A piece of advice about fly selection from a fly tyer: Don't get hung up on picking the “right fly.” Despite what the books and magazines say, there usually is no one “right fly” for a given fishing situation.
We always bring a box, or many boxes, of selected flies that we think will be “right” or will work on our outings, but often things do not go as we think they will while fly fishing. So, what is an angler to do about fly selection under these circumstances? Answer: Think outside the box.
Let me give you a few examples of flexibility in fly selection from a recent weekend of fishing. I was at a lake that I have been fishing for several years. I knew what patterns have worked over the years and the fish have been very consistent in taking certain flies at certain times of the year. I was all ready to fish last weekend and tied on the usual suspects to catch a few fish. Nearly every cast came up empty. I caught one fish, but certainly not the numbers that I had grown accustomed to expect on this lake. I usually fished a small yellow Clouser Minnow with great success on the rock bass, but now nothing. The bass were sipping and poking their noses through the surface of the water. My mind immediately went to a dry fly. I switched to a floating line and a humpy. Bang! The rock bass were heavily onto the floater. Would I have ever used a dry fly to catch these rock bass before? No, but in order to bring fish to the net I had to be flexible.
The northern pike hanging out in the lily pads in this lake were the same story. No takes on traditional pike flies. What is an angler to do? Why not tye on a salmon fly? No pike were biting the usual way, so I decided to go the for the unusual. I used the super secret salmon slayer, a heavily-weighted, white marabou bait fish imitation. Bang! A decent-sized pike on the fly. This toothy critter was hungry for different cuisine. A few weeks earlier a pike grabbed a rather large, heavy Clouser Minnow. Pike flies were not on the menu that day either.
There is no need to flog the water with patterns that are not producing on a given day. Don't forget to read your water and see what the fish want. Make sure that when putting your fly box together you select a few oddball flies that may seem unlikely or outlandish. Include dries, wets, nymphs and bait fish imitations and a few flies that you think would never work. This makes for a much more satisfying day of fly fishing.