Some notes:

Al Quattrochi’s Electric Deceiver

  • Notice that we use the term “style”, not “pattern” when we talk about flies. That’s because a “pattern”, in its strictest definition, requires exact material and color matches. Most saltwater flies are considered styles because the name implies certain construction characteristics or features, not specific materials and colors.
  • A good general rule-of-thumb is to start with a size that matches, or is a bit shorter, than the prevalent baitfish. Why go shorter? “A shorter fly often gives the illusion that the fly is moving faster than it really is,” says Capt.Conway Bowman, of Bowman Bluewater Guides and Outfitters, “and that can often be the key to getting a strike.”
  • You might be tempted to think that “bigger is better”, but that is not usually the case. Most of the time, our gamefish are focused on chasing down large schools of baitfish, which all tend to be roughly the same size. For some reason, a fly which is significantly larger than the rest often gets ignored. That’s not to say that there aren’t situations where a bigger-than-normal fly will work better – but the majority of the time, it is better to try to match the size, and go smaller if necessary.

    saltwater flies - Curcione's Split-shot Squid

    Nick Curcione’s Split-shot Squid

  • Exact color matches to forage fish are usually not required. Suggestive is usually better, combined with the use of flashy materials like Krystal Flash, Flashabou, or other similar materials. A general rule of thumb is to use darker colors when it’s overcast, lighter colors when it is bright. Some popular combinations for slim baitfish are: black/purple, Mexican Flag (Green, red, white), green/white, chartreuse/white, blue/white, green/yellow, yellow, and red/brown. Wide baitfish are often grey/white, or tan/white, as the baitfish they are supposed to simulate exhibit those predominant colors..
  • Some species show a marked preference for particular unusual colors: Calico bass often prefer pink/red, while mako sharks seem to go out of their way to attack red or yellow. On a related note, it pays to have a few radically non-baitfish colors like pink, pink/white, red/white and yellow in the box to try when nothing else seems to work.
  • Do your flies need eyes? If it’s a baitfish simulator, the general consensus is that eyeballs can help. However, there are, of course, other opinions (see Ralph Cutter’s website). Try both, and draw your own conclusions.
  • A jigging action, like that seen in a Clouser Minnow or a Jiggie, is deadly most of the time. If you tie your own flies, you can create this action in most styles by wrapping lead wire behind the eye of the hook as you start the fly. Keep in mind, however, that there are times when the fish want less jigging action, so keep some unweighted versions of flies like a Lefty’s Deceiver in the box.
  • Sparse- versus heavily-tied flies – There are times and places for both. Sparse flies often work better in clear water, heavily dressed ones work well when the water clarity is down. In a similar vein, sparse flies sometimes gives the illusion that they are moving faster than they are.