Photograph by Steve Barnett

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Landing Net

If you are making the move from stillwaters, what landing net did you use?  Did it have a long handle?  Did it have a good sized head so you could easily fit big fish in it?  If you answered yes to both these questions you need not be out buying a new net for your move to dry fly fishing.

There is a view in some quarters that a net is not needed.  It's a macho thing and unfortunately such an attitude is bad for the fish, especially if the fish are to be returned. 

Why use a net?  Nearly the right question...

Why use a long handled net of good sized capacity?  Now that is the right question!

If your net has a long handle you can bring your fish over and into it much more quickly than without.  This means your fish is not exhausted, will recover more quickly and have a better chance of surviving.  In a fishery where wild fish are the quarry this is vital for the future.  You can look on Warren's blog at some video of how this works in practice.  From 04:09 to 05:04, less than a minute, from being hooked to being landed.  This fish is far from exhausted and is beaten by the simple fact that the net is out there ready for it and eventually it is steered over and into it, despite its best efforts to be elsewhere.

Don't be embarrassed if you are carrying a net around that others deem is too large.  That larger capacity will also come in mighty handy one day.  Imagine being without it when you needed it!  For years I only had one net.  A large Efgeeco that served me for carp, chub, pike, seatrout, roach and oh yes, trout!  There are better, pan style, knitted nets nowadays that give the fish a much better time of it.  Take your inspiration from the modern coarse match anglers rather than the Victorian dry fly anglers when deciding on your net design.

What about afterwards?  You've landed your fish and it is time to get the hook out.  With the fish laying in the folds of the net on soft ground, if the hook is not accessible to your fingers you will need your forceps.  The same ones you used for your other fishing will be fine, so that is something else you can save money on without sacrificing efficiency.

There is another item that you might consider using if you are practicing Catch and Release and if the location you are fishing has no soft vegetation to lay your net on during the unhooking.  If you have done a bit of specimen hunting amongst the so called coarse fishes you will no doubt already have an unhooking mat.  They are a bit awkward to carry about being bulky, but if all you have is stony ground to lay your fish on then why not give one a try?

Regular Rod

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

What have you already got?

If you are making the move from lakes and reservoirs to rivers and streams it can be more to your advantage to spend your money on your fishing ticket(s) than on tackle.  You already have some tackle so let's take a look at it and see what can be put to use without having to buy new.  Of course eventually, if you fall in love with the Sport, then you will indeed be investing in some new items specifically for your dry fly fishing.

What will you need?  Let's be conventional for now and agree to leave Macedonian, Medieval, Tenkara and other fixed line arrangements to one side.  So, among your stillwater rods, do you have one that is between eight and nine feet long and that uses a line no heavier than a six weight and no lighter than a four weight?  If you have then that solves your rod requirements.  The only cost may be to buy a spray can of matte black paint, to paint the rod and rings so you get rid of any shiny surfaces before they scare all your fish away.  Simply assemble the rod.  Mask off the corks and maybe the writing on the butt then waft two or three thin coats over the whole rod making sure the guides (if not already black) end up matte black too.

If you are going to be spending money on a new rod for dry fly fishing, choose a rod of eight and half feet to nine feet long that uses a number five weight line and has a middle to tip action.  Most importantly your rod needs to be matte with no shiny whippings or fittings.  Yes there will be those who suggest other rod lengths and other weights of line and other actions but if you start with a rod as suggested here, it will serve you very well on most rivers and streams in all wind and weather conditions and let you build on your own experiences.  If you are anything like most dry fly fanatics you will end up with a cupboard full of rods representing a great variety of line weights, rod lengths and rod actions but you will come back to this starting point rod again and again. 

So, this rod from your stillwater armoury, have you got a reel with a floating line (any floating line) on it to suit the rod?  Yes?  Well, for now, that has saved you some more money but...  You will need to change the colour of the line.  To do this you need a Pantone or similar broad tipped permanent marker pen in dark brown.  This next bit is messy so put on some rubber gloves before pulling off twenty yards of the line from the reel and then carefully rub the line with the marker, working your way forward until the front twenty yards of the line are now brown.  Okay this is not the perfect answer but it is a very important improvement to make before you begin dry fly fishing in earnest.

If you are going to buy yourself a new reel and a new line make sure the reel is NOT SHINY and try to get as small and as light a reel as you can.  We are looking for tools not jewels!  Your reel is not (well should not be) a piece of jewellery.  It is there to hold the line and not much else. 

Look at these two reels, I've had them for the same length of time.  One of them was a prize in a Wild Trout Trust competition, only one of them has made it to the riverside though (clue: it has a line loaded on it).  There is no place for shiny stuff when Dry Fly Fishing!

As for the line... 

Whether you decide to invest in one of the 'EXPERT' lines or choose something else is entirely up to you but please, for your own sake, do end up with a mucky brown line on your reel even if you have to colour it yourself.

Next time we will look at landing nets and some of the smaller but pretty well essential items for your dry fly fishing.

Regular Rod

Friday, 17 December 2010


So having considered our tops and our bottoms we can now consider our middles.

In mountain biking circles in the Peak District in Derbyshire there is a saying: "There is no such thing as 'bad' weather only incorrect clothing." 

You must clad yourself as you see fit for the weather on the day but whatever the weather do remember that basic principle...  Stealth is required at all times, so choose the colours accordingly. 
On a hot day it may be best to wear a shirt and carry your tackle in a little shoulder bag. 

On a temperate day you may be happier with the weight of your gear spread over your torso in the pockets of a 'weskit' (waistcoat that is) or a vest. Personally I don't like those high waisted vests that are intended for wading as they present all your fly boxes and stuff on the front of your breasts.  Crawling on your tummy to approach your fish becomes a nightmare when the bulky pockets get in your way and it is impossible to adjust them out of the way. 

When I wear a vest I like the long type like a travel vest. On days when it might rain then it is worth carrying a rain garment in with your tackle. 

This summer I treated myself to a Rohan Windshadow in Trail Green.  It folds away in its own inside pocket and it works very well indeed. 

On days when it is simply raining all day then you will need a suitably coloured coat.  I still use a Barbour because I get involved with thorns on some of the rivers I frequent but there are other excellent jackets of more modern materials.  Yet again the colour is paramount if you are to have any chance at keeping your presence unknown to the fish. 

On those hot days when you will be wearing a shirt, don't forget that your arms may be the wrong colour for hiding from the fish, so wear long sleeves and choose materials that will defend you from nettles and such...

Well that's the clothes dealt with, next time we can start getting controversial with some tackle talk.  A subject to almost guarantee disagreement when discussed between two or more keen anglers.  No don't worry.  If you have already been fly fishing in still waters you will be surprised how much of your gear is perfectly usable for dry fly fishing on the rivers and streams.

Regular Rod

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The Lines...

Click on the image to enlarge it and click again to get a closer look still
...are now available in WF3F, WF4F, WF5F, WF6F and WF7F.  They are the best quality possible today and are the only lines made specifically for the rigours of dry fly fishing, with no consideration towards other types of angling.  You can of course use them for other stuff, like wets and nymphs, but they are designed and built for dry fly fishing.

There has been no compromise made at all.  The best and latest core material was chosen, so memory won't spoil your first casts of the day.  The coating uses the finest glass balls, so the surface is as smooth as possible and yet the line floats really well.  The anti-friction content is a special material that doesn't cause a shine, so lets the lines be slick running through your rod's guides, yet still keep a dull finish to avoid flash, even in bright sunlight.  The brown colour is unique, being that of smooth, high organic content, MUD!  This has proven to be the best colour for avoiding the flicker and flash effect of pale coloured lines, as you make your false casts.  You will frighten fewer fish when casting this line.

The taper is especially designed to let you make accurate and delicate casts with only a very short amount of line through your tip ring.  In fact, during the trials, it proved easy to cast with just the weight of the line threaded up along the rod and no fly line actually outside the tip ring.  Then, when you need to make longer casts, the combination of the belly, the rear taper and the special anti-friction material in the coating lets you do this with ease and accuracy.  If you follow the advice about leaders, in the booklet, you will find even at long range your casts can turn over nicely and your presentations can still be delicate to help avoid scaring your fish.

The packaging is simple but attention to detail has been continued here as well.  The lines are bound with "pipe cleaners" rather than tapes.  The thought of a nearly fifty quid line being accidentally cut when snipping off tapes is too horrifying to bear.  Each line comes on a spool, so you do not risk kinking, knotting tangles when trying to get the line onto your reel.  It is a simple matter to push a pencil through the card insert in the spool and get someone to hold this "axle" whilst the spool turns as you load the line.  If you are doing this alone, simply make two small columns of books or magazines a couple of inches apart and trap each end of the pencil inside books opposite each other in the columns.  Then wind the line onto your reel whilst the spool turns between the two columns of books, or magazines. 

You will be pleased to note that each line has a label attached to the reel end of the line with the legend "ATTACH THIS END TO BACKING", which will save you from putting the line on the reel back to front.

How much?  £47 plus postage and packing.  These are lines that I vouch for personally and are guaranteed against any manufacturing defect.  If you would like one, drop me an email on telling me your requirements.

That's the end of the commercial break.  We'll finish off clothing in the next post and move onto... tackle.

Regular Rod

Monday, 6 December 2010

Getting down to the bottom of the subject

Where you, dear angler, are the "subject".

Last time we examined your head, so now we consider your other end.  What you wear on your lower reaches will depend on several considerations.  Will you be wading?  Will you be deeply wading?  (No not deeply wailing!  Save that for church.)  Or will you be fishing from the bank and only the bank.  In a dry summer it may be much more comfortable for the bank angler to leave the wellies behind and instead wear some outdoor boots.  I know some very successful dry fly anglers who wear chest high wading stockings in all conditions, even though they do not intend to wade.  They value the protection above the potential for cooking a little on warmer days.  These considerations are mainly down to where you will be fishing and your personal preferences, but...

Remember that your quarry must not be aware that you are there.  A low profile is most desirable.  To this end if you are not wading then the posture of your daily supplications can bring an answer to your prayers, but often, even better, being seated is the way to keep low yet still be able to cast and control your line reasonably well.  So on your knees, or on your backside, the matter of what you are wearing on your legs and lower loins becomes important.

If you have overtrousers that resist the onslaught of thorns, thistles, puddles and cow pats then your problems are solved more comfortably than with chest high wading stockings.  Mine are inexpensive, Goretex bib and brace style trousers with built in braces.  Ex-German or Dutch army, they cost about £30 and they are tough enough to last 5 seasons at least.  Whatever you do get, make sure you wear them even on hot days.  A pair of nice Rohan or Craghoppers outdoor trousers will be cool and comfortable until you start working your way through waist high nettles and thistles, then you will wish you had slipped the overtrousers over them before you decided to angle in places where the fish do not have a well worn path beaten to them.

This is mundane stuff but if you overlook these details it can spoil your chances and your comfort.  So please do take it seriously when you begin this toe-to-toe, creeping skulduggery we call dry fly fishing.

Regular Rod

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

"Clothes maketh man..."

They also maketh more successful anglers, especially anglers who must be stealthy for their branch of our wonderful Sport.  If you are coming to dry fly fishing from still water fly fishing you probably have perfectly suitable clobber already.  BUT there is a chance that you may need to watch out for the colours.  The lush vegetation by the side of a typical lowland river means that greenish hues rather than limestone "whites" will be more appropriate.  Darker shades seem to be the most useful, let cow pats be your inspiration rather than the High Street.

Clothes can contribute, or detract, from your ability to make use of the second and third basic principles for successful dry fly fishing, observation and stealth.  Let us begin at the top with the head.  Starting with the eyes.  Your polarised spectacles will be vital for fish spotting and protection from a wayward cast.  Mine are a very old pair of Optix Cormorants that are a pale grey and work well even in dim light.  Whatever sort you prefer, you can optimise the effectiveness of your polarised spectacles by wearing a hat with a full brim to shade them from behind as well as above.  This will let you see more clearly, in the same way a lens hood often improves the quality of photographs.

On a recent comment, Warren kindly put a link to a photograph he took that shows two pretty reasonable examples of good shape and good colours of hat to go for.

John's hat is a darker greenish olive of rabbit fur felt.  This is pretty good in cool weather and is okay in light rain too.  Mine is the khaki one in canvas duck that came from Orvis.  It needed modifying by covering the silly leather hat band with a strip of material, webbing in my case, so damp flies can be stuck into it.  That way they do not bring water into the fly boxes and rust all that hard work away... 

This hat has been superceded at Orvis by the River Guide Hat and sports a reinforced brim so you can shape it.  My advice would be to keep it shaped like an upside down dish to get the maximum shading effect for your polarised spec's.
You may like to obtain several hats to cope with the vagaries of weather, a dark green or brown straw hat maybe, for boiling hot days in summer; one of canvas duck for most days and maybe something waterproof, or at least water resistant for rainy days.  Just make sure that whatever you get, your hats should shade the back of your polaroids as well as the top and, most importantly, they are always as drab as you can get.

Well that's your head taken care of.  Next time trousers and how they also contribute to observation and stealth!

Regular Rod 

Wednesday, 24 November 2010


John Neville in typical pose at Ladybower in the late 60's

...from still waters

"Whence come you?"
"The Lakes and Reservoirs!"
"Whither directing your course?"
"The rivers and streams!"
"What do you hope to find?"
"The true secrets of dry fly fishing!"

Of course they are not really secrets!  Nevertheless, there are some key differences from all the things you had to learn whilst fishing the Lakes and Reservoirs.  Having a go at dry fly fishing need not be a disappointing experience. 

Over the next few weeks we can consider some of the differences facing the many anglers who, having built up a treasury of experience on still waters, fancy getting to know, first hand, the joys of dry fly fishing on rivers and streams.

There are mainly 3 adjustments to make in a migration from still waters to dry fly rivers: 
  1. Clothes
  2. Tackle
  3. Approach
There!  Now that doesn't look too hard a list does it?  It need not be but we will take it on in easy stages just to make sure.  If you are fancying this migration do feel free to drop in a comment with any aspects of the move that concern you particularly and I will make sure we cover your points specifically.

Regular Rod

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Wandering and Wondering in Winter

Winter dry fly fishing, in England, need not be a complete waste of time.  It seems that some flies will appear in all weathers and at all times of the year.  The Large Dark Olive has already been discussed here and is a true winter fly, but there are other excellences to which your attention may be peculiarly and forcibly directed...

Look at this little fellow here:

He is sitting on the Head River Keeper's finger by the river Lathkill.  This picture was taken one January a year or two ago.  Our main fly of high summer, the Blue Winged Olive, is here seen having a try for life in the middle of winter!  Nature surely brackets her exposures quite widely to get her perfect pictures.

Other flies too make their entrances on winter days.  Mild days will usually produce a nice crop of midges and the grayling will take these dainty victuals with alacrity.  Really harsh days with sleet on the edge of a biting wind will sometimes see the appearance of that treasure of English trout streams, the Iron Blue Dun, in veritable fleets of little, dark-sailed ships.  The fish lock onto them in earnest with grayling prepared to rise up through several feet of water just to eat flies we normally mimic on size 18 or even 20 hooks.

It's the same recipe for success that you follow in summertime.  Only this time, you might have set out to fish with heavy nymphs for your winter grayling but by staying observant you can often gain great opportunities to change over to the dry fly, making your season last just that little bit longer and remind you of what is to come when the days once more lengthen.

What happens with winter fly life in other parts of the world, I wonder? 

Regular Rod

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Charles Cotton's Black-Fly!

In 1676 Charles Cotton had it as one of the pretenders to the crown of "Mayfly" but it came in Bronze Medal position after the Stonefly (Silver Medal) and the Drake (Gold Medal).  It is superb as a Hawthorn Fly and seems not to suffer through a lack of legs and wings.
No it is not a Fifth Edition! it is only a Seventh...
Here is how Charles Cotton described the dressing.  See how few words he needed to describe the dressing. 

For the sake of clarity here below will be a somewhat longer description...
With the hook in the vice masking the point, this is a size 14 Edgar Sealey, run on a short bed of black thread like so, leaving a space behind the eye.

Tie in some fine silver braid ("silver twist")

Tie in the silver braid as you continue the bed of thread down to the bend.  At the bend tie in one black herl from an Ostrich feather.

Run the thread back to the start of the body.  Wind the herl in close touching turns to make a flue brush shaped body and tie it in behind the hook eye.

Snip off the waste ostrich herl and tie in the black cock's hackle as shewn with the dull, concave side facing you.

Snip off the waste hackle stalk and wind the thread back to the front as shewn
Wind the first four turns as close touching turns, the same as you would do for a plain hackled fly and then wind the hackle down over the body in open spiralled ribbing turns to the bend.  Tie in the hackle very tightly with the silver braid (this is why the braid was tied in at the middle of the hook with lots of turns to anchor it safely for this tight tying).  Carry on tightly winding the silver braid up the fly in open ribbing turns finishing at the eye next to the thread.  Tie in the braid with the thread and snip off the excess braid.

Make a bold head with a tight whip finish and varnish it well.  Use the waste hackle point from your pliers to pull through the eye whilst the varnish is still wet.

The finished Charles Cotton's Black-Fly
 This is one of those flies that just goes on and on catching fish. It works so very well whenever fish are aware of food that is black, being able to represent beetles as well as various flies both terrestrial and aquatic. It is also a very good fly to use at night when facing west and the water is lit the same colour as the sky. In fact the first time I ever used it was in desperation on Derbyshire's Derwent. I couldn't see my fly so tried the Black Fly in an attempt to see it against the reflected night sky on the water's surface. It was so effective it was still catching fish after midnight.Towards the end of the Hawthorn Fly's season use this fly in bigger sizes 12 or even 10 and DO USE A HEAVY TIPPET.  By the end of the Hawthorn's time the fish have learnt to grab these terrestrial casualties quickly and firmly as they may escape.  You need hardly strike in these conditions, the fish will often hook themselves.  In any case the rises are so violent a fine tippet is asking for trouble.  I use nothing lighter than 5x (about 5lbs BS Co-Polymer) at this exciting time.

Regular Rod

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Basic Principles - Principles Numbers Two and Three

Your success will be greatly affected by how well you apply these two elements of this great Sport of ours - Observation and Stealth.  The rewards you gain from making these two work in your favour are massively out of proportion to the tiny effort needed to apply them.  The penalties for overlooking them are severe but often the severity is missed by the culprit.  How do you prove a negative when the unobservant and careless angler is oblivious to the impact of an approach that is not careful?

So, when you next approach a likely looking spot, make sure you do it as if every fish in the river was able to turn you into stone with just one look.  Sit down, or at least kneel, or if you must wade, do it without making a ripple and do stop a lot.  Watch what is going on.  Think it all through and spend time in contemplation.  Slowing down may be counterintuitive to you, especially if you are keen to get catching, but you will be surprised at how your catches will not suffer.  In fact you will be more satisfied with them, as you see more opportunities.  In addition, your stealthy approach and drab clothing will make sure you see more of the world in and by the water.  You cease to be a visitor.  You are behaving like the residents, so you too become a resident, Homo sapiens sapiens the innocent predator.  Wonderfully, the creatures of that world will come and show themselves to you...

It may be a family of stoats, beating the banks for game, or perhaps a vole will swim across and, because you are staying stock still, it climbs out to sample the salad bars of hemp agrimony, whilst sitting on the toe of your wellington!  If you are really well hidden, Halcyon may join you, taking advantage of an overhanging branch, so close you could touch it with your landing net.  From there, she or he may perch, spy and dive down, right in front of you.  For a moment you can see it beat its wings under water, then out it comes, back to the branch to turn the minnow round and with the head showing out of the front of its beak, it zooms away in a flash of blue and copper on an urgent mission to feed its chicks. 

Late evenings can bring even more delightful surprises to you when being stealthy and staying observant.  Across the stream you may have noticed a little gap in the margin.  Now the evening shadow's closing you become aware of a darkening in the gap.  It's a hare!  It carefully sniffs the air for predators.  Satisfied that all is well, it moves forward to drink and then perform a thorough ablution, remembering to wash behind those long ears.  In a moment it is back through the gap and gone, but you got to see it. 

Another evening and another place, you are enjoying the evening rise and thanks to your stealth and careful observation you are "visited" by a silent and graceful flyer.  It wheels over your head as it turns to make another straight line sortie across the meadow, almost like a gardener mowing a mid-air lawn. Five minutes or so later, you see it wheel round again at the other end of the meadow and make another run, back towards you.  Happily you have your camera in your shirt pocket and you have had chance to get it ready.  Here it comes!  Aha!  Not a perfect exposure, it is going dark after all, but it will still make a brilliant memento of a perfect summer evening when you took part in the world of the river as a resident and not just someone out to catch some fish...

Regular Rod

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Basic Principles - Principle Number One

Fish where the fish are.  Dry fly fishing is like any other branch of the Sport, for success you must fish where there is a decent chance of finding fish.  How are you going to choose such a place (or such places)?  Research and Reconnaissance will help you.  A good use of your time over the next five months will be searching for suitable venues.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Shopping list...

Click and then click again to see it properly!
...for the Fly Fair?

  1. Cock Badger Cape of the highest quality
  2. Cock Honey Dun (and all the Rusty, Brassy, Blue variants) ditto.  If only I could find a genetic quality cape in the colours of this old Indian cape that I acquired nearly forty years ago.
  3. Fine black Ostrich herl preferably on the plume
  4. Size 26 (round not oval )silver braid (if I ever see it again)
  5. Anything else that turns the head and fills it with the inexplicable desire to possess and maybe even use it!

Regular Rod

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Anonymous said:


I know of only one line that comes in a brown colour but, having obtained one, even that could be a better shade and finish, also the taper is not designed for dry fly fishing but is simply a conventional floating line that does most things adequately but is not ideal for the extremes that serious dry fly fishing can demand from the angler. That line is available from a vendor on the fly forum.

The best coloured lines I have used so far are the ones I had made, some time ago now, by Cortland but they were made up for me using one of their standard tapers and coatings simply coloured dark brown for me.

I'm getting some lines made, designed from scratch to be perfect for dry fly fishing. The taper is such that it is capable of making the rod work and the cast turn over under control when fishing at very close quarters and with only a foot or so of fly line out of the tip ring. Yet, when a long cast is needed to the opposite bank and the fly has to be put into a tiny hole in the overhanging vegetation, the line will allow this.  Its special low friction coating will let you shoot the line that little bit further, which can be essential if you have very limited space for your back cast, but you still need that bit of extra distance.

The colour is a matte, dark muddy brown and is exactly what I believe is the very best for avoiding all the problems of light coloured or shiny lines.  The core is braided so you will be able to use the needle knot for attaching your leader.

The lines are being made with absolutely no compromises at all and no shortcuts in quality (there is no point in "spoiling the ship for a ha'porth of tar") so in a few weeks I will bring these lines onto the market.  Their price will reflect their quality, but I'm sure anyone using them will be nothing less than delighted with them.  I know I am already delighted with the prototype.

So to answer Anonymous:  If you can wait a few weeks I will be able to recommend to you something then, much better than I can recommend right now.

Regular Rod

Friday, 15 October 2010

Facts and...


Fishing with nymphs, lures, spiders, traditional wets, Czech nymphs, buzzers, blobs and other things are not really my strengths. I have a go at some of them now and then but not enough to offer solid advice on any of these methods, or the equipment needed for them. However, for forty one years now I have certainly immersed myself in every little detail of dry fly fishing. Hence the brass neck to make a blog called... Dry Fly 'Expert'!


Drab, brown fly lines ARE best for dry fly fishing!


“But a fly line on the water would be harder for the fish to see if it was the colour of the sky!”

“I like a white line because I can see it move if I get a take!”

“I catch fish and I use a line that is sky blue pink with yellow dots on!”

And so on...

Let me explain why I am adamant that a line in a drab, brown colour IS BEST FOR DRY FLY FISHING!

It matters most of all during the casting process. Dry fly fishing demands frequent false casting. When the line is in the air, passing to and fro in the cast, if it is a pale colour it brightens its surroundings as it moves. In some circumstances this can be measured with a good quality light meter as used by traditional photographers, its needle moves as the line passes through its field of view. Trout can detect such changes. The line need not be seen by the trout but it will notice the change to the light made as the line passes by and very likely will cease rising. A drab, brown line makes no such noticeable change and so the trout is not put off its meal at the surface.

Yes this is a nit picking detail but it is an important one. Yes you might be able to catch fish with a pale coloured line but consider this...

You have worked hard, made a considerable investment in time and money to get leave to fish. Bought tackle and clothes.  Learnt how to use it all.  Now here you are, hiding in the margin and you have carefully worked your way into position to get a better view of that “fish of a lifetime” rising a few yards up stream of you. Yes, the fish is bigger than you first thought and it looks to be in immaculate condition. It is rising and you have identified the flies it is eating. Brilliant! You just happen to have some perfect fakes of this fly in your box. You tuck yourself down and carefully change the fly to the type you have spotted. Everything is just right. The fish is rising four or five times a minute. Now is your chance to make that cast...

Why risk letting any of the tiniest details work against you?

Frederick the Great of Prussia once observed that “Genius is the infinite capacity for taking pains.”

Stopping your fly line from signalling to the fish that things are not normal is a pain worth taking.

Regular Rod

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Seasonal Endings...

... and Beginnings

Today was golden.  See the picture for proof!  Watching the rises it was easy to select the grayling although I did succumb to temptation thrice and deliberately cast to trout today as they were large fish and each one was rising in in its own particularly difficult place for the dry fly angler to cast to.  Two flies were sacrificed to the tree Gods, but this is a small price to pay for attempting the theoretically "impossible".

If you want to carry on with the dry fly, now the trout are off the agenda, you need to get used to spotting grayling rises (or else go after chub if you are lucky enough to have them in your rivers).  Grayling rise from the bottom of the river.  This means they are coming to the flies almost vertically.  When they turn down with a fly, their mouths, being underslung like barbel, have to be opened from underneath.  This is coupled with a roll as the grayling turns itself the right way up again.  These actions combine together usually (but not always) to make a bubble appear in the ring of the rise.  This bubble in the rise form is the signal for you to watch closely and confirm or otherwise that the fish is indeed a grayling.  If it is, you can then cast with confidence knowing that you are going to catch a grayling and NOT a trout!

Regular Rod

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Breaking the "Rule" to improve your chances

The "Rule" that usually is the best policy to adopt is quite simply "Match the Hatch"!

The recent Northerly winds and the low angle of the sun in the afternoons now conspire to ripple the surface with bright highlights, which contrast with the shaded water and present an awkward decision to the Dry Fly angler.

On days like today it can be a good idea to break the "Rule" and instead choose a fly you can see against the awkwardly lit surface.  A black fly will show up well on the silvery water, but become tricky to see in the shade.  A pale fly, to mimic the Pale Watery flies we have been getting on most days recently, will show up well on the shaded water, but be almost invisible on the bright, wind raised ripples.

What to do?  Well I tied on a Double Badger today.  The pale hackle showed up well enough in the shade and the dark body was clear to see in the bright ripples.  I'm sure it was not as interesting to the grayling and the trout as a more imitative fly would have been, but at least I was striking when the fly was taken...

This tactic of breaking the "Match the Hatch Rule" has served me well for forty years, try it next time the fly is just proving too hard to keep in view and see if it serves you well too.

Regular Rod

Saturday, 18 September 2010


You will have already noticed that the fishing day now occurs between two distinct brackets (or parentheses) and that now these beginnings and endings are closing in on the angler like the two jaws of a vice, squashing the Sport into a shorter period each day...

A more gentle pair of parentheses around our human defined "trout season" is really one, not two events.  It just happens to start towards the end of our trout season and ends a little while after the beginning of the next trout season.  It is the appearance of that lovely winter ephemerid the Large Dark Olive.  See that dun drifting down river from September to May?  Check the wing position.  If it is more vertical than the somewhat swept back wing of the Blue Winged Olive and the fly seems to be just short of half an inch long and its wings are grey, rather than bluish, and, if you can catch one to get a closer look, it has only two and not three tails, then there is a good chance it is a Large Dark Olive.

You can represent a Large Dark Olive very nicely with a variant of the Grey Duster tied on a slightly long shanked size 14 hook.  The variation from the original is simply that the fly is dressed with a tail.  As follows (just click on a picture to see it in full size):

With the hook point masked by the vice run on a bed of light brown thread from a space behind the eye down to the start of the bend.

Take a bunch of 12 or so hackle fibres from a large badger cock hackle and measure the length to be a little bigger than the body

Swap hands with the fibres and tie them in at the hook bend
Wind the thread along the hook shank tying in the fibres completely and making a bed of thread for winding the body over

 Like so

Dub on a tiny pinch of blue underfur from a rabbit

Wind the body, if all goes well the dubbed fur will be used up as you reach the end of the body

Rib the body with open spiralled turns of the tying thread back to the front of the body and then wind forward four turns of thread on the bare hook shank to make a bed for tying in the hackle.

Tie in a Badger Cock Hackle like this with the concave, dull side towards you.  Wind the thread over the stripped portion of the stem until you reach the start of the body.  Snip off the hackle stem as close as you can.

Wind the hackle back to meet up with the body, six turns on a fly this size (14).  Tie it in, tweak off the waste hackle tip and wind the thread quickly through the wound hackle to avoid trapping too many hackle fibres and make a whip finish.  Varnish it and clear the eye of the hook whilst the varnish is still wet.  The hackle tip left in your hackle pliers is a perfect pull-through for the job. 

This fly is one of the most versatile patterns ever created.  Without a tail it makes a great midge.  In big sizes with some extra hackle it makes a first class representative of the Drake.  Changing the colour of the materials allows you to copy a very wide variety of olives.  It is easy to tie and fairly quick so you can soon have your box stocked with a fly that will help you catch fish on most days of the season.

Regular Rod


To help folks find suitably marked Badger Capes here is a picture to illustrate the ideal:

The one on the right hand side is wrongly marked.  Badger hackles have black lists down the centre of each feather AND they also have black edges to each feather.  Click for a closer view.


Sunday, 12 September 2010

Tactics for the back end of the season

You should always hide yourself from the fish. Even Town fish will be easier to catch if they are not aware of your presence and activities.

This time of the season presents you with some great opportunities to take advantage of the high vegetation along the banks and revisit some of those bigger than average fish that you failed to make the acquaintance of earlier in the season.

Those overtrousers will protect you from the nettles and thistles so just sneak in there on your backside using your legs stretched out in front of you to open up little gaps in the margin for you to sit in, surrounded by plants that tower above your head and render you almost invisible to your chosen quarry. This approach makes some severe demands on your casting, but, if you get close and conduct most of your casting sideways over the river, the proposition is viable in most cases.

The great thing about sitting in the margins like this is you get to see so much more than when you are standing up or walking by "looking for rises". You will see the rises nicely from your low vantage points but you will also get to see other things too. It is not a coincidence coarse anglers regularly get to see the kingfisher settle on a nearby branch and then dive to take a little fish.  The dry fly angler, who chooses to be inconspicuous, gets to enjoy such wonderful experiences too.

Regular Rod

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Now is the time for...

... grayling on the dry fly!

If you are out over the next few weeks and you find grayling rising, this fly is very reliable in bringing them up from amazing depths to snaffle this tiny creation.  Sturdy's Fancy may be a "fancy" pattern, implying to many that it doesn't imitate anything but please believe me this is another very successful caricature style of fly that can be used to hint at all sorts of flies: reed smuts; midges; tiny terrestrials; even little sedge flies.  Sturdy's Fancy can mimic them all.

It is best on small hooks - 16 down to 20 (for smaller than that the materials are not really suitable) with 16 and 18 being the most useful sizes.  These small hooks force you to use fine tippet material 6x or even 7x so don't bang hard on the strike and to give yourself a bit of stretch, make the tippet at least a yard long with an ell or even a fathom being better if the wind conditions permit.

Here's how to make the Sturdy's Fancy:
Put the hook in the vice shielding the point and wind on a short bed of purple thread, in this example it is Pearsall's purple Gossamer, same stuff as used in Kite's Imperial.
Lay on and tie in a piece of  red floss with two turns of the thread.  Danville's DRF Fire Orange (fluorescent red) nylon floss has been used here but the original was red silk floss.
Lay the forward pointing length of floss back over to the bend and trap it on top of the rearward pointing length on top of the hook.
Carry on winding a bed of thread whilst at the same time tying down the floss to the bend

Cut the tail to a length about the same as the hook gape

Tie in a single peacock herl and keep the thread dangling at the bend.

Wind the herl to the front of the bed of thread and back to the dangling thread to make a body.  Tie in the peacock herl at the bend and then rib the herl body with the thread in open spiral turns then keep winding forward four turns of thread on the hook shank to make a bed for the hackle stalk.

Tie in the hackle with the dull, concave side facing you, making a bed as you go for the hackle when you wind it.  Trim off the waste hackle stalk.
Wind the hackle.  Tie it in and wind the thread quickly through the hackle back to the eye to avoid trapping too many hackle fibres.  Make a whip finish and varnish the head, cleaning out the eye whilst the varnish is still wet.  The hackle tip left in your hackle pliers makes a good pull through for the job.

You will be amazed by this fly if you have not already used it.  Grayling will rise up from the bottom, through several feet of water to eat it.  If you see them "missing" the fly, try a finer tippet, but do be careful on the strike.

Regular Rod