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By now most of us can can probably list three variations on fishing bright flies for bright days and dark flies for dark days. A simple philosophy time tested and proven effective. But one tone or color that seems to defy any cliches and flat out produce across all conditions would be black. When the variables of depth, size, profile or number of nickels in your left pocket have been exhausted, many times the simplicity of a black variation of the fly you’re using can tip the odds in your favor.
To envision the profile of a black or very dark fly silhouetted against a full moon gives us a clear understanding of the visibility benefit to a fish when a fly is backlit. Great. 99% of fly fishing is typically done in daylight. We factor in dark, cloudy days that some of us brave and we still have the vast majority of our fishing days in rather pleasant conditions. Why would a black fly work across the board? And if they work so well, which they do, why aren’t we fishing them more often?
The most versatile camo option for aquatic insects, terrestrials, leeches and other food sources commonly available to fish is going to be black to some very dark shades of brown and olive. Even if the coloration is more vibrant, fish often feed near the bottom of the water column where color is much less important. The darker to black tones backlit by any penetrating rays of light will be exactly what the fish are accustomed to seeing. Based on water clarity and light conditions a black fly can still be quite versatile by changing only the amount of flash used. You can easily adapt from an extra flashy attention grabber to a single piece of flash on a black midge to coax that nervous rainbow.
Having flies from streamers to droppers in black variations is a mainstay for my fly boxes. Not only are they great for productive fishing, but they easily translate as a learning tool for beginning tyers or fly fishers. Children young and old can look at a black fly and rather quickly make the connection as to why a fish might find a black bug irresistible. Try it for yourself. The fishy rewards of adding more black flies to your fly box just may be enlightening.