Posts Tagged ‘Darryl Lampert’

Net Winged Midges

October 11, 2014


Net Winged Midges

I have to admit that most of the time I love tying flies: there are those evenings, of course, after a long day on the water when the clients have eaten into the stock, and I am forced to burn the midnight oil in wet clothes when the allure wanes a tad, but for the most part that isn’t the case.

I have at different times taught fly tying, written books on fly tying and as with many of us given demonstrations of fly tying. There are a few YouTube videos out there with my name on them and I am not averse to seeing what others are up to on the fly tying front on the same forum. I like innovation, delicacy, and clever use of materials in fly tying, I love the intricacy of woven bodies, and even the slick shine of flies coated in UV resin. I have been known to fashion the odd ultra-realistic hopper leg or the occasional cute bass mouse when the mood takes me but all in all I like simple flies. Simple flies are frequently as effective and often more effective than their more artistic counterparts and as a fishing guide the efficacy of the pattern is more important to me than the artistic impression.

When you get right down to it, effectiveness on the water, durability and speed of tying become more important when fishing provides one with an income and there is little point in whipping out patterns which take hours. The knowledge that your lovingly fashioned creation is but a wayward cast away from an ignominious end in the bankside herbage tends to have you consider the time spent on its creation. But equally one cannot escape the fact that if you are to convince your clients that you are worth your salt, it is pretty important that your flies do entice more than a few fish to eat them.

Now it so happens that of late, the past week or so at least, the trout on our local streams have been unusually selective, or at least tricky and they have studiously ignored more than a few of my most lovingly wrapped dry flies. Ignored is probably the more polite term, I am not sure if trout are capable of utter distain but I could have made a reasonable argument for such over the past couple of days.

You see much of the time these crystal clear, slightly acidic and nutrient poor streams tend not to produce massive hatches and the eager trout, with an appetite and a bit of attitude is likely to consume most reasonably well presented flies so long as they are not too large. But of late there have been masses of Net Winged Midges all over the place. These, to an angler, annoying little bugs , which look rather like miniature flying bicycles, all legs and not much substance, tend to fly millimetres above the surface and the fish, particularly the smaller ones , will clear the water to intercept them. That represents a serious problem of presentation as one simply cannot match the behavior and these hatches can prove to be some of the most frustrating that you will ever encounter. However of late the numbers have been so significant that there are numerous dead and drowned midges stuck in the film and the trout, accomplished predators not given over to wasting energy seem to have keyed into the bugs stuck in the film. The rises have all been nebbing breakages of the surface film with hardly a ripple to indicate the fish’s presence.

NetWingedMidgeAdult Net Winged Midge, pretty much all legs

I suppose that on freestone streams much of what is consumed by the trout is in fact dead, drowned and or dying and the fish happily recognise a messed up tangle of tiny fibres as food, rather putting the kibosh on notions of close copy imitation. It seems that the more straggly, the more insubstantial, the more tangled the imitation the better, but the illusion of life, or perhaps in this case recent demise holds allure that the fish find hard to resist.

Unusually then over the past week or so the neatly tied, although simple, dry flies that I usually rely on have proven ineffective, but after some fiddling about, and trust me when I tell you that fiddling about on a trout stream is a very valuable skill to master, we came up with a killer solution.

SoftHackles and FrenchiesSome CDC Soft Hackle midge patterns and three “Frenchie Nymphs”

The fly of the moment is a CDC Soft Hackle, fashioned of little more than a pinch of dun coloured CDC and some fine (Gordon Griffiths Midge) black thread. The pattern is simplicity itself, although perhaps to the uninitiated it wouldn’t tend to provide too much confidence. As a client recently commented: “You would never be able to sell these flies in a shop”, and they are right, the darned things look far too small for a trout to take notice and far too poorly manufactured to have many anglers willingly swap hard earned cash for a dozen. Particularly when you could put twelve of them on a 50 cent coin and still have space. Insubstantial would be a gross exaggeration of their profile, this is near as dammit a bare hook with legs, but in the water it is the closest copy of those drowned midges that you could ever hope to find and attempts to make ones pattern more “meaningful” tend to reduce the effectiveness.

NetWinged Midges

Net Winged Midges in their hundreds on a Cape Stream

The only real issue in fishing these flies is that they are invisible, to the angler if not the trout, and a two fly rig of a more noticeable dry fly on a dropper and the midge on the point is the only real manner to fish them effectively and have hope of spotting the take. The trout will take them in the film and you can frequently see that, so long as you know where you are supposed to be looking.

Darryl Lampert also has a very effective dry fly pattern to imitate this hatch, also a CDC fly but tied as a dry with a bright indicator built in so that one can fish it as a dry on it’s own without recourse to the two fly rig we have been using with the Soft Hackle approach.

DarrylsMidgeDarryl Lampert’s CDC hi-vis midge: Courtesy of Tom Sutcliffe’s “The Spirit of Fly Fishing” page

To be frank, I love simple flies and simple, translucent, under-dressed, insubstantial and rather scruffy flies in particular, but even I have been astounded by the effectiveness of these patterns over the past few days. The fish simply would refuse virtually all else and then commit suicide to intercept a well presented soft hackle, it happened over and over again. I suppose that won’t last, some other naturals will take precedence in time and we will be back to the standard parachutes, Elk Hairs, Biot Caddis Flies and other favourites, but right now the fly of the moment is something you could teach your grandmother to tie after a ten minute lesson. Perhaps best of all, on those evenings when I am in wet clothes, contemplating a seriously depleted fly box, lashing furiously at the vice to fill the gaps before the morrow’s outing. The simplicity is a real boon, knowing that, despite the lack of skill or time required, I shall still have a dozen really effective patterns done and dusted in time to catch the late night news.

Some more information on Net Winged Midges:

These insubstantial little bugs are from the family Blephariceridae in the order Diptera and they have a number of most unusual attributes. Ref:

Firstly their larvae don’t look anything like what most of us consider to be midge larvae, that classical inverted question mark picture beloved of Stillwater anglers. Nope, these odd little critters have larvae with six little suckers on their ventral surface. The larvae are filter feeders and the suckers help them stay put in the fast water they prefer to inhabit.

NetwingedMidgeLarvaeThe pupae are no less unusual either, the pupa emerge from the larvae and stick themselves to the rock substrate, often the larvae migrate to specific areas before this happens such that “colonies” of pupae will be found in certain areas and depressions in the rock. The pupae look like tiny dark black or brown tortoise shells, and to the casual observer don’t appear to be anything alive at all. On emergence the adults rupture the pupal case and rise to the surface in an air bubble. Their wings are fully formed before emergence allowing a speedy getaway on reaching the surface of the water.


The adults appear very similar to miniature Crane Flies, with long legs dangling and relatively short wings. Currently they are appearing in their thousands on the local streams here and the fish know all about them..

NetWingedMidgeAdultNet Winged Midge Adult


The CDC Softhackle and many other simple and effective flies are described in detail in the author’s book “Guide Flies”

Available on line from in both eBook and Paperback format.

Getting the shot.

June 2, 2013

Getting the shot head

Is photography taking over from the barbed hook?

With the advent of the digital age it seems almost incumbent on us as anglers to have photographs of our fish. The ol’ “grip and grin image” is near mandatory and doubly so should one claim capture of a trophy specimen.

Now people head to the river with waterproof cameras, cell phones and on one occasion I had a client whip out an Apple iPad right there in the middle of the stream, I am glad I wasn’t insuring the darned thing I can tell you that. Electronics and H2O don’t generally make happy bedfellows and I have drowned a few cameras and cell phones in my time.

Trouble is that it appears with the digital age, people won’t just take your word for it, it is almost expected that you should have a photo of your catch and expected that you then spread it about a variety of social media. If you don’t have a picture you can see people’s eyes glaze over a fraction and the doubt that your fish really was 20” is written all over their features.

A few specimens are gaining near celebrity status on the world wide web and what with YouTube, Facebook, eMails and such it has reached the point that one can hardly be taken seriously unless you have a photo of your fish plastered about the ether.

SwittersBA lovely shot from SwittersB, not that the fish is still in the net, the mesh is soft plastic. The photo captures the beauty of the fish and it’s glorious colouration without any handling.

To be honest my “check list” for my fishing box, which used to feature such reminders and Lanyard, Water, Rod, Reel, Spare leader, Bandana and Polaroids; now also sports “Camera” and “Spare Camera Battery” added to the spreadsheet.  It is tricky not to get caught up with this stuff.

There are numerous articles and blog posts on subjects such as “Fishing Photography”, the camera has become a near essential tool, right along with the nippers and forceps and apparently it isn’t enough anymore to simply snap a quick image. Now you need to have the light right, the sun behind you, perhaps some elegantly framed foliage or your uber-expensive serpentine handled bar stock aluminium reel in the frame too.

DarrylA superb image from Darryl Lampert, who produces some excellent on stream photography. Again note the fish is over the net, the angler’s hands are wet, the fish is horizontal and still partly in the water.

It does however cross my mind that this may not all be that good for the fish. Years back I was part of the fight, if you can call it that, to change the management structures of our streams to Catch and Release only. We managed, after some considerable dissention from a few of the older fishing crew, to mandate barbless hooks and no kill limits. The fishing has undoubtedly improved as a consequence and even the old hands who argued that “it wasn’t really fishing if you didn’t have a frying pan” have acknowledged that the system works better and there are more and larger fish to be caught.

DeniseHAnother emotive shot from Darryl, capturing the location, the fish and the angler (Denise Hills). Again the fish is over the net to prevent mishap, wet hands and obviously no messing about with the fish out of the water.

I personally strongly dislike barbed hooks, they are dreadful things and to my way of thinking have no place on the end of the line of any serious fly angler. They are bad for you, they are bad for hook-ups and most importantly perhaps they are bad for the fish. So we have made things better for the trout in these parts, barbs are out and damage done on hooking a trout is really minimal. Over time we have all taken to using nets with soft knotless bags, all with a view to protecting the fish from harm.  Where we would once eschew nets as troublesome accoutrements we now mostly recognise that with fine tippets and small flies, safely releasing the fish is far easier with a net and minimises trauma. You need not play the fish to complete exhaustion if you have a net and you don’t run the risk of dropping the fish at the last minute whist extricating the hook and leave the poor thing with a nose ring.  We all now wet our hands, nurse the fish back to strength before letting them go and have been known to dive into the water to retrieve one that seems to be less than recovered.

BrownieAgain, over the net, supported by both hands and water, minimal stress to the fish.

We have, over time come to take greater and greater care of the fish, and I always warn clients that during the moments that there is a fish on the line or in the net my priority is the wellbeing of the trout and that they had better fend for themselves for those few moments in time.

But it concerns me that after all these advances and for all the new found respect and care taken of our fish, once the camera is out of the pocket there is a temptation to cave in to craven desire and abuse the trout in an effort to get the perfect image.

When fishing with a partner it isn’t quite so troublesome, the angler can look after the fish and the partner can look after the pictures. There can still however be a temptation to overdo things and I have seen a number of still and movie images of trout which are undoubtedly being abused for little more than the self-gratification of the angler.  I have watched on video some very large trout be hoisted unceremoniously into the air, jaws clamped in a Boga Grip, something that has no place on trout waters as far as I am concerned and more than a few images on line suggest that by the time the light was right, the focus perfect and the backdrop selected the trout had been held captive and stressed for a good deal longer than it need to have been.

On one’s own, and to a point, without a witness there is more pressure to preserve your moment for posterity, the photographic thing is then even more problematic. Early last season I took a 21” brown trout whilst angling alone, it was very hard to get a picture at all and sadly the ones that I did capture didn’t really show the true size or magnificence of the trout, but at the same time I wasn’t prepared to overstress the fish just to get the shot, in the end it is an act of dreadfully selfishness to do so.

TimNot a great shot of mine, but on my own I did manage to record the moment without removing the fish from the net and without handling the trout much at all.

Only recently an image was posted on line of a lovely brown trout, dragged on shore and apparently pinned down with the angler’s foot whilst its picture was taken. I can understand the desire to have a record of such a fish but that should never outweigh the wellbeing of the quarry. Anglers and hunters alike, whether planning to eat or release their targets should feel and demonstrate respect.  In this particular photograph the footwear of the photographer would suggest novice status, and here may be some level of mitigation in that, but abuse is abuse and a lack of knowledge isn’t an overriding excuse for such. I have always laughed at the idea that in Germany you need to take an exam before you can go fishing, now I am not so sure that it is such a bad idea, although in fairness in Germany you are not allowed to practise Catch and Release either so maybe it is a poor example.

BadThis is NOT how you do it, stress and damage to the fish is virtually assured.

One of the great problems with social media is that it is universal, not only do anglers see these images that whizz about the globe faster than bird flu, but so do the detractors of field sports. Bear in mind that whilst you may be keen for your mates to see photographic evidence of your catch so equally it becomes available for the detractors, the gainsayers, the protestors and all the rest who are just dying to find evidence that catch and release fishing should be banned. Indeed in a few countries it already is.

I have on occasion posted video of trout fishing and frequently received comments from non-anglers along the lines of “Wow, I can’t believe you take that much care of the fish”. That is nice to know, it puts out a good message to people who don’t understand fly fishing. But equally providing global digital evidence of abuse isn’t good for the cause, that it isn’t good for the fish should already be apparent.

Having gone through the evolution that we have, having removed the damaging effects of barbed hooks, knotted nets, dry hands and all the rest of it are we perhaps negating it all in our efforts to record our catches? Is it possible that we are doing more damage now than before the digital age caught up with us?

Consideration and respect for our quarry should be a given, I don’t want to be tarred with the same brush as the bass anglers who transport their catches to football stadia so that they can hoist them by the lip in front of a crowd of screaming fans. That we all to some degree traumatise the fish that we catch is probably a given, I like to think that this is no more stressful than being chased by an otter or swooped on by an osprey, but it is incumbent upon us all to minimise any stress, to release the fish as cleanly and quickly as possible and if taking photographs increases the stress we should stop.

A few points:

  • Do not remove the fish from the water (keep it in the net) until you are ready to take the shot.
  • Keep the fish over the net, so that should you drop it there is no additional damage.
  • Wet your hands, it is remarkable how many videos and DVD’s show supposedly experienced anglers failing to take this simple precaution.
  • Use a net with soft mesh and no knots.
  • Personally I prefer to remove the hook after the shot, that way you can prevent dropping the fish and releasing it prematurely when not recovered fully.
  • Limit your time, if you don’t get the shot within a minute or so just give up and let the fish go.
  • Obviously barbless hooks should be used whether you intend to take photos or not.
  • Support the fish’s weight and keep it horizontal, hanging fish by the lip or gills can cause untold damage to vital internal organs.
  • Do not put the fish on dry land, rocks or similar or force the fish to support it’s own body weight in any way.
  • This is what Lefty Kreh has to say about releasing fish

It is wonderful that we now have the opportunity to record our successes, and that we can share those images around the world, but a good shot isn’t worth a life. There is little point in following all the catch and release recommendations only to harm the fish whilst fiddling about with focus and the lens cap.