A trout will take a fly for two reasons, either because it thinks it’s food or through aggression/curiosity. Flies will loosely fall in to two categories. Imitative flies are designed to imitate food and attractors appeal to the aggressive and curious instincts of fish.The problem with categorizing these flies is that these days the lines are so blurred. Many imitate flies will have a bright tag or ribbing of tinsel, does this disqualify them from being imitative patterns? Equally many lures & attractors do a pretty good imitation of a small fish so does this mean they are not truly attractors? My personal feelings on this are that I pretty much don’t mind! My mission is to enjoy myself out on the water and catch a few fish whilst doing so.
My own personal theory (and it’s just a theory) is that trout can be compared to humans or any other animals for that matter. When food is in short supply, animals (including us) become aggressive to ensure that they have enough to eat. So during early season when there is little hatching fly life and food is in short supply, aggressive fish will snap and attractors pulled through their domain to defend their feeding areas.
Once food becomes abundant, fish will loose their aggressive instinct and be content to feed alongside other fish making attractors less productive. Many times over the years I have tried pulling a bright lure through the rings of fish sipping natural insects and rarely have I been rewarded! In these situations it’s often far more productive to work out the natural hatch and then match it.
As the season draws to a close and the hatches start to die off then lures and attractors may again prove useful although I tend to stick to fry patterns as the trout will often be feeding on the fry at that time of year. Attractors are chiefly used on still waters and not rivers. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know. Although I suspect its to do with the sporting traditions of fly fishing in the uk. Personally I don’t have a problem with it and many of my bright czech nymphs that I am catching grayling with presently are certainly more attractor than imitation!
In the states where they are not lumbered with a long fly fishing history they seem more relaxed about experimenting with different flies and not worrying about it too much.
So get yourself some bright luminous lumps of fluff and some lovely imitations of your favorite up wings, use them as you wish and enjoy yourself!