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Question on Transparency

Rob G

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The old adage in fly tying, "the more sparse the better"

Bob Clouser speaking about his Clouser minnow, ties his own for personal use so sparse that customers would never buy them, and does so because he believes that baitfish are somewhat translucent and that is achieved better when the fly is tied sparse.


So with that thought in mind, playing around with some articulated flies. Those on the top, I kept the Schlappen much more densely packed for a thicker more full fly. The pair on the bottom I have used Estaz wrapped around the shank to create some bulk but palmered the Schlappen much more open, sparse if you will. In the water, I've noticed a definite difference in "transparency" yet didn't fish enough this season in order to draw a conclusion.


Anyone have any thoughts on this and does it factor into your own fly tying patterns?

As always, thanks for your input.



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My recent trip out to the northeast, I noticed that they like their flies sparse. I think most of their baitfish are quite transparent; and they mostly fish in clearer water and close to the surface. Fuller and denser body flies have their places too - like in low light hours (early morning, late evening, or even at night); or fish deep. I agreed with Rich's.

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This is just an observation based on watching game fish pick off prey in the 50 gallon tank I had at work. If these flies were all swimming around in the tank the sparsely tied flies at the bottom of your photo would be the first to be gobbled up. Thinking as a fish, those sparse flies look pretty haggard and would probably be an easy target compared to their more robust looking partners.


I agree with the statements made by the fishermen above, though I have no scientific proof to base it on. It just all makes sense. :)

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Great discussion Rob. I just ordered a baitfish box from Fly Tyers Dungeon and have more congo hair than I know what to do with. I've been tying versions of the peanut butter fly and am finally learning the less is more adage. Luckily with these it's easy to cut and sculpt them to the correct shape and size, I want to invest in some texturing scissors to make it even easier. I'll have to report back on my findings after they find a whole bunch of time in the water. Another thought would be that the less bulky flies have a different action, possibly sinking faster which might trigger more strikes?

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Good observation. This really made me think.


By looking at the picture, you can see that the same recipe can produce two different flies-full and sparse. Both have their place. Bass Doctor Doug Hannon said something about lures that can be applied to flies when he talked about their attracting and triggering properties. Size, shape, color, noise, action, and speed all can be attracting or triggering. The perfect attracting bait is large, roundish, bright colored, noisy (rattles e.g.), rhythmic, and slow moving, The perfect triggering bait is small, elongated, natural colored, quiet, erratic, and fast moving. Most baits have a mix of attracting and triggering properties. This is easy to apply to flies and how we work them. But it would take a book to cover it all. BTW translucent would be a Natural or Triggering color.


It is good to have a variety of flies and know the effect they have on fish before you tie one on.

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