Fly fishing rod

Afield Adventures: Sometimes Fish Are Curiously Attracted | Adventures in the distance



IN THE WORLD of fishing boats, there are millions of products designed to entice a fish to eat them.

Created by scientists, fishermen and artisans, fishing lures have evolved with sport and have become incredibly diverse. There are those who fall into the broad categories and those who are particular and specialized. The measure of success of all these hook-laden gear is the likelihood of it ending up in a fish’s mouth.

Many fishing lures are designed to mimic the small fish that are part of the diet of any large fish. These baits, often plastic, can be crank baits, jerk baits, or plugs. There are also intricate metal devices that seem to come to life when dragged through the water. Spinning baits, chatter baits, and spoons use swivels, hinges, and wires that work together with watch-like precision to come to life in a way that prompts a hungry fish to feed.

Additionally, there are hundreds of jigs, flies, plastic baits, and other lures that are designed for a very specific approach to angling. With so many different types of fishing lures, it can be overwhelming for novice anglers and obsessive for the more experienced.

As a man always fascinated by the illogical, I recently started an independent investigation into those fishing lures and flies that defy practicality.

When a small plastic baitfish lure catches a fish, I’m happy, and proceed without further investigation. But when a fish is caught on something that does not mimic anything in its diet or in the existence of nature, I am fascinated.

Fly fishing illustrates the idea that fish focus on a very specific food source, and the most successful anglers are those who identify and breed it. Flying insects as small as mosquitoes are duplicated with hair, string, and feathers in an attempt to mimic a particular insect.

As often as I manage to match a specific fly, I also get lucky with those that don’t. Sometimes referred to as “eye-catching patterns,” brightly colored glitter patterns will often work just as well. A soft hackle pattern known as the heron fly is one of my favorites and I have used it to catch many fish.

This fly is designed with no natural food source in mind and bears no resemblance to the aquatic insects that fish eat. Although it can sometimes be mistaken for a small baitfish, the heron fly drifts, contracts, and swings slowly in moving water in hopes of catching a fish’s eye from a way that nothing should.

The hookup is often aggressive and quite the opposite of the slow sip of a delicate mayfly. This reaction tells me that trout and salmon that get addicted can strike with anger or confused aggression. I don’t know what else explains their instinct to put something so weird in their mouths.

A heron fly is often topped with a metal bead, which adds another unnatural element to the pattern. Maybe the fish are mistaking it for the glowing eye of a scared baitfish, or maybe they just want to eat something they haven’t seen before.

Despite its confusing appearance, the heron fly fits perfectly into the category of weird but effective flies that keep me interested in the incredible sport of angling. Each I tie up is unique and represents the constant unknowns of New Hampshire freshwater fishing.



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