Indulge in colors of the fishing palette

Between casts I stopped to admire the scenery glittering at my feet.


Big hunks of brick- and seaweed-colored sockeye navigate the translucent azure. Water ripples, grabs the sunlight and flings it onto my sunglasses.

In the shadows reflections of the trees are above mixed with the mirage images of pebbles in every shade of grey, brown and white I’ve never fully considered.

White seagulls are washed out among the clouds only pronounced by their orange beaks. The forest is a symphony of greens and blacks. My line paints a trace of yellow in the air as it whips my fly into place.

Colors on the Russian River are on my mind. No painting could possibly capture the range of shades, highlights and tones present in this environment. It’s overload for a color addict like myself.

I open my wooden fly box and see much of the same. Flesh flies are every shade of red, pink, brown, white and orange. They are blended carefully with washed-out eggs and beads. My egg-sucking leeches scream from their nests: hot hues with shining tinsil. Smolt patterns are a sublime gold, black and brown and the rest have their own unique combination of dazzlers.

I can see more fish holding in a deep pocket. Thin wisps of red on their sides wiggle and writhe. Their heads are blue, green and silver mixed. I pop a polar shrimp pattern on a nose and a flash of light and energy is called from the depth with a strike.

Netting the sockeye I admire its chrome scales each a new variance on the old melting into a canvas that’s familiar but entirely unique. After popping its gills, its color seems to leave stolen and redistributed into the bloody water.

These colors aren’t found anywhere else. Fishing colors are alive. They don’t sit, they dance and, in a moment, they scatter.

Think of a king — purple and black speckled with chrome and green all wrapped up and dashed with a black lipstick reminiscent of Bettie Page. The king of pin up queens, indeed.

But each day it changes, growing crimson and it heads deeper into the turquoise.

Since I started paying attention to fishing colors I’ve been surprised with what I find. Around every fly and in each fish is a new discovery. Each river is a different color each day. As the sun sets and the stars come out, the river mirrors the world around and I soak it up unashamed because I know not so long ago it was drab, colorless and white.

When I pay attention to colors in the fishing palette I remember more about my fishing trips and of the fish I’ve caught and the experiences I’d rather not lose.

So, take a minute and really look at these fishing colors of ours. Consider them not because they mean any thing in particular. But because they are a thin frosting. Indulge.


Brian Smith is city editor for the Peninsula Clarion, an avid fisherman and painting enthusiast. Email him at


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