a distance across water, red looks more like gray. At a depth of about 6-10 feet in rough water you will lose the color red completely, even if it is at a distance of 6-10 feet from the fish in shallow water. The angle of the sun in relation to the surface of the water plays a massive role in what light penetrates as well. What does this all mean? This is where my steelhead buddies should pay attention… Don’t use reds in deep water. More so, those deep choppy runs. For us trout people, it means that if you can’t see that red bug, chances are it has turned gray. If you find yourself successful with red, use this info wisely.

Fly tying is like a combination lock rather than a hatch matching marathon. Next time you fish, start deconstructing a working pattern to find what is triggering a strike and use similar bugs of different colors and sizes. This is how we progress the art and come up with amazing working patterns.

I’ll be talking about phosphors and generated photons soon as well as reflected light underwater in my next nerd fit.