Do fish see colors? That's a question I've heard talked about since the day I tied on a fly over 30 years ago. My answer has been no, but the argument can be made that it's yes simply because if the fly your fishing is dark and what's on the water is light chances are your dark fly will be rejected. Now I grant you this is a very simple explanation, and there are so many other things at play that will cause a fly to be rejected.
Below I have tested a few soft-hackles and spiders in a glass of water to try and simulate what a fly looks like in it's emerging stage. I've used various patterns, all different accept for the first two. This little experiment shows some pretty big differences in how a trout looks at a fly.
The first two flies are partridge and orange patterns, the same exact fly. You can see the orange silk body showing through the very sparse dubbed body. Also visible are the tiny air bubbles trapped in the dubbing and along the hackle fibers.
This is the exact fly as the first. Notice when photographed in a different light the fly looks totally different, especially the color. The trapped air bubbles are more pronounced and the body color takes on a different light.
This is a partridge and orange tied without any dubbing. This fly has a slight-sparse thorax and partridge hackle. The trapped air bubble is highly visible.
You can also see a very distinct rib in the body. This is accomplished by winding just the silk thread. It is not clear in the photo but those ribs in the thread catch light an act as another attraction.
In this last photo the fly has a fully dubbed body, it is slightly tapered and has a gold tinsel rib. Naturally the tinsel rib will draw attention but the key is the almost perfect ribbing in the body showing an insects natural segmented body.
A key to all of these flies is the soft-hackle....it's alive.
I don't dispute your analysis of color, but when I throw a yellow Humpy and the fish won't touch it, but they hammer a green one, I have to wonder. Same with bait, white Power Eggs on one line and orange on the other and they sit side by side, one is taken consistently and the other is ignored.Makes one wonder.ReplyDelete
Mark this color debate has been going on for ever. The Humpy is just one of many, and I have experienced this first hand. It's a great thing this happens for the fly bins would be empty and the lure racks 1/5 of what they are now.
Alan, enjoyed this post very much! Very interesting to see the differences. I am not sure that we will ever know exactly why a fish strikes or doesn't strike on a particular cast or drift of a fly. In depth thought, though, is good in the game called fly fishing........ReplyDelete
Mel-Fly Tyin TimesDelete
Mel, being hungry is the first thing that will bring the strike. But I have and I'm sure you have taken a trout who is throws up a ton of food, and you say to yourself if he's so full why did he take my fly.
Keep's us thinking.
Very nice test, Alan. Such a great debate/pot stirrer. I'm with Mark on this one about color. It's all opinion, but it's all about having the confidence in what you're doing. Really great test, though. This will make for some great discussions, and I will surly revisit this post for them. Curious to read what others have to say, as well.ReplyDelete
Justin, opinion true, but it should make for some good comments.
This was really cool - and a welcome respite from shoveling and snow blowing... :) The part that most amazed me, was the air bubbles. You can see how, using a bit of pearl mylar or krystal flash could give a fly the look of having trapped air around it... And see yet another reason the soft hackle is so awesome!ReplyDelete
Will those tiny bubbles trapped in the sparse dubbing are so life like. Also just the light alone gives the fly a new look.
Great example of how each fly pattern reacts in water. As for color, I believe if fish are feeding on a certain insect, frogs, crawfish, shiners, shad then a color close to any of those would help you in landing more fish. It also helps if you are on the water when the fish are feeding too!! Great post, thanks for sharing
Bill some good points made. But like I mentioned before there are certain things that trigger a strike and one of them is a lifelike appearance.
Beautiful soft hackle ties, for sure. And, a thoughtful consideration of an old question. However, the underlying question is: Do trout see as we do i.e. is their sensory apparatus the same and, given that input, is it processed as we process visual sensations?ReplyDelete
I can not say just what trout see, weather it is anything like we see. There may have been a study on this at some point. I do strongly believe the trout can see in colors, or shades of color. One point, a yellow streamer fly fished at a depth of 20 feet is brighter than that same fly fished at 50 ft, and the yellow color may not look so yellow.
Great study in how trout may view colors, Alan. I believe that sub surface trout see colors pretty well if not very well, but even that doesn't explain why I can drift a soft hackle in a zone numerous times and get no interest then all of a sudden a particular drift gets a hit. Perhaps the successful presentation was different in some small way, or the sun went behind a cloud and changed the color of the fly as your pictures illustrate can happen. I wonder what the trout think the hook is, or for some reason it is not visible to them?ReplyDelete
Sam great questions. I think on your numerous presentations were not just right, or that subtle twitch that you made or the currents made caused the trout to take. The extra sparkle of the rib, as well as the drift of the fly in relation to where it is in the water column may also be a factor in the trout taking. Hooks I don't think they play a big factor, meaning the trout is focused on the insect more.
I'd like to throw a different thought into the color debate. Since trout develop spawning colors, which presumably make them a desirable mating choice, then trout must be able to see those colors. That being said, when it comes to fly selection, if I had to choose between the corect color or the correct movement, I'll take movement every time. Great photos of those air bubbles!ReplyDelete
Chuck good take. No one will dispute that the best looking male will always get the best chance of fertilizing the eggs. Movement is almost the same in that a hackle will move in the various currents, and is a key to a strike. But color can vary a great deal...so movement is by far the better choice.
Not sure about colour of materials but I am sure trapped air bubbles make a big difference. I often dub a bit of CDC onto nymphs for that very reason.ReplyDelete
Becks and Brown Trout North YorkshireDelete
Andy that's interesting. I mat tie up a few with it.
Simple, effective, deadly flies!! Very nice Alan!!! All I know is they work!ReplyDelete
Pete I'll take your word..the master.
Fish see colors quite well. We know that from scientific study of their eyes (rods vs cones). Also, one can deduce that fish see colors by considering cave dwelling fish - which cannot see colors because there is no light at all. They are uniformly white because color is of no importance (from a breeding success standpoint) if it can't be seen. That fish have any colors other those that would aid in hiding from predators suggests strongly that those colors are important for breeding success.ReplyDelete
Chris good points. I was not aware that there was actual scientific proof.
Nice experiment and have to agree the trapped air bubbles do make a difference, something similar was done here at a show where they used river water from the river beside the show and it totally changed in the coloured water from what it was in the air.ReplyDelete
George I did quite a few photo's of the flies and you could swear they were all different when in the water.
Moving the fly from window to window also changed the color of the fly.
This latest entry is really special! I like the photo with the micro bubbles all over the hackles and down the body! You did a really good job in photographing this aspect that we rarely see or appreciate!
There is much to be said about your last statement, " A key to all these flies is the soft hackle....it's alive!" So very well said indeed!
In constant admiration of your blog,
Doug those micro-bubbles just seem to enhance the fly. Add considerable life like movements.
Good hackle does make a difference.
Alan, Very good work on soft hackles very demonstrative. Thank you!ReplyDelete
Humberto I'm glad you like it.