I think I’ve learned more from Canadian ghillies about successful trout fly patterns over the years than anyone else. They seem to excercize the mantra, “the simpler the better”, and I’m a firm believer in this affirmation. For the most part trout food is fairly understated, modest in profile, and buggy. My most consistent and successful fly patterns are fairly dull, not a lot of flash if any, and only carry subtle hints of color variation. I suppose when you really think about it mayflys are two-toned, there are only two colors contrasting against one another on any mayfly with the exception of any varigations. Hues of green, yellow, umber, and rust are the basic color ways. These colors are accompanied by a range of cool and warm grays that range from 1-10 on a gray scale. These are the colors I mix and dye my feathers to emulate both mayflys and caddis flys. Terrestrials are a whole nother ball of wax but even these patterns need not be overly complex and garrish. I’m not a big fan of attractor flys of any kind in part because they are usually over designed in profile and color, and they are somebody else’s interpretation of nature and not my own. So simple streamlined patterns ring true to me. Some of the Scottish guides that I have come in contact with are extremely resouceful, frugal with materials, and creative. This is a great combination of traits for creating simple and effective “guide” patterns.
Several years ago I was fishing the Grand River in Ontario and I was fishing alongside a guide who handed me a “wee tuft” of CDC and Coq De Leon on a dry #22 hook. I was fishing over a very large brown, over 22 inches and he was not budging so I tied on the “wee tuft” and the Scottish guide said “off you go”, and off I went! My little 7' Trails End started bending and bucking. Flashy flys look great in magazines, but when they’re all dressed up and nowhere to go effectiveness is revealed, a second date is undeserved.