This is certainly not an opinion that every fly fisher will share, as flies are as personal to the waters in which you fish, as they are to the angler who ties them.
All my friends and anyone whose strapped on one of my creations will attest to the fact that I am to fly tying what crochet is to contraception. But my well worn retort is that pretty flies are for pretty fishermen!
The Hydrocynus family have the literal translation of Water Dog, in large it would I believe, be due to their ferocity and I would like to think because, that a nip from one of these beasts is worse than your average dog bit.
I am a believer in function over form when it comes to Tigers and here's my five favourite patterns that I never go on a fly fishing trip without. Most of these flies can be tied on anything between a size 2 to a 4/0 depending on which size and species of tiger you're looking to attract.
They are unbelievable predators, deserving of the apex status in the water food chain. Their tactics are to mug any unsuspecting passer by, so they know the structure of the river bed intimately, hence quite frankly a lot will depend on how quickly you can get your fly into their strike zone.
So weight is critical, especially when you have the drift of a boat to content with.
1. That's why Dumbell eyes and lead wrapped bodies form a huge part the patterns that I've had success with. Bob's Clouser's originally tied for Bass is a must in any tiger box, and if I was pressed to choose a single colour combination, then Jeremy Rochester's precise Fire Tiger Clouser would be it
2. The lateral line of a Tiger is acutely in tune with their middle ear that can pick up the slightest vibration in the water, incase their keen eyesight is clouded by murky water. So I also like to carry a fly that pushes a lot of water, forcing them to react, therefore Brush Flies, tied in either a Red and Black or Black and Purple would be my next, go to fly.
3. Whistlers are such a versatile fly, but I do swap the bead chain eyes for some weighted eyes and although you can mix and match your colours if given only one, it would be a straight black. I also prefer the pulsating movement of a zonker strip collar. It’s slash and grab specialist, so the interlocking razor sharp teeth, ensures that every bite can be fatal, hence natural materials are not favoured by anglers due to their lifespan. Yet, as with many a fresh water angler, Marabou and Buck Tail are still very prevalent in my fly box.
4. A Tigers bottom jaw is hinged horizontally, allowing them to double the gape of their bite, so don't be scared about using big flies. That said, hook strength and sharpness trumps size and crystal clear water often call for smaller, more imitative patterns. Hence a polar fibre minnow, would also rank in my top 5, which can also be tied with tubing and many other materials. The key being to ensure that it resemble the baitfish that is most prevalent in the water, whether is be a Minnow, Robber, Bulldog, Squeaker or even Kapenta.
5. My last, but also my favourite, for no other reason that it resembles nothing in the water, but has such great movement and combines a lot of the attributes of the previous four patterns. My 'friends' give me a lot of grief about this alien looking pattern, which is fondly referred to as ET.
The Tigers profile tells you what a heavy weight contender it is. A huge tail fin and prominent pectorals tells means that they are built for powerful, lightening quick lunges, so above all else make sure you've got the right tackle to convert. Your 9wt stick is best equipped with a Rio 250-300 grain line, 20-30lb tippet and over compensate on the knowable trace wire.
As I said, it's all about personnel preference and what you are confident enough to fish with. Many patterns are more successful than others as they are fished more often than any other fly.
Remember that fishing technique and strategy remain the most important factors in any successful angling expedition.