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Why Purple?

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I'm mostly a match-the-hatch guy and prefer natural colors so I'm confused. But I'm not above learning a thing or two. For you science guys (and you know who you are), what is it about the color purple that trout find attractive? It doesn't seem to be very predominant in nature. Purple pheasant tails, zebra midge, soft hackles, wooly buggers, all seem to out fish other colors at times. I have seen more blog suggestions for purple flies lately and it makes me wonder if it has science behind it.

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All I know that trout aren't the only ones who like perple. Salmon, haulibut, grayling, bass, sunfish, and many more.

I think that in the water it has a diferent color, like orange.

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Under what conditions does purple do best?

 

My success with purple has been at night and in discolored water leading me to believe that it is the contrast that counts.

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Purple egg sucking leaches are magical up here. We don't have anything purple up here and we don't have leaches either, just the purple egg sucking ones.

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Light being absorbed by the water causes colors to disappear with depth or distance; I'm guessing that in low light conditions the colors disappear much faster- from an article by Steve Starling of Australia:

 

red is the first color visible to our eyes to disappear, and is typically gone within 15 or 20 feet of the surface. much less in turbid water. Orange disappears next, then yellow, green, and purple. Blues penetrate deepest of all, both the tones visible to our human eyes and also the shorter, ultra-violet wavelength many fish can see.

view-from-below-003.png

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Flytire, that is the best wooly bugger I have ever seen. Pure beauty. I want to tie that so bad. How do you tie it?

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In the Little Red Book of Fly Fishing, Kirk Deeter has a writeup on the color purple. In this writeup he writes "One theory is that purple catches fishes' eyes better than other shades. Among trout, for example, we know, according to Dr. Robert Behnke, author of Trout and Salmon in North America, that the cones in the retinas of trout eyes are more receptive to shades on the blue side of the spectrum." He goes on to say that "when they're on a hatch, matching size and color is key, but when they are just opportunity feeding, gaudy is better". I have actually used purple PT's on my home stream with good success. It's not my "go to" color, but I have used it as a second or third choice. On one particular day I nailed two 20-inch trout using the fly so I can say that I am a believer in purple flies.

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I would pretty much think it has to do with visibility and contrast. The funny thing is that purple when wet and underwater looks black to our eyes so why does it outfish a black fly. Since so many of my years were spent chasing bass, a lot of that time in tournaments, I used a lot of purple worms, jigs and lures. There were times when walleye would key on purple jigs or twisters over other colors and again, like many mentioned, there was no natural purple baits in the water. Actually, there is a purple striped dace in some waters but I don't think that makes a difference to all the other waters purple works so well in.

 

As for that hideous looking fly flytire had to post, I have purple marabout, purple hackle, purple poly to sub for the chenille, and I'm going to go to work and try to get something close to that.

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Many years ago down in Islamorada a small shop had a bunch of purple saddle hackle (strung saddles) as well as bright orange... I was asked to do up a few patterns to help them sell those overstocked materials. Purple and orange? So thats exactly what I did... Then someone took a really big tarpon with one of those strange looking bugs... and they quickly sold out of all those purple and orange feathers.

 

A few years later a famous guide asked me to do up a seasons worth of tarpon flies and specified that half needed to be natural grizzly tailed with fl. Green collars and the remaining half be all orange dyed grizzly (both collars and tails in all orange dyed neck and saddle hackles..) -since thats all he used.

 

Turns out he was color blind and called the fl. green & grizzly the light pattern and the orange grizzly the dark pattern... since thats what he actually saw when it was in the water in front of a big tarpon.

 

Me, I figure its what you have confidence in -that you will present properly and then fish the best you know how.

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I wondered, when I was bass fishing, why purple would provide better contrast than black, since the most common theory was that purple looked black in the depths.

 

We're all familiar with custom cars. Whether you've owned one or just admired one, everyone probably knows what "Candy Apple" colors are. Layers of lacquer until there's a depth that looks inches deep.

 

Just an opinion with no possible way for me to prove it: Purple is the "color wheel" combination of red and blue. Red fades out first as we go deeper in the water, leaving the blue, which fades out last. I think that gives a purple colored lure or fly the "Candy Apple" effect we love in car finishes. The blue is in there, visible to the fish, but it's ... ghostly ... flickering as the lure is moved.

 

Maybe, maybe not.

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Thanks. Appreciate the input. I assumed of course that there was a little confidence and a little visibility involved in the answer. Chartreuse has always been great in stained water but that seems more obvious to me. I agree that purple in the water would be close enough to black, so why not black? Interesting though.

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-and just to stir the pot... our all time most productive big tarpon fly in the backcountry of the Everglades is a great big all black fly (6 to 7 long, large bead chain eyes, tied on an extra strong 4/0 hook...) called a Tarpon Snake, one of my contract patterns with Umpqua Feather Merchants.... and Im pretty sure it would be just as effective in purple.

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The various fish that I've targeted most over the years, all have shown preferences for specific colors at one time or another. For Stripers & LM Bass, purple & black was always a good combination much of the time. I've used them both individually too and both would again produce many fish.

 

I can't say for sure why or how any of these colors are seen by these fish we chase or why they respond to them. I've tried a ton of different colors for both flies & lures and except for black, white & chartreuse, which I have had the most success with using, can't say that any other colors have worked more times than not. IMO, there's a lot more to it than just color and the fishes environment is constantly changing, which is possibly why they change preferences for some colors.

 

I don't think it matters. Fishing and using different colors has been going on long enough that we have a good idea about when to use certain colors, so it only matters that the fish respond in a positive manner. When they don't, it's easy to change to something else. Keeps the fly & tackle shops in business too! rolleyes.gif

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