Using Color Technology To Catch More Fish - Fly Material Color Choice Considerations

Most fish are predators, and of all the various senses they have for locating their prey, vision is the most important one. So to eat our flies, fish need to be able to see our flies in the various water color conditions. Water comes in an endless variaty of 3 primary colors - Blue for clear water, Green for algae stained waters, and Red/Brown for turbid waters. Here is a link to an article that illustrates what happens when you use green, blue, and red fly tying materials on your flies fished in those same colors of waters. Please note the loss of contrast that green shows in green colored water, the loss blue has when it is viewed in blue colored water, and the same with red materials used in red/brown colored waters. As anglers, we want to make our flies easy for the fish to see.

The first photo in the series is of a stack of Larry LaRue’s Custom Painted Lures as they appear in normal artificial or day light conditions, then the same stack of lures as they would appear in green, blue, and in red colored waters. Its a real eye opener! Here is the link:

Joined: Wed Mar 02, 2011 10:01 am



The first thing you will notice is how much duller the lure stack colors turn in each water color compared to what they look like out of the water. You will also notice that in each water color condition, certain colors will really jump out at you - those same colors will be quite vivid to the fish as well. The really bright colors are the fluorescent colors that are used in Hot Spots, of a longer wave length than the wave length of the light that is illuminating the color you can so easily see. Also, please notice how visible Black is in all the different water color conditions. This information on color, water temperature and how fish respond to these things in their world are explored in much greater detail in: The Master Angler, by Phil Rabideau - Using color technology to CATCH MORE FISH, a source for which you can find in the Book Section on this board.


Karl, excellent info. Thank you.

Assumptions that humans and fish have different visual cells

Briefly …
Color change in each filter

Blue-white (gray) 50% filter


Amber 50% filter


Sense of purple and blue increases during spawning season of fish
Human and fish have different visual cells
Fluorescent colors are rarely used, but I think it will be possible with hot spots
I will also use tags and ribs

In reality there are no hot orange ants,
Is a valid pattern

Of course, size selection is important



There are how many schools of thought on fly selection? Datus Proper was all about presentation, with the fly shape/color being "suggestive. Others were all about matching the hatch. Then there are those that believe in flies being “attractor” patterns.

While I have no doubt that you are outfishing your comrades, I have to wonder if it’s like my investment counselor says: “It’s not about what type of plan you have, it’s that you actually have a plan”. The fact that you are thinking hard about fly selection implies that you are also taking care in other parts of your fishing routine - best water, good presentations, stealth…

But, to colors: What are your thoughts on using UV and/or hot spots in your flies?


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The important things are not whether fish and people see the same colors or things. Its Contrast that most often gets the job done in the vision areana. And whether the flies you fish look like what the trout are actually eating or not is usually not all that important either in most cases. I often fish a pattern until it catches 10 fish - which proves it is working satisfactorily for me. Then I change to different pattern for the next 10 fish. I have, at times, made as many as 16 fly changes in a day using both wet and dry fly patterns. Obviously, the fly patterns being fish were not a critical factor in that success, and this is often on stillwaters. I believe a “One Fly Angler” could have done just as well as I did under the same conditions. But numbers do not tell the whole tale. I refine things by how far and how fast the fish will move to take the pattern being fished, as always somethings will work better than others do. Wind and lighting conditions can also have a huge effect on how things work out and which colors or shades should be used.

If you think about it, aquatic insects have not evolved to advertise themselves to the fish as trout food. They have natural camouflage as do their predators. Motion is a primary trigger for visual and lateral line stimulation. Brightness is equally important as well as is pattern size which are all water temperature dependent elements to a large extent. I know that this all sounds pretty complicated but it really is a lot simpler and liberating after you learn how these things work.

Scot, I incorporate both UV and FL-Hot Spots in some of my fly patterns. A lot of natural materials are naturally UV Reflective but the trouble with UV is we don’t have any good way of actually knowing what is UV Reflective and what isn’t. A lot of fly tying materials that are labeled as being FL- aren’t. At least with the FLs, you can check it out for yourself with an LED Black Light flashlight before you buy. Mail order is a crap shoot. I can not tell you how many FL-Orange Ostrich Herl Plumes I have bought through the catalogs with out ever getting even one. Too much in the way of fluorescent materials will turn the fish off, but at least you can see what you are doing with a Black Light. The other side, and quite possibly the most important side, of UV is UV Light absorbing materials that we all know do a great job of catching fish. Peacock Herl and Swords and Wool Yarn to name a few.

Scot had doubts about whether a differential in catch rates was do to using the Color Technology or other factors. Here is an multi entry account on earlier done testing with various fly patterns so you can judge for yourselves.

@T-stillwater Interesting reading. As per your recommendation I bought a used copy of the Rabideau book. I will read it and try to employ/test what I absorb.

I am curious on what species of trout you primarily fish. Also, are they wild or stocked? The reason why I ask is that I do believe different strains of trout respond differently to color. Some seem more inclined to react to flashy patterns and although I have an entry level understanding of salmon as noted as the target species in the article, often the strategy with them is to annoy…so flashy colors are often what most anglers gravitate to.

There have been outings on the water where I will only catch brown trout with a certain fly with a bright hotspot and then switch to a brown fly and only catch brookies…in the same stretch of water. This was a specific reaction on a specific day. Its not as if those patterns are locked to a species, but that day they were.

To add in response to the Buzalsky article, his custom-painting spinners, plugs, wobblers, and flashers primarily do a specific thing. They send out a vibration and a signal that fish do and will pick up on a fish’s latteral line. The color may seal the deal, but the effectiveness of any lure is primarily tied to its signature in what it does in motion and how it displaces water.

These are my thoughts, and to disclose I do enjoy and usually absorb tactics from every angler I meet. Your convictions strong and methodical, so I do not have any doubts on your success. That said, I also understand what @Scott_T is alluding to. As in, because you are a methodical being you may be having success as a result of a culmination a many small decisions. I have a friend that is far more methodical than I and often he absolutely destroys me with his fish counts. Not always, but enough for me to recognize he has some mojo.

I am more in the school of presentation, then size/profile/signature, then value, then color…being the pecking order of what will convert fish. Color can pop up a couple notches in some cases when we run into fish that seem to be moody/keyed or not in a feeding mode. I dont always believe high visibility is important. Sometimes fish want the neon sign that says…this food is different, and sometimes it is better if the offering is harder for them to see. I dont carry much color in my flybox and am willing to forfeit the lost fish when it is a factor.

My flybox is pretty simple. I do use hot spots but not much color in the fly body. Pretty much the same fly in a couple sizes…but with tonal and material differences. Dark, light, brown, and flashy(metalic gold). Often on the water what i think will work doesn’t but the last item on the list is the winner. I enjoy the economy of having a smaller palette to choose from. For me this method works and not just for trout but for other species. I fish plugs for striped bass in the ocean. My color palette plug collection is very narrow. Relying on mostly on profile and presentation. I feel that I do pretty well with that approach.

I did not discover this guy until recently, but he explains a lot of philosophy I am aligned to.

I will read the Rabideau book. I think we can all agree is that color is part of the package when it comes to fish behavior. The more tools we have in the toolbox to draw from the better.


I posted this video in another area where the conversation was about line color…I figured some here into this might enjoy this video.

The key thing the narrator points out is that science can study the biology to learn what is CAPABLE of being seen but the brain translates the data the biological parts gather…how a trout’s brain interprets what it is capable of seeing we do not know. We also know that no two humans probably interpret what they see the same also.

I think both this video and what we know about what trout eat - we can for sure say they are adapted very well to targeting small, hard to see things in low light, cloudy water conditions and moving fast in fast water. It is really quite amazing when you think about how a trout can spot a midge larvae in fast water and nail it. I cannot even hit a still golf ball well :slight_smile:



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I fish for any and all trout that are available to be caught in our local areas, which would include rainbow, brook, brown, and golden trout. Where I fish, cutthroat trout have never been a significant enough species (numbers wise) to fish for, even though the State has tried to establish them here with out success many times in the distant past. Nevertheless I have caught a few cuts in one protected stream in our area, that is a Catch and Release Only mandated water. In northern California cuts are more common, including Lahontan Cutthroat Trout on East Slope streams and lakes, and Searun Cutthroat Trout on the coastal streams and rivers.

As much as possible I prefer to fish for wild fish. Although just what constitutes a “Wild Fish” is a little complicated to define. Is a trout that is dropped out of an airplane into a lake as a sub-fingerling and grows up wild on its own a Wild Trout? If your answer is yes, and I believe it should be, then that would greately expand my wild fish fishing opportunities.

Before 1860 there were no trout in the High Sierra besides the golden trout of the Kern River drainage. Rainbows (which would include sea going Steelhead Trout) were native to the rivers and streams of the Central Valley and the West Slope of the Sierra Nevada Range, up to about the 6,000 foot elevation. Above there, waterfall and cascade barriers to further upstream migration prevented any farther fish population growth. So all the fish we have above 6,000 feet (besides the golden trout in one small area) have been planted at one time or another. Various strains of rainbow, brown, and brook trout have been introduced and do support some natural reproduction in some lakes and streams, but not enough to establish a state wide fishery. And the fisheries we do have are heavily augmented by the California Fish and Wildlife’s vast hatchery system, which also supports the stocked Put-And-Take Fisheries that the majority of our anglers enjoy fishing for. So while we do have wild fish in one form or another, very few of those wild trout are the native trout of California.

For me good Presentations are the top priority. The “right pattern” presented poorly has almost no chance of succeeding. Whereas the wrong fly presented well will more often than not succeed. I haven’t noticed different trout species having particular pattern preferences beyond a few vague applications, such as: Browns are partial to patterns with White elements, Brook Trout like black patterns, Golden Trout are partial to red and orange, while Rainbows have a hankering for Silvery patterns. Around here rainbows like the fastest waters, browns the slower currents with log jams and over hung trees, and brook trout prefer the slowest water of all.

I believe it is wise to try to appeal to all of the fish’s senses to maximize our chances for success in catching them, but utilizing smelly baits is not something I care about doing. You, on the other hand, may have different ideas about scents. But first, check your state’s fish and game regulations to make sure it is legal to use them. While Rabideau emphasizes color to a high degree in the title and substance of his book, you will find that there is also a very strong emphasis on the total package and all that that entails, much more so than the book’s title implies.

Adam, thank you very much for putting up the video! Its about the most through and best illustrated production I have ever seen on these all important angler to fish/ fish to fly elements of our fishing environments.


Karl, if you like that video Adam posted, that video is sort of a repackage of some earlier work of Oz. David posted the Wendell Ozfovich work several years ago and I bought the series on dvd before they got on youtube. Even though the filming quality is not the best the info is worth its weight in gold. All of it really changes the way I think about the river and trout. David posted this thread of the collection.

@dwalker If I never thanked you for introducing this stuff to us, thank you David!!! There is not a day I step on the river that I do not think about that footage. I always especially enjoy that image of a dozen trout hiding in the bunker under the boulder. I always enjoy targeting those river caves and it puts a smile on my face to see a fish dart out to grab my fly and drag the prize back to its cave.

I know this is weird but when they do that it reminds me of how barnacles feed.


I’ve been enjoying this thread since it started, with some great sense of amusement.
Before I took up fly fishing I spent better than a decade fishing for yellowfin tuna on long multi-day trips out of San Diego. During that time I had the chance to converse with two marine biologists for many evenings on tagging trips, often focusing on what tuna see and how that influences their behavior.

Fish are predators, superbly adapted to seeing food that’s very well adapted to not being eaten. The overwhelming key to that is being able to detect movement and instantly act upon that stimulus, much much more than seeing detail. Movement above all else.

I’ve taken that with me to fly fishing, and now tenkara.
Movement with a fairly drab fly, that’s all I focus on.
Works for me, but maybe that’s just me.

@Gressak , looking at these barnacles reminds me of my Winters /Early Springs as a kid. They would roll the heavy wooden boats up on shore and either prop them on their side or elevate them up on larger logs. When the bottom of the boats were dry I’d scrape the barnacles off, sand the bottoms, and use pitch rope to cord any holes/ cracks on the boats. I then mixed hot chili powder and red pepper flakes in the paint and painted the boat’s bottoms.3 times.This is how I made my money from the men who made their living on the water (The Watermen). I loved seeing them repairing their nets, fixing their crab pots, and working on the oyster tongs. I saved my money and bought a motorcycle at 15. I would ride it on all the back roads and thought I was hot sh*t. No helmet, no license, and no care in the world. It was a good way to meet girls back then.
Anyway, thanks for the memories, I had completely forgotten about those days until I saw the video.

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Thank you for sharing your memories, I enjoyed them very much…Karl

@Gressak Stephen, the date of the upload of the video that Adam Rieger posted is kind of mystery. It is dated as being uploaded on - The New Fly Fisher - youtube channel - Feb 27, 2020. But The New Fly Fisher channel had uploaded that video Nov 27, 018. In fact The New Fly Fisher uploaded all three of the Underwater Oz video about the same time Nov 27 2018. A month later on Dec 25, 2018. I had looked for the third video to be uploaded about the end of January 2019, but it wasn’t. Then someone else here on 10CT found that the third video was uploade Feb 28, 2019. Originally The New Fly Fisher used a different title than UnderwaterOz used, but has now gone back and changed the youtube titles to be the same title UnderwaterOz named his DVDs. Underwater World of Trout Part Three | Trout Vision The Underwater World of Trout Part One | Discovery The Underwater World of Trout part two | Feeding Lies

A couple days ago The New Fly Fisher uploaded a 6:29 minute video clip from one of the UnderwaterOz videos - Underwater Small Stream Trout Feeding -

Who has tried tying a fly that looks like a bit of floating vegetation ?


Hi James. Movement, for sure is a key trigger factor. But what a lot of anglers don’t realize is that that movement involves a lot more than just a patterns movement through the water. Fish eyes are hard-wired to detect the slightest movement (like the tiny flutters of a minute mayfly nymph’s breathing gills) and that movement detection automatically transmits exciter signals to the fish’s brain to alert it to actions of either eat, reject, or run for for your life!.

I believe the popularity and use of the UV - Resins is a big step backward for anglers. Sure the patterns tied using these techniques are visually quite stunning and lifelike in apperance but, they have none of the minute motion that real food forms exhibit. Also, in my experience, fish hold on to something that feels life-like (soft and pliable) a lot longer than they do hard (stick-like) fly patterns, which gives the angler a little more time in which to get successful hook ups.

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Awesome conversation everyone. I will have very little to add beyond commentary about how much this has caused me to question my previous assumptions about fly presentation and what excites a fish.

D, thank you for posting the additional information link addresses, which can and will be put good and informative use.

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