B.C. Boat and Sportsmen's Show
Six Important Fly Patterns for B.C. Success

By Tom Johannesen

There are six patterns that will greatly improve your success in British Columbia's Interior Lakes and they can be easily fished by anyone, if you follow a few simple steps. The patterns and time of year to use them are as follows:

1. Shrimp: All year

2. Damselfly Nymph: Mid June to mid August

3. Dragonfly Nymph: Early May to end of September

4. Chironomid: Early May to mid July, and end of Sept.

5. Leeches: All year

6. Sedge (caddis): Mid June to end of August

Over the past couple of years I've randomly asked fly-fishermen which flies they would bring to the interior if they could only take six patterns. I was quite surprised when the answers were nearly always containing the Doc Spratley, Carrey Special and other attractor patterns. These patterns do catch fish, but are by no means exact imitations. I feel if you're going to try and copy an insect then why not use as close an imitation as possible. I don't know about you, but I have not yet been on a lake when a Doc Spratley hatch has occurred.

Anyone can go out and buy well-tied imitations of these important food sources from their local fly shop, but fishing them properly is another story. I've spent many days and evenings over the past few years fishing B.C.'s interior lakes and in my opinion these patterns are by far the most consistent.

Out of these patterns, shrimp are the most sought after by both fish and fishermen. I've checked the stomachs of many large rainbows over the years and it is very seldom that they don't contain at least a few shrimp. This is what gives the fish their large size and weight. Lakes that don't contain a good shrimp population will often contain long slim fish, unless there are good hatches almost year round.

The most common shrimp is called a Gammarus, and has literally hundreds of different patterns imitating it. This little pattern is deadly for large rainbows early in the season when fish tend to be a little slow and not to eager to feed. When working a shrimp pattern, it is important to get your fly as close to the bottom as possible in order to cover the same water as the natural shrimp.

When fly-casting, it is not a problem covering shallows and flats but when trolling good knowledge of the shoals is needed. A lake can be figured out quite easily if you just keep your eyes open for obvious signs, such as birds feeding, fish rising and even keep an eye on where other fishermen are anchored.

When fishing a shrimp pattern, a floating or sinking line can be used successfully. With a floating line, a long leader is needed, 10' to 16', in order to get the fly down to fishable water. When using a sinking line a 6' to 10' leader will be sufficient to cover the bottom. The only down side to a wet line is it tends to drag bottom on a more regular basis.

The retrieve for a shrimp pattern can vary from a long slow drag to a short fast one. I have found the most successful retrieve to be quite slow with approximately 6" strips and pausing after every 3 or 4 pulls. There are many types of shrimp imitations, the most common patterns being the Warner shrimp made with a deer hair back, and the baggy shrimp made with a plastic back to imitate the shrimp's shell. Crystal chenille is an excellent material for color and buoyancy when tying the body of a baggy shrimp and it greatly reduces tying time.

The colors are generally in shades of green, depending on the lake and time of year. I have found a light olive green to give me the best success in any lake. The hook size can vary from #10 to as small as a #16, the most common being a #12. The best overall hook to tie shrimp on is a Mustad C49S curved caddis hook. The extra weight helps get the fly down to the bottom quicker, and keeps it there even when using a floating line.

The Damselfly Nymph is a productive fly when fished in the right conditions at the right time, but first one must know where to find these nymphs. A good place to start fishing this pattern is around weeded shoals or on the edge of drop-offs.

Damsels will swim around looking for long grass, bushes or bull-rushes to climb up on while they emerge into adults and fly away. When fishing these areas, it can pay off to look for live nymphs first. This will help obtain a closer match to the real size and color, generally light green on a #8 hook will entice a strike.

The use of marabou for the flies tail can be very productive in imitating the way in which the live nymphs swim. The fly can be retrieved quite slow as the damsel's wiggle a lot but don't swim too fast. Getting the fly close to the bottom is important when casting or trolling; therefore a wet line is usually your best bet for lines. This pattern can also be fished with a floating line or sink-tip, but the retrieve should be slowed down to allow the fly to sink. When fishing heavily weeded lakes such as Stump Lake this fly is a must to have in your collection.

The Dragonfly Nymph is a popular pattern, due to its ability to locate large rainbows year round. There are two types of Dragon Nymphs; the Gomphus and the Darner, of which the Darner is the most popular to imitate. The Darner is generally quite large and dark in color, and is found in lakes with lots of structure. The Gomphus is a lot smaller and is found in lakes with soft or muddy bottom. A good material for tying Gomphus dragons with is deer hair because of its color and ability to shape.

With a wet line it is possible to use a deer hair dragon without dragging bottom due to it's buoyancy. I have found a dragon nymph to be a very useful pattern when fishing a lake for the first time. If a lake doesn't have any obvious hatches, I usually start by trolling a #8 Darner along the edge of a shoal; this will help locate the fish fairly quickly while giving me a chance to scout out the lake.

When casting it is essential to allow enough time for the fly to sink to the bottom. In some lakes this may require an extra fast sinking line. Dragons require shelter such as logs, rocks and bulrushes to hide from direct sunlight and their predators. Whenever possible, work your fly around these areas, and don't be afraid of dragging the bottom once and a while, quite often it turns out to be a fish.

The Chironomid was almost unheard of a few years ago by most fishermen, but now it's a common word in a fly fisherman's household. This little insect has become a favorite food source to imitate by many interior fishermen. The Chironomid is an exciting pattern to fish and can also be extremely deadly for picking up large rainbows. If you are fortunate enough to be on the water during a hatch, the fishing can end up being superb, with many fish hooked.

There are a few different ways to fish this pattern, one being from a wet line slowly retrieved up from the bottom, the pattern being in the form of a blood worm. The most popular method by far is using a floating line and a long leader as long as 18' in order to get the fly down. When using a long leader, the fly can be left almost perfectly still, only giving the line a slow strip every 30 seconds in order to keep the line tight and cover different depths.

Live chironomids don't swim, they merely float to the surface, where they emerge into adults and fly away. Something fairly new to chironomid fishing is the use of strike indicators, which allows the fisherman to detect even the softest take. With an indicator, the fly can be left hanging below the surface at any desired depth, and will continue fishing without even retrieving the line. An inexperienced chironomid fisherman may miss many strikes, because the "take" can be very soft, sometimes just a slight tightening of the line.

When tying chironomids weighting the fly will greatly increase your odds of getting a strike as it puts the fly in fishable water a lot quicker. All it takes to weight these small flies is the use of a heavier hook, a bead pushed up to the head before tying the body or wire wrapped around the body. Chironomids can vary in color from pale yellow to black, with a medium green being the preferred color. The size of chironomid is generally small but they have been known to reach as large as a #8 size hook, the average size fished being a #14.

Leeches are abundant in most interior lakes year 'round, which makes this a popular pattern for many fishermen. For someone who want to change from trolling flat fish and spinners to flies, the leech is a great place to start. Both brookies and rainbows have been known to hit this pattern on a regular basis, which makes it a good fly for lakes containing both species.

Leeches can be trolled quite easily behind a row boat or float tube with very good success. This success is credited to the flies large size and visibility when trying to cover a large body of water. A sinking line is the most productive choice to use when fishing a leech because of the importance of covering the bottom. This fly has also been productive with a floating line fished late at night when fish move into shallow water to feed.

Marabou is an excellent material to use when tying leech patterns because it imitates the swimming motion of the leech and it comes in a full range of colors. Leech patterns are also made from rabbit, seal and other soft furs. The colors can very from brown to green with the most popular color being black. A very popular color combination is maroon and black blended together. Hook sizes vary from as small as a #12 to as large as a #4 with the most common being a #8.

Sedges are not only an extremely productive pattern to use when pursuing rainbows but they are also the most exciting to fish of the six imitations. Keep in mind the timing and conditions are a lot more limited than when using a wet fly. When all the conditions do come together properly the surface action is like no other.

When it comes to imitating sedges I believe that simple is better. A couple different shades and sizes of deer hair patterns are all it takes to cover nearly any interior lake. To date the most popular imitation has still got to be the Tom Thumb. I find the most productive size to be a #10, but a variety of sizes from #8 to as small as a #16 will take fish.

As travelling sedges tend to travel across the surface quite fast a quick retrieve is usually the ticket. Casting to rising fish greatly increases your odds as you know these fish are up near the surface looking for food. This type of fishing is definitely considered fast pace but there is also a lot of time spent waiting for the next rise to occur. Once you get you first "take" on a quickly retrieved dry fly you'll be hooked on this method of fishing for life.

If you're not overly familiar with all these patterns, give a couple of them a try next time you're fishing your favorite interior lake. It will increase your catch rates considerably, and if nothing else, you'll have a great time tying and trying.

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