I cast the small, white lure into the pool and retrieved it slowly. As it swung into the main current it danced back and forth. A small brook trout couldn’t resist the lifelike imitation and pounced on it before it reached mid-stream.
Many flies, jigs and lures use white on them, and there is a good reason for it – white works. White is a very effective colour because it imitates many small bait fish which trout and other sport fish feed on. Almost all small fish have white bellies, so when a trout sees a flash of white going by they immediately think it is food and give chase. Many streamer flies tied to imitate spawning smelt use white somewhere in the pattern. This sometimes takes the form of a white wing or body, while others often use a throat of polar bear hair. Polar bear hair is very shiny, and the added flash is very attractive to trout.
Three other colours which are attractive to sport fish, are red, black and yellow. Red seems to have a universal attraction to fish. When small bait fish are being chased by bigger fish they often flare out their gill coverings, exposing their bright red gills. Also, when fish are injured they sometimes bleed and that is an indication to any predator that they are easy pickings. Trout will hone in on any minnow showing these symptoms. To imitate this many streamer flies incorporate a throat, or tail, of red wool or hackle in the pattern.
Lures also often have small red spinners attached to the hooks. Black is another effective colour. Since most minnows have black backs with white bellies, any combination of black and white in either a fly, lure or jig can be deadly. Streamer flies such as the Black Ghost or the Black Nose Dace are predominately black and white patterns which are great minnow imitations. Some of the best lures and flies use a combination of all three colours to increase their effectiveness.
White and red is perhaps the best known combination of colours used in fishing lures. The best example of this colour combination is the Red Devil, a classic lure that has been fooling all types of fish for years. Flies such as the Royal Coachman, Royal Wulff and Thor are all red and white patterns that have also proven their effectiveness. Perhaps the simplest fly around, the Red and White, is a great attractor pattern to use in either the spring for trout, or for fall salmon. Another popular lure, the Five of Diamonds, combines yellow and red. The Mickey Finn, perhaps the most popular bucktail out there combines yellow and red in a great fishing pattern.
So, when you hit the water make sure you have a good combination of variously coloured lures and flies in your tackle box. With them, you will fool some of the fish, most of the time!
Don MacLean is an outdoor writer and biologist who lives in Pictou County.