Bugs and the color spectrum

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This topic contains 7 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Creek 4 months ago.

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  • #6157

    Scotty MacFly
    Participant

    When looking at the hatch and whats floating on the surface, and also peeking under rocks at a river or stream notice insects and nymphs are generally earthy colors. What I mean is they are generally black, brown, tan, greens, and when molting a cream color. I have never seen red, orange, blue, gold, and so on.

    The color spectrum shows differently in clear water than it does in dingy water, and some colors show better in each circumstance. Not only that, but different colors show better at different depths. Red and orange fade after about 15ft, and yellow and green fade a little deeper at around 50 to 60 feet followed by blue and black.

    Now, I fish 99% of the time in water no deeper than 3ft deep. Very seldom do I fish water any deeper. So according to the color spectrum under water, red should be what to use. But like I said, I have never seen a red bug, but I sure see flies in the shop that have red like the Red Humpy and the Royal Wulff. But is that really what a fish sees? In crystal clear water at 2ft., red will show red and that’s what the fish sees. And in dingy water red turns to a brownish or burnt red color. So that’s what a fish sees in that scenario. But, when a fish sees real bugs, they also see what we see, black, brown, greens.

    I found an article I’d like to share because it makes complete sense to me. Here’s what struck me.

    It says:

    Go to any store that sells fishing tackle and you will see a vast array of colorful lures, baits, and hooks. You will most likely find hundreds of different colors and combinations. So what are the best colors for fishing? How is an angler to choose the best color (or colors) for fishing?

    best color fishing
    First of all, do fish even see color? I have heard yes and I have heard no. Well, the truth is… we don’t know for sure. There just aren’t enough studies to indicate that all fish see or don’t see color. There was a study done on gold fish that indicates they may see some color, but as far as the game fish of North America go, we don’t really know.

    And since we don’t know, I like to put the colors into categories based on brightness instead of based on color. The categories are: bright colors, neutral/natural colors, and dark colors. When I go fishing, I don’t ask myself: “should I use white, olive, or black?” Instead I ask: “should I use bright, neutral/natural, or dark?”

    When choosing the best color for fishing, it all boils down to these two things:

    (1) Water Clarity – How clear is the water? Is it murky, stained, or clear? What’s the visibility range? For murky water with low visibility, use very bright colors (like white and chartreuse) and very dark colors (like black and purple). These extremes of the color spectrum will be most visible in murky water to the fish. In clear water with good visibility, use neutral/natural colors (like tan, olive, and brown). Neutral/natural colors are the best when visibility is not an issue.

    (2) Color of Natural Prey – What color is the natural food that the fish eats? Does it eat bright colored food, neutral/natural colored food, or dark colored food? If the fish is used to eating dark colored food then it will strike a dark colored lure more often. So, figure out the color of the natural prey and choose your lure/bait colors accordingly.

    #2 says it all for me. With trying to match the hatch, I find flies flying and floating to be natural colors. So why tie on a brightly colored fly?

    In clear water, a dark brown fly is still a dark brown fly. And how ever a fish sees it, it sees it.

    In murky water, that dark brown fly is still a dark brown fly. The color of the water may change it because of the color spectrum and UV rays under the water, but the fly itself is still a dark brown fly.

    And the funny thing is that I understand is, the fish still see and eat the bugs. Now in dirty or faster water, I believe in using a larger fly to help the fish see it easier. But I don’t see a nymph or dry with glitter and glitz. I understand a little flash acts as an attractor to the fish, and that’s fine, it does serve as a purpose, but a real nymph or mayfly doesn’t put on a glitter show.

    Let me stop here and ask: are you all following me? Because I’m typing this as it comes into my mind.

    I want to be as real as I can be with my flies, natural colors. To me it’s what the fish sees. Is it color, or is it the shape or silhouette of the fly that the fish recognizes. The brightest real bug I have seen here is a green rock worm, and it’s a bright caddis green. But everything else mostly is on the darker color side.

    I don’t think I have a need for a Lime Trude whatever it is fly.

    How about you? What do your flies look like?

    #6159

    Creek
    Participant

    Until a trout can talk and tell us what color they see. I’ll just use natural colors.

    As hunters we have to wear 500 sq in of blaze orange. Deer see it as a pale yellow. The same color as they see a tree.

    What do you think fish think florescent Powerbait is? Color is never a concern for me. Size, shape, and a natural drift will catch them all. That’s why an Adams works for all mayflies. No matter what color is hatching.

    • This reply was modified 4 months ago by  Creek.
    #6162

    Grsdlnr
    Participant

    I have no doubt fish see color. Their eyes have rods and cones, which would mean they should at least have the ability to differentiate between certain colors. But do they see color the same way humans do? No one can answer that. As fish see dry flies basically as silhouettes against the sky, I never understood the need for precise color matching on floating flies, to the point a certain well-known author insists on custom dying materials because the stuff sold in shops isn’t a perfect match.

    As to the color of our imitations, it’s the last thing I worry about at least with dries (it’s more critical for subsurface flies, but this is the Dry Fly Forum after all) For example, the little sulfur mayflies (E. dorothea) on the Delaware are bright yellow with medium grey wings while the same species on central PA spring creeks has a distinct orange cast and wings a shade or two lighter, and the similar sized PMD’s in the west have olive-y yellow bodies. I use the same fly for all of them and the fish don’t seem to care one bit.

    #6163

    Scotty MacFly
    Participant

    That’s just it. Like I said, red is red in shallow clear water. But in murky water it’s more of a brownish color to us. How do the fish see it? Heck if I know. They say to use dark colors in muddy water like at run off time. It works along with larger flies. Also white works too.

    I’m believing that certain colors are just used to attract fish. On a pheasant tail a green flashback works well to get their attention. When I tied some nymphs for my nephew they were black bodies with purple peacock heel for a collar with soft black hackles. And right behind the black bead head I put a red collar for a hot spot. He used that fly in a contest and got 2cd place. I don’t mind putting hot spots on, but I think its funny when a fish sees the same thing all day and all if a sudden a fly drifts by looking like a disco ball. Nope, I like the natural look.

    #6166

    Scotty MacFly
    Participant

    That’s just it. Like I said, red is red in shallow clear water. But in murky water it’s more of a brownish color to us. How do the fish see it? Heck if I know. They say to use dark colors in muddy water like at run off time. It works along with larger flies. Also white works too.

    I’m believing that certain colors are just used to attract fish. On a pheasant tail a green flashback works well to get their attention. When I tied some nymphs for my nephew they were black bodies with purple peacock herl for a collar with soft black hackles. And right behind the black bead head I put a red collar for a hot spot. He used that fly in a contest and got 2cd place. I don’t mind putting hot spots on, but I think its funny when a fish sees the same thing all day and all if a sudden a fly drifts by looking like a disco ball. Nope, I like the natural look.

    As for dries I agree color doesn’t play a part. It’s more size and shape that’s the playing factor.

    #6167

    Creek
    Participant

    What’s a pheasant tail? Beadhead???

    #6170

    Scotty MacFly
    Participant

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. I said beadhead pheasant tail. No such thing exists. What an imagination I have.

    #6172

    Creek
    Participant

    Take two dry flies and go to bed and rest.

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