What is it About Red?
Paul Prentiss
Have you ever wondered why some colors always seem to produce results? I'm incredibly partial to red. Perhaps it's a confidence thing, but I can consistently catch fish on Royal Wulff, red ants, blood midges, red Copper John's, and so on.

Last week a group of friends and I were fishing the Rio Grande, several local creeks and small lakes in the area of South Fork - see the La Garita Club article. What was our number one fly? A size 16 red Copper John tied with and without white rubber legs. It took my best fish of the trip, a 23-inch rainbow. It also proved irresistible to a number of large Brown Trout.
In Gary La Fontaine's book "The Dry Fly" he points out that color intensity which can trigger attraction varies throughout the day. His sense of it was that the color of sunlight (direct or reflected) interacts with the color of the fly - certain combinations are intense and others are dull.

I think that red works well more often than not because it's is a natural exciter, the color of blood, and it maintains its intensity across a broad time horizon. I firmly believe that it can trigger a strike even when trout may not be in the mood to feed. Moreover, it stands out in a contrasting manner against most backgrounds and can be easily spotted by the fish.

One of my favorite strike indicators when fishing nymphs or emergers is the Royal Wulff created by the famous Lee Wulff.

Materials for the Classic Pattern:

  • HOOK: Standard Dry Fly: TMC 100 or equivalent.
  • THREAD: 3/0 to 8/0 depending on the size of the fly.
  • TAIL: Deer hair. Note many different types of material can be used!
  • BUTT: Peacock Herl.
  • BODY: Red Floss.
  • WING: White Calf Body or Tail.
  • HACKLE: Brown Dry Fly Hackle.


All dry flies available in 1930 were, according to Lee Wulff, anemic and too delicate, which he ascribed to their British tradition. The reason for very slim flies was that if a fly was too bulky the feather materials did not have the buoyancy to hold it up. Wulff also noted that dry flies with wings and tails of feathers get slimed up and are not very durable. To Wulff, the solution was obvious - use bucktail for tails and wings. The Royal Wulff was among the first of such flies.