Us fly people frequently debate the merits of fluorescent colours in flies. Recently, during a chat with mates, I remarked that a fish’s reaction to such seemingly ‘unnatural’ colours may be compared to a cat’s reaction to a lazer pointer.
An astute observation, you have to admit.
But here’s my thing: Not all cats respond to laser pointers the same way. Gollum will go for it for as long as it’s there to be chased; he just can’t help himself, like you flipped some intelligence-override switch. But Hooikoors* might have a look, paw the little red light once, then realize he’s being had, while The Fat One appears or pretends to be totally blind to laser pointers. I’ve known and had fairly standard love/hate relationships with quite a few cats.
A little while ago, my eldest son convinced me to tie some super tiny flies with which to target small tidal pool species, particularly strepie and the fresh, fresh baby musselcracker we’d seen in the past. I figured lazer pointing them would be the way to go, so I tied some baby buggers and charlies using fluoro pink CdC and craft fur as the main ingredients. We tapped a nearby tidal pool and succeeded in catching both.
A week later, I joined mates Jazz and Leonard for some more rock and surf fly fishing shenanigans. We enjoyed catching a few Karel Grootoog, aka Fransmadam. Pretty, stinky, eager little buggers. I was keen on lazer pointing some more scratch species, so Jazz pointed me to a particularly lush natural rocky gully. It was brimful of strepie, staunch blacktail and a few other things I couldn’t quite ID until I caught one: another baby musselcracker, but a cool upgrade on those from the week before, having just outgrown the bright orange colours seen on young-of-year fish.
On both occasions, I only used small to miniscule (size 20, 16 and 6) fluorescent pink flies. And on both occasions, the most aggressive fish nailed the fly within a cast or two of arriving. Thereafter, all I got were half-hearted follows if they didn’t flat-out ignore it. Except of course for the Karel Grootoog in the adjacent gully, who would roll over for any fly, any time.
It follows that fish are susceptible to fluorescent colours in flies not only according to species, but also by personality or mood. Perhaps hunger also plays a part. It stands to reason that in all animals the difference between aggression and fear is directly correlated to hunger vs satiation.
Sometimes, you can take down a whole school of fish with a fluorescent fly, sometimes not a single one.
Damn I wish I was sure what I loved about fly fishing and I’m not sure any of this helps, but next time, I’ll go for the gullible ones with fluoro flies first, and then I’ll switch to the ‘natural’ stuff and see what happens. Then I’ll screw around with what’s left in the box and catch me a more decent fish … I hope!
*Pronounced something like “wake worse”, roughly translates to “Hayfever”. Hairy mutt of a cat, he is.
Really enjoyed this article and what a cool way to get your kids into flyfishing! Love that little pink fly. Going to try it on the mullet and blacktail here in Plett.
I frequently scale down on flies if the bigger fish are not around and it is amazing how much fun you can still have. Recently I sight-fished for a streepie (karanteen) in a deep gully with a small pink/white Charlie with tungsten dumbbell eyes and it gave me quite a fight. Indeed it was a fat trophy of 29 cm (given that they only grow to 30 cm). Thanks for inspiring me to go and tie some Tiny Pink Perils to target a few new species.