Posts Tagged ‘Tim Rolston’

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


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

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

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










Lockdown Flytying Day 20

April 15, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Tying the Mobile Marabou Dragon



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

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

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

Thanks for reading, stay safe out there.

Lockdown Fly Tying Day #19

April 14, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tying the Quick Sink Corixa:


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

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

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

Thanks for reading, stay safe out there.

Lockdown Day 18

April 13, 2020


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

Goose Biot Micro Caddis black.

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

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

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

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

Goose Biot Micro Caddis Tan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tying the Goose Biot Micro Caddis:

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading, stay safe out there.



Lockdown Day 16

April 11, 2020

Getting good and getting quick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The exact same pattern in Olive

And again a row in pink

And ten or so in  Claret

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

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


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

Thanks for reading, stay safe out there.

Lockdown Day 15

April 10, 2020

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making up “Indicator Dry Flies”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading and stay safe.

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 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 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.