In the fly fishing world, there has been a long held conversation on the subject of flies used that are considered proper and flies that we use, which are held taboo.
If we listen to the purists out there they will quickly tell us the only way to truly fly fish is with a dry fly and an upstream cast. Nice discipline no doubt - laden with great sentiment I'm sure.
Then, we have the traditionalist - those that hold high the classic, standard, or conventional flies such as the wet patterns, nymphs such as the hare's ear and pheasant tail, and soft hackles such as the partridge and orange.
However as pleasant as it would be to always fish with dry patterns and no matter how much we love the patterns that have become classic and conventional, there are times these flies will not produce a fish to hand and it takes something unconventional to salvage the day.
Of course I'm referring to the flies that teeter on the edge and often fall into the labeled category of "junk flies".
The two most reviled flies, patterns that cause the purist and traditionalist to curl their nose and furrow their brow, are the egg pattern and San Juan worm. The contempt for these two patterns from the ever-so-lofty ones is legendary - having been cussed and discussed for decades and still remains the subject at hand at many a fly tying or fishing gathering.
Over the years I've come to meet some very good and talented fly fishers that use unconventional methods and these anglers catch a lot of fish. These are the anglers that fly fish for what brings them pleasure, and it seems to be battling fish.
Personally, when I go fly fishing I want to capture fish - I don't have to catch fish to enjoy myself, but, I sure want to catch fish. Years ago, a rather famous angler described it best probably. Zane Grey said something along the lines, "If I fished only to capture fish, my fishing trips would have ended long ago." That's how it is for me personally in a way, but, in not lying about it... I still like capturing fish and if I have to I will go the unconventional route to bring a fish to hand.
Never have I used an egg pattern even though I have said patterns in my arsenal. When it comes to the San Juan worm I've seen days when the fish are snubbing their nose at the best of the best classic or standard patterns, but, tying a San Juan worm on will produce a fish... and then another... and then another. Junk fly? Okay maybe... but who is catching fish?
I think before the purists and traditionalist lamblast, or banter at best, those of us that use unconventional methods they should examine their own methods a bit further.
Now, the purist crowd has every right to hold their convictions highly. Indeed, their discipline is an admirable one. However, even though their elitism puts them in a special category, it does not at the same time give them leave to degrade some of us other regular anglers.
Then, the traditionalist need to look at those classic patterns they favor and examine exactly what has happened to the ways these flies are presented. In other words, does a bead head placed on a hare's ear change the status of that pattern? I think it does.
What about the woolly bugger? Does the woolly bugger belong in the category of standard/traditional/classic patterns? There is little doubt regarding the popularity of this pattern - having been touted time and time again and the world's best fly. But, is it a truly a traditional/conventional pattern or is it a...junk fly? Most likely, ninety percent or more of the woolly bugger patterns used hold a gold bead head and that in itself challenges the classic/conventional pattern category.
Of course the woolly bugger is meant to imitate a leech, small bait fish, or crawdad, but to be real honest about it, the bugger looks like none of those things to me. The bugger, to me, looks like something that wasn't born in the water, and it's a stretch for me to imagine it looking like something that slipped off a bank or lost it's grip from a tree branch. But boy... the darn things catch fish like no tomorrow.
I believe we will see more and more fly anglers using unconventional flies in the future - flies consisting of vivid colors, with streaks of flash and synthetic materials. We'll see more micro jig patterns, that like the woolly bugger, look nothing like anything natural. We'll see some of the standard nymph, emerger, midge, and soft hackle patterns take on new bright colors with wild imaginative materials.
There is a reason we will see more unconventional patterns being used on the water and it's because the fish is a curious creature. Fish, owning the curiosity they do, often take a swift response when their curiosity is peaked and this leads to their capture.
And... since I like capturing fish, raising the curiosity of fish will remain one of my strategies on the water.