"Yeah, at least to me it was", I replied. "A nice rainbow, about 12 inches or so."
"Whatcha catch 'em on, if I can ask?"
"A size 16 gold-ribbed hare's ear nymph. Nothing special", I said.
He scratched his chin, looked skeptically at me, & said, "Really? Kinda small fly for this time of year."
I wished him good luck, he thanked me, & we both went our separate ways - he to the stream, & I back to my truck.
After I was back in the warmth of the truck, with the heater going & sipping some hot coffee from an ancient thermos, I got to thinking about his remark - & the look in his eyes, like he didn't believe me.
Maybe it really was a small fly for that time of year on that stream? Hmmmm, come to think of it, I've always had my best luck here with larger flies & streamers early in the season. There really wasn't anything hatching yet. So why did I tie that #16 nymph on my line? I guess I hadn't given it much thought, I just did it.
It's little episodes like that one that have led me to believe that sometimes how we present a fly to the trout is more important than anything else. I'm no expert, but I really think that on some days how you make your fly drift & move through the water trumps everything else about the fly - size, color, & shape. I'm not going to try it, but I'll bet there are times when even a wad of chewing gum on a bare hook will get fish - assuming you present it correctly.
Another thing I'm convinced of: we fish certain flies better than others, at least I think I do. Think about it: we all have our favorite patterns. They always seem to catch more fish for us than others (which is most likely how they got to be our favorites). Maybe you have some fond memories attached to a particular fly pattern, or had outstanding success with it a few times; no matter how they got to the top of our fly list, they're there. I think that when we've got one of these flies on our line we fish a little better. I have no proof of this but it makes sense to me. We expect to see some action with that fly so we cast a little better, mend line more mindfully, & we just have our heads in the game & pay attention more.
Of course, it could be deeper than that. Maybe because we expect to catch fish with that fly we're subconsciously manipulating the universe, bending reality to meet out expectations in some mystical way (kinda like those sideshow folks who claim to bend spoons & such with their minds)? Well, I'm not going down that path - it's waaay too deep for me!!
So sitting in the truck while sipping coffee I though about my decision to use a #16 hare's ear. Why did I do it? On that day I had tried a bunch of other flies - all patterns that, in theory, should have had the best chance of enticing a trout on that stream, in those conditions, & at that time of year. Nothing I had tried worked that day, & while thumbing through my fly wallet looking for any option to use, my eyes fell upon that #16 nymph - one of my favorite patterns & size of that pattern. I can remember thinking, "why not?". Had it been May or June it would not have been a strange choice of fly at all on that stream. Maybe I did fish better once I tied that nymph on my line?
Maybe I could have discussed all this with that fellow on the trail? He might have believed me then. But it was raining & I was cold & tired. It had taken me a long time to catch that one trout. I swallowed my last drop of coffee, dropped the truck into gear to leave, & wondered if he was catching any fish.