Photograph by Steve Barnett

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

All Fool's Day is...

almost upon us!

Is there anything worse than arriving at the waterside to discover you have forgotten something and that something is going to be sorely missed this day?

Hopefully this might help you.  If you want to add stuff do so and you may not need it all anyway.  For example, my first day out will require no waders so they will be ignored.  You may need to wade so you may eschew the wellies and overtrousers... and so on.

Right click the list and choose Copy.  Open a new document in your wordprocessor and right click and Paste it in.  Then print it out for your checking off all the things you might need.

Of course you may need a couple of mates to help you carry it all...

Have a great opening day, all of you!

Regular Rod

Thursday, 24 March 2011

A Confidence Booster...

...for the fish, when the Drake is just starting!

If any of you kind readers out there in the blogosphere are getting fed up of fly dressing posts at the moment, I apologise in advance. It’s still the fly tying time and once the season gets underway it can be difficult to set time aside to tie flies in quantity. You probably know too well the pressure that can creep in when you suddenly realise you need to replenish a dwindling stock of certain patterns because you have a feeling you will need them this day. The materials are snatched out of their boxes and packets, hooks are debarbed, maybe five maybe ten, then it’s on with the Anglepoise and tie, tie, tie for all you are worth because you really need to be setting off to the river - now!

Let’s do a few flies in anticipation of the season being really well underway, when the world is alive and in full swing.

Last time we looked at a pattern for use when the Drake has been around for a while and the fish need something to convince them to eat your fly, instead of all the hundreds of real ones that litter the surface.

This time here is a useful pattern for quite the opposite set of conditions!

The Drake puts in its appearance in dribs and drabs early in its own delightful season. All the usual behaviours are there. The flies that manage to eclode and be away to the surrounding vegetation in no time at all, the flies that eclode as cripples with crumpled wings, the flies that get stuck in their nymphal shucks, the flies that appear to be perfectly okay but sit there, drifting like tiny sailing yachts for ages before they lift off to the river bank and the relative safety of the underside of flowers, leaves, twigs and branches.

They are all there.

The thing is, there are relatively few of them in the first few days of their season and they are not always taken with confidence by the trout. We need something that will look worth eating but without seeming too big to tackle in safety and it needs to appear as an easily taken meal.

Our fake for these circumstances is a little smaller than the real thing. It is designed to hint at some of those easier pickings amongst the flies that have their shucks still attached and it carries a wing to ensure delicate landings are easy to achieve when you make your casts. It has a fur body and so absorbs lots of floatant, which helps it to stay nicely afloat.

It is called, very simply, Hairwing Mayfly!

You will need:

size 12 Long Shank Hooks
a piece of wild rabbit skin
brown tying thread
cock pheasant centre tail feathers
badger cock hackles
grey squirrel tail
(I do like them natural but dyed yellow, rather than bleached and then dyed)

If you have tied a few of those Grey Dusters already you will find this fly is just an easy development of the Grey Duster plus some little modifications...


Debarb the hook and put it in the vice as shewn.  Half way along the hook shank, begin a bed of the brown thread and run it down to the start of the bend.

Gauge a good bunch of the pheasant tail fibres to make the tail a little longer than the hook. 

Tie in them in.

Carry on tying in the fibres right up to a point about ⅛ of an inch (3mm) behind the hook eye.

Snip off the waste ends.

Cut off a bunch of squirrel hair from the dyed tail. You can decide how thick or transparent you want your wing by the quantity of hair you use for each wing.  Flick out all the downy underfur. Use a stacker to line up the hairs by their outside tips.

Carefully tie in the bunch of hairs on top of the hook shank, gauging the length to be a little longer than the hook shank from the start of the bend to behind the eye.  Tie it in tightly for five or six turns, leaving the ends of the hairs pointing out over the hook eye and the butts of the hairs pointing at the hook bend.

Trim off the waste butt ends at an angle as shewn.

Put a tiny drop of varnish onto the trimmed hairs and run the thread down over the varnished roots.

Run the thread back to where your frontmost turn of thread is over the squirrel hairs.  Tie in either one long badger cock hackle from a genetic cape or else two badger hackles, prepared in the same way as for the Ethafoam Bodied Mayfly, from an Indian cape. Indian capes provide the best badger colours and markings, but the genetics provide the best quality hackles.  Tie in the hackle(s) and bind the hackle stalk(s) down for about ten tight touching turns of thread. This will be the bed for the hackle(s) when wound.  Snip off the waste hackle stalk(s).

Dub on a good pinch of the rabbit fur.

Wind the body and rib it with the tying thread finishing with the thread dangling where you started the body.

Wind the hackle (or hackles). Tie them in and quickly wind the thread through the turns of hackle.

Take the hair wing in the fingers of the left hand (or right hand if you are a Southpaw) and, whilst holding it up and back out of the way, wind turns of thread tight under the root of the wing to lock it pointing forward and up at an angle of anything from 45 degrees to 60 or 70 degrees.

Let go with the left hand. If you want to raise or lower the wing do so by either adding or taking away locking turns of the thread.

Make a whip finish and varnish the thread well. I use the brush in the Sally Hansen Hard as Nails bottle. Use a waste hackle tip to pull through the eye, clearing it whilst the varnish is still wet.

The finished Hairwing Mayfly.

As intimated earlier, this fly seems to work really well when the Drake is new to the fish. It lands like thistledown and “always” the right way up. It is vital to only make one wing. Two wings will spiral your tippet in no time at all, whilst one will let you cast all day without any trace of a twist.

Grey Duster
By changing some of the materials but using the same anatomy, you easily can make variations of this fly, which is just as well as it only a variation of the Grey Duster in the first place.

What do you like to use during the start of the Drake? Do you fancy this idea of suggesting an easy prey when there is still a while to go before the fish are confident to mop up every Drake they can find?

Regular Rod

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Boy Scout's Motto is...

Be Prepared!

It is nowhere near the time for the Drake yet but it is worth looking ahead and making some flies in readiness. One very handy fly that seems to work well right into the latter part of the Drake’s season, even after the trout have seen quite a few artificials already, is this effort, which goes by the name of Ethafoam Bodied Mayfly (EBM to its friends).

It is made of recycled rubbish that you have to obtain and process.

It is not the easiest fly to keep afloat.

It is not as robust as some patterns.

Nevertheless, it is deadly and the trout mistake it for the real thing... a lot!

Obtain one of the thin ethafoam bags that Television sets are often packed in. The type you want has a discernable membrane of plastic on one side. Some thin ethafoam bags do not have this membrane. You need one with it, as you will see shortly.  No membrane?  You bought the wrong TV!

Cut out a panel of the material about a foot square, with no printing on it and avoiding any holes put in to stop you suffocating your children with it. On a cutting board (or flattened, breakfast-cereal packet) lay the panel flat and then take a straight edge and scalpel, or very sharp craft knife, slice it into strips approximately ⅛ th of an inch wide and almost as long as the panel, leaving about ½ an inch uncut. Repeat this until you have made as many strips as you want to make flies. The end result is a tassel of ethafoam strips all held together at one end. This is the body material.

The rest of the fly uses, long shanked hooks, pheasant tail fibres, brown tying thread, badger and dyed yellow cock hackles and brown partridge breast feathers.

 Put the hook in the vice, this is a size 10 LS, and run on a bed of the brown thread.

Tie in a bunch of cock pheasant tail fibres with the tail about the same length as the hook.

Snip off the waste ends at an angle. Then tie in a strip of the prepared ethafoam you prepared earlier.

 Wind back and forth with tight turns (hence the earlier quest for the membrane-reinforced ethafoam) to build up a body, finishing at the tail end, tie it in with three or four tight touching turns. Pull the waste end tightly to load it with tension. Cut it off as close to the turns of thread tying the ethafoam in. The tiny end should disappear under the last turn. If it doesn’t, then take another turn or two over it.

You should now have a brown band of tying thread right at the end of the body. Now take one ribbing turn forward and then make several close touching turns of the thread to make another brown band of tying thread.

Then carry on with the ribbing turns forward over the rest of the body. Continue with the thread to just behind the eye to make a bed of thread to take the hackles.

Prepare the feathers by stripping off the fluffy fibres at the base of the stalks. Lay the partridge feather down on the bench concave side uppermost.

Lay the yellow dyed cock hackle, concave side uppermost, on top of the partridge feather with the base fibres of each feather aligned with each other.

Lay the badger cock hackle, concave side uppermost on top of both stacked feathers and align its lower fibres with those of the other feathers.

Carefully pick up the stacked feathers and, keeping them aligned, tie them in, all together, winding the thread over the stalks until they reach the front of the body.
Trim off the waste ends of the stalks. Leave the thread dangling here. 

Take the badger hackle tip in the pliers and wind it fully up to the thread and catch it in with two tight turns. Keep the thread dangling here still. Tweek off the hackle point.  Take the yellow dyed cock hackle tip in the pliers and wind it fully through the badger hackle turns until it reaches the thread. Tie it in tightly and then quickly wind the thread through the wound cock hackles, take a couple of turns of the thread in front of the partridge feather making a short bed behind the eye. Tweek off the hackle tip.

Take the partridge feather tip in the hackle pliers and make two turns or even three if you can manage it in front of the wound cock hackles and tie it in as tightly as you dare. Make a whip finish. Tweek off the partridge feather tip. Stroke and hold all the feather fibres back out of the way and varnish the head well. Finish off by pulling one of the waste hackle tips through the eye whilst the varnish is still wet.

Voila the EBM!

This fly caught me my biggest ever river trout, which is probably why it gives me such a lot of confidence when I use it.

Regular Rod

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Helping the police with their enquiries...

No I am not wearing wrist restraints but I hope to be helping the police fly fishing club on Tuesday evening with a "talk".  I've never done one of these before and was thus stimulated into thinking things through in some detail.  What can I tell them?  Well then it dawned on me that telling people how to fish is not always a good idea.

I understand that there is a saying from Spain that goes along these lines:

"You may criticise an Englishman's wife but never criticise his driving!"

Is angling not a little bit like that?  Am I causing offence when I pass on a few bits and pieces intended to help?

Well maybe the best thing to do is simply explain how I go about this wonderful Sport of ours and if the ideas are deemed worthy of trial then so be it, and may it bring us all great pleasure.

The only certainty that I can offer the police and you dear blog reader is that those three, integrated principles touched on in this earlier post and then this one are paramount to the angler's enjoyment and success.

You can drop onto any point of this "wheel of fortune" and you will find it leads you to the other two.  Try it!  Start at "Be stealthy" - this makes it possible to "Observe" without scaring the fish and so gives you more chance to "Fish where the fish are".  Start at "Fish where the fish are" because you happen to know that there are fish just there and if you decide to "Be stealthy" you will get chance to "Observe" them and what they are eating.  Start with "Observe" and okay your first observations might be seeing scared fish fleeing before you.  Never mind!  That signal should encourage you to "Be stealthy" and, by so doing, scare no more fish, see where they are and begin to "Fish where the fish are".  Round and round this wheel turns and much joy can we derive from where it takes us...

Regular Rod