EZ on the Eyes
Having difficulty seeing dry flies on the water? These simple tricks bring them into view.
by Russ Forney
 
“Tie me a fly I can see” is an increasingly common request from fly customers, particularly the more senior members among the group. An annoying loss of visual acuity is a close companion of advancing years, and neither spares the seasoned angler. For many of us, the eagle eyes of youth fade about the time fifty-something creeps into our vocabulary. Prescription eyewear follows shortly thereafter: a pair of reading glasses for close-up work at the tying bench and another pair to help find flies on the water. Of course, losing sight of a drifting fly is not a frustration reserved solely for older eyes; lowlight, surface glare, and conflicting currents all do their best to hide flies from view.

But there’s good news: With the right combination of tying materials and techniques, you can easily create patterns that are easy to see on the water. Best of all, you don’t have to sacrifice the fish-catching efficiency of your favorite flies just because you make them more visible; with a few subtle changes in their dressings, even low-riding emergers can be easy on the eyes.

Image
EZ Eyes Adams Emerger
Hook: Curved-shank, fine-wire emerger or scud hook, sizes 18 to 12.
Thread: Black 8/0 (70 denier) or 6/0 (140 denier).
Trailing shuck: Cream Antron and pheasant tail fibers.
Lower abdomen: The remainder of the tail material.
Body: Gray synthetic dry-fly dubbing.
Wings: Yellow or orange Razor Foam.
Hackle: Dark ginger and grizzly.
 



The Wall Street Journal recently predicted that five million baby boomers will try fly fishing in their retirement. Considering that more than half these anglers will be wearing eyeglasses, a common complaint will likely be an inability to see flies floating on the water. The demand for highly visible flies has never been greater.
 
The Attributes of a Visible Fly

Posture, silhouette, semi-submerged profile, and animation are key components of effective emerger patterns. Unfortunately, the traits that make emergers irresistible to fish also make them difficult to see in the surface film. The accompanying tying instructions contain steps for tying two high-visibility emerger patterns. These EZ Eyes Emergers resemble the struggling insects trout find appealing, but are very visible to fishermen. Although easy to see at a distance, make no mistake: these flies are all about catching fish. If you can’t squint enough to find the fly on the end of your leader, then it is time to grab your tying kit and brighten up your fly box.

Image

EZ Eyes Hare Emerger
Hook: Curved-shank, fine-wire emerger or scud hook, sizes 18 to 12.
Thread: Black 8/0 (70 denier) or 6/0 (140 denier).
Trailing shuck: A small bundle of ginger hackle fibers.
Body: Hare’s-ear dubbing or a synthetic substitute.
Rib: Pearl Krystal Flash or narrow Flashabou.
Wing: A thin strip of 2-millimeter-thick, closed-cell white foam for larger flies, or a short tag of white cylindrical foam for size 18 flies.
Hackle: Light ginger.
 
 


Use brightly colored closed-cell foam to turn artificial no-see-ums into flies you can easily spot on the water. Thin foam sheets, like 0.5-millimeter-thick Razor Foam, are available in a variety of eye-friendly colors. The EZ Eyes Adams Emerger features a fan-shaped wing made from opaque yellow Razor Foam; the foam wing enhances flotation and visibility without destroying the visual elements of a successful emerger. The curved body positions the trailing shuck and lower abdomen just below the surface film, while the foam wing and stiff hackled collar allow the fly to dance on each ripple in the current. The combination of the low profile and bright yellow signature appeals to both trout and anglers, each viewing the fly from a different perspective and with a distinctly different purpose.

Making a foam fan may look troublesome, but it is easy to master with a little practice. The key steps are cutting and tying a triangular piece of foam to the hook, and then cutting slits in the mounted wing. Next, wrap thread around the base of the wing (similar to posting a parachute) to place tension on the foam and force the slits to expand and assume a fan shape. This fan-shaped wing is stable on the water and exceptionally visible.

ImageCaddis Emerger
Hook: Curved-shank, fine-wire emerger or scud hook, sizes 18 to 12.
Thread: Black 8/0 (70 denier) or 6/0 (140 denier).
Trailing shuck: Three or four cream Antron fibers and the tips of three ostrich herls.
Lower body: Ostrich herl.
Upper body: Apple green dry-fly dubbing.
Wing: Blond elk hair.
Hackle: Light ginger.
Note: The elk-hair wing adds excellent visibility and flotation to this pattern.
 
 
 
 
Small closed-cell foam cylinders are also available. These are precut in sizes for making parachute posts, ant bodies, and bright tags on emergers. Two-millimeter-thick sheet foam can also be cut into strips and used like cylindrical foam. The EZ Eyes Hare Emerger shows how to add a foam loop to increase flotation and visibility. A foam loop, tied strategically over the hook eye, pops up in the air when the emerger body tips below the surface of the water and bobs like a miniature buoy. This trick provides a simple solution for enhanced visibility.

ImageOrange-Winged Cripple
Hook: Curved-shank, fine-wire emerger or scud hook, sizes 20 to 12.
Thread: Black 6/0 (140 denier).
Trailing shuck: Four pheasant tail fiber tips.
Lower body: Pheasant tail fibers.
Upper body: Dark olive or brown dry-fly dubbing.
Wing: Orange elk hair.
Hackle: Grizzly.
Note: The small tuft of orange elk hair makes it easy to see this dark-bodied fly on the water. The body of this cripple imitation hangs under the surface film to the satisfaction of trout and anglers alike.

 
 
More Ideas to Tie Flies You Can See
Synthetic yarns are available in a variety of colors and textures, many of which will increase the visibility of a fly. Popular as parachute posts and wing buds, a tuft of yellow, orange, white, pink, or chartreuse yarn brightens a hard-to-see pattern. Yarn posts sporting multiple colors are increasingly popular, with combinations of yellow, red, white, and orange accounting for many of the bicolor flies found on vest drying patches. A colorful yarn post is particularly welcomed on an Adams Parachute, making these drab impostors much easier to track in the current.
Polypropylene yarn is particularly handy for tying flies. It is an easy material to work with because you can easily remove a few fibers from a strand to adjust the bulk and tailor a yarn post to match the hook size. Polypropylene yarn is inexpensive and widely available at fly shops, discount stores, and craft shops. A five-dollar investment in bright-yellow poly yarn will outfit your tying bench for decades.

An emerger suspended beneath a hair wing is easy to see because the wing floats on the surface of the water and is plainly visible to the angler. Blond elk hair is particularly easy to see and remains visible under a variety of lighting conditions. The same is true of white calf hair: many traditional recipes feature a white wing or calf hair overlay to enhance visibility on the water. Elk and deer hair are also available in dyed colors; yellow, orange, and red are common and can significantly enhance the visibility of hair-winged emergers.

ImageParachute Adams
Hook: Regular dry-fly hook, sizes 20 to 12.
Thread: Black 6/0 (140 denier).
Tail: Ginger hackle fibers.
Body: Muskrat or gray synthetic dubbing.
Wing: Polypropylene yarn: yellow, red, orange, white, or a combination of these bright colors.
Hackle: Brown and grizzly.
Note: Polypropylene wing posts are easy to spot on the water. These fly Flies with a bright yellow foam wing or a shock of orange yarn are not  cure-alls: stealth and presentation reign supreme on the water regardless of fly selection. But, if hidden flies and missed strikes are taking some of the fun out of your day, brighten your outlook with patterns that are easy on the eyes.


This is Russ Forney’s first contribution to our magazine, and we already have more of his great articles in our files. We know you’ll enjoy them. Russ lives in Wyoming.
 
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