I was first introduced to foam flies around ten years ago. One of my favourite dry flies up to that point was the big ugly ‘Madam X’, which is basically a big clump of deer or elk hair, over a yellow body, with rubber legs in the shape of an X, hence the name.
Madam X was very successful for me, but it had a major drawback, the same one that affects all fur, hair and feather dry-flies, you have to dry the damn things every five seconds.
So when I saw foam flies I was hooked, and as it transpires so were plenty of fish. I would back a big fugly foam fly splashed down over fish feeding on miniscule somethings, to an imitative pattern any day.
“It’s an ages-old question: Do trout sometimes prefer a beat-up pattern?”
The excellent MidCurrent blog features an excellent (of course) article by Paul Schullery on the old question of whether ratty, beat-up flies catch more fish than neat’n’tidy offerings.
If you buy store-bought flies, have a read of these articles and then take to your flies with something rough like a piece of hacksaw blade or a piece of Velcro. Picking out some fur with a pin or needle will help too. And as the article says if your fly gets a bit ratty, but is still catching fish, for goodness sake keep using it.
Commercially tied flies are tied to meet the demands of the first rule of fishing tackle retailing; ‘First Catch Your Fisherman’. I should know – I owned a tackle shop for ten years.