Irrespective of where one goes to fish for salmon on asking, “which fly fishes best here,” the answer is likely to be “Blue Charm.” Joseph Bates in his book Atlantic Salmon Flies and Fishing states “this is a relatively simple British classic pattern which is good everywhere and which is a highly favored fly in angler’s fly boxes generally.” My son uses it invariably; I occasionally. Two or three turns of silver wire, a short three or four turns of a yellow floss, a golden pheasant crest feather, a body of black floss, ribbing of gold tinsel, a wing of gray squirrel, and a throat or collar of deep blue hackle and you have it. There are a number of versions, but the dark blue throat is a must. So why does this fly have such a reputation? My academic background to search for the truth in all things has driven me to examine the popularity of this fly with objectivity, realizing that a true deduction related to salmon fishing would be difficult, if not possible, to acquire.
Recently while tying a few Blue Charms for a give away fly box, the opportunity arose to examine the fly with circumspect. No question, the basic design of the fly was most appealing. Then the realization came to me that essentially the same body occurs in the Black Bear Yellow Butt, and the Black Dose. I then turned over the pages of Flies for Atlantic Salmon by Dick Stewart and Farrow Allen, and found to my amazement that there is a litany of flies using the same body as Blue Charm, including Black Fairy, Black Fitch Tale, Black Bomber, CZ Special, Catch-A-Me Lodge, Chipper Lodge and many others. So it appeared safe to deduct that it was not the body of the Blue Charm that made it so especial. Now a wing of gray squirrel is not particularly unique, as again the squirrel tail is used in many flies. So we come down to the color blue; dark blue.
What has the color of a salmon fly have to do with how it fishes? I am of the opinion that in the greatest percentage (90%?) of cases if a salmon is going to strike, color of the fly is not a factor. (forgetting the type of day and the old adage, dark day- bright fly, etc.) One catches most salmon with the fly he fishes most with, and how boring fishing would be if one were ensconced with the belief that the only fly that fishes is the General Practitioner, for example. So what about the other 10 percent? There is no question but that homo sapiens may have distinct physiological reactions to certain colors, and of course the reaction of the bull to the color red is well known. So why not salmo salar? We don’t know why the salmon rises to the fly to begin with. Most of us have had experiences with choosy salmon. One evening while fishing on the Medway River in Nova Scotia, a salmon rose to my fly but did not take. Every time I changed the fly, the salmon would rise again, seven fly changes in all, and only darkness intervened to end this most interesting interlude. That this salmon was aware of colour changes, they’re’ s no question. Joseph D. Bates in the previously mentioned book, Salmon Fishing Flies and Fishing, writes of the experience of John C. Cosseboom while fishing in the Margaret River. Cosseboom was convinced that a fly with a red head (as seen on the Cosseboom fly) would fish better than one with a black head. A competition took place with a friend who would fish with a black headed fly, as to who would have the most action, red head vs black head.. No conclusion was reached. Mike Murray, head guide at Watiqua II on the Upsalquich River in New Brunswick, related to me an experience while guiding a sport. A salmon had risen several times without taking, and Mike observed that the salmon was rising to the yellow knot that connected the line to the leader. When he advised the sport to try a small yellow fly, an immediate successful strike resulted. One October while fishing the Margaree River, I had fish rise on four different occasions, all to an all blue fly (not the Blue Charm) Joe Chaisson, my guide, suggested that in the fall, every color in the rainbow except blue floats in the river, and perhaps that was the reason for the blue fly activity. While fishing on the Eagle River in Labrador, I found the Little Brown Bug to be the most efficient fly. Now the Brown Bug, similar to the Green Machine except in color, is lackluster, and the usual angler passes it by. Who would ever use such a drab, colorless affair? Notwithstanding, there is little question but that one must conclude that in certain cases, the salmon may have an especial attraction for a special color, but not to a specific color, so let us remove the blue from Blue Charm as the reason for its popularity.
That leaves us with the second word of the name, CHARM. The phonetics of the word immediately impart a WARM feeling, and note, the last three letters are the same. So immediately one has a warm feeling about the fly. Secondly, the word implies that the fly imparts an especial force, such as in a charmed person. (vis. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), only in this instance the force is directed on the salmon. Now we are getting somewhere. Is this the secret of the Blue Charm’s popularity? Is it all in one’s mind? Would the fly have the same popularity if we called it the Blue Skunk, or Blue Blooper? Well, I contemplated, there is one way to solve the situation. We will omit the blue colr, and insert other colous, i.e. Green Charm, Red Charm, Black Charm. In an attempt to prove this point, I have tied Charms with throats of various colous, as illustrated. They will be given to as many fishermen as I can find and seek their results. While not of a wagering persuasion, I have no doubt but that the Green Charm and Charm family. will be just as successful as its blue relative. Perhaps we can thus start a new salmon fly series-the Charm series. But then, possibly the “charm” effect is indeed acting. Oh well.
It is not the intent of the author to attempt to unlock the mysteries in salmon fishing. In his book, The Complete Angler, Izaak Walton has as its subtitle, The Contemplative Man’s Recreation, and possibly this dissertation has such an association. The probability is that the above words will be happily disregarded by most fishermen, who will continue to cast the Blue Charm with great zeal, and who will regard the author as having head sickness. After all, what difference? Fishing is just an excuse to get us on the river and to enjoy the boundless bounties of nature anyway.