Do You Give Any Consideration To Segmentation In Tying or Choosing Fly Patterns?

Mayflies, Stoneflies and Caddisflies all have 10 abdomenal body segments. The Midge family has 9, Damsels and Dragonflies have 8, Crayfish have 7, Sow Bugs have 8, while Scuds have 14 body segments. How many segment markings do you put on the fly patterns that you tie and fish?

Camouflage, Disruptive Coloration And Markings, For Fly Tying And Fly Pattern Selection

Most of the food forms fish eat have evolved with camouflaging pattern markings and disruptive coloration to protect them from becoming fish food. The fish, on the other hand, have also developed very astute visual abilities and they are hard wired to automatically see these symmetrical and random types of patterns that will excite the fish’s brain into prodding it toward attack or run for your life type actions, which are things we anglers and fly tiers should know all about and pay attention to before tying our flies and picking fly patterns to fish with. Here is a link to an article on The Mayflies Of Alaska, which is mostly pictures of 9 different mayfly nymph families, showing their segmentation and other common characteristics.

Please pay particular attention to the Segmentation, the Symmetrical and Random Markings, the different Body Types and Breathing Gill structures, and try to imagine how these things can be incorporated into our fly patterns.,%20Katherine%20Hocker,%20Robert%20H.%20Armstrong.pdf

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I like copper wire wraps but the count is sugestive and only some of my flies have them.

I am not sure if i fish them because i like the way they look or if the trout. I tend to fish a lot of wool body flies which i guess is lumpy or suggestive of segmention…or they just look buggy.

That oz series notes that trout vision is only in focus within inches. Factor in backlighting. Fast water, or stained water… i doubt segments or none is going to make a difference.

The whole premise of tenkara sort of leans on impression and gesture and not so much on matching details.


I tend to believe a fly with a segmented look might have an advantage when fishing slow water or pond/lake fishing, where the fish has more time to look at the fly before deciding it might be a real bug and decide to grab it.

Than when fishing faster water where the fly floats by quickly. Where basic shape, color, size, and how the fly moves may be more important than fine details of the fly’s appearance. The fish has to either grab it, or later tell fish tales about the tasty meal that zipped by so fast it got away because he was too slow grabbing it.

I am not a note taker that has collected data from fishing outings that supports that opinion. It’s just an opinion I think might be true. Otherwise sometimes tying a fly with a segmented look is just kind of a fun way to vary how I tie a fly.

With apology to Billy Crystal, for inverting and mauling his famous quote. Sometimes in slow water, “It’s not how you move, it’s how you look, and you look marvelously segmented.” :roll_eyes:

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That is interesting. I will need to try that next time i fish a slow pool. What fly patterns do you fish in ponds?

Looking at the pdf what is more striking to me is the variation in profile and proprtion vs the segments.

A trout’s power of resolution is 1/14th of what a human eye is capable of, so the fish is going to get a pretty poor quality image of what it is seeing in its brain no matter what. Which also goes a very long way in explaining just why fish will take the pathetic representations we tie and fish, compared to what the real bugs look like in the water, which the photos clearly show on how lacking our flies really are. That’s why detail, largely, is not a very important element in a fly’s acceptability and productivity.

But looking at segmentation as being an insignificant detail only is not indicative of its true potential. Most tiers give a pattern 3 or 4 wraps and call it good enough, when the real bug has two to three times that many segments, and that many wraps becomes a significant and integral part of the whole bug’s body picture, not just a small detail of each individual wrap. And where is it written that wool bodied flies have to be tied with out ribbing? I rib mine all the time and they catch fish quite well - Mostly on scuds and midge pupa but also on my Herl Things, which imitate nothing in nature.

Probably, the most important contributions segmentation (ribbing) makes is in the areas of contrast and flash. Flash is a real attention grabber no matter what, with more wraps contributing more flash up to the limit of the bug’s actual segment number. Other wise, why not just put on a spinning lure if you want the ultimate in flash? And if your ribbing is Dark on Light and Light on Dark as it should be, that appeals to the fish’s Hard Wired in Automatic Brain Stimulating System to take notice and eat to test for acceptable food. Contrast is one of the most effective fish catching tools we anglers can have at our disposal. And if flash is turning the fish off, go with dark on dark and light on light and eliminate contrast with the fish viewing background. But, in my experience, you will catch more fish doing it the other way around.

+1. Using a fine wire for a segmented appearance is also a way to add a little durability plus a little contrast and/or extra flash to fragile body materials like Peacock Herl, floss, marabou, and (unbraided) tinsel. However, I typically don’t add anything for segmenting Dazzleaire bodies. I will just twist the yarn for a slightly segmented appearance but pick it out a little with Velcro hooks to add “flash” and motion.

As D mentioned, the durability contribution of ribbing is a significant plus, and the twisting of yarns or dubbing noodles, while not ribbing, certainly gives a desired segmented look to a fly’s body contour. And like strengthening fragile tying materials, ribbing performs another mechanical function that is most helpful in the catching of fish.

Have you ever wondered why Pheasant Tail, Hare’s Ear dubbing blends, Peacock Herl, and Marabou and Ostrich Herl plumes are such effective fish catching materials? Remember all the pictures of the Mayfly Nymphs and their breathing gills? In the photos the gills are still. But in real life, the tiny fibers that make up the gills are in constant motion. And the fish are also Hard Wired to see that motion and be excited by it in to eating what they see, if nothing else puts them off. Ribbing any pattern with wire creates Hills and Valleys in those and other similar fly tying materials, and that causes the many fibers making up the body material to flutter in the water vortexes created by the water flowing over the ridges and through the valleys in running waters and in retrieve in still waters, mimicking the real thing’s breathing action almost perfectly. The motion creating component of the act of applying ribbing is, I believe, not generally understood or fully appreciated.


I tie both wool both ribbed and unribbed. I mostly use the ribbing for weight and aesthetics. I am not convinced that ribs or rib count makes much of a difference as other more important attributes. I cannot speak for ponds but most of the water i fish, the trigger is presentation, followed by profile, followed by color. Hard to put a number on it but i would guess ribbing/segmentation was factored into percentages might account for .01 % of a possible consideration for how I fish / approach a river.

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Leisenring Spider


David, thank you so much for adding the video. That’s one I haven’t seen before and it illustrated some new, to me, tying techniques that will be much simpler, easier and quicker for my tying of certain patterns. I don’t use dubbing much anymore but, the same techniques will work better with herl wrapped bodies than the way I have done it in the past. For an even more life-like hackle appearance, try stripping all the hackle fibers off the stem on the hook-side before tying the hackle in. Thanks, you always make great contributions…Karl.

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