Photograph by Steve Barnett

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

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Rooting for you!

You might enjoy this little trick that I've used since being a lad hunting chub in overgrown places...

Take a look at this fish filled spot.  There is nearly always a row of fish rising here throughout the trout season.  The place looks rather uninviting at first glance and with a strict and total wading ban, it is almost impossible to cast here...

...except during periods of drought or near drought.

Low water?  Well yes indeed.  Of course all trees need roots to live.  Bigger trees by the waters edge, like this double trunked alder, have bigger roots and some of them stretch out under and - during dry spells - above the water!

See below...

Plenty of room for a full grown woman or man to sit cross legged.  It will keep your feet dry and provides a great fishing spot if you are happy to side cast up into the run where the fish are.

These spots are rarely fished efficiently, as most anglers will either struggle to dibble a fly to the fish from overhead or try from the opposite bank.  Sitting there at close quarters makes the whole process very easy and very effective too.

Just make sure you check that the root mass can take your weight without lowering you into the water, backside first, as you sit there in pride of place casting up to fish that are quite unlikely to have ever been caught before.

Special tip...  do your best to be stealthy when getting into position.  If, however, in despite of your valiant efforts to be stealthy, you do scare the fish, simply make yourself comfortable and sit there quietly and wait for the fish to rise again.  Then when they seem to be rising confidently (four times a minute is a pretty good indicator that they are no longer worried about your presence) make your first cast to the fish nearest to you...

Regular Rod

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Nondescript Sedge...

... or "NDS" to its friends!

Use a strong tippet in the larger sizes.  Be ready for sudden, violent rises when there is not much going on. 

Use it when you expect to get a bit of drag.  Twitch it on slow or still pools.  It continues working even after the trout have trimmed its wing into a little stump of deer hair, so don't throw them away. 

Last night I was told that you should tie six of these rather than five as folk will want more than one from you! 

The hook sizes can vary from size 8 down to 14 depending on the sedge flies that are about.  In the colour scheme here it seems to represent the Great Red Sedge quite well but it is not an exact match for anything.  It hints at everything instead.  Use pale materials and it makes a good moth for those all nighters in high summer when the scent of sweet rocket fills your nostrils and the air feels heavy with the prospects of good Sport...

Put the hook in the vice masking the point and starting at the bend wind forward a bed of orange thread.  I've used a size 12 hook here and Pearsalls Orange silk - yes the original orange for the Orange Partridge!  Look just use the orange thread you like.
Dub on a fairly generous pinch of cinnamon seal's fur - it's a mucky yellowy olive colour
Wind the body, the seal's fur should be used up just as you reach the end of the body
Rib the body with open spiralled turns of the thread and then continue for four turns to make a bed for the wing
Take a bunch of deer hair and gauge it against the body and bend so the tips are roughly aligned with the hook bend
Swap hands and hold the bunch of deer hair tight, clip off the waste prior to tying the bunch in
Tighten up the turns and make the wing flare a little as you tie it tight next to the body
Trim off the flared waste ends and dab a small spot of varnish on the remaining root ends of the deer hair.  (I use Sally Hanson Hard as Nails.)
Before the varnish has dried wind the thread forward to make a bed for the hackle stalk
Tie in the red hackle ("brown" in America) like this with the concave, dull side of the hackle facing you and, in tying in the hackle stalk, wind a bed of thread ready for the hackle turns.  Leave the thread dangling at the front of the body and wing.
Wind the hackle, six or seven turns on a fly this size, and quickly wind the thread through the hackle to avoid trapping too many fibres.  Then make a whip finish with a somewhat bolder head than you would do for an olive and then varnish the head and clear the eye whilst the varnish is still wet.  I use the hackle point out of the hackle pliers as a pull-through.

It is a quick and easy fly to tie.

Woe Betide the lot of you if I find all the fish I'm after won't eat it anymore because they've already experienced it when you cast and caught them on it before!
Regular Rod