If you were stranded on an island surrounded by your choice of fresh or salt water, what one fly would you choose to have along with your favorite rod? This is a question we often ask ourselves in the shop while surrounded by hundreds of flies that are meant to catch fish just about as well as they catch fishermen’s attention. Each and every one was designed to produce, but many of them are so specific that put in the wrong conditions, they would be just about worthless except in catching a blind fish with no sense of what his natural prey should be. What makes a good fly? What makes a fly universally fishable?
Fishermen have asked the same questions since the first fly was attached to the end of a leader and the first fish was landed. But even today we still haven’t decided what the end-all, be-all best fly to have on hand in most situations might be. I know two would top my list after 17 years of throwing, and I’m sure there are more than a few folks that would agree with my choices.
The Clouser Minnow in all its iterations is probably the most productive fly overall ever created and we have Bob Clouser to thank for his ingenuity. He developed the fly to fish for smallmouth bass in Pennsylvania without realizing that it would be a productive pattern on just about anything that swims in fresh or salt. Thanks to Lefty Kreh, the Clouser Minnow became a legend overnight, and proved itself on the water for years to come. I’ve landed more varied species on Clouser variants than any other fly in my box because I have faith, and it works. Even though it doesn’t really imitate anything specific, it approximates just about everything when tied with the right materials and colors.
The Wooly Bugger is another fly that has gained a loyal freshwater following but did you know that it’s productive in saltwater as well, and there are plenty of flies loosely based on it? The Crystal Schminnow we know and love bears a striking resemblance to a Crystal Bugger outfitted with mono eyes. Regardless of what it looks like, it sure catches fish of varied types, especially snook along the beach. Even a wooly bugger tied in the traditional manner will catch just about anything that swims if you use the appropriate hooks.
So to borrow a phrase spoken by Sean Connery in one of my favorite movies, “There can be only one!” Which would you choose if stranded on an island? I know my box will contain a Clouser Minnow, or a Wooly Bugger because I know I'll be catching fish. What color should it be? That's a question for another day.
Brian “Beastman” Eastman
Outdoor World Orlando