Friday, February 22, 2013

Do Predator & Prey Look Into Each Others Eyes?

There is a subject that needs to be thought about when it comes to building wet flies and streamers. Heads or Tails? Do you know what triggers an instinctual feeding response from the fish you are targeting? Do you know the inherent fight or flight mechanism of the prey you are imitating? Are the fish you're after chasers or slashers?

These basic questions need more study to offer us a better chance for angling success. Everyone has heard the expression "Short take". I have watched Landlocked salmon nipping at the tail of my fly over and over without the slightest feeling that it is happening. If my hook were positioned at the tip of the tail I might have felt a different story.

How about the possibility that the use of very small eyes in your fly might trigger a flight response from certain target fish. Some fish may need the sight of big wide open eyes to make them chase. For others just the opposite might be true. Lure makers have thought about this for years.

One day, in June, I was fishing on the Matapedia River in Quebec. We were in a twenty six foot Gaspe canoe moving slowly up river. In the clear water our guide noticed four salmon sitting together close to the left bank. My partner started with medium size flies like Lee Wulff's stone fly, and Black Bear Green Butts.

When it was my turn, I waded further up stream and choose to use a 5/0, very large, big eyed fly to swing right in front of them. All hell broke loose. The water raised four inches, one fish, about fifteen pounds, wet ballistic and shot three feet in the air and all four fish scattered as quickly as possible.

Certainly my three inch long fly was not large enough to bother a three foot salmon. Today I believe they looked into the eyes of death and instinctively ran away as fast as possible. I no longer use eyes that are large and might be mistaken for a seal, shark, or Swordfish when casting to Atlantic Salmon. My opinion is that the learned instinct of an animal species can make a big difference in angling. In turn, by removing the fear factor we offer ourselves a better chance.

Conversely, I have also read from the California School of Fly Fishing, that there is no eye contact between fish at all. Do bluefish slash through pods of bait fish and not look at the eyes of their meal? Do some salt water species have millions of years in developing a black spot on their tails for no reason.

Here is my conclusion.

I am now making sure that for Steelhead my flies will have no eyes and the hook is in the tip of the tail. For trout I have medium eyes and the hook is in the tail as I believe they are spotters and chasers. For Landlocked Salmon the hook is in the very end of the tail as they are nippers. For Bluefish and Striped Bass I use big eyes and have the hook right up close to the gills.  Atlantic Salmon flies will have small eyes.

My observations are just that and come only from experience. I would love to hear from anyone who has clear scientific studies that support or refute this theory.

You Call It! Heads or Tails.


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