Hot Spots Make Flies Sizzle
Do hot spots really improve nymphs? You bet! Add a dash of fluorescent color to your favorite flies, and you will catch more trout.
by Aaron Jasper

Several years ago, before I started using the new European nymph-fishing techniques, I thought that fluorescent colors were only for catching steelhead and fishing dirty water. If had someone said that I would soon use flies tied with fluorescent colors, I would have laughed at them. I discovered trout flies with hot spots when Torrey Collins, a good friend and fantastic angler, showed me some French-style Pheasant-Tail Nymphs featuring collars of fluorescent fire orange thread behind the beads.

For several months, Torrey and I debated about whether a fluorescent hot spot would attract more fish than a fly tied using only natural colors, but when I tried Torrey’s hot spot Pheasant-Tail Nymph, it worked. Until then, I thought that a nymph imitation had to imitate a real insect with respect to size, shape, and color; fishing a fly made using unnatural colors was new to me.

Although this article sings the praises of hot spots, you must understand that they only enhance flies; adding hot spots does not constitute entirely new patterns. Nymphs without hot spots catch trout, but under certain conditions, nymphs with hot spots catch more fish.

History of the Hot Spot
The idea of incorporating hot spots and fluorescent colors into flies started on large lakes and reservoirs in the United Kingdom. Fly tiers added fluorescent colors to the tails of streamers, nymphs, and wet flies to attract the attention of trout from greater distances. Once the fish zeroed in on the hot spots, they came to inspect the flies out of curiosity, realized they were potential food, and struck. The same principle holds true in rivers and streams: Even though there are numerous food items floating in the water, hot spots create triggers in nymphs that elicit reactions from the trout. You will not only catch fish that are actively feeding, but also encourage idle trout to take your flies out of curiosity.

A fluorescent color reflects light of a longer wavelength than it receives. Don’t confuse this with phosphorescence, which is when a material continues to emit color in the dark after being exposed to light. Fluorescent colors absorb any color of light in the spectrum and still reflect their own color. Blue, green, yellow, orange, and cyan are absorbed by the water, whereas violet and red continue to disperse through the water column. No matter what color wavelength reflects off the fluorescent orange thread or bead, it will reflect fluorescent orange; even if violet light reflects off the fluorescent orange hot spot, it will reflect fluorescent orange. This is the secret to a hot spot: The fluorescent bead or thread continues to reflect light and stay true to its color even though the rest of the fly changes color as it descends through the water column.

When trout are keying in on sulfur nymphs, a Pheasant-Tail Nymph does the job because when it is four feet deep, it changes to black or gray, but the trout still key in on the size and profile of the fly. If the pattern has a hot spot, the fish will be more likely to see the fly and react.

I have watched bass-fishing shows my entire life, and I have been able to draw on bass-fishing techniques and apply them to fly-fishing. Despite their differences, bass and trout are both freshwater fish and can live in similar habitats. Bass fishermen use colorful, flashy lures that don’t look anything like the forage found in lakes, and yet the fish still bite. Anglers seeking trout can learn a lesson from bass fishermen and use some of the flashy, bright, high-contrast patterns to increase their catch rate.

Image Here’s a collection of flies tied with fluorescent orange hot spots. Even under ultraviolet light, the hot spots reflect orange light.

 

Incorporating a tiny hot spot at the tail of the fly works well in areas where the trout have been subjected to heavy angling pressure. By tying the hot spot at the end of the fly, the contrast and color absorption of the fluorescent thread are still the key, but this spot is smaller and more subdued than a thread collar behind the bead.

I will tie a micro nymph with the hot spot behind the bead or at the tail of the fly, but not at both ends. I have experimented with hot spots at both ends of a fly, and they seem to deter, rather than attract, the trout. My observations lead me to believe that two hot spots confuse the fish: they see a trigger at both the head and tail of the fly, are unsure which end to explore, and so reject the
pattern altogether.

Instead of tying a fluorescent thread collar behind the bead head, why not use the bead itself as the hot spot? Fluorescent orange, pink, and chartreuse beads work well in high, stained water, but I was surprised to find that they also work well in low, clear water. In New Jersey, the Pequest River is home to large trout that get chased by fishermen every day from dawn until dusk. The water level gets quite low in the winter, and anglers sight-fish to the trout. Fish that are typically tough to catch on small midges react quite aggressively to size 18 to 14 nymphs tied with fluorescent tungsten bead heads. Watching these fish eagerly strike flies time after time has proved that reaction strikes occur more often than we think.

Add a Hot Spot to the Middle of the Body
Using pink and orange UV dubbing in the middle of the abdomen of flies such as caddis larvae makes a huge difference in the ability of these patterns to catch fish, especially in deeper water. The fish seek out the larval shape of the real insects, and the hot spots draw the attention of the fish.

On a local limestone creek in eastern Pennsylvania, the forage is primarily small mayfly nymphs and tiny midge larvae. The best fly for fishing this stream is often a Czech-style rock worm larva with a pearl foil back and pink hot spot. The midges and mayflies greatly outnumber the caddis larvae, and after not catching any fish using a natural-looking caddis larva, I switched to a large caddis larva with a pink hot spot in the abdomen and caught dozens of fish.

When I was introduced to hot spots, I was very resistant to the idea. I could not wrap my mind around the fact that something so unnaturally colored would catch more fish; this required me to go against my better judgment. But my willingness to try new techniques and reading Dr. Kagayama’s book caused me to experiment with hot spots on flies. I learned that even the most abstract and far-fetched idea has practical applications. I encourage all skeptics to try incorporating hot spots into some of their flies. Little things often make big differences.

__________________

Aaron Jasper is always experimenting with new fishing techniques, and he readily shares what he discovers with our readers. If you’d like to learn more about European nymph-fishing methods and flies, check out his new DVD, European Nymphing: Techniques and Fly Tying.

 

ImageDDS
Hook:
Standard nymph hook, sizes 18 to 10.
Bead:
Red tungsten.
Thread:
Dark brown 6/0 (140 denier).
Tail:
Wood duck fibers.
Abdomen:
Tying thread.
Rib:
Small copper wire.
Thorax:
Mix of brown UV Ice Dubbing and dark brown squirrel dubbing.

 

 

ImageConfusion
Hook:
Jig hook, sizes 14 to 10.
Bead:
Black nickel tungsten.
Thread:
Dark brown 6/0 (140 denier).
Body:
Hare’s-ear Krystal Dub.
Rib:
Small copper wire.
Hotspot:
Fluorescent yellow 6/0 (140 denier) tying thread.

 

 

 

ImageTorrey’s Favorite
Hook:
Czech nymph or grub hook, sizes 14 to 8.
Thread:
Dark brown 6/0 (140 denier).
Body:
Hare’s-ear dubbing.
Under rib:
Gold holographic tinsel.
Back:
Tan Scud Back.
Over rib:
6X monofilament.
Hotspot:
Fluorescent orange hare’s-ear dubbing.
Head:
Black hare’s-ear dubbing.

 

ImageHotspot Czech Nymph
Hook:
Czech nymph or grub hook, sizes 14 to 8.
Thread:
Olive 6/0 (140 denier).
Body:
Olive SLF Spiky Squirrel dubbing.
Under rib:
Gold holographic tinsel.
Back:
Light olive Scud Back.
Over rib:
6X monofilament.
Hotspot:
Fluorescent pink hare’s-ear dubbing.
Head:
Black hare’s-ear dubbing.

 

ImageStockie Basher
Hook:
Jig hook, sizes 16 to 10.
Bead:
Copper tungsten.
Thread:
Dark brown 6/0 (140 denier).
Tails:
Medium coq de Leon.
Abdomen:
Tying thread.
Rib:
Small copper wire
Thorax:
Light pink Ice Dubbing
Hotspot:
Fluorescent pink 6/0 (140 denier) tying thread.

 

ImageTooth Decay
Hook:
Standard nymph hook, sizes 18 to 10.
Bead:
Copper tungsten.
Thread:
Yellow olive 6/0 (140 denier).
Tail:
Medium coq de Leon.
Abdomen:
Tying thread.
Rib:
Small copper wire.
Thorax:
Natural grayy SLF Spiky Squirrel dubbing.
Hotspot:
Fluorescent fire orange 6/0 (140 denier) tying thread.

 

 

ImageDouble Dipper
Hook:
Standard nymph hook, sizes 18 to 10.
Bead:
Copper tungsten.
Thread:
Yellow olive 6/0 (140 denier).
Tail:
Medium Coc de Leon.
Abdomen:
Tying thread.
Rib:
Small copper wire
Thorax:
Natural gray SLF Spiky Squirrel dubbing.
Wing case:
Large holographic tinsel.
Hotspot:
Fluorescent fire orange 6/0 (140 denier) tying thread.

 

ImageRoot Canal
Hook:
Standard nymph hook, sizes 18 to 10.
Bead:
Copper tungsten.
Thread:
Dark brown 6/0 (140 denier).
Tail:
Medium coq de Leon.
Abdomen:
Tying thread.
Rib:
Small copper wire.
Thorax:
Natural gry SLF Spiky Squirrel dubbing.
Hotspot:
Fluorescent fire orange 6/0 (140 denier) tying thread.

 

ImageBlack Out
Hook:
Standard nymph hook, sizes 18 to 10.
Bead:
Matte black tungsten.
Thread:
Black 6/0 (140 denier).
Tails:
Wood duck fibers.
Body:
Black SLF Spiky Squirrel dubbing.
Rib:
Small hot orange wire.
Hotspot:
Fluorescent fire orange 6/0 (140 denier) tying thread.

 

ImageThe Firefly
Hook:
Standard nymph hook, sizes 18 to 10.
|Bead:
Fluorescent orange tungsten.
Thread:
Dark brown 6/0 (140 denier).
Tails:
Wood duck fibers.\
Abdomen:
Tying thread.
Rib:
Small copper wire.
Thorax:
Peacock Ice Dubbing.

 

 

 
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