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.

Lockdown Day 14

April 9, 2020

Corona lock down Day 14

Two weeks, two whole weeks of being at home, hard on all of us, although it does strike me that it is odd that I could rarely “find a day” to go fishing when I was allowed to, I think that might change in the future for many of us.

The way things are going it is entirely possible that the streams will be closed before we are able to access them, so today a focus on a little used stillwater pattern but a great one to tie.

The Marabou Muddler minnow

There have been so many variations of the Muddler minnow, as with so many classic flies, that it is hard to know what they are supposed to imitate: minnows (as the name would suggest), dragonfly nymphs, cicadas, hoppers, crickets. The Muddler in various guises probably does a pretty good job of all of those which is no doubt part of the reason for its popularity. The Muddler also has the versatility to be fished as a dry or a wet fly, a popper or a streamer, which probably makes it close to unique in the world of trout flies.  The marabou muddler is probably an out and out lure, at least when tied in bright colours, one could imagine perhaps that the white version would make a fair baitfish pattern. But if we don’t restrict ourselves to trout, the same fly makes a great bass fly pattern to.

What perhaps makes it less popular is that it is relatively time consuming to construct and not necessarily that easy either. The key element is of course manipulating and cutting the deer hair head to the right size and shape, and even then “Right size and shape” means different things to different people.

A white Marabou Muddler would make a pretty good baitfish imitation.

I don’t fish this fly often but I do use it as an alternative to a “Booby” style lure, it has a bit more appeal to me compared to the foam eyed lure and no doubt performs in much the same way in the water. The only issue is that I can tie up half a dozen boobies in the time it takes me to tie two decent Muddlers. So for the most part I tend towards the path of least resistance, but with so much time on our hands why not try tying up a few Muddlers instead?

The “Texas Rose Muddler” was a very popular stillwater lure in the UK during the 70’s

An orange Marabou Muddler fits pretty much the same bill as an orange booby which I use both as a simple attractor pattern on the top dropper of a team, and as a great pattern when the fish are feeding on Daphnia where orange flies have proven to be particularly successful.  Plus I kind of like the more “old school” approach versus the modern foam eyed constructions, not that I will shy away from those if the need arises..  For now, with time on one’s hands, a great opportunity to tie up some more complicated and satisfying patterns perhaps.

Black Marabou Muddler,with so many colours of marabou available you have near endless choice as to what colour scheme your Muddler might have.

As with yesterday’s post I am going to include the instructions along with the graphics and video.

• Place a strong nymph hook in the vice and run touching turns of thread from ⅓ back the shank to the bend, you leave the front portion free of thread to aid spinning the hair later.

• Tie in a small bunch of turkey marabou, leaving enough of the butts overhanging the hook to form an abdomen later.

• Wind the thread through the butts of the bunched marabou in open turns to form a simple body, stopping the thread approximately a third of the way back from the eye. Trim off any excess marabou.

• Tie in with a pinch and loop another bunch of marabou to form the wing, it should reach just a little past the bend of the hook. Tied in longer it will tend to wrap around the hook during fishing.

• Trim off the butts of the wing and prepare to start adding the deer hair collar and head.

• Stack a bunch of deer hair in a hair stacker to even up the tips.

• Remove the hair from the stacker with the points facing towards the back of the hook.

• Measure up so as to create a neat collar that will reach approximately half way back the wing.

• Using the method for spinning deer hair on a dressed body, “spin” or “distribute” the hair of the collar evenly around the hook, fold the butts of the hair back towards the bend of the hook and take the thread forwards in front of the bunch of hair.

• Add an additional bunch of hair, this time there is no need to stack it. It helps to tie in the hair in reverse with the points left long as then it will be easier later to fold the hair back and made a neat whip finish.

• Spin the second bunch of hair on the bare hook shank, pulling tighter with each turn of thread until the bunch is firmly attached and spun neatly around the hook.

• Pull back the hair towards the bend of the hook, take the thread to the front and form a neat whip finish.

• Trim the hair in stages, first getting the correct shape before cutting down to the correct size.

• Take care not to cut off the points which form the collar.

• Add a drop of head cement to the whip finish and you are done.

This post and the fly described comes from my book “Essential Fly Tying Techniques” if you would like to purchase a downloadable copy of it or my other book “Guide Flies” 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 13

April 8, 2020

Corona lockdown day 13

Day thirteen of our lock down fly tying series, the idea was to assist me, and perhaps you, in not going totally stir crazy, I am not so sure at this point it is helping. All those on line video clips of trout rising to dry flies are making me hanker all the more to be able to roam a stream again. I am finding that tying flies without realistic expectation of being able to fish them is tough going. Much easier to press on when there is a trip planned or a season opening.

Mind you this virus outbreak already means that some 80,000 people have wet a line for the last time ever, a pretty strong reminder that sitting at home and tying flies isn’t the worst thing in the world. So stay home, stay safe and fill up those boxes.

Today a look at an effective and slightly different caddis fly pattern. I am sure that for most of us use variations of the Elk Hair Caddis , the “CDC and Elk” version being a firm favourite. But in smaller sizes some variations can be helpful and this particular wing slip parachute caddis, “The Guinea Caddis”is a nice one to tie up. It can equally be adapted to cover a lot of different caddis flies.

One of the crucial thing about Caddis Flies, for both trout and angler is that they live longer than mayflies, they have the ability to drink water and possibly nectar and can be found loitering about on the rocks for days at a time. The fish know about them and will take them well beyond the period of the actual hatch.

Of course you can use any feather slip to make up the tent shaped wings, for me Guinea Fowl is easily obtainable, cheap and a fair copy of most of the caddisflies we get on our streams which tend towards a dark gray to black colour.

Because the pattern is a little different I have included the detailed written instructions from my book “Guide Flies” as well as the standard graphics and video.

This particular post is a little more brief than some, I am one of those few who apparently after buying paint and bread flour have actually painted something (or am in the middle of doing so) and am baking some bread too, so other chores beckon.  I hope you have some fun playing with this pattern and perhaps some variations.

Refer to (FIG #16) The starting point is exactly the same as for the BSP, the post is affixed and the hackle tied in as previously described. #1 – #6

From here refer (FIG #17)

#7 & #8: As per the BSP..

#9: The body is simple dubbing tied in short, (caddis flies generally have wings longer than their bodies), and of course there are no tails. #10: The wing is prepared from a slip of feather, the feather coated first with head cement, Sally Hansen’s Nail Varnish or similar. Once dried it affords additional durability to the wing.

#11: Cut out a slip of feather twice as wide as you want for the height of the wing.

#12: Fold the feather slip in half long-ways as shown. Then cut the end off at an angle, this will create a “V” shaped cut in the wing which will both allow easier positioning on the hook and additional durability when it is tied down.

#13: Place the wing on top of the hook shank, setting the “V” on either side of the wing post. This will sit it perfectly in the middle of the hook.

From here on refer to (FIG #18)

#14: Tie down the wing behind the post with two tight wraps of thread. 48

#15: Then make an additional wrap in front of the post catching in the sides of the “V”, and trim the excess.

#16: Dub a small amount of Superfine Dry Fly Dubbing around the front and back of the post to form a neat thorax. Taking the dubbing up to the eye and back to the base of the post, as for the BSP, this covers any unsightly thread wraps at the base of the post.

#17: Make one all important wrap of thread around the post to change the direction of rotation, tip the fly in the vice and wrap the hackle downwards as with previous parachute patterns. #19: Finish off the hackle in the same way as previously with a “superglue whip 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 12

April 7, 2020

Corona Lockdown day 12

Something a little different today and really a shout out to the novices out there.

The very first fly I tied was held tight in my father’s woodworking bench vice (less than ideal) and tied with my mother’s sewing thread and some raffine as wings. It was in today’s language I suppose a “spent spinner”, it didn’t really matter what it was supposed to imitate, I didn’t own a fly rod and couldn’t cast one at the time.

The “Fly”, if you could rightfully describe it as such,  was lowered into the water with a sinker above it on a little spinning rod outfit, into a location where we mostly caught eels on worms. Not really the best of testing grounds and the experiment met with less than spectacular results, in fact nothing that could be remotely perceived as a result. The story is of absolutely no import at all but for the fact that I did try, and did experiment well before I “officially” took up fly fishing as a pursuit. Experimentation, if you don’t already know, is a pretty key ingredient to both fly fishing and fly tying success.

There is an indefinable element to fly tying and to fishing flies in general, something which has us believe that this pattern is better than that one, or this material contains some magic within it. That is confidence and confidence is something neglected at your peril when it comes to fishing.

I have mentioned confidence in past posts on this blog, notably https://paracaddis.wordpress.com/2014/03/06/the-c-word/ from some considerable time back.

But having confidence in one’s fly is important and if you are a novice that confidence can be hard to come by. One can develop an eye for patterns which are likely to work, but even that subjective measure is intertwined with your own personal experience. I have friends who catch fish on flies that never work for me, I have plenty of flies which are now firm favourites but which initially really didn’t awaken any confidence at all.

Who could have imagined that this odd looking fly would become a firm favourite?

I never thought Comparaduns would be as effective as Catskill flies until I tried them, I never thought that parachute flies would work, because they were so different to what I had been told was a proper dry fly. Having lived and breathed the idea of mobility and liveliness in a subsurface pattern it took a lot of time to believe that the absolutely rigid perdigon was even worth getting wet.

I have always believed in “micro movement” in subsurface patterns

So how then does one explain the effectiveness of the rigid Perdigon?

We can be easily negatively biased and if you are a novice all too easily so about your own fly patterns. Each day on social media there will be a post of a fly with a comment that suggests that “it is overdressed”, “The tail is too long”, “The proportions are not right” etc etc ad infinitum. Hell it is as likely that I have made one of those comments and certainly there are “norms” of flies, of proportions etc but they are only “norms” because we all buy into them.

Nice fly, Interesting suggestions on proportions, but really is any of that true? Certainly many of my effective parachute patterns don’t follow these prescribed dimensions

Even what are now classic patterns more than likely have a far from scientific birth. The Adams for example; now widely regarded as the invention of a Mr Leonard Halliday of Mayfield Mitchigan. But in its original format the body was gray wool, later replaced by muskrat fur, the position of the wings which were originally pushed forward became upright and split apart under the influence of the accepted norms of the Catskill school.

The Adams is possibly the most famous upwinged dry fly imitation of a mayfly on the planet, but it was originated to copy a caddis.

To make matters even more confusing it was originally conceived, at least according to some, as a caddis pattern. A fly now almost universally tied with down style tented wings.. So what is the truth? Was it simply that Halliday had some gray wool and barred Plymouth Rock hackles lying on his bench or was the fly engineered with a specific bug in mind? I personally suspect that the former is as or more likely than the latter explanation. Today the Adams in all its various guises is perhaps the most popular and recognizable dry fly on the planet.

The Adams has been modified so many times that the name has virtually lost any meaning in terms of design. Here a parachute Adams.

Or how about an “irresistible Adams”?

 

Yes, even a parachute Purple Adams

 

There is even a purple “Adams” dry fly which is neither the colour of the original Adams or the format of one. Who decides what works and what doesn’t? The FISH decide.

Another interesting and for me exceptional fly is the traditional wet fly the “Invicta”. It is now almost universally accepted as a particularly good wet fly to be fished on stillwaters during a hatch of pale coloured sedges (Caddis Flies if you are not English). But it is highly unlikely that it was designed as such. The layout of a palmered hackle with a wing and “hot spot” throat hackle of Blue Jay, is simply a traditional wet fly recipe, repeated over and over again in traditional wet flies, particularly ones for stillwater.

The Kate McClaren, The Dunkeld, The Zulu, The Soldier Palmer, The Bibio, The Butcher etc etc all follow very similar lines of construction and proportion. No matter that when they were “designed” nobody understood that flies underwater don’t have wings, dry flies had wings so they just added wings to the wet patterns too. All that was really going on was that people were changing the materials and the colours. Bear in mind too that at the time there were considerable limitations in terms of colours of materials available. None of the modern synthetics or fluorescent materials were at hand, so if you wished to add a dash of colour you used red wool perhaps or an exotic game bird feather such as Jay or Golden Pheasant. It turns out that the Invicta seems to be a particularly good imitation of an “ecloding sedge”, that is one exploding from its pupal shuck at the surface of the water. But was that good planning or just a bit of luck?

The Mallard and Claret, a great wet fly but is it not just an Invicta in different colours?

When you consider that very similar flies in different colours, such as the “Mallard and Claret” do as good a job imitating claret buzzers (Midges) my thoughts would be hedging towards luck. The Invicta is a great fly, a go to pattern during a sedge hatch, but how’s this? It was originally designed by its inventor James Odgen as a dry fly! So again, was this famous fly a result of investigative and scientific study, logic and painstaking attention to detail or was it just that Mr Odgen happened to have some Blue Jay lying about on his bench when he was fiddling about? I don’t know, but again my instincts go more with thoughtful fiddling than scientific process. Let me not suggest that some good old logical fiddling isn’t a great skill for a fly tyer, it undoubtedly is. But all these patterns hide, to a degree, an inconvenient truth, most were fashioned out of hopeful experimentation and their effectiveness was almost certainly as much a result luck as judgement.

The Flashy Dunkeld really a “lure” version of a wet fly before long shanked hooks and modern materials came up with alternatives. But the same general layout all over again.

On a more local, or at least South African note, it is very hard to purchase a damselfly nymph pattern here that doesn’t have red eyes. Just about everywhere in the world damselfly patterns are tied with black eyes, or perhaps bead chain, but rarely will you see red eyed damsels outside of SA. Is that because our damselflies are different? Do they genuinely have red eyes? Is the red simply a well thought out trigger before the common acceptance of “Hot spots”?

The Red Eye Damsel, a clever use of hot spot colours or simply good fortune?

The reality is that the red eyed damsel was the creation of Hugh Huntley, and as I understand it, the most likely explanations for the red eyes were that Mr Huntley whilst tying flies late at night in the Dargle region of Natal either was too tired, too inebriated or two lazy to find his black chenille or had simply run out, no matter a classic fly was born. Of course it helped that Hugh was mates with Tony Biggs and Tom Sutcliffe real leaders of the pack in South African Fly fishing circles, so the pattern was publicized and discussed and gained almost universal acceptance as a classic. Had this trio of true legends in fly fishing been locked down in the Dargle with Covid 19 at the doorstep and no alcohol in sight it is  entirely possible that all our damselfly nymphs would have black eyes like everyone else’s.

The point of this entire diatribe, other than hopefully to provide some amusement, is to point out that even classic patterns, ones with universal acceptance and appeal, all too often started life as fortuitous fiddlings or downright mistakes.

If you are a novice bear this in mind, that someone else thinks that your hackles are too long, that you can’t make a wing from your dog’s tail, or that Persian carpet won’t make a good material for a thorax, don’t worry about it.

I would say that some things: the ability to tie touching turns, to whip finish, to make a pinch and loop are important, for durability as much as anything, but what you do with these techniques is up to you, only the fish get a vote. You never know, you could create a classic.

Go out there and fish your flies, fish them with confidence, learn and experiment, because the only difference between confidence in a fly and lack of it is how many fish you have caught on the same thing and to get to that point you have to get them wet.

This post is an aside from many recent submissions which have come partly or indirectly from one of my two books on fly tying. That said, if you wish to download a copy of either of these books you can do so at a 50% discount for the duration of our 21 day lock down. Links and discount codes are provided below

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 day11

April 6, 2020

Coronavirus Lockdown day 11

So we have been at this self-isolation fly tying lark now for 11 days, that is significant because TODAY IS HUMP DAY.. that imaginary spot on the calendar where you are now getting closer to the end rather than simply further from the beginning. (I have my doubts that there won’t however be an extension)

Eleven days isn’t really that long, I am sure that many of the hoarders out there aren’t too worried about running out of materials just yet. I am quite sure that a few fly tyers I know could undertake a expedition to Alpha Centauri and still not be running low on hackle by the time they got back, but today I thought I might discuss the use of a common material which can be put to much greater use than it usually is.

Most of us are probably not yet running out of materials.

Magical Marabou: Nature’s dubbing brush.

I doubt that there is a fly angler or a fly tyer who isn’t aware of marabou as a fly tying material. Many would have first fished a woolly bugger sporting a sinuous marabou tail and most fly tyers would have whipped up more than a few of these or similar flies. The stuff seems to be one of those magical materials with fish attracting properties that are hard to match. The only issue with it is that marabou, or more correctly Turkey Marabou has become so linked with the idea of large and wiggly lures and streamers that some of its better uses have been neglected.

Marabou has a lot more uses than simply putting wiggly tails on large lures

Certainly marabou is highly mobile and very well suited to larger lures but it has wonderful micro fibres branching off it, not dissimilar to CDC and used as a body material, in much the same way that one might use a dubbing brush, superbly delicate fly bodies can be manufactured, with built in one step tapers and “abdominal gills” to better imitate the natural bugs.

From a guide fly perspective marabou has the most amazing qualities, it isn’t simply mobile on a macro level, the micro-fibres of this stuff exude life, it is available in an absolute rainbow of colours both plain and fluorescent, at reasonably low cost, from most fly shops. It is almost as though it were made for guides and guide flies. There has been a lot of interest of late in pre-manufactured dubbing brushes and similar but marabou, either blended or in a single colour will serve much the same purpose, particularly in smaller flies and I like to use it as a body material in a variety of standard nymphs, bead heads and Czech nymph styles.

Turkey marabou has both macro and micro movement, has a natural taper, comes in a wide variety of colours and is inexpensive. A hugely versatile material for all manner of flies.

Marabou is the simplest stuff to use, provides wonderful imitation of abdominal gills and adds lots of movement to small flies. In short it has been neglected and it shouldn’t be.

The marabou nymph as shown is only one of many variations that can utilize this feather as an abdomen and I tie them in everything from sombre browns and olives, for imitative flies, to brighter chartreuse and orange colours and hotspots when fishing dirty water.

As mentioned, it is so easily available and so relatively economical as a material that it really is a shame that more fly tyers don’t think to use it in this manner and it will allow you to produce a wide variety of great fly patterns, even dry fly bodies.

Some years back I was fishing the Exe River in Devon in the UK; I was a guest on some private water and a combination of travel requirements, high water and short notice meant that I wasn’t able to fully prepare for the trip. Having been on the same river a few miles downstream on the previous day it had become apparent that, although I didn’t do too badly, I would have done better with some heavier flies. I didn’t have a great deal of time at the vice, and fly tying opportunities had been somewhat wasted whilst I procrastinated drinking real ale in the garden of “The Fisherman’s Cot” and watching the river not yards away.

I had wasted away some of my fly tying time drinking real ale at The Fisherman’s Cot on the banks of the Exe

So it was that I needed to whip up a number of heavier flies in short order and early morning fly tying isn’t my forte, actually early morning anything isn’t particularly my forte. However taking this simple marabou nymph pattern and with the use of some tungsten beads I was able to churn out a couple of dozen flies of reasonable weight, pleasant and realistic profile and a wide variety of colours all before breakfast.

On the river they proved deadly, we caught brown trout, salmon parr, rainbow trout and grayling, all on these hastily assembled flies. That alone is enough to prove them to be worthwhile “guide flies” quick, simple, inexpensive and effective, there isn’t much more one can ask of a fly pattern and these ones in various colour combinations always have a place in my fly box.

Marabou is hugely versatile, easy to use, and to my mind underrated and underutilised as a material.

If you are keen to push on and not to wait for the various instructions coming you can download the books on line and benefit from a 50% discount. The links and discount codes are shown below:

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 10

April 5, 2020

Corona Lockdown day 10

Now it just so happens that I am fortunate enough to fish waters where dry flies prevail, where a combination of poor hatches and low clear water mean that fish can frequently be drummed up to a dry fly even when not a fish rises or any obvious insects are emerging.

Like many anglers I really do prefer to fish dry fly, it isn’t snobbery, it is just that I love that visual aspect of the sport, to watch a fish tilt fins and ride the invisible current upwards to intercept a floating pattern is mesmerizing. That moment where a fish engulfed a carefully presented pattern was magical the very first time it happened to me 50 odd years ago and the thrill of it hasn’t diminished in all that time. Actually the thrill is the same even if it is a client’s fly being taken and I am little more than a bystander to proceedings.

For dry fly anglers, images such as this really amount to “Trout Porn”.

The numbers of video clips showing slow-mo footage of trout inhaling dry flies suggest that many other anglers feel much the same. There aren’t too many of us drooling over video shots of a Euro-nymph line twitching as a deeply submerged fish takes a sunken fly in fast water. There is nothing wrong with that, but it just doesn’t seem quite so much fun.

That isn’t to suggest that I don’t fish nymphs or indeed that I don’t enjoy fishing them, what it means is that there the lack of visual stimulation, you don’t see the fish, you don’t see its reaction to the pattern, you don’t get to watch this creature momentarily leave its aquatic world and break through the surface into your world, to me that is magical.

If your heart doesn’t sing watching all these rising fish you are not a fly fisherman.

Many years back as a young lad I would fish for carp and other course fish species, frequently with rigs that placed the bait on the bottom but there are contrived means of doing this with a float to indicate a take and I always opted for those set ups. Sitting watching a float bobbing gently is a lot more absorbing than waiting for an electronic buzzer to beep indicating some interest from the fish.

Even in my youth I would far rather watch a float all day

 

Than sit hoping some electronic buzzer would indicate a take.

I suppose that we are to a large degree visual creatures, a large part of our brains are geared to interpreting visual data, so it should be no surprise that it is important to us in many ways. A fishing float sitting prettily on the surface, perhaps twitching now and then as a fish investigates the bait, is I suppose to a degree just like watching a lovey dry fly drift, being able to watch something, seems almost necessary to get maximum enjoyment.

In my youth one might have been forced to listen to a rugby test match on the radio, I can assure you that seeing the same game in glorious technicolor on a large screen is infinitely more enjoyable.

So one of the key aspects of fishing dry flies is being able to see them, indeed I recall Pascal Cognard (Three times FIPS Mouche World Flyfishing  Champion), mentioning during an instructional visit some years back, that it was imperative that one could see the fly clearly.

It isn’t just about detecting the take but equally being able to read the drift of the fly, recognize the onset of drag and to know when you have covered your target fish. Being able to see the fly is crucial most of us would agree.

To me one of the problems of trying to make patterns more visible to the angler is that they can easily become less imitative.

But that has led me to a bit of a dilemma, because some patterns, particularly terrestrial ones such as beetles and ants are so simple and diminutive that the more the fly tyer tries to improve their visibility to the angler the more you detract from their similarity to the real thing. It is easy to produce a great ant or beetle pattern, indeed there are hundreds of varieties, but most of them sit low in the film and are tough to see in anything but relatively calm water.

Having fiddled with numerous patterns and tried to incorporate hot spots, posts, coloured dots etc in an effort to make them more visible I finally had something of an epiphany, “Why bother?”

Would it not make sense to simply ignore the idea of trying to see the fly better and employ some sort of device that would allow one to fish it effectively?

It is pretty much common practice to fish a nymph with an indicator or perhaps a nymph with a dry fly as both a second pattern and acting as an indicator at the same time, so why not simply fish a dry fly with an indicator or two dry flies, one providing more visibility the other more realism?

That is the essence of the Invisi-ant and Invisi-beetle patterns, not that there are not a great many imitations that are as good if not better, the point is to simply give up on the idea of the pattern being visible but rather focus on the imitative aspects of design.

By giving up on the ability to easily see the pattern one is freed up to try to make it a better and more imitative copy.

With an idea of roughly where the pattern is, one still generally gets to see the take, and one is still able to read the drift and mend as necessary to delay the onset of drag. It is a method I have used a great deal over the past five or so years, fishing diminutive midges, soft hackles and indeed terrestrials. Sometimes where clients battle with two flies I will simply add a tiny indicator, perhaps the size of a match head, more than enough to follow the drift. But freeing oneself of the need to be able to see the fly all the time opens up possibilities of imitation and fishing which otherwise would be unattainable.

So with that, here are two very simple imitative patterns which are specifically designed around the idea of them not being visible. Once one gets one’s head around that idea a whole series of possible fly design is opened up. For the most part I still fish dry flies which are visible, but I don’t really like bright coloured wing posts, I think they result in too many refusals, and where I fish, overly large flies tend not to work well. So small invisible flies (invisible to us but quite obviously not the fish) are a very useful addition to the fly boxes..

The “Invisi-Ant” was my first deliberate departure from tying visible flies.

Again I am sure there are as good or better beetle patterns, the point is to free one’s thinking of needing to see the fly and allow a more imitative approach .

If you are keen to push on and not to wait for the various instructions coming you can download the books on line and benefit from a 50% discount. The links and discount codes are shown below:

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 9

April 4, 2020

Corona Virus Lockdown day 9

The Parachute Spider (Variant).

Spider patterns have been around for a long time and they suffer from a nomenclature problem. To some anglers spider patterns are just that, imitations of actual spiders and there is little doubt that the fish will feed on such things. Then the term “spider” has also been applied to soft hackle wet flies as in “North Country Spider” and equally to over hackled dry flies which can also be termed “Variants”. The “Variant” term simply implies that the fly is tied with oversized hackle compared to the Catskill norm of 1½ the hook gape. In this instance it is the variant style which is implied, the use of an oversized hackle, although tied in parachute format.

North Country patterns such as this lovely example are also referred to as “spiders”

This is Peter Briggs’ Wolf Spider and a fly actually designed to imitate a real spider

A variant style dry fly with oversized hackles is often referred to as a “spider pattern” it is this style that I discussing today, although in a parachute format

As with so many guide type flies this one has a long and convoluted lineage, it has been modified, developed and fiddled with by myriad anglers over the years. I suppose that the true original of this pattern was a beaten up and chewed Royal Coachman, which continued to catch fish despite it bedraggled state and gave rise to a famous South African fly the RAB. The RAB was the brainchild of Tony Biggs, who having had tremendous success with his scruffy Coachman deliberately tied a fly with similar colouration and a great deal more movement. The RAB acronym actually stands for “Red Arsed Bastard”, although it has equally been referred to as the “Rough and Buoyant” due to the cautious sensibilities of some anglers at the time.

Tony Biggs’ RAB pattern has been modified over and over again, these are close to the original and tied by Tony’s long standing fishing friend Tom Sutcliffe.

This variation, and there are dozens of them, came about because I never particularly liked the standard RAB. It certainly can be effective at times, but I always felt that the over hackling relative to the hook size resulted in a lot more takes than it did in hook ups. The fly always seemed to create an expectation of success without actually delivering the goods. There are those who disagree, so it is very much a question of personal opinion.

By turning the fly into a parachute style the mobility of the longer “halo hackle” is retained whilst the hook up issues are ameliorated. Equally the standard tie is almost impossible to fish on fine tippet due to the spinning effect of the oversized hackle; the parachute style removes that hiccup very effectively.

The great advantage of this style, to my mind, is that the fly very nearly presents itself. It really does land like the proverbial thistledown and even for anglers who struggle to cope with long fine tippets the fly will introduce slack into the leader and provide “drag free floats” even for the average caster. Then of course there is that inherent mobility of the materials, the wiggling legs that proved so effective in the original. I no longer limit myself to the classical red and pheasant tail livery of the original and will tie the pattern in a wide variety of colour schemes. It is more a style than a pattern I suppose you could say.

Others tie the fly with all manner of additional accoutrements, legs fashioned from anything from Egyptian Goose to Vervet Monkey hair but as a true guide fly the materials have to be obtainable and easily incorporated and that is where the halo hackle of Coq de Leon comes to the fore. It is an unlikely looking bug to most anglers, but it can prove tremendously effective, having the ability to draw fish up on slow days and equally represent any number of real insects from actual spiders to large mayflies. It has caught fish on streams ranging from hallowed waters running through chalk meadows in Southern England, to freestone spate rivers on several continents. Due to its size and visibility it also makes for an excellent and delicate indicator fly when throwing nymphs upstream.

Not long ago I was fishing over a massive and one can safely assume educated brown trout on a local catch and release water. The fish was feeding sporadically on something very tiny and not easily identified.

I made numerous casts over that fish, with a variety of “killer patterns”, a BSP, then a brassie, a soft hackled midge pattern and my favoured “hatch breaker” the Compar-a-ant. All to no avail. Then in desperation I heaved out a large parachute spider, and the fish took on the first drift. It was one of the best brown trout I have ever seen come off one of these rivers, well over twenty inches and probably in the region of 4lbs in weight.

This large brown trout fell to a parachute spider after refusing several other more imitative and smaller flies.

So don’t imagine for a moment that this rather strange pattern can’t fool smart fish, it undoubtedly can.

A versatile pattern, perhaps a little more complicated than some guide flies but not overly so and well worth manufacturing and testing.

The tying sequence is pretty much standard BSP with the only real variation of having two hackles, a standard hackle and a “halo hackle” .

If you are keen to push on and not to wait for the various instructions coming you can download the books on line and benefit from a 50% discount. The links and discount codes are shown below:

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 8

April 3, 2020

 

Corona Virus Lockdown day 8

One of the negative issues of being a fishing guide is that all too often one doesn’t have the time to spend on complicated patterns. Much of the in season fly tying revolves around whipping out quick and effective flies to replace those lost in action over the course of the previous few days.

Now with us all in enforced isolation I suppose that excuse is no longer valid and there is no reason we cannot spend some time on more complicated patterns. With that in mind today I thought that I would take a look at a hopper pattern which I use, there are many great hopper patterns out there but this one has been designed to fit a couple of specific requirements which I personally think can be important.

Although I don’t fish hopper patterns very often on those occasions that I do it seems that one of the key triggers is the “plop” which the fly creates on landing. It can winkle fish out of difficult lies and pull fish towards flies which have been deliberately presented some distance away from the fish to avoid spooking them. The tactic can be particularly effective on the Yellowfish of the Bokong River in Lesotho. So the idea is to create a pattern that isn’t bulky, but will plop nicely, that isn’t overly difficult to cast on light gear and yet provides a fair imitation of a grasshopper without too much complexity.

Below an extract from Guide Flies..

Hoppers:

Grasshoppers quite obviously represent a massive meal for a stream based trout which exists primarily on a diet of tiny baetis nymphs. As such hopper patterns can be deadly effective in drumming up trout and in particular larger than average trout that simply won’t bother to charge after tiny flies unless there is a significant hatch on.

The “Twisted Tail Hopper”is one of several terrestrial patterns discussed in “Guide Flies”, it is also by far the most complex of them to manufacture.

There was a time when we would fish the Witte River with little more than hoppers. The stream is in the high country, given to vagaries of wind and weather and stiff breezes are far from uncommon up there on the mountain tops. Hoppers, which are near omnipresent on the grasslands are not particularly good fliers, the combination of wayward jumps and strong winds land more than a few of these insects in the water where they become trapped.

From the fish’s perspective this is a double bonus, lots of calories in a single mouthful and one that cannot easily escape. There are a few specific instances where I have found hoppers to be particularly effective.

Firstly when of course there are a lot of the naturals about and a bit of a breeze to flip the odd one off the bankside grasses and into the water. The fish know all about them and will readily accept the fly, particularly when fished near the bank and around overhanging grasses and vegetation.

The second and slightly less usual application for the hopper is to induce a responsive take to a tricky fish which is either lying in difficult calm water or perhaps so close to structure that to delicately land an alternative pattern close to the fish is near impossible.

Hopper patterns have the ability to pull up large fish especially along the bank edges.

Years back I can recall guiding clients on the lower reaches of the Smallblaar River. We came across a trout of considerable size, as it turned out over 20 inches in length. The fish was sitting in a small channel off the main flow and its head was firmly tucked under the overhanging grass, such that we could only see the body and tail of the fish.

It was impossible to drift a dry fly over the fish as the grass was touching the water and would have resulted in immediate drag as the leader snagged.

After some thought we tied on a hopper pattern and deliberately dampened it so that it would have a little more mass. Then by “plopping” the fly down behind the fish we hoped to induce it to spin around out of its secure feeding hole and give us a chance at a hook up.

The fly made a distinct splat as it landed just short of the fish’s tail, and in a moment the trout turned and lazily followed the pattern for a few feet before engulfing it.

Splatted down hoppers offer tremendous opportunities to winkle trout out of tight structure and although one may refer to it as a “minor tactic” it is none the less highly effective at times. It is also a heart stopping means of angling because in my experience there are only ever two results. The splat almost always results in an immediate response, either a confident take or alternatively a rapidly departing and spooked fish. So the method is always something of a gamble.

With no cover for the angler and grass hanging over the river, the Upper Bell River offers great opportunities to winkle out fish with a “plopped” hopper pattern.. Image courtesy tomsutcliffe.co.za

High up in the mountains around Rhodes in the Eastern Cape lies Boarman’s Chase a stream characterised by crystal clear water, clean bed rock without a great deal of structure and overhanging grasses which dangle on either side of the stream forming an near impenetrable curtain. Behind those dangling stems the fish can hide with impunity, frequently impossible to see and often spooked by careless wading or casting.

The “splatted hopper”, fished as close to the grass stems as one can manage will often pull trout out from under the banks far more effectively than delicately presented dries. In fact I have used the same tactics on overgrown streams in the Cape, Rhodes and the Kamberg in Natal, all to good effect.

Thus to my mind a successful hopper pattern should have at least some mass to provide the required “plop”. Equally though, given the chances of hooking up the bankside foliage and in keeping with the simple fly tenet required by my definition of Guide Flies, most hopper patterns are too time consuming for inclusion in this book. Even then the hopper pattern I use most is a little more troublesome to manufacture than some of the flies illustrated here. The fly is a combination of several other worthy patterns but is designed with a few local issues in mind. Firstly I rarely if ever fish with tackle heavier than AFTMA #3, big bulky hoppers are tremendously troublesome to cast on such gear, especially combined with the long leaders that I far prefer.

The “Twisted Tail Hopper” has an extended body of twisted yarn which provides size without mass. The spun deer hair head is more time consuming to manufacture but can be squeezed to absorb more water when a distinct “plop” is required of the presentation. Equally quicker to tie patterns with “folded back” deer hair heads lack durability and are easily torn up by the fish’s teeth.

Most of the information on these posts comes directly from my books “Essential Fly Tying Techniques” and “Guide Flies”..

If you are keen to push on and not to wait for the various instructions coming you can download the books on line and benefit from a 50% discount. The links and discount codes are shown below:

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 7

April 2, 2020

Corona Lockdown Day Seven

 

Can you believe it, we haven’t left the house in a week, not for anything, not to walk the dog or head for the shops. I wonder when was the last time, if ever, that has been the case? Some of you may well be out there having suffered this restriction for even longer, but I do remain convinced that it is the best strategy for everyone for the time being. So well done if you have stuck to it, double points score if you have used the time to tie some flies too.

So having covered a lot of techniques in the past week today I am going to look simply at a variation of the spun duns, especially well-suited to tiny flies where even the finest of deer hair tends to be a little bit unruly .

(at the bottom there is also a link to a very interesting variation tied by Davie McPhail, Davie does some of the very best fly tying instructional videos on you tube, his CDC  dubbing wing dun version is done quite differently to the “spun dun” but I really like it and I am sure that you will have some fun experimenting with it)

 

The Poly Yarn or CDC Spun Dun.

I have waxed on about Spun Duns I admit, but they are tremendously effective and relatively simple to manufacture. There is one addition to this tribe however that is worthy of note. Years back I tied some using CDC instead of hair, particularly the tiny #20’s and smaller, where the hair is rather course and problematic. I recall publishing an article about these flies at the time and being, at least moderately, lambasted by more than one commentator, such patterns have however become far more accepted over the years and you will see a number of variations out there.

However Spun Duns and Comparaduns are tricky to tie well in small sizes and the use of CDC or indeed poly yarn makes a very simplistic pattern that is remarkably effective. They look too simple, I must admit that I didn’t have much faith in the first ones I manufactured, but they worked, and they worked really well when the fish were feeding on tiny insects. I suspect that the CDC versions have the edge when it comes to effectiveness but they lack the easy drying and durability of the Poly Yarn ones. So I carry both.

The simple split tail and thread body CDC spun dun,an exceptionally good fly particularly in small sizes

There was an interesting story associated with the development of these patterns however, which I suspect provides some insight into the effectiveness of CDC. Much is made of the material’s floating properties but I think that perhaps the softness of the material is at least equally important. You see I suspect that when a fish takes the fly, CDC very closely approximates the “feel” that a real insect would provide, wrapped about a tiny hook the fish fails to notice the deception and therefore hangs on to the pattern longer than one manufactured from stiffer materials.

One day out fishing alone and having caught sufficient trout to allow me the comfort of careless experimentation I came across a fish. It wasn’t large and was feeding amongst some water grass, rising regularly every few seconds to a hatch of tiny olives. I determined that I wouldn’t strike before I so much as threw the fly out, I wanted to see what would happen, and made a presentation to the fish with a tiny #22 CDC spun dun. The fly drifted down on the current, the fish move slightly to intercept it and swallowed, I did nothing, the fish then moved approximately a foot to the right and intercepted another real fly, at which point I struck, hooking the fish well back in the throat.

I like to think that after its release that fish was still thinking “You know I wasn’t entirely sure about the first mayfly, but I would have sworn that the second was real”. Perhaps the “feel” of the fly does make a difference, if not in eliciting takes, at least in improving hook ups, and for that reason these versions of the spun dun hold a special place in my fly boxes. Obviously Poly Yarn and CDC don’t spin or flare in the same way that deer hair does, so it requires a little manipulation and tugging about to get the right effect, but on small flies it is worth the effort and a simpler and more effective tiny mayfly or midge pattern would be hard to find.

 

As mentioned at the beginning, here is another variation of a really nice looking pattern very similar to the spun dun tied by Davie McPhail. What he calls a CDC dubbing wing Dry Fly.. I really like the look of this and I think that you will too.

Davie has a huge number of excellent fly tying videos on line and if you are locked up at home and looking for more inspiration I recommend you to investigate his channel.

Most of the information on these posts comes directly from my books “Essential Fly Tying Techniques” and “Guide Flies”..

If you are keen to push on and not to wait for the various instructions coming you can download the books on line and benefit from a 50% discount. The links and discount codes are shown below:

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 Six

April 1, 2020

Corona Lockdown Day Six

We are close to a week into this “thing” and have fared well so far, the intention was not to go outside more than three times max during the 21 days, shopping perhaps once a week if needs be. We are looking good, I have baked some bread and tied some flies, painted a couple of walls in the house and mowed the lawn.

I am even recovering quietly from a rather nasty and persistent cold, which has hampered activities to a degree. So far we aren’t having to ration our supplies, there is plenty of tinned food in the cupboard and frozen stuff in the freezer, chances are that by the third week we may be eating things more based on availability than culinary desire but we won’t starve. The milk is running low but the whisky stocks are holding out just fine..

In “lock down mode” I even went so far as to bake some fresh bread..

Of course if you are all wrapping flies madly the same supply chain issues may well start to affect your operations. If you are running low on hooks that could be a problem, but many materials can be effectively substituted with others.. so today I am going to look at great dry flies that don’t need hackles..

Comparaduns and Spun Duns.

They are favourites of mine even when I do have hackles and they provide a possible alternative for you if you have worked your way through your genetic grade stocks and don’t feel like chasing down the neighbour’s rooster for fear of being locked up for breaking curfew..

 

Al Caucci and Bob Nastasi first brought the Comparadun to prominence with their book “Compara-hatch” and to me at least the first sight of these flies brought about considerable skepticism.

Al Caucci and Bob Nastasi were responsible for five major fly fishing/fly tying books including “Hatches” and “Compara-hatch)

 

They didn’t look anything like any other flies I had seen before. I am sure that many anglers experienced the same thoughts and perhaps a lot do still to this day. We have been brought up on Halfordian and Catskill styles of fly. We have been bombarded with the concepts of crisp fibred cock hackle wound perpendicularly around a hook sporting delicate duck quill or mallard wings and find it difficult to accept anything else. Much the same shock and horror used to be caused by sights of parachute patterns, of which more in other parts of this book.

Comparaduns just look a bit weird if you are used to hackled dry flies, but that isn’t any reason to assume they are not super effective.

The Comparadun perfectly illustrates a terrible failing amongst fly tyers, fly anglers and perhaps everyone else to boot. We are all too easily lead astray by “the way things are done” instead of “the way things might be done”. In all honesty it seems that the Comparadun wasn’t entirely the invention of Messrs’ Caucci and Nastasi, there were a variety of similarly manufactured flies, their wings being made only from deer hair, probably one of the earliest being the “Haystack”.

The Haystack was essentially the same fly but with deer hair tails and generally tied in a rougher and more generic fashion.. A rose by any other name?

 

One has to question if in reality these patterns and those that followed along the same lines, such as “The Usual” ,which utilizes Snow Shoe Hare fur as an alternative winging material, weren’t born of poverty more than creativity. As they say “necessity is the mother of invention” and if you don’t live next to a premium fly shop or you don’t have a fly fishing budget close to the GDP of a small country you have to get inventive.

Variations on a theme or parallel evolution of fly tying. The Usual, is a very similar construction using snowshoe hare as the wing.

 

I fished and tied flies for a good ten years before I ever saw my first premium cock hackle cape and although their availability has become pretty universal, (and I really do love them), it behoves one to remember that there is more than one way to skin a cat, or in this case tie a fly.

The Comparadun really is a quintessentially “Guide Fly”, the materials are easily obtained, available in different colours and at reasonably low cost, once mastered the means of tying these patterns is simple and quick, they also happen to be tremendously effective and frequently out-fish hackled flies of similar hue.

 

The originals required that you criss-cross the dubbing underneath the wing but I rarely if ever bother to do that, part of the trimming down of things so common in “Guide Flies”. In fact many of my flies now don’t use any dubbing at all.

 

The only issue I have with the Comparadun style is that in binding down the butts of the hair along the hook shank one is forced into producing what is, particularly on smaller flies, a rather overly robust abdomen. I like my dry flies sleek for the most part and the Comparaduns were a problem.

The Spun Dun provides a slimmer abdomen and additional floatation from the extra hair in the thorax region. For the most part I prefer this fly over the Comparadun, especially where a thinner abdomen is required.

 

Then I was introduced to the “Spun Dun”, another pattern that I suspect has been through more than a few developmental changes over its life. The spun dun is tied in very similar fashion to the Comparadun and with much the same materials but it offers what I consider to be better floatation, the better representation of the thorax and perhaps even the hind wing on some mayflies as well as giving a far slimmer body.

 

In all honesty I don’t tie very many true Comparaduns anymore and rather opt for the Spun dun versions instead but they are both included in this book. Both from an historical perspective and because you may well favour the Comparadun over the Spun Dun, they fulfil much the same role and in the end it comes down to personal choice, as well perhaps as the chubby nature or lack thereof of your local mayflies..

 

The way I tie spun duns, again probably differs from its original form, the name would suggest that the hair was spun around the hook and the profile gained by the simple expedient of cutting off the bits that you didn’t want. That is far too wasteful from a true “Guide Fly” perspective and now the spinning of the hair is minimal.

 

More really flaring the hair than anything else, although if it gets a little unruly one can always resort once again to the scissors.

Both patterns are shown in some detail, there are however a few points worthy of note in their construction.

 

Firstly you cannot tie these flies with weak thread, with the advent of some modern threads you may be able to go finer, but in normal terms I use 140 Denier thread for both styles, you need to apply considerable torque to the hair to make it secure. Skip Morris in his books actually changed from thicker to thinner thread after lashing down the wings, but I am a tad too impatient for such niceties and one has to bear in mind one of the criteria for inclusion into my “Guide Flies” list is speed and ease of tying. Messing about with additional threads and bobbins doesn’t really fit the bill. Don’t let me stop you if you feel so inclined.

 

Secondly judging the amount of hair required for the wing takes practice, equally it can be varied to suit different water conditions, more for rough free stone streams and less for meandering slicks on spring creeks. One interesting note is that as the hook size reduces the amount of hair required doesn’t change by much. The natural taper of the hair means that as the wing gets shorter the bulk of the hair captured in the tying becomes less. Such that you will find that the same size bunch pretty much works for all fly sizes although the actual wing size varies..

 

Thirdly, although now there is specific “Comparadun Hair” on sale, you can use any reasonably fine deer hair. The books all recommend coastal deer, one presumes because they are less affected by cold weather and therefore produce finer hair, but in reality you can tie serviceable patterns with most deer hair, at least except for the tiny sizes.

 

I am not entirely sure why these patterns should be as effective as they are, it isn’t uncommon to cast a March Brown over a feeding fish without success only to replace the fly with a Spun Dun of similar colouration and get an immediate hit. Perhaps the fish like the low floating profile of these flies, there is some suggestion that trout will focus on cripples and stillborn duns, the trout being consummate predators, and the cripples being easy targets, but for whatever reason they work and don’t imagine for one moment because they look a little odd that they are less effective.

 

I well recall fishing with Hugh Patterson on the Elandspad River in the Western Cape some years back.

Hugh was an airline pilot and used to, in those days at least, frequently have layovers in Cape Town where I guide. He was one of those wonderful associates who started off as a client and simply ended up as a friend and over time the commercial element of our relationship gave way to the point where if he was in town and I wasn’t busy we would head for a river.

The clear waters of the trout streams of the Western Cape are ideal for experimenting and watching fish reactions to various flies.. The spun duns work remarkably well in many fishing situations.

 

On this particular occasion we arrived at a beautiful laminar run on this most gorgeous of Cape Streams with fish rising all over the bubble line. They were popping their heads out and feeding as though there was no tomorrow.

 

I insisted that Hugh fish first and he made a cast with a suitable dry fly, got a lovely drag free drift and the fly came past half a dozen trout which ignored it. Hugh cast again and was rewarded with a solid take and a fish in the net. He dried the fly and cast again, the same thing a long drift past numerous feeding fish and just as he was about to lift off another hook up. I immediately shouted that we must change the fly but Hugh wasn’t too keen, to his mind he had caught two fish in three casts and he wasn’t giving up the “successful pattern” for anything.

 

I however insisted, (I still got to call myself the guide, even when we were fishing socially). We tied on a similarly coloured spun dun and Hugh caught a fish on each cast for the next six casts before the activity put the fish down.

There are two things worthy of noting with this story. Firstly, although I have no particular idea why, the Spun Dun out-fished the standard dry hands down.

The second is that although Hugh was looking at the fish he was catching, I was looking at the fish which were refusing the fly. I have often commented to clients that “any fool will change flies when they aren’t working, but a really smart angler will sometimes change flies when they apparently are”; that is good advice and if you are going to make a change, a change to a Spun Dun or Comparadun isn’t a bad move. Mind you, Hugh still tells me that without my badgering, wild horses wouldn’t have made him change that fly, he had never caught two fish in three casts before.

TYING THE COMPARADUN

 

 

TYING THE SPUN DUN

Whether you are running out of materials or would just like to experiment with different flies these two are giants in the world of dry flies.. Enjoy tying and fishing them in the future..

If you are keen to push on and not to wait for the various instructions coming you can download the books on line and benefit from a 50% discount. The links and discount codes are shown below:

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

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

 

After initially posting this I found a really nice demo of a variation of the Spun Dun by Davie McPhail, I provide the link here because he does it slightly differently with some interesting variations..

Thanks for following these blogs, stay safe.