Archive for the ‘Fly Tying’ Category

A New Favourite

June 18, 2022

It is a funny thing, but one can pick up a fly box from pretty much anyone and pretty much anywhere and find a selection of hardcore fly patterns that are near universal in their appeal, to both the trout and the angler.

For the relative novice, still hooked on the idea that you have to have the right fly, or the besotted tyer slaving over a hot vice trying to come up with the latest “silver bullet” it can be something of a disappointment to realise that the same handful of patterns produce the goods a LOT of the time. Yes, nothing works all the time and there are situations and places where perhaps the fish demand something a little bit more precise than average. But on the whole the same standard flies make up the mainstay of many fly selections and account for many of the fish caught.

Most popular flies, such as the Adams, are great general patterns covering several bases

I can think of the Elk Hair Caddis, the Pheasant Tail Nymph, The Adams, Tabanas, The Diawl Bach and GRHE of prime examples of flies that can be found in just about every fly box in the world and they all represent a generic approach to copying insects. They are by nature non-specific; they are what I tend to refer to as “all things to all fish” flies. That’s an oversimplification but much of the time these flies work and there is little need to become obsessed with further detail.  

Even patterns which at first glance appear to be one thing can serve as a copy for another. The Elk Hair Caddis is quite obviously, as its name suggests, designed as a caddis pattern but can be put into service to imitate upwings quite effectively on occasion. Even the most classic of upwing patterns The Adams, was actually originally designed by its creator, Leonard Halladay, to copy caddis flies. The Adams is recognized as one of the most versatile of all dry fly patterns and can be pressed into service to cover midges, fluttering caddis flies and obviously a variety of the upwing mayfly species.

Cracking Brown Trout taken on they Wye during a mixed hatch using the modified F fly.

Now it so happens that after three or four days of fishing in Mid Wales on the Wye, Usk and Irfon Rivers I have a new favourite fly, one that deceived fish on all those streams, during evening rises and even drumming up fish which were not evidently moving that much.

It is a pattern which I have tied and played with for some time, but hadn’t really tested out that vigorously until this point in time. I have had some success on my home waters with it but I would hardly say that it was a favourite. In part because it isn’t particularly visible on those waters. (It is odd that some flies show up better on some waters than others and I do like to be able to see my dry flies clearly when fishing).

The fly Accounted for a few Grayling too

The fly is a modified “F” Fly, and I say modified because I never really liked the standard version, partly because, as with so many things, I imagined it to be a poor imitation of anything, only to find out that it isn’t actually, it is a more than fair imitation of a lot things. I have come to accept that it is easy to be wrong, and I have over time proven myself to be initially incorrect in my assumptions related to all manner of fly patterns. Parachutes I thought at one time to be an affectation, Comparaduns, well they didn’t look like flies at all, how would they work? Barbless hooks, what a foolish idea, etc. I have been wrong before and it is more than likely that I will be wrong again, but I do at least try to keep an open mind.

This is admittedly a particularly poor version of the original F Fly but illustrates the point, I think that it is lacking something.

First attempts with the “F fly” were disappointing, and convinced me of its lack of worth, the flies wouldn’t stay afloat for long and would never be capable of doing so once a fish was taken. Attempts with the pattern tended to result in frustrated fly changes after every fish. It turns out that this failure was primarily, simply the result of not having quality CDC and perhaps less than ideal fly floatant as well.

Equally though, the standard tie also lacked substance to my mind; I like simple patterns, but the original just seemed too insubstantial, too simple perhaps, lacking a certain “Je ne sais quoi”. It may be that it makes little difference to the fish, but an angler’s faith in a fly pattern can prove crucial to its apparent effectiveness. (See “The C Word”, posted earlier on this site, to further explore the importance of confidence) https://paracaddis.wordpress.com/2014/03/06/the-c-word/

After some fiddling I have developed my own version, it differs only in that it sports split nylon paint brush bristle tails (whereas tails are omitted on the original) and it has a collar of spun CDC tied with a split thread technique. These two additions, to my mind simply make a better fly, and certainly one in which I have a great deal more confidence. ( I try to restrict any egotistical suggestion that this is a “new pattern”, I am not sure there is such a thing in fly fishing anymore, but it is a variation which I prefer and with which it turns out I have enjoyed increasing degrees of success)

The modified F fly has a collar of CDC and split nylon tails. To my eye, far nicer and more imitative than the standard version.

Initially I always saw the “F” fly as a down wing caddis type fly, but it turns out that it is probably a far better upwing imitation than one might imagine, with the addition of some tails and the collar it really does an exceptional job of imitating a wide variety of Ephemerids.

Back at home one rarely gets the opportunity to watch mayflys (olives, sulphurs or whatever) hatching and drifting down river. (I should mention that I use the standard SA and US nomenclature, and that to me “Mayflies” include basically any ephemerids; upwinged mayfly species, both spinners and duns. This might cause some confusion for UK anglers who tend to reserve the term for large Mayflies of the Danica and Vulgata species, do bear in mind, that irrespective of size the morphology of these bugs is pretty similar most of the time). At home, the hatches are not that dense and the flies are for the most part very small, too tiny to study easily on the water most of the time.

Gorgeous Brown trout from the spectacular River Usk

On the Wye, there were occasions where there were good hatches of insects, such that I could watch them over some time and in some detail. Yes, of course I have seen plenty of images and video of drifting mayflies, but no medium can beat actual on the water experience.

Watching the olives (and a few large Danica) drift down stream it became quite apparent that my “F” fly version sat on the water in almost exactly the same way, with the same profile and near identical win colour. Although the mayflies are generally referred to as “Upwings” , if you watch them drift on the current their wings are not upright at all, but rather slope back somewhat at an angle over the abdomen. The CDC wing, lifted slightly as a result of the collar, sits at just the same angle as the wing on the real insect.

On a long flat, where I had some considerable success with the pattern, it was quite clear, because the drifts were long enough to study for some time, that my version of the “F” fly, really looked, at least from the angler’s perspective, very very like the drifting Olives. The profile and wing colour making it quite difficult to distinguish the artificial amongst the naturals.

Broad flats like this one on the Wye produced some great fishing to targeted rising fish

Is this all new? No, I am not claiming to have invented anything, but I certainly have a new favourite fly and it worked wonders on the rivers in Wales during my most recent trip. I still dislike the standard version seen on most websites, but that might just be personal bias, if you are not confident in a pattern it isn’t going to work for you. This version I have confidence in, it is one of those “all things to all fish” type of patterns. One could pull out the tails and end up with a more than serviceable caddis pattern and obviously slight variations of colour are all that might be needed to provide more specific copies of a natural should that be required on occasion.  

No fly is a silver bullet, and of course there are still the standard issues of presentation and quality drifts required to illicit a result from the fish. On this occasion I was fishing a leader close to 20’ long and tapered down to a final 8X tippet. On this set up, putting the fly over a rising fish resulted in a take on the first drift about 70% of the time. If that wasn’t the case most fish took it within three quality drifts, and of course a few (the minority) of times the fish didn’t take and stopped feeding; more likely angler error than some fault of the fly.

I would add two other factors worthy of consideration when using such flies: firstly you require a floatant which works with CDC and doesn’t clog the feather fibres. The absolute best I have found for this is “Power Float” from C&F”. It isn’t always easy to find, might be seen as expensive and comes in a very small little toothpaste tube, but one actually uses such small amount that tube will last a long time. (I don’t have any affiliation with C&F or any financial benefit from telling you this, just so that you know)

Power Float is one of the very best floatants I have found to use with CDC flies.

The second issue worth noting is that after catching a fish it is important to wash the fly off to get rid of any hydrophilic slime from the fish, then blow it as dry as possible before squeezing the fly in dry pocket tissue and a final blow or false cast to dry it off. Done like that, on my last trip on the Wye, a single fly accounted for a dozen fish over a period of perhaps two hours without requiring replacement or
re-treating with floatant.

Pocket tissues offer an excellent and easily obtainable means of drying out CDC flies

I find it quite interesting that a pattern which initially failed to impress, both me and the fish in my experience, turned out to be a real winner. Some of that might well be the mechanics of manufacture and the use of poor quality materials, equally part of the success could well be attributed to better design and more confidence on the part of the angler. In short I have a new favourite fly and equally a new appreciation of the idea that you can’t judge a book by its cover or a fly from only a few experimental casts. One needs to keep an open mind. Quite possibly many, if not most, of my “favourite” patterns have been ones which I initially disliked or in which I lacked confidence. So I am forced to add the “Modified F Fly” to that list of patterns which have grown on me in time. Just as well, without the flies on that list I probably wouldn’t be catching anywhere near as many fish.

Bare Midriff Ant Pattern

January 12, 2022

Some nineteen years ago I was privileged to participate in the 23rd World Fly Fishing Championships in Jaca in Spain, as part of the South African five-man fishing team. The fishing was tough and not least because, as a result of heavy winter snows and then very warm summer weather, each day many of the rivers would flood as the snow melted and turned the streams from crystal clear waterways to muddy and unfishable flows within minutes.

Jaca is an old city with buildings dated back to the 11th Century

This is a spectacularly pretty part of the world; if one has notions of Spain based only on the Costa Del Sol and its overabundance of British tourists, fish and chips and Watney’s Red Barrel then the surprise at the glorious tranquility and wonderful scenery is near overwhelming.

Jaca, the host city for the competition lies in North Eastern Spain in the Huesca region, right at the base of the Pyrenees. It sports a number of medieval walls and buttresses surrounding the 11th century cathedral as well as, as I recall, both a girl’s school and a military base; one has to wonder if this represents as much a headache for the officers as it might for the parents.

Recollections of the place include glorious mountainscapes, wonderful hospitality and crystal-clear streams, running at base of deep mountain gorges.

The Spanish Pyrenees are spectacular

As is frequently the case with such events the fishing venues were often quite far apart and as a result of the terrain not always being that accessible, competitors faced long hours on buses being transported, dropped off and again picked up along the sectors they were due to fish.

In short, such competitions require a good deal of transportation and a lot of dead time sitting on coaches, either planning one’s strategy or reflecting on mistakes made. Such times however provide the ideal opportunity to discuss things with other anglers and most of us take that chance to meet up, befriend and share ideas with fellow competitors. Actually, despite the competition, those championships I have been fortunate enough to attend are really rather like going to “Fly Fishing University”. There is a plethora of knowledge and, for the most part, it is shared freely, I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that anyone was giving away secrets related to the fishing during the event, but fly anglers are generally a friendly and helpful lot, they are happy to discuss almost anything else, fly fishing related.

So, it was on one of these winding coach trips over serpentine mountain roads that I found myself in conversation with a Scandinavian competitor about some streamer flies he had shown me. They were unusual in that the fly was tied in two separate parts, the tail and then the wing, with bare hook shank between the two segments. 

Generally speaking, and certainly at that point to my knowledge, most flies are simply tied in one go. It would be normal to take the thread to the bend of the hook, tie in the tail, body, ribbing and finish off with a wing and a whip finish. These flies were different, the tail had been tied down and then operations curtailed before reattaching the thread near the eye of the hook and adding in the wing. What purpose the bare shank in the middle? Turns out that the theory, and to me a pretty sound one I would imagine, is that these flies were designed for toothy fish such as pike or perhaps Zander and the lack of dressing mid-hook make it harder for the fish to bite down on the dressing and prevent the fly moving during the strike. Essentially then, designed to allow the hook to slip between the teeth of even a heavily clamped jaw and allow for the fish to be hooked.
I can’t actually say if it works, but it at least makes sense and I am a sucker for a good theory, so long as it ticks the boxes of logical thought.

I don’t have the opportunity to fish for any such toothy critters so I have never been able to genuinely put the theory to the test.

Now it so happens that I have, of late, been tying quite a lot of flies and even more so quite a lot of ant patterns. The primary reasons are that we have a planned trip to Lesotho at the end of the month and ants are one of my primary “go to” flies up there on the Bokong River. The resident yellowfish are particularly susceptible to terrestrials, hoppers and ants mostly. The second reason is that we have had a lot of late rains here in the Cape, and to be honest that hasn’t done the fishing any favours. It has been a poor and slow start to the season, with the fish behaving more as they might in spring than in summer. The rains do however offer at least the possibility of a flying ant fall, which if it happens can provide a red-letter day on the water, so long as you have an ant pattern to throw. (if you don’t you might as well go home and drink some beer).

It is an unfortunate happenstance for the ants, although a potential bonus for the angler,  that many of insects end up in the water, trapped, helpless and at the mercy of the fish.

I tend to carry a number of different ant patterns on the Bokong. The yellowfish love terrestrials and ants in various forms are a must have.

Ants hatch and then fly out to meet a mate and set up a new colony and they tend to do this after rain, because the wet earth is softer and easier for them to dig out their nuptial burrow, which, if they are successful will become an entire new colony in time.

Of course, that might not happen on any day I am on the river, but it pays to be ready and with that I have increased my stock of minute flying ant patterns just in case.

I have a particular soft spot for ant patterns, mostly because so do the fish, both trout and yellowfish tend to become fixated on ants if they are available and it definitely pays to be ready, as said, if you can’t copy them, you are in for a very hard time of it, if you can, you are very likely to experience an exceptional day.

One of the interesting things about imitating ants seems to be that the fish key into the segmentation of the body, all ant pattern designs at least attempt to mimic or better still, exaggerate the segmentation. Little black mayfly patterns simply don’t work if the fish are tuned into ants, a near identical pattern with a distinct waist will do the business nine times out of ten. So segmentation is, to me at least, a crucial factor in a good ant pattern.

The most obvious features of most ants are the segmentation and the very thin waists of these insects.

I have already experimented with a number of effective copies of ants, the Compara-ant, from my book Guide Flies, is a case in point. To better emphasize that segmentation and waist there is no hackle, no post, no anything that may detract from the obvious ant shape. (it is a failing, in my opinion, that many commercial ant patterns don’t do a good job of imitation, tending to be overdressed and not obviously segmented.

In my opinion, many commercial ant patterns fail dismally to exploit the obvious narrow waist of the natural.

This recent fly tying session had me tying parachute ants, size 18 parachute ants to be precise and it is pretty hard to get a distinct segmentation with a small hook and a parachute pattern. But then my mind wandered to those streamers I was shown in Spain, all those years back, and it dawned on me that should I skip any thread or dressing on the middle of the hook I might more easily exaggerate the required waist on the fly. There is after all no real requirement to dress the middle of the hook, real ants have tiny almost invisible waists and by tying the gaster and thorax as two separate operations I was able to achieve what I think to be a far better pattern.

Sparse hackle and bare midriff accentuate the segmentation of the natural

It seems odd really that it should take close to twenty years for one innovative idea to spawn another, in fact I doubt that I could be the first person to think of this or even to attempt it, but I am pleased with the results. Now if the fish decide, for once, to play ball, and if the ants, sitting in the warm dark of their mounds have been keeping an eye on the weather and figure that the next couple of days might be a good time to kick the teenagers out then we might just be in for some great fishing.

It is still after all the holidays and I am overdue for a good session. What I am pretty sure of though, is that if that all comes together I will have some great patterns to try out and I am more than confident that they will work, possibly better than other previous designs.

Some conventional ties and some with bare midriff’s, the segmentation of the latter is more obvious in my opinion

The Molenaars Beat

May 7, 2021

The Molenaars beats on the Smalblaar River in the Limietberg reserve outside of Cape Town have always been a favoured section for me to fish early and late season. Truth be told the parts of the river are too warm during the summer months for good fishing and any fish caught are likely to die as a result, so I forgo the pleasure for more than half of the fishing season.

The name itself is something of an oddity, this beat has been the Molenaars beat for several decades at least, but confusion reigns because when the Huguenot tunnel was built the engineers and/or the roads department decided to rename the Smalblaar River the “Molenaars River” for no apparently good reason. Head down the N1 for another five kilometers and turn right into the small town of Rawsonville , and then after negotiating the main street  you can cross the selfsame stream proudly announcing that it is the Smalblaar River, with an official plaque on the bridge supports to prove it. How can a river can change its name in less than a few miles?

Mind you none of that was particularly on my mind last week when I had a precious day of solitude to venture out onto the water. The winter chill is just starting up in the mountains and overnight temperatures are cooling the water nicely, whilst a tad of early winter rain has raised the flows to near perfect levels. It of course helps that the polluting fish farming activities higher up the stream have apparently been curtailed and what greeted me in the morning was a crystal-clear river, flowing smoothly under a bright autumnal sky.

The beat is well known for the quality of the fish

The conditions were, after a number of previous weather affected fishing attempts, PERFECT!! A light, almost immeasurable zephyr of a breeze, which turned upstream by mid-morning a touch of warming sunshine and clear blue skies overhead. The trek into the stream was a bit of an issue, I don’t think that it has seen too much foot traffic and the path has become badly overgrown, but then again I have become quite used to clambering down cliffsides never quite knowing if one is standing on solid ground or little more than an illusion of security made up of broken branches and greasy palmiet fronds. I had left the rod in the bag and had the reel tucked in my vest in anticipation of this battle with the foliage and the slippery underfoot conditions and arrived at the water’s edge safe and sound.

My God, the river looked pretty, just enough flow to make it fishable and there in the tail out of the first pool, a fish… I could see the shadow on the river bed but whilst trying to find the actual fish some inadvertent movement must have become apparent and he spooked. It didn’t really matter, the rod was still in its bag and I had yet to tackle up. It was however an indication that the fish were more than a little gun shy, and spooky in the bright conditions.

Before I even started fishing it had warmed sufficiently for me to ditch one layer of clothing and then I headed upstream, as always playing about with the leader set up to insure that I was happy with the presentation.

The first few runs were really practice, checking casting efficiency and aiming at imaginary targets, I had to adjust a little as I repeatedly fell short until I lengthened the leader to well over two rod lengths.

Often the shadow is more obvious than the fish

A few runs without sign of a fish and then on a long section of shallow pocket like water I spotted a trout, languishing in the current, not rising but definitely “on the fin”. A cast with a #20 parachute olive and he swung back and followed downstream before a half hearted take. I am not sure that he ate it, but raising the rod tip didn’t produce a result, despite that my quarry remained on station. The next cast of the same fly saw him swing away as it drifted past and I was sure that the game was up. The next cast and he spooked, somewhat expected, but the sun shone and hope sprang eternal, I had been at this for less than 20 minutes.

The next fish I spotted was in near impossible conditions, thin water and little flow, I feared even the 8X tippet might cast sufficient shadow to spook the fish, but at least he was active subsurface and very occasionally coming up to the top. I threw the same 20ft 8X leader and #20 fly with somewhat limited confidence, he didn’t spook but ignored the fly. I resolved to change tactics.

I added another foot or two of tippet to the dry fly and a diminutive CDC soft hackle with all the physical presence of an anorexic comma. It is late in the season and I haven’t tied many flies, so these were the “dregs” under dressed to a degree of near absurdity. On the very next cast after the change the fish swallowed the soft hackle and so it was to be for the rest of the day.

You don’t need GPS, the old swingbridge still acts as a marker at the bottom of the beat, although it has seen better days and won’t last forever

Time and again I presented the tiny dry and the soft hackle combo to visible fish and each and every time they chose to eat the soft hackle. I would include an image but that it is too small to photograph with the equipment at hand. The pattern is short dressed on a #20 hook, about half the shank is covered with 14/0 black thread and the collar is a whisp of “Bisque” CDC tied in a split thread style. As already stated, these flies were the runts of the litter, left in a corner of the fly box as being really a little too sparse even for me to have faith, but the fish didn’t care. They gobbled these things up like toffees on a sweetshop counter.

The fish down on these lower beats are in tremendous condition, remarkably given that the river down here runs very warm in summer, spectacularly warm if you are a northern hemisphere angler, perhaps topping 27°C at times. But the fish were fat and fit and the best of the day, around 18” you would have been more than happy to pull out of a Stillwater.

It really is a privilege to be able to fish these waters and to experience the beauty of both the surroundings and the fish. It is technical that’s for sure, the trout are twitchy and nothing less than perfect presentation will do. I spooked more than a few with the line in the air, and bear in mind that most of the time the only thing getting remotely close to the fish is the leader. Drag is a no no, shadows are a no no, large flies are a no no, near perfect presentation on a long thin leader was the order of the day and that’s just the way I like things. Even then the flies in the film outperformed those on the top by a factor of over 90% and again I am convinced that freestone trout like the easy pickings when they are available. Even in a hatch situation, which on this day there was not, the fish seem far more at ease chomping down on some apparently hapless drowned bug.

I have fallen in love with my rather ugly but functional “photographic net” makes handling of the fish far easier and less fraught with risk.

As something of an aside I have been experimenting with my “photographic net”, a pool noodle modification of a normal one. When fishing with such small flies unhooking requires that I first seek out my reading magnifiers and then the forceps. All too often I then have to unhook the top dropper from the mesh of the net and other fiddles, all of which represent delay and possible injury to the fish. Now I can leave the trout in a backwater, happily holding station whilst I “sort myself out”. It is a bit ugly I admit, but I am convinced better for me and for the fish. A few times the tippet snapped as a result of the top dropper catching the mesh, but with this set up I could easily remove the fly from the fish before release. With a different set up I think a few of those trout would have swum away with the midge still stuck in their mouths..

The fly fishing literature is filled with patterns that are “emergers” “stillborns”, “drowned duns”, “shuck stuck” and more, but in reality I think that they are simply “damaged” ( I thought of a less polite term and decided against it).

Having run out of #20s I resorted to #18s but still sparse!! Genuinely I took several fish on the fly in this state of “undress”

I have fished regularly with the same or similar soft hackle to tricky fish but I have rarely if ever cast flies so very tiny and so very sparse with this level of success. We are limited, as humans, as to what we can perceive and the notion that a fish will target something so tiny and insignificant really pushes the boundaries. That the darn fish can even see the fly is a miracle, I can’t tell if I have lost it from the end of the tippet without close inspection. The only real clue is if I don’t get a take from the fish the fly is most likely missing.

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

 

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 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.

Lockdown Day 15

April 10, 2020

Probably all of us at some time battle to see a fly, either because it is small or perhaps dark or even submerged and the use of some sort of indicator can be helpful in either monitoring takes or in “finding” the fly. It is remarkable how often if one has some sort of sighter one can see even tiny flies once you know where to look. So today an alternative that you may like to experiment with , dry flies tied specifically to be used as indicators or sighters.

There are any number or ways of adding and indicator or fishing two flies at once, either with a dropper, tied eye to eye, New Zealand Rig (Which I am not fond of) and I am sure more.

Here are a few options from my book “100 Fly Fishing Tips, Tricks and Techniques” :

One can leave a longer tag on the final tippet knot (Grinner, Surgeons etc) and attach a dry fly to that, and adding a nymph or second dry fly to the tippet. It has the disadvantage of tangling more easily, but offers better contact with a nymph set up.

 

My preferred method on streams with either two dries or a dry and nymph set up, easy to change, less tangles and little interference when striking takes on the top fly.

 

This method provides similar results to the eye to eye method but where you find it difficult to fit two tippets through the eye of a hook this can offer an alternative. Just tie a Grinner knot link above the dry fly and slide it down onto the dry fly eye.

 

This is a very commonly used system but I believe it has a serious disadvantage in terms of impeding hook sets on takes to the upper fly. So I personally don’t use this one.

 

Another alternative, by carrying a fly already linked to a short and looped section of tippet you can easily change the indicator fly without major re-rigging.

 

With a little forward planning at the tying bench you can manufacture flies specifically designed to easily use as indicators when required.

Indicator Dry Flies:
I have a strong dislike for indicators, they are effective to be sure and I will use them, but years in international competition where they are not allowed has led to some experimentation which has proved tremendously useful.

Using dry flies as indicators isn’t new and of course apart from the advantage of revealing a subtle take to a subsurface fly they can equally be tremendously effective when fishing two dry flies together. This is something that I have found of use more and more frequently, either due to failing eyesight or the simple fact that some insects are too small and too dull to imitate properly and still be seen on the water. Even parachute posts don’t offer all the answers and some wary fish will undoubtedly avoid white or bright posted flies.

Some years back I was fishing with my good friend Mike Spinola on a section of a local stream known for lower fish counts and consequently bigger fish. Arriving at a particular run there were a few good sized rainbow trout, up to about 18” in length feeding steadily at the head where the current concentrated the food into a narrow band along a distinct bubble line.
We had already experienced some success but the fish eschewed our offerings; despite the fact that they had worked earlier in the day. We could see some dark Choraterpes mayflies coming off but suitable imitations were extremely tricky to see in the broken water and low light.
Tying on a small CDC spun dun with a pale wing I then added a few feet of 7x tippet, running from the eye of the CDC pattern and added the Choraterpes imitation to the end of that.

Dry and dropper rigs offer the angler greater versatility when on the water.

Although I had been unable to see the dark mayfly on its own, now, knowing where it was by virtue of the brighter CDC pattern it was much easier to follow in the current, and I had the added advantage that should I miss the actual take the indicator fly would hopefully twitch and offer a clue.
The set up worked tremendously well and we extracted several hard fighting rainbows from that run before we put the fish down.

On one notable occasion the flies drifted so closely together on the converging currents that a trout actually pushed the CDC pattern out of the way with its nose as it ate the darker pattern. Proof that on occasion the fish would focus entirely on flies which we found difficult to see.
Since then I have experimented a lot with indicator fly rigs and one of the advances has been to tie a number of my more visible dry flies with nylon loops incorporated into the dressing. That leaves me the option of adding a
nymph or second dry on a short length of tippet at any point that I wish with minimal disruption. It is easily removed again or changed without upsetting the leader and I can quickly switch from single dry to two dries or an upstream nymph rig at will.

As conditions change being able to adjust one’s terminal set up easily offers advantages to the angler

The set up isn’t competition legal, but for everyone else it represents a style of tying some of your dry flies which provides considerable flexibility and versatility when on the water and of course doesn’t prevent one from using the pattern as a single fly should you wish. Versatility is a key component of “Guide Flies” as far as I am concerned and manufacturing some of your dries in this way will I am no doubt add to your effectiveness on the stream.

Making up “Indicator Dry Flies”

Refer to (FIG#38)
The process is remarkably simple and it is easily incorporated into your normal fly tying.

Before you tie any suitable dry fly simply run the thread down the hook, use the finest thread you can to reduce bulk, even if you change over for the actual pattern.

#1: Run touching turns of thread down the shank of the hook to the bend.

#2: Take a short length of tippet material and “nibble” the ends gently with either your teeth or a pair of pliers. This is to provide additional purchase for the thread when tying in. The nylon should be a little stronger than your normal tippet strength, I normally use 5X as I fish 6X and 7X as terminal tackle most of the time.

#3: Tie in one end to the hook shank with two turns of thread.

#4: Catch in the other end of the nylon with the next two turns of thread as you work in touching turns back to the eye of the hook. You can pull the nylon at this point to provide the loop size that you require, it only needs to be very small. (Think of the size of the hook eye, twice that size is more than enough).

#5: Wrap touching turns of thread all along the shank of the hook catching in the nylon as you go.

#6: Just short of the eye, trim the butts of the nylon, cover with thread and whip finish. It isn’t strictly necessary but you can add a drop of head cement to the wraps if you wish.

#7: Use the hook with the loop added to tie your favoured indicator dry fly. Parachutes, Elk Hair Caddis patterns and even hopper patterns make good indicators. If you really want to be clever you can pre-treat the flies with hydro-stop waterproofing as well.

The rigging diagrams in this post come from my eBook “100 Fly Fishing Tips, Tricks and Techniques” the book is available on line in a variety of different formats, pdf, mobi (kindle) and others on the link “100 Fly Fishing Tips, Tricks and Techniques”

Thanks for reading and stay safe.