Fly Tying with UV: Introduction

Part 1: Introduction

This is the first in a series of posts on flies we're going to feature that incorporate materials that have certain UV characteristics. However, before we get too far here, there are a few things to consider to lay the groundwork going forward with these patterns:
  • The impetus for this series of posts and flies is primarily the book by Reed F. Curry, "The New Scientific Angling - Trout and Ultraviolet Vision".

    I found this book to be very informative and really opened up my eyes to some considerations in fly design that I hadn't really thought about. So based on this book, some discussion with some of the fly tying materials companies out there and some study we've done on our own, we believe incorporating primarily UVR materials into patterns here and there is something to definitely consider.
  • UVR vs UVF: Read the book for a much better description. But in a nutshell, UVF or Ultraviolet Fluorescence is what most fishermen and tyers are familiar with. The example of shining a black light onto a white shirt or some bright orange thread and having it glow is what is often touted as the type of effect that will attract fish to our flies. However, with few exceptions, there aren't many instances of fluorescence in the natural trout world. UVR or Ultraviolet Reflectance is the ability of a surface (insect, feather, fur or otherwise) to reflect, not fluoresce, UV light. In nature, there are ample examples of animals, insects and fish using UVR to both attract mates as well as hunt for food. This deserves some additional consideration.
  • For the fly tyer, many natural insects and baitfish exhibit UVR characteristics to varying degrees. Given that trout can see UVR, it's reasonable to assume UVR can and does play a part in a trout identifying and selecting its food. Again, this is all very nicely explained in the book, so refer to that resource if you'd like additional information. The flies in this series will loosely focus on these UVR "signatures" as explained and photographed in Mr. Curry's book. 
  • We're, by no means, saying definitively that incorporating UVR materials into your flies will result in you catching more fish. However, there is some pretty compelling evidence that it might actually make a difference. We'll leave that up to you and the fish to decide. Either way, we think this topic and aspect of fly design deserves some attention.
Another push to get us more involved with this topic is the awesome line of UV-centric materials from Spirit River. Their "UV2" trademarked series of materials found here include an enormous variety of materials that exhibit these same traits we're focusing on. More will come later on those, but read about it here. Through a few instances (see part #3) we've actually found that there are some distinctive properties on this UV stuff that you would be wise to try out. The drake pattern featured in that third part is a good example of a fly that really just plain caught fish when other patterns would not.

With that said, let's move onto the first fly that we'll feature here.

The first fly in this series is more of an accidental design that incorporates UVR materials. The Deep Dish Callibaetis has produced a great number of fish for me this year on our stillwater outings. 

deep dish callibaetis nymph UVR ultraviolet reflectance

It wasn't until I read the above-mentioned book that I realized I was applying some of the principles of the insects' UV Reflectance signatures in the fly design. In this case, the mylar underbody (high UVR) combined with an alternating not-so-high UVR material in the Ostrich herl would make sense why the pattern did so well and especially early in the morning and/or in deeper water. Again, as stated above, we can't scientifically prove this is the case, but it would fall in line with the principles outlined in the book. And we know the fish were really keying in on the pattern, no question.

rainbow trout fly fishing deep dish callibaetis nymph