Tutorial Guiding

November 8, 2020

Tutorial Guiding

On the water I provide two quite different types of guiding services, the first is plain and simple, getting a visiting client into as many fish as possible and trying to ensure that they have the most productive and enjoyable day. Perhaps we will focus a bit on finding sighted fish to target or maybe even try to focus on slightly better-quality fish if the going is good. Mostly it is about “getting the most” out of the day.

Generally, these are clients who have a day free from their holiday or business commitments and want to enjoy some quality clear water stream fishing and we will ring the changes a little with a mix of dry fly and / or nymph fishing depending on the conditions and the behavior of the fish.

The second and for me probably the more enjoyable is a “tutorial day” with a client who generally is local and wanting to improve both their fishing and their understanding of fishing. In essence then it isn’t simply about “putting them on fish” but rather preparing them to be able to “go it alone and still be effective when I am not their providing instructions.

Perhaps a large part of that is simply building their confidence in their abilities to deduce what is required on any given day and equally being able to efficiently manage to achieve that when the time comes.

It is probably the most enjoyable of days on the water for me, we spend time not only trying to target fish, although of course there is enough of that, but also aiming to provide some level of understanding on what is going on and what actions an angler can take to better their success rate.

In the early years I used to, somewhat flippantly I admit, aim to double the numbers of fish landed compared to their previous solo attempts. Numbers don’t really matter but they do provide some sort of target and thus measure of the effectiveness of any tuition or adjustment of tactics and tackle. 

This enthusiastic young client more than quadrupled his expected catch rate

We will end up during the course of the day targeting fish in different types of water, perhaps adjust some of the tackle, particularly the terminal portions of leaders, tippets and maybe on occasion flies. It is in fact rare that the fly is as crucial as the other elements of the equation. Where you cast from is as important as where you cast to, and for my money one of the most essential portions is getting the leader to do what it is that you want, particularly when casting a dry fly.

I recently had such a day with a youngster, keen as mustard and bright and intelligent, but still something of a novice.

We started off, as I almost always do, with him fishing as near as possible as though I weren’t there. Tutorial clients tend to change what they do because they believe that they are being watched and are apt to try to impress or “live up to” some standard which they anticipate I expect. That however isn’t really the case at all. By having them make all their own decisions from gear set up to fly selection one gains a baseline of “where they are at” and from that baseline we will over the course of the day adjust things.

Teaching Catch and Release is all part of it, but you have to catch them first

It is remarkable how, as time passes and adjustments are made success rates climb. I don’t believe it is the best way of doing things to simply say “change this, do that” as then there is no logic go it, they are just copying or doing what they have been told. Great perhaps for that outing but of little value when they later venture out solo. So, it is more of a case of suggesting, “just try fishing a slightly longer leader, can you see that you are getting better drifts”? Or “did you see that fish refused, try a smaller fly or thinner tippet”. What I always hope to achieve, and to be fair mostly manage to, is to build some basic logical approach to the fishing.

Another factor that almost always shows up is understanding where to look for fish and to focus one’s attentions even if you don’t’ see them. Novices generally have a poor understanding of where fish are likely to be. It is one of the reasons that guides tend to “see the fish” before you do. They are not looking all over the river but rather where they expect to find them. Understanding of flows, holding spots, feeding lies and bubble lines is best gained on the water, it is quite amazing how frequently I will suggest a good looking spot only to see a fish rise there. Far too many diagrams in books show fish behind rocks whereas, at least on these streams, feeding fish are far more likely to be in front of them. The equation of food intake for energy output is a constant in the natural world, it is only us humans who are wasteful with it.

We will also spend a little time doing some basic entomology, particularly if there are some bugs on the water and if not perhaps start turning over some rocks going in search of them, it is always good for an angler to have some recognition of the food that the trout are or are at least are likely to be eating.

Adjustments to the fly are often less important than adjustments to tackle, leader and casting position.

Although perhaps the most significant portion of this isn’t so much the actual species or type but rather simply how small they are. Almost all novice anglers have a wayward idea of what real flies look like, particularly the size and feel intimidated by the idea of throwing size 18 or 20 patterns. Once the have seen how tiny most of the bugs on the stream are they have a far better idea, and a lot more confidence in fishing with such patterns.

One doesn’t need Latin Names, but a general idea of sizes and colours is good to have.

On this last outing the trout were being moderately obliging but not suicidal, actually if the fishing is too easy one tends not to learn as much as if they are being a bit tricky. There was a mixed hatch of micro caddis, net winged midges, the occasional small olive mayfly coming off and to start with we had a few refusals.

It is again remarkable that almost every client left to their own devices will change flies, but rarely change other things which I consider as or more important. The leader length, the casting position to get a better drift, the diameter of the tippet (in general thinner is better), and so as the day progresses and we add slight variations the catch rate and the confidence grows..

In fact, on this particular trip the client, although he had free access to my fly box, continued throughout the day with his own home tied patterns, mostly a generic small parachute pattern. There was never any real need to change that, but adjustments to the other elements of the equation saw more and more fish fooled as we progressed upstream.

The client had free access to all my fly boxes, but fared just as well with his own ties.. the fly is often the least important part of the set up.

By the end of the day, this particular fisherman, who would normally be happy to catch half a dozen fish in a day walked off the river with a big smile, a lot more knowledge and confidence and a total of fish landed for the day at over forty..

It is easy to imagine that this requires some massive adjustment but that is rarely so, fishing slightly longer leaders, thinner tippets and smaller flies make a big difference. Adjusting where one casts from, being able to “high stick” through the pocket water, holding the line off the faster currents makes a big difference as does adjusting casting angles for better accuracy and getting the fly to land first to avoid drag.

In the end it is the accumulation of a number of, what I refer to as, “One percenters” which add up to a significant improvement in efficacy.

As I say, it is one of the most enjoyable parts of my work, to assist someone to improve, and my approach is very much about “educating” rather than just “telling”. It works well and is rewarding for both angler and guide in equal measure.

We also generally spend some time on how to play fish on fine tippets, the importance of rod angles and such. Novices quickly manage to learn to fish fine without break-offs.

Of course, one can learn all of this on one’s own given sufficient time and perhaps some helpful hints from magazines or videos but a tutorial day can save a lot of time and frustration.

As said I particularly like these sorts of days on the stream, sometimes one is even able to assist an angler take his first ever fish on a fly or in a river and that easily makes all the preparation, the tramping up and down the stream and the long drives worthwhile.

If you would like to arrange a day of tuition on a Cape Stream you can contact me on inkwaziflyfishing@iafrica.com

The Feather Mechanic

October 19, 2020

 

The Feather Mechanic

The sun is barely rising over the green hills of the high country of Lesotho and shimmering on the waters of “Home Pool” of the Bokong River. Most of us are wearily rising from our beds, shaking off the aches and pains of the last few days of intense fishing and high altitude hiking. The Guides will be up in a bit, brewing the first of many pots of coffee and slaving over the stove to manufacture another incredible breakfast.

Fly Tyer and consummate entertainer

We are all a bit tired, the fishing is intense and hiking into high beats along elevated donkey tracks in the rarefied atmosphere takes a toll. But apparently not Gordon, he is sitting hunched over a fly tying vice wrapping flies. I very much doubt he needs them, we were all well prepared for the trip and carry boxes full of numerous patterns. He just can’t stop himself.

So he sits, peering through (or perhaps over) his thick spectacles which are reflecting the early morning light, intensely focused on some diminutive morsel that is taking shape trapped in the jaws of the vice. Gordon ties flies in a posture reminiscent of the Hunchback of Notre Dam, his nose near in contact with the hook, his bobbin holder millimeters from the gradually evolving pattern. On the table is a disheveled pile of materials and a few flies already tied up whilst the rest of the camp was still snoozing and dreaming of the day to come.

Early morning focus, Gordon at the vice

Every wrap of thread is precise, there is no waste of materials or casual usage of the limited space available on the hook shank, the thread is repeatedly unwound to provide a smoother base, each wrap and pinch is precisely measured.

“Form follows function”, a classic example of Gordon’s strategy of simplicity and functionality in a fly pattern.

Then “David” , the 100 kilo camp pig, and mobile garbage disposal unit, waddles past, grunting as he goes. In a flash Gordon leaps up, declares that his most recently fashioned fly is “KAK” (shit) and decides that it is now time to “hand weigh” Davids, admittedly very impressive testicles.

David, the camp garbage disposal unit.

Gordon performs this , to my mind potentially risky operation, with apparent disregard for his own safety. David is quite placid generally, but it is obvious from his size that he would represent a formidable adversary were he upset, nobody has actually checked if he might turn violent on feeling cold hands grab his balls first thing in the morning.

It probably has less to do with bravery and more to do with entertainment, most of the guests are up now, there is an audience, and Gordon, an actor by profession, simply cannot refuse the opportunity to entertain, even at risk of losing a hand to a porcine chomp.

It is typical “Van Der Spuy”, focused one moment, engrossed even and then arms flail, expletives scream out, and he engages in some ludicrous act, grabbing a massive pig by the nuts probably not the most risky ever attempted..

Gordon is the ONLY angler I know who does a fair version of “The Macarena” whilst playing a four pound fish on light tippet. He doesn’t simply “set the hook” he leaps into the air as though all the time he had been standing on a now exploding airbag, he screams, and then provides running commentary on the take and the fight.. It is quite something to see, as said he is an entertainer, and if there is nobody else about he will simply entertain himself. With some anglers you may not know if they are enjoying themselves, Gordon leaves nobody in any doubt.

Gordon’s new book “The Feather Mechanic” is filled with gloriously handcrafted images

It would be easy to imagine that Gordon, renowned for such antics as described above, would be in some way imprecise, wayward even, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. When it comes to fly tying he is a driven man and exceptionally focused, obsessive even, a man who will take days to tie a traditional salmon fly when a thousand miles from the nearest salmon. He blends functionality and art into every wrap of thread and a logical approach to fly tying which is remarkably rare and to me greatly valued.

There are fly tyers who simply follow recipes, or copy YouTube videos, there are those who feel that it is impressive to cram as many materials as possible onto a hook, who labour to produce “near anatomically correct but function-less flies, or like me who really want to whip out some patterns fast and furiously and get onto the water.

Not Gordon, there is a focus and logic to it, his favourite and rapidly becoming famous phrase of “form follows function” can be seen in every fly he ties.. Here is a man who may consider fishing a less expensive rod but will use the best fly tying vice available.. (in this case the J vice). He doesn’t simply pick a feather, he can tell you where it came from and who bred the bird, he has a deep understanding and appreciation for the materials he uses and is obsessive of creating the best with them

Not only is he an exceptional fly tyer and wonderful entertainer he is equally a highly gifted artist and consummate tutor. He is launching his book “The Feather mechanic” shortly; filled with exceptional insight about fly patterns, with even more exceptional hand crafted artwork and numerous anecdotes as well as critical information of value to anyone wishing to tie better and more effective flies.



The Feather Mechanic isn’t simply “another fly tying book” it is quite possibly a game changer, it deserves international acclaim for the thought, the focus and not least the art.. It is likely to become a collectors piece and I doubt than any fly fishing or fly tying library can be considered complete should it be lacking a copy..

‘The Feather Mechanic will be available shortly, a stunning book worthy of international acclaim.

 

 The Feather Mechanic will be available from the following outlets:

UK/Europe

Cochy-Bonddu Books

https://www.anglebooks.com/

orders@anglebooks.com

Australia/New Zealand

Fly Life Magazine
https://flylife.com.au/

USA

Sideling Hill Hackle
https://www.etsy.com/shop/sidelinghillhackle

sidelinghillhackle@gmail.com

RSA

Pretoria: The Fishing Pro Shop
https://fishingproshop.co.za/

Johannesburg: XFactor Angling
https://www.xfactorangling.co.za/

Natal Midlands: Wild Fly

Durban: Xplorer Fly Fishing
https://www.xplorerflyfishing.co.za/

Direct from author: gordon.vanderspuy@gmail.com

 

Tim’s Day Off

October 7, 2020

Tim's Day Off Header

Finally, after lock down, computer failures, battles with new software, non payment by clients, and any number or other interruptions, hurdles and inconveniences I finally managed to hit the water. There was a time when I wasn’t even thinking about it; too busy trying to keep the home fires burning, my head above water, the wolf from the door and all those pleasant sounding euphemisms which grammatically try to hide just how dire the situation has been.

Truth be told it has been a pretty shit year and not just for me, this Covid thing has just wrought havoc on the lives of many and ended more than a few, government responses around the globe have seem to have been chaotic, uncoordinated and inconsistent, causing probably as much damage as the bug itself. Cracks in systems have become crevasses, ongoing and long term failures have been brought sharply into focus on virtually every continent and the chances are that we are not out of the woods yet..

That said, it seems to me that perhaps the safest place to be (and for me quite possibly one of the happiest) is on a trout stream in a relatively remote gorge half way up a mountain without sign of what my old fishing buddy Gordon would refer to as “the great unwashed”.. In short for all the things I could be doing ,and many that I should be doing, an escape into the wilds seemed potentially a very good idea and with minimal risk.

Of course one could break a leg, be bitten by a snake, crash the car and a great deal else, but compared to avoiding an unseen and unheard enemy in the form of twist of RNA wrapped in bad news those measurable risks seemed minimal at worst.

I was keen to be back on the water and out in nature.

So it was that I spent a small part of my weekend preparing gear, checked that there was sufficient finance available (thank you all those clients who delayed their payments) to put fuel in the truck and made note of the fair weather forecasts.

The odd thing was that despite the relatively warm weather and the anticipation of finally getting on the water, when a combination of melodic bird calls from the garden and the more intrusive pitch of my alarm awoke me, I felt surprisingly less than keen to get up. I wonder if other’s have similar feelings? One would imagine that it would be “all hands on deck” hurried and excited, perhaps even panicked dressing and a rush to swiftly down a cup of coffee, but I was instead somewhat lethargic. I have experienced this before, having not been fishing for so long the allure remarkably seems to fade a tad. And yet I know that after a day on the water I will be fired up, tying flies and dreaming of the next trip. It just takes one “hit” to get back into the groove.

I imagine it isn’t a bad thing, no doubt the exact same psychology that allows addicts of all kinds to eventually kick a habit if they can keep away for long enough from their chosen indulgence.. In this case I have no intention of becoming a piscatorial teetotaler, I am expecting the first hit to rapidly drag me back into a state of addiction, thankfully a healthy one.

It’s time to feed the addiction once more

We hadn’t planned to leave early, with commuter traffic on a week day one has two choices, go early or go late, the middle ground is likely to result in an hour of wasted bumper to bumper frustration, never the best start to a fishing trip.

So coffee and poached eggs were on the agenda, a leisurely start to what I hoped would be a fulfilling day. I planned to meet up with Peter in town and we  would then head for the river about an hour away. The sun was up and there was only a light breeze, the weather Gods seemed to be favouring our endeavor, although that little voice of “first trip paranoia” already had me checking the fishing box to insure I hadn’t forgotten the wading boots or God forbid the rods..

Our journey was complicated by arrangements to drop Lennie off with friends with a reliance on Google Maps to find the house, that took a bit of extra time and we only arrived next to the river late morning. It wasn’t really a problem, the overnight temperatures in the mountains had been quite low and we figured that giving things time to warm up no bad idea. Plus this early in the season a full eight hour day of wading in high water was probably more than we would have coped with, there was no rush.

Typical of a first day out, unpacking the gear revealed a broken rod tip, which I quickly fixed by removing the tip top guide and replacing it, and then I realised I had forgotten my net, again typical but at the same time annoying. One of the benefits of fishing with a mate, no matter the value of the company and an extra pair of eyes on the water, is that such mishaps are usually remedied as there are always duplications of tackle, we could rely on a single net if we had to.

Peter stuck to the dry fly throughout and did well with some nice fish coming to the net.

Peter spotted a fish on our walk down river to the start of the beat but it was obvious this wasn’t going to be a day for genuine sight fishing the water was crystal clear but definitely still well above average flow levels, this section of water contains a number of wide runs, almost impossible to fish in the height of summer but promising some action later as the water warmed.

The going was slow, we didn’t see fish and didn’t raise any for some time and I decided to experiment with some Euro-nymphing, I am not great at it, but it would be a good day to practice, Peter stuck with dry and dropper as we worked our way upstream.. The wading was hard going, doubly so due to the loss of “water fitness” over the closed season.

The wading was hard going in relatively high but fishable water

It was hours before I landed the first fish on the Euro-nymph rig, any other “takes” were just the flies catching the rock substrate. Euro-nymphing over gravel is relatively easy, but here with a boulder strewn stream bed hang-ups are almost inevitable and fly boxes can be decimated in short order. Particularly if ,like me, you are less than proficient, the breeze also makes contact with the flies more troublesome and loss of contact frequently results in lost flies and sometimes lost fish too.

I took another couple of fish in the nymph in some of the pocket water and Peter got one on his dry. Eventually we came to a lovely wide run with a few fish moving on top and I switched rigs to cast a dry and a small nymph. Euro-nymphing is fine and I sometimes enjoy it a great deal, but when there is water crying out to be cast over I will switch in a heart beat. There is something , at least to me, magical and satisfying about making a long elegant cast followed by a drag free drift of a dry fly. I got a couple on the nymph and Peter some on his dry.. At this point I hadn’t raised a fish to the surface, Peter is more persistent and will keep at it. It works quite well fishing like this, I take the more raging flows with the Tungsten flies and Peter has first pass at the more likely dry fly water.

A wide run with some rising fish, begging me to put away the heavy nymphs and cast a dry

The wading was hard going, especially in the more rapid and boulder strewn flows, the water chilly, but not paralysing to the point where deep wading risks epidural like numbness.

As the day progressed we found a few more fish rising and some that even if not showing would come up to the dry, Peter took a really nice fish on the surface just as we started to lose the light and I switched back to the dry once more, keen to do a bit of casting. The fish seemed a tad more willing late in the day and we ended up with probably about half a dozen each in the net. It wasn’t exactly on fire, but a typical first day out, with some fish, some frustrations, and more than a few mistakes.

Many thanks are due to Peter who endured many delays on our journey and had the foresight to take most of the pictures, a day on a stream is nice enough, but with great company it is better still.

We were out of practice in terms of casting, wading and juggling fish

I took a hard fall just before we quit, a suddenly very slippery rock combined with slightly numbed feet causing the swim and the demise of yet another pair of Crazy Store reading glasses, but it was time to pack it in anyway. As the saying goes “A bad day fishing is better than a good day at work”. Actually it wasn’t really a bad day, just a bit slow and that is pretty much to be expected.

Work calls, but I will be back on the water soon.

 

 

It’s Time

October 4, 2020

I have a reputation for verbosity, something that has been with me since childhood, but even then I do try to only write if I have something worth saying. Of course what I consider worth saying and you consider worth reading may well not be the same thing, it is simply the risk of publishing that has to be accepted.

A trout a trout my kingdom for a trout.



After our initially naive attempts at lessening the burden of enforced Covid related lockdown and 21 days of posts on “Lock Down Fly Tying” I think that perhaps I got a little burned out. Since that time and a last ditch and technically illegal trip to the rivers on the last day of the season, fishing hasn’t featured much in my mind. Sure I never quite escape it, there were still posts on social media from friends and associates of their piscatorial escapades and certainly the occasional fitful and sweat drenched dream revealed subconscious images of streams and fish, of fly casting and lovely drifts of dry flies.


Hopefully the net will be wet again soon.

But in reality I have been removed from the real thing for too long, life has “got in the way” as I am sure it has for many. Not just lock downs, crazy governmental regulations determining where you could go and what you could do. Whether you could drink or smoke or drive or visit with someone, but also the constant concern of loss of income.. It has all been a bit much to cope with and the rods have stayed tucked away in the spare room and the focus has been really pretty much on survival.


I have thrown slabs, fitted doors, built retaining walls and mended floors, but no fishing.

In the interim many challenges have been encountered, some met and conquered, others requiring still some work. The computer packed up, with that the loss of software I normally use for the graphics, the fonts aren’t the same, the tools aren’t the same and WordPress has apparently changed the editing process making this post far more laborious than it should have been. It took a good twenty minutes to add an image which previously would have taken two.. perhaps all those software designers “working from home” have, without supervision, fiddled too much?

But I digress, winter here in the South is supposedly behind us, the lurking cold fronts in the Southern Oceans have been pushed back by higher pressures and warmer conditions. As I write the garden is, for the first time in a while, bathed in sunshine, there is even the occasional lonely flower making a show.


Soon I will be on the river with my good mate Peter and all will be well.



The river trout season in these parts has been “open” for over a month and yet few have managed to wet a line. Storms continued to wash over the mountains, the overnight temperatures up there in the hills have barely struggled out of single digits and it has rained. It has rained and rained and rained.

It has rained sufficiently that we are , having not a few years ago been facing “day zero” and the possible and questionable honour of being one of the first major cities in the world to run out of water, now knee deep in the stuff. The dams are full and the rivers overly so, what fishing has been possible has been death defying, with very tricky wading and enough tungsten bead nymphs in the vest to virtually assure death by drowning should someone make an ill-considered step.

An abundance of caution, work pressures and a very simple desire to avoid such conditions have combined to keep me at home. But now the sun is shining and according to the meteorological gurus at yr.no, due to stay that way for a while. I am finally feeling that “It is time”, to get out there.

One Ring | The One Wiki to Rule Them All | Fandom

I am pulled to the streams in the same way that the “One Ring” was pulled towards Mordor, the weight of my fishing vest growing heavy with expectation.. It is time.

I can’t go through the normal rituals of preparation, we tied so many flies over lock down that there is no call for additional laboured hours at the vice, at least for now.



I have cleaned the reels and added new leaders, and I have , in response to the late winter weather and higher than average flows added a nymphing line, some tungsten and a few fluoro’ sighters just in case I am forced to throw weight.

After so much turmoil, bad weather, lock downs, regulations, limitations and disappointments it might just be that “It is time”..

It is likely that I will not be on form on the water, my presentation skills as rusty as a box full of previously drowned dries, I am ill prepared and will no doubt forget something, I haven’t delved into the vest or fly boxes in over five months.. but I can feel that now “it is time”..

The plan is to skive off work for a day, (goodness knows I deserve that), and take a trip into the hills. Chances are it won’t be brilliant but it will be nice, I will make mistakes, miss fish and likely get cold and wet, but I will be back on the water.. If I can overcome the vagaries of government regulations, computer malfunctions and wayward software designers I can probably overcome the limitations of high flows and cold water and catch a fish. Actually even if I am able to put in a few class drifts without interception from a trout I will no doubt return a happier and better person for it.

The “shack nasties” have begun to take hold, I am less resilient and more impatient. I need to go fishing and the signs are that “now it is time”


Lockdown Day21

April 16, 2020

An apology, whilst analysing the output on this blog over the past three weeks I found that I had failed to add the video clips related to the Invisi-ant and the Invisi-beetle featured on Day 10, thus making them even more invisible than intended,  I have now added those video clips should you wish to return to the relevant pages.

Well here we are day 21 of the South African Lockdown, today we were all originally due to get back our freedom. At the beginning of lock down I had committed to producing some sort of ,what I hoped would be informative, blog post related primarily to fly tying. I have managed that but I am going to take a little break despite the fact that our imprisonment will continue for a further fortnight at least.

If by staying at home we have reduced the spread of Covid 19, helped our health services gear up and be more prepared and perhaps saved some lives in the process hopefully we can all agree it has been worthwhile.

As we have all, I am sure, been looking at graphs of case numbers, deaths per day, accumulated fatalities etc in a depressing array of graphic representation I thought it might be a bit of light relief to see what has been achieved on this blog over the past three weeks.

The blog has contained an average of 1384 words per day with an accumulated total of some 27 thousand words over the period.

The word count has of course kept going up, but at least it isn’t exponential, I don’t think I have the energy to make it so, imagine those in health care around the world who’s work load has grown exponentially as a result of this crisis and be proud that you stayed at home and tied some flies.

We have looked at an average of two video clips per day and covered the complete tying process of some 21 different flies along with numerous fly tying techniques.

I have posted over 200 images, 27000 words and 21 complete fly patterns over the past three weeks

The number of flies demonstrated has grown constantly as might have been expected, the numbers of videos started off high because we were covering a lot of techniques but slowed down as I focused on single fly patterns. You could say that on the video front we have “flattened the curve” (that is a joke)

On a serious note though we have almost for certain together with everyone else enduring lockdown around the world at least bought some time and undoubtedly saved some lives. All whilst building what should by now be a pretty impressive fly collection.

If left unchecked and with an R nought (the theoretical spreadability of a virus) of 3 things would very quickly get out of hand. The R nought refers to the number of people each infected person passes it on to. That means that one becomes 3, then 9, 27, 81, 243, 729, 2187,6561,19683,59059,177147,531441,1594323,4782969 (and that is close to everyone in the country)

So no my maths isn’t great and there are other factors, but one of the most important is cutting down on that R nought value and the best way of doing that is to STAY HOME.

Thank you for participating, I hope that you all got something positive out of it. I may feel moved to write some more posts in the near future, but for now I need a break. Take care out there.

Remember that the discount vouchers for my on line books will expire shortly, if you still wish to get hold of a copy at 50% discount the links are shown for the last time below:

All the best

Tim

Discount code Essential Fly Tying Techniques: DR62J Code will expire 17 April 2020

Discount code Guide Flies : SB94S Code will expire 17 April 2020

I am sure that we are all looking forward to a time when we can get back out there on the water, until then, take care, stay safe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lockdown Flytying Day 20

April 15, 2020

Day 20 of our now extended lock down here in South Africa, one more day to keep to my original commitment. For now a larger and perhaps slightly more troublesome pattern although more fiddly than difficult.

The Mobile Marabou Dragon.
Although dragonfly nymphs don’t feature heavily in the fly boxes of some anglers in a wide number of the places we fish, in South Africa, New Zealand and a few others the value of a dragonfly nymph imitation can’t be understated.

Dragons not only inhabit the waters throughout the year because they take such a long time to reach adulthood, and you therefore know they are there (as indeed do the fish), but they equally represent a substantial mouthful to a hungry and predatory trout. It would probably be fair to say that few if any trout waters contain no dragonfly nymphs and if you are in doubt of where to start a dragonfly (or indeed a corixa pattern) are pretty fair bets. The fish may not be feeding on them but they more than likely will if presented with a decent representation.

Dragonfly nymphs range in colour from near black to dark brown but variations of olive are probably the most common.

The only trouble has been that despite many attempts and the use of lots of other patterns I never really had a dragon fly nymph pattern that I liked. They were either too “stiff” or overly complicated or in many instances too simple. Friends used to fish a dragonfly nymph imitation that was little more than huge lump of wool on a long shanked hook with the addition of eyes to make it at least appear like something to the human eye. It was effective but to my mind a dreadfully ugly concoction. The only really interesting thing about some of these patterns was the eye.

At one time many of my fishing associates used simple dragon fly nymph patterns similar to that above. They work, they emphasize the shape and head/eye prominence of the real bug quite well. To me they are however a tad ineligant and lack movement by comparison to the maribou dragon.

Guy Kedian years ago put me onto the idea of using the material from black plastic worms used by bass anglers as a material for eyes. It is a little tricky to work with but can be formed into superbly life like eyes with the application of the heat of a cigarette lighter.

Dragonfly nymphs come in two basic shapes, cigar shaped ones and more stubby short and oval ones, you can adapt the pattern to suite by simply changing the hook used in the manufacture.

The dragonfly that I now use, and actually the only one I use is manufactured out of tufts of marabou, providing maximum life like movement. Real dragonfly nymphs propel themselves, or at least can propel themselves, by sucking in and expelling water from their anuses. They therefore appear to “breath in and out” when jetting along,Something that can clearly be seen if you watch a specimen in an aquarium tank. The marabou isn’t so much to imitate abdominal gills as with perhaps baetis mayflies, the dragonfly nymph appears fairly smooth, but it does “inhale and exhale” as it moves and the idea is to include some significant movement to the pattern without having to fish it fast.

I am very much of the opinion that when manufacturing a fly that is this big it needs to be pretty realistic, one assumes that trout find it easier to spot a fake in a larger fly than a small one, much as you may notice a dent in your car but not perhaps a scratch. It is for this reason that the Mobile Marabou Dragon was born, to offer a very realistic and highly mobile pattern. It is fiddly to tie perhaps but not actually complex and it has slaughtered trout in numerous stillwaters fished from both bank and boat.

The Mobile Marabou Dragon is designed to provide exaggeration of key features such as the eye/head shape as well as mobility even when fished slowly.

I far prefer to fish most flies slowly and thus a pattern which is mobile and imitative whilst requiring little movement from the angler is the sort of thing which appeals to me. Bear in mind though that fishing flies slowly, and that goes for many if not all of the patterns in this book designed for stillwater fishing, means that you need to concentrate and look for hints of a take.

Waiting for the line to pull tight is the worst possible means of fishing flies like this, any hint of an interception, a stab down of the leader or line or the slight tightening of waves in the line on the water might be the only indication that a fish has taken the fly. Don’t imagine that because it is a large pattern it will necessarily be taken violently. Although dragon fly nymphs can move quite fast they don’t do that much of the time and it doesn’t take a great deal of effort on the part of the trout to overhaul the nymph and eat it. This pattern, although effective in a number of scenarios is probably at its best fished slowly on a floating line over weedbeds where the dragonfly nymphs hunt their prey.

Some great footage of both shapes of dragonfly nymph swimming underwater. Courtesy of TroutFodder channel on YouTube.

 

Dragonfly nymphs, like damsels, don’t hatch at the surface as do mayflies and caddis flies, it takes them too long to emerge from the nymphal shuck, so you are not trying to imitate hatching insects but rather those living in the water and hunting. As such they probably represent a fairly opportunistic meal for a trout, but that is no bad thing, it is likely that many fish not necessarily focused on dragonfly nymphs will still take one if the opportunity presents itself.

Tying the Mobile Marabou Dragon

 

 

This post and the fly described comes from my book “Guide Flies” if you would like to purchase a downloadable copy of it or my other book “Essential Fly Tying Techniques” you will find both links and discount codes below. The discount code will let you purchase the book at a 50% discount during lock down.

Discount code Essential Fly Tying Techniques: DR62J Code will expire 17 April 2020

Discount code Guide Flies : SB94S Code will expire 17 April 2020

Thanks for reading, stay safe out there.

Lockdown Fly Tying Day #19

April 14, 2020

This is a direct excerpt from my book “Guide Flies”, not only is it the story of an exceptional stillwater pattern, particularly for the bank angler, but equally a tale of the evolution of a pattern and the processes which took a basic fly from something of a concept to a simple and functional pattern over time.

The quick sink Corixa:
I first read about Corixa in Brian Clarke’s book “In Pursuit of Stillwater Trout”, a wonderful introduction to logical Stillwater bank fishing and recommended if you can get your hands on a copy. I can’t say that I took a whole lot of notice of this particular bug at the time, I had never seen a corixa and I seemed to catching enough trout on midges and hare’s ear nymphs to really worry about it.

Brian Clarke’s book ” In Pursuit of Stillwater Trout” has probably had a greater impact on my stillwater fishing than anything else I have read. A simple approach based on understanding and trying to copy real trout food items. The corixa pattern in the book isn’t what I would consider a great one, but the seeds for experimentation were planted.

I should digress for a moment and say that Corixa and Backswimmers are technically different, but they have very similar behaviours and profiles such that from a fly tying perspective you can pretty much treat them as the same, although this might annoy the biologists a bit.

Backswimmers in the water orientate themselves upside down when swimming, that said, from an angling perspective they are so similar to corixa that one doesn’t really need a separate pattern.

Corixa are aquatic beetles, of the family Corixidae, they don’t breath through gills as do mayfly nymphs, damselfly nymphs, dragonfly nymphs etc. but have to come up to the surface for air, remarkably they can also fly and do so on occasion to locate a partner and mate generally in large swarms. When they surface they trap the air in hairs around their bodies and carry it around with them rather like a miniature aqualung. They are of interest to anglers for a number of reasons:

Firstly they are found in an awful lot of waters that are also inhabited by trout.

Secondly they are there all year around and there is no messing about with pupal, nymphal, larval and other stages as with so much other trout food, which should at least make them easy to copy.

Corixa have no pupal, nymphal or other stages to concern the angler and if they are present in a water they are present all the time, something worth knowing if you are choosing a suitable pattern to start off with on a new water.

Pretty much there are just little corixa and bigger ones, although they don’t actually attain any really great size.

Thirdly, except when they are undergoing some mating flight they tend to occur somewhat randomly and as a result represent a rather opportunistic snack for the average Stillwater trout, you don’t need a “corixa hatch” to make good use of a suitable imitation.
Added to all of that, the corixa’s lifestyle make them a rather good target for trout and equally a good insect for bank anglers to imitate. Given their need to leave their weedy homes for a breath on a regular basis they put themselves at risk of detection and consumption all day long. When you imagine that a mayfly nymph only has to rise to the surface once in its lifetime, the poor corixa has to do this over and over again every single day.

Plus, because of the need for air and the swim required to fetch some they tend to inhabit relatively shallow water, well within the casting range of the average fly fisherman, which if you are an angler is a very fortunate happenstance.
The true importance of this humble little, if rather extraordinary, bug was brought home to me years ago when I had access to some spectacular fishing on private club water in the Kouebokkeveld a few hours drive from my home in Cape Town.

The area is arid, high and frigid (The name in Afrikaans means “Cold Buck Land” in direct translation). The small to medium sized dams, which are used by the farmers for irrigation of some of the most productive soft fruit orchards in the world, make excellent trout habitat in a country where a lot of the water is just too warm.
These dams regularly produced, from simple fingerling stockings, some absolutely astounding growth and trout up to ten pounds were hardly out of the ordinary, the waters were also for the most part clear and weedy, ideal habitat for both fish and fishermen.

A corixa underwater, the tell tale shimmer of the trapped air around its body can be clearly seen.

Although most of these lakes sported populations of corixa, one in particular, and a favourite of mine, was absolutely filled to the brim with the little bugs. In fact it was almost impossible to put your hand in to pick up a sip to drink on a hot day without taking in more protein than you had bargained for. It became apparent over time that the trout tended to come into the shallows to feed, either early morning or late evening, when the light levels made them feel safer. They would on occasion do the same if there was a good riffle on the surface, one imagines for the same reason that they felt less vulnerable under those conditions.

When I first seriously started experimenting with corixa patterns most South African stillwater anglers were predominantly using large lures or general attractor patterns.

At the time most anglers were fishing woolly buggers or perhaps damselfly and hare’s ear nymphs, many on sinking lines. Having come from a different background fishing in the waters of the UK I had a somewhat alternative approach to bank fishing and didn’t even own a sinking line at the time. I preferred to fish a long leader and a single fly with a floating fly line that I could use to detect the takes of fish that were subtle when retrieving slowly.

Standing in the shallows fishing damsels and hare’s ears I came to think that the fish must eat the corixa, and although we rarely killed a fish when we did so it proved that they were stuffed to the gills with these little beetles. So much so that gutting a recently captured trout would on autopsy reveal something akin to a corixa sausage, with decomposing bodies at one end and still wriggling ones at the other. There were just so many of these bugs about that I seriously wondered if the trout had to feed for more than a few hours a day before they were left groaning on the bottom of the lake with indigestion. Certainly there were frequently very quiet spells in the fishing during midday.

Another image of a subsurface corixa clearly showing the “aqualung” of air trapped around its body.

So I set about testing some imitations of corixa, they are simple on the one hand but tricky to get quite right on the other. Trying to imitate the flattened and rounded body of the natural can easily result in too much material on a small hook. Most of the corixa found in this dam were no larger than a size 14. The key triggers it would seem are the silver bubble of air around the body of the insect, the flattened shape and the two paddles with which they propel themselves through the water. I am a great believer in trying to capture the key points of an insect when designing an artificial, a sort of caricature as it were of the real thing.

There were a lot of corixa patterns around at the time, some seemed better than others but to my mind they were never quite right. Many sported hackles as imitation of the legs, but corixa legs are quite pronounced and fine fibres of a hackle didn’t really seem to look right to my eye. Then other patterns of the day had two distinct legs manufactured out of one thing or another, the problem was that they were tied in separately, making for an additional operation at the vice and taking up more space than there really was available on the hook.

Using fibres from the back removes the need or adding additional materials and thus bulk of the fly. In my pattern I use two fibres glued together for each leg.

Eventually over a season or so of experimentation the “Quick Sink Corixa” evolved. Although on occasion we wanted a fly that didn’t sink too much for the most we wanted a pattern that would get down, at least a bit. The use of lead wire on the shank solved that problem but was the wrong shape and closed the gape of the hooks. By flattening the wire we suddenly solved the problem of the weight and the shape at the same time. This brought with it another problem however; traditionally one used flat silver mylar to imitate the reflective qualities of the air bubble around the body.

It certainly looked the part but it was terribly difficult to wrap flat mylar around the now squashed lead underbody. Eventually though we found that using a small bunch of silver or pearl crystal flash made wrapping the body much easier, even more so if you anointed the lead with a spot of super glue before you wound it on. The final revelation, and perhaps the most significant in this pattern was using pheasant tail fibres for the shell back, not that that is particularly unusual, but we realised that we could use the same material for the legs. Separating out two fibres on either side, after forming the back, we could cut out the excess and have neat legs, perfectly positioned on either side of the fly without any additional bulk and leaving space for a neat whip finish.

Of course this didn’t all happen overnight, we manufactured some good and some pretty dreadful and time consuming corixa imitations, I think that they all worked, but this pattern was the culmination of experiments and adjustments which have now resulted in a quick to tie, neat, inexpensive and very productive Stillwater fly.

There was one further discovery about this pattern, I try to use ring eyed hooks for many imitative Stillwater patterns, if you don’t your lovingly created imitation of a damsel fly for example flips upside down every time you retrieve. Because we were fishing the corixa in such clear water we were able to observe the behaviour of the fly and noticed something very interesting. With each retrieve the fly would flip upside down for a moment, but it seemed that where the corixa is concerned this is a good thing. The fly on each slow strip gives a little semaphore flash of its underside, a little winking beacon that seemed to pull the trout in from yards away. So now the corixa is the one fly that I always tie on a down eyed hook, it just seems to enhance the effectiveness of the pattern a little bit.

Whilst for many patterns the fact that down-eyed hooks flip the fly over may be a disadvantage, in this corixa pattern it is a definite plus. Adding a little blink of flash on each retrieve, often pulling in fish from some distance.

 

Tying the Quick Sink Corixa:

 

This post and the fly described comes from my book “Guide Flies” if you would like to purchase a downloadable copy of it or my other book “Essential Fly Tying Techniques” you will find both links and discount codes below. The discount code will let you purchase the book at a 50% discount during lock down.

Discount code Essential Fly Tying Techniques: DR62J Code will expire 17 April 2020

Discount code Guide Flies : SB94S Code will expire 17 April 2020

Thanks for reading, stay safe out there.

Lockdown Day 18

April 13, 2020

 

Today I am going to take a look at one of my favoured patterns for the streams of the Western Cape, the goose biot parachute caddis. Previously we did look at a parachute caddis fly with Guinea Fowl wings (you can of course use any other feather fibre to create a similar pattern). But the wing slip style isn’t well suited to the reduced dimensions of the tiny micro caddis which are so common on our waters.

Goose Biot Micro Caddis black.

From the perspective of both the angler and the trout Caddis Flies are important, one might venture considerably more important, than the much more commonly copied mayflies. Whilst the mayflies become available as a food form both during hatches and again when the adults mate and run out of fuel, landing as spent spinners on the water’s surface, caddis flies live a good deal longer. They have mouth parts and can at least drink, either water or perhaps nectar to “top up the fuel tanks” and as such they can be found on the rivers for far longer periods than the mayflies.

Tiny Micro-Caddis adults are common on the rivers for much of the season.

The micro caddis flies of the streams of the Western Cape , although no doubt there are more than a few species, tend to fall, from an angling perspective into ether dark gray/black or tan versions. They can be found on the rocks for days if not weeks at a time and one can frequently observe them right at the interface of the water, one presumes perhaps drinking. The upshot though is that they obviously do fall into the water and the trout know all about them.

They are tiny insects, probably no larger than a #18 at best and almost impossible to see if trapped in the surface film, so to a point one is guessing that this is what the fish are after. But when there are lot of caddis flies on the rocks and the fish are rising on a relatively regular basis one can make assumptions and a carefully presented parachute caddis will as often as not fool the fish into taking. We don’t kill fish on these waters and I rarely if ever stomach pump a fish to confirm what it has been consuming, but the parachute caddis works often enough to provide reasonable subjective evidence that one is correct in one’s assumptions.

Goose Biot Micro Caddis Tan

One of the problems of fishing patterns to copy these minute flies is simply that they are difficult to see and of course whilst large Elk Hair caddis patterns are effective as general search patterns most of our caddis flies are far too small to be imitated with such a robust copy.

The parachute option at least allows the inclusion of a post, either in pale or bright colours that helps a bit in following the drift of one’s imitation. Of course caddis flies have low lying “tent shaped” wings so the post is little more than a sighter and I don’t like to over do this as of course it potentially detracts from the imitative qualities if too large. But a small post will generally allow one to be able to see the fly well enough. The takes to such small and trapped insects are rarely splashy affairs, little more than a dimple most of the time so having a clear idea of where your fly is on the water is crucial for consistent success.

Even small Elk Hair Caddis Patterns are not really tiny enough to adequately copy the micro caddis flies.

In essence this pattern is simply a version of the Guinea Caddis fly discussed previously, but the use of goose biot as a wing material creates a perfect copy of the natural’s wings with little trouble.

There certainly have been more than a few days when I have fished this pattern from dawn to dusk and fooled most of the fish it was thrown at. As said the caddis flies are around for a long time, the fish know all about them and if not actually focused entirely on these diminutive flies they will take them with confidence most of the time.

Although designed as a caddis pattern the fly will also provide a useful copy of the tiny stone flies also found on the streams. (Aphanicerca/Desmonemoura)

Tying the Goose Biot Micro Caddis:

One can modify this pattern in terms of colours and bulk, in the video below I don’t even bother to put in a dubbed thorax, the simpler the better on tiny hooks.

This is by definition a small pattern and as such practise with tying parachute flies, the BSP or Guinea Caddis will help you when you get to the small sized flies. It is also important in small flies in general to limit the materials, so this fly has no dubbing on the body and only a minute amount to form the thorax. Keep things very simple with only a few turn of hackle and use thin thread for a neater finish.

This post and the fly described comes from my book “Guide Flies” if you would like to purchase a downloadable copy of it or my other book “Essential Fly Tying Techniques” you will find both links and discount codes below. The discount code will let you purchase the book at a 50% discount during lock down.

Discount code Essential Fly Tying Techniques: DR62J Code will expire 17 April 2020

Discount code Guide Flies : SB94S Code will expire 17 April 2020

Thanks for reading, stay safe out there.

 

 

Lockdown Day 17

April 12, 2020

As they say on Monty Python’s Fly Circus :

There are many people making an effort to lessen the trauma of this universal lock down which has so many of us tired, bored and frustrated. One of those initiatives comes from the Rhodes University Fly Fishing Club and a 21 day fly tying challenge. They cover a different pattern every day and you are all welcome to have a bash at one or more of the patterns if you wish. If you would like to participate in the competitions go to https://www.facebook.com/RUFFC2020/

The latest challenge was to tie a buzzer pattern. For such a potentially simple fly there are numerous variations out there and with good reason. It is not uncommon to find a stillwater trout stuffed to the gills with buzzers (midge pupae) and pretty much unheard of to find a fish that doesn’t contain at least one or two of them. Midges are undoubtedly major food source for most stillwater fish and so they get a lot of attention from anglers.

However do you go with fast sinking resin concoctions or mobile materials, do you tie them straight or curved? Should they have breathing filaments on both ends, one end or none? As said for such an apparently simple pattern there are dozens of variations you can consider.

I was asked to judge this past challenge and thought that it might be fun for everyone to see my thoughts and comments on the submissions and if all goes well to give you a chance to vote too.. For the record I have no idea who submitted each pattern so the flies are simply numbered.

So without further ado, the flies and my comments, I wonder if you will agree with me?

Buzzer #1:

A straightforward and nicely tied fly, no whistles and bells and totally functional, I would fish this. I have always liked buzzers to have breathing filaments, to me that is an obvious feature if you see a real one in the water. This is the only pattern submitted with a bead head which would be good for particular styles of fishing a buzzer pattern, although I rarely if ever put beads on my buzzer patterns many people in other parts of the world do. A nice functional tie.

Buzzer #2:

It can be easy to make a fly look good with a resin coat but there are a couple of things about this pattern which I really do like. I would prefer to see breathing filaments, a personal thing, but nicely tied and what interests me most here is the innovative rib. It appears to have been added after one or more coats of resin such that it “hovers” inside the resin body. I think that innovation is worthy of special note. What that does mean is that perhaps there is a better way of doing this so that the “lateral line of wire” is hidden, I am not sure , but I do very much like the innovation in that idea.

Buzzer #3:

Again a very functional fly, I like the inclusion of a “flash back” on the thorax and really like the use of quill instead of the usual wire ribbing, gives a great effect. I think that the taper is slightly off and I would personally like to see breathing filaments although I know a lot of modern buzzer patterns ignore them.

Buzzer #4
What I really like about these patterns is the diversion from the all too familiar resin type flies to ones with more movement. What looks to be CDC tufts would not only hold the flies up in the water when the fish are feeding on the surface, a common occurrence on stillwaters, but also again add movement. My main reservation would be that the abdomens are rather uneven and lack a defined taper which I think is important. But I would happily fish these no problem.

Buzzer #5:
I really do like this one, simple, with breathing filaments, lovely shape hook and abdomen, flash wing buds and a neatly finished head. Very much like the quill abdominal segmentation and neat taper. Perhaps not innovative but very fishable.

Buzzer #6:
A very simple tie and often less is more, however I would like to see a bit more taper in the abdomen and again I like those breathing filaments which are ignored on this pattern. A personal thing perhaps but I do like to include whatever triggers I can in flies and the breathing filaments on the real thing are really very obvious.

Buzzer #7

This has to be one of the front runners, beautifully tied, love the spanflex style segmentation and the clever use of resin without coating the entire fly. Great and pronounced wing buds, would have liked to see some breathing filaments again.

Buzzer #8:

A lovely simple tie, again not necessarily innovative but it has all the key triggers I would look for. Breathing filaments, segmentation of the abdomen, etc. Perhaps a little more taper in the abdomen and more pronounced thorax would be preferable.. Head finish not quite as neat as it might be. Bear in mind I am being pedantic because this is a competition, but I would happily fish this one too.

Buzzer #9:

Another simple and perfectly effective pattern, again would have liked to see a more tapered abdomen, more pronounced thorax and some breathing filaments. But quite fishable for all of that.

Buzzer #10:

Another front runner, beautifully tied, smooth resin work and a neat finish to the head. Exaggerated wing buds which I would consider a key trigger but for me the lack of breathing filaments would be a negative point on an otherwise beautifully tied pattern.

Buzzer #11

I really like these, clever use of rib of what appears to be both floss and wire, both breathing filaments at head and smaller ones at the tail, and that “buggy look” which can’t be reproduced with perhaps neater looking resin flies. Only one of two entries to include filaments at both ends well done.  I would definitely fish these with confidence.

Buzzer #12

Again LOVE these, straightforward neatly tied and using uncomplicated materials. Plus a level of consistency as more than one fly is shown. I like simple flies for the most part and these tick all the boxes but for the lack of breathing filaments, which again I like to see on my buzzers.

Buzzer #13
A lovely and really neat tie but for the slight tag of thread left at the eye. Nice pronounced wing buds and slick finish. Very neat and cleanly tied.

 

In conclusion:

I think that I could easily have “given the win” to at least five of these submissions, I would happily fish with all of them.

In the end the things that I really liked the most were the simplicity and neatness of submission #12 and the use of standard materials without the use of resin. I really liked the innovation of the wire rib placement on submission #2 and slim segmentation of submission #7

So finally and this has been a very difficult and of necessity subjective decision:

First place goes to #12 because they just look so fishy, simple and elegantly tied.

Second place goes to #2 because I like the innovation with the rib

Third place goes to #7 for the great profile and slightly different interpretation of the abdomen.

Well done to everyone who participated.

I wonder what the readers would have chosen, please take a moment to vote, I am interested to see what other people think.. Thanks

 

 

Lockdown Day 16

April 11, 2020

Getting good and getting quick

With all of us shut in and boredom taking hold I run the risk of making you all even more bored, sorry about that. But today I thought we would look at how you can get better at fly tying, and quicker too. To be honest I am not the greatest fly tyer, I am lazy and prefer fishing to tying flies, so most of my flies are about as simple as I can make them without losing confidence in their efficacy.

But if you are a relative newby, and for many who are not, there are some tricks which can make your fly tying more productive over the longer term.

Most tyers, particularly new ones have a terrible tendency to chop and change, it is fun admittedly to tie a Woolly Bugger, then a Hare’s Ear Nymph, then a Pheasant Tail, but it messy and doesn’t really help you improve.

Over my lifetime I have had to , or chosen to, learn a number of new things, typing springs to mind and there is no real way to master that without the simple expedient of continuous repetition. Yes boring, but effective.

By tying the same pattern over and over and then gradually going down in size you will master it far more efficiently than by changing from one to another.

The reality is that although we would all like to consider ourselves very clever and our abilities due to diligence and intelligence in equal measure, the reality is that most of what you and I are good at came from simple repetition. Be it your times tables in junior school or that you are allowed on the road in charge of a ton or so of lethal mechanical wonder.

When it comes to fly tying the only real way to get good and or efficient is to repeat the process, you never really “know” a fly pattern until you have tied a few dozen at least and it is better that you do that in a continuous stream rather than chopping and changing.

There are nuances which are difficult to learn without repetition. These days as I tie in a parachute post I instinctively lean it slightly towards me so that it kicks upright when I torque up the thread. When I lash in tails I do much the same, a very slight twist towards my side of the hook so the tails end up on top of the hook when tightened down. These “instinctive” minor adjustments come from repeating the process over and over, there really isn’t any shortcut.

Secondly repetition greatly improves proportions. Proportions on a fly are to a large degree personal, but I can look at a set of parachute dry flies and I know which ones I tied and which ones someone else did. They are not wrong and I am not right, but it is obvious and it comes from doing the same thing over and over again. I like mine the way they are and someone else likes their version, but they don’t produce a mixture of different proportions in the same batch of flies. That is efficiency, that is the result of repetition.

Of late I have been tying up some Blue Winged Olives, a variation of an “F” Fly pattern. The standard “F” fly just never quite looked right to me, no matter that it is effective , in fact very effective. But by adding a CDC collar to that pattern I feel more confident in it. It is a pattern fairly new to me so the first attempts were not quite as I liked them. However I employed the same methodology that I have for many flies in the past.

Start off by tying the larger version of whatever pattern you are working on, in this case they were #14’s.

Throw away or cut down any that you are not immediately looking forward to fishing, if you are not confident in them as they come off the vice I assure you you won’t fish them, they will languish in your fly box until rust takes hold and you bin them anyway. You can expect to throw out or cut down several as you start the process.

However once you have a dozen or so which all look the way you want them, and all look the same, then switch to the next hook size down and repeat the process.

Then go down a further hook size and keep doing that until you get to the smallest ones that you think you are likely to fish.

It is a monotonous venture at one level but hugely beneficial in the longer term. Not only will you end up with a box of flies where you don’t need to “hunt around for a good one” on the river, but you will find that once you have ingrained the proportions and the tying method you can get back into tying the same pattern quite quickly even months later.

When I first started tying Comparaduns they looked horrible, they were new to me, I was used to tying hackles and parachute hackles but not these and it took time to get the right amount of hair on the hook, the right length, proportions were to start with highly variable. But after a few dozen one “gets in the groove” then you can tie them faster, smaller and more efficiently..

I very rarely tie less than a dozen of any pattern at any time even now, I find it more efficient to do so and I have less materials littering the fly tying bench.. There is a satisfaction in having a nice neat row of identical flies when you have finished.

During lockdown I haven’t done quite as much fly tying as I hoped but I have always tied flies in at least “tens”.. if you get really bored with it, perhaps just change the colour scheme , but try to tie a dozen or more flies all the same before moving on.

The long shanked Hare’s Ear nymph has been a favourite stillwater pattern of mine for years.

To keep myself entertained I vary the colours a bit , I am not sure that the trout give a fig about that.

The exact same pattern in Olive

And again a row in pink

And ten or so in  Claret

Eventually, after a few dozen of one pattern I have a change and start on something completely different

By repeating the same patterns over and over you will gain speed , efficiency and uniformity .

 

Be brutal with yourself, strip down the flies that don’t look the same as the others, you will pretty soon be churning them out, all near identical and at least for me, that will give me confidence on the water.

Thanks for reading, stay safe out there.