Well, maybe not quite skinny dipping but going almost butt naked.
Before leaving to visit our family in the States in early December, I had a number of people ask, “how come after spending so much effort in covering the hook with fur and feathers that the fish are not scared off by the bare steel.” It’s a moot point when one considers that we spend a lot of time creating imitations of the aquatic and terrestrial insects prey items, lengthening and fining the leaders and tippets, especially when we are attempting to fool so called spooky fish, even going as far as sneaking around looking a little like the hunchback of Norte Dame. Many flies are sparsely tied to almost be a bare hook, or as some do by tying a #16 imitation on a #12 hook. And yet the so called selective trout don’t seem to care a damn about the hook no matter how visible and prominent it is – contrary to how fussy we perceive them to be. Somehow it doesn’t add up or perhaps we credit the trout with too much intelligence?
Its certainly not the first time the question has been asked. it’s rather one that has come up almost since the first fly was cast, and there are possibly as many theories as there are flies – I have heard quite a few expressed on the subject.
I like to think that trout are programmed to feed on a limited number of insects and instinctively become familiar with them, size, shape and colour, the positive factors. If I recall the term I heard used was, “trout can key into repeated identity”. These are the things that trigger a response in the trout’s brain. The hook although visible, is a negative factor, but because of the known positives in the natural, the things it is used to, the hook does not feature as a part of their search engine – so it doesn’t feature in their response to eat the imitation. It’s as if they don’t acknowledge the negative.
This is given that the imitation is tied to include recognisable features of the natural. I have nothing scientific to prove it and I’m also not aware of any research into brass, shiny hooks verses black or gunmetal. I like to swim my flies before I cast them to see what they look like in the water and I have more confidence fishing imitations tied on black or gunmetal grey hooks as opposed to brass – they appear more ‘natural’ and are certainly less pronounced.
These are the subjects that can keep flyfishers busy for a long time and I don’t
know if anyone has the definitive answers, I suspect not.
I”‘d be happy to hear other points of view.