One of the coolest things about fly tying is that it's all up to you. The creative possibilities are near endless. For this reason, one of the major aspects of fly fishing for me is fly tying. As a kid I tied all the classic trout patterns: wooly buggers, pheasant tail nymphs, hare's ear, eggs, etc., but it didn't even take a day for me to want to try new things.
This mentality of tying unique flies has stuck with since my birth in the fly tying world. Now that my tying has advanced a little bit since the early years I now see several advantages to tying and fishing unique patterns, and I'm actually able to put some of my ideas into practice.
Below are 3 brief and random ideas revolving around unique patterns you may find helpful and hopefully they will give you some confidence in the unique:
1 - Bypass security
Unique patterns have shown to be very successful on the pressured waters I call home. When you're tossing a pattern that's unique the fish will either have never seen it before, or it will be more unfamiliar to them. So, here's what I think is happening, many of the staple patterns drift over the same fish day in and day out (Prince Nymph, Glo Bug Egg, Wooly Bugger, Adams, etc.). The fish seem to learn what's going on pretty quickly. When you drift something a little peculiar over them it evades all of the security mechanisms that normally tell the fish "DON'T EAT THAT THING" thus, your chances of the fish actually taking the pattern increases. Another possibility is, their curiosity gets the best of them. They don't have hands to find out if something is food, so the only way they can test it out is if they eat it. If it doesn't taste like food they can spit it out, and if that thing is a fly they may get a free lip piercing!
KEEP IN MIND, I am not saying you can't fool big fish on classic patterns, of course, of course, of course, you can! However, I've found that by fishing patterns that are just a little (or a lot different) you run a better chance of tangoing with a solid fish or even more fish, especially on pressured waters.
2 - Unique doesn't always mean completely new
Creating something completely new in the fly tying world is rare. Most every "new" fly is based off of a pre-existing pattern, concept, or idea. It's uncommon for something truly innovative or creative to emerge like: Game Changers, Intruder style flies, articulated streamers, mop flies (did I just say that?) or Dragon Tails, which are only a few few of the innovative things that have come out recently.
That being said, unique patterns can be just be a classic pattern with a little different variation. For example, one of the confidence micro streamers in my box is a small wooly bugger pattern with a Fish Skull Sculpin Helmet. It's landed me a lot of fish, and my confidence in it has grown to such an extent that I don't even fish traditional style buggers anymore. It's not completely new fly pattern by any standards, but it's unique, and I think the change of profile and the additional weight creates just enough of a change in profile that it gets eaten.
A Frenchie is another pattern that is unique, but maintains a lot of classic aspects of a Pheasant Tail Nymph, one of the most popular trout flies on the planet. I'll let you guess which one ends up on the end of my tippet more often..
3 - Don't knock it 'till you try it
When fishing I typically want to enjoy a day out on the water and catch fish, as most do. It's hard to feel as though I am wasting time trying out some new pattern when I know my old flies work. However, this routine mindset quickly leads into falling into a rut. You go to the same pools, fish the same flies, the same ways, every time out. Sure you'll catch fish, but that doesn't mean you'll grow as an angler, and for me growing as an angler is more important than just catching the same fish in the same pools.
What I've determined to do is to fish a new pattern almost every time I go out, especially when the fishing is good. No, not for the whole time out, but at least a little portion. Because I tie my own flies this is easy to do, if you are not a tier you can just buy a few single unique patterns and see what works for you!
Here's a twisted little test you can try - when the fish seem to be eating everything try and see what they will not eat. It's in those times that I've found some interesting discoveries on just how far fish are willing to go to get a meal (or snack), and what patterns they shun like the plague. I've gained a lot of new patterns because by trying this often, and I've stopped fishing a lot of patterns that don't seem to provide me success even when the fish are eating everything.
Really, what I want to instill in people is, confidence in the unique. You don't have to go out and use the same pattern every time. Just because you're pretty sure it will catch fish doesn't mean it's the only pattern you should ever fish! Try something new! Grow! Expand your knowledge!