Posts Tagged ‘Lockdown fly tying’

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 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 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 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.