Wrights Royal – Step by Step

I make no apologies for this fly.  Its my guilty secret.  I came across it in Oregon or Colorado a few years ago, and it would take cut throat trout and brown trout when other flies were proving useless, so on my return, I’d deliberatly kept a couple, using them as models, I tied some up – just to see if they had a place in the UK.  I accept that it might offend many peoples sensibilities of what a chalkstream dry fly should be and represent, but where I do most of my fishing, (River Wylye) it isn’t for the faint hearted, all wild, no stocked fish, and yet this fly has caught me a fair number of wild brown trout, and good grayling.  Its easy and quick to tie and no fly box should be without one.  On those early season cold days, when chilly winds seem to prevent any hatches, the water can look dumb and flat, no surface activity, yet this can drag them up, maybe its out of aggression, who knows, but I do know that at sometime when you’re puzzling over what to do to prevent a blank day, you’ll tie one on and it will catch for you.  I’m not actually sure of its name, Wrights Royal, very similar to Royal Trude, Royal Stewart, Royal Wulff, they’re all similar and have their regional application and minor alterations.  Basically, this fly is just a peacock herl, a red silk cummerbund, and a deer hair wing with a ginger collar hackle.   I can’t think what fly it is supposed to represent, but that is true of many of the flies in our boxes, I suppose you could say its a Sedge but it works when Sedges aren’t around.  This isn’t my best example of tying, but the suns threatening to peep out from behind the black and grey cumulus nimbus, and I’m going fishing, so here are the pics and tying sequence, I’ll tidy them up and do the editing  tomorrow.  Materials first – the tabulation and layoout of the materials list keeps appearing as jumbled up, I’ll try to resolve whats happening and make it look better soon.

Hook: #14-#18

Dry fly thread: Uni 6/0Black/

Abdomen: Peacock/Herl – single strand

Waist: Uni red silk (three strands)

Thorax: Continuation of the Peacock/Herl

Wing: deer hair

Hackle: medium ginger

Wind a thread base to just about level with the hook barb. Tie in a single strand of Peacock herl from below the eye.  Wind the thread forward to be out of the way, then wind herl forward just two or three turns, secure it with a turn of the thread, then let it hang, weight of bobbin holder should hold it firm.

Tie in a 2” – 3”piece of red silk –  it comes in strands that seperate for finer tyings.  Move thread forward again, Wind a small even waist (in this picture it isn’t even but should be) of the red silk, its profile should be lower than the height of the peacock herl.  Secure the end of thread, snip off waste.

Continue with another two or three turns of the Peacock herl, you shouldn’t need any more, remembering that you have to leave enough space for the deer hair wing and hackle.

Small pinch of deer hair, strip out the under fur, level the hair tips in a stacker, present on the top of the hook shank in flat position, with the tips of the hair extending very slightly over the bend of the hook.  Tie down, tightening with three or four turns of thread, try to prevent it flaring too much. Snip off the deer hair butts.

 Tie in a hackle stem ready to wind it on.  Leave it, but wind the Peacock herl forward towards the eye, tie down firmly, and snip off whatever bit remains.

 Now wind the hackle through the peacock herl, using thread to tie it down just a few milimetres before the eye.  Snip off the waste hackle, then form a small neat head, a touch of varnish or Sally Hansen Hard as Nails if you prefer.  Repeat half a dozen times, change hook sizes, change colour of wing and hackle, go fishing, catch trout.


Todays Lesson is ….

I was trudging back from the three meadows Kingsmead reach last week when I heard a Cuckoo, it partially lifted my deteriorating black mood because it was the first one I’d heard in three years, but it was a particularly apt ridiculing fanfare to my fishing that day.  I’d been nymph fishing at the lower end of this very pretty reach, the water was slightly coloured – chalkstreams don’t colour up like other rivers, the wind could have been friendlier, it was driving the rain directly into my face, with such a force that the only fly I could ‘cast’ was a 3mm Tungsten bead nymph which I had to aim outwards toward the fields on the true left bank in order for it to plop into the river !  Why was I even here in these conditions ? I was just getting my fix of being on the river.  I’d been watching what appeared to be quite a hefty dorsal of a trout rising under an overhanging bush to what I think were large dark olives.  I was on the edge of a deep unwadeable pool directly in front of me.  On my immediate left was the stump of a large Ash that had come down during the winter, and been removed by the River Keeper.   The roots were in the river about three feet below me, so I edged gingerly along a reasonably a thick one, balancing precariously, one foot directly in front of the other, left hand clutching the flimsy remnants of last summers bankside weeds!  What part of sensible did this meet?  I was keen to cast a heavy nymph, to a fish, rising to emergers, under a bush that would be a very difficult cast in perfect conditions.  My right arm twitched the longish leader and fly line out of the top ring, I let the current pull it straight until I guessed it was just the right length, and then synchronised and balanced the slight drop in the wind, angle, line tension and target position,  and flipped – (calling it a cast would be misleading)  it to a point about six feet in front of the bush.   I didn’t see the nymph plop in, my immediate focus was on getting my head above water, gasping as the instant cold that ran down my chest past my crutch into my feet.  River water doesn’t taste that bad, my hat had gone, drifting speedily downstream on the current.  Somehow, my boots had slipped off that very slippery underwater root, and that damned flimsy stalk of a weed hadn’t held me firm !   I scrambled up the banking, reeled in the line, and heard an odd clink that made me look up to see that my fly had caught in the top ring, which was hanging vertically down below the rod.  My beautiful Hanak Nymph rod had a broken top section swinging sadly and accusingly in the wind.   So what lesson have I learned ? – screw new studs into my felt soles, thats what I’ve learned !

First Brown Trout of the Season

A strong cold wind gusted and swirled downstream enough to make my eyes water.  In between the heavy but brief rain showers with occasional clattering hail, there were all to brief periods of that beautiful intense  sunlight that highlights the fields and trees in startling vivid spring colour and clarity.

My wife had announced that she was away for the weekend visiting our daughter and grandchildren,  so I was a free man,  Friday to Sunday for fishing –  how good is that ?  Unfortunately it coincided with the BBC’s weather forecaster announcing that this weather pattern was settling in until the end of the month.   Just perfect for my first days fishing I griped.   I didn’t have to go fishing, my wife asked  me to replace the fence around the vegetable garden to keep the rabbits out, – ‘….any time in the next two weeks would be fine…’ she’d called across the yard to me as I loaded my fishing gear in the car.  For a nanosecond I juggled between the two options, fishing won.

I’d have to use a nymph endeavouring to cast a  dry fly on a #5 weight  9’ leader and 3’ of tippet upstream  into this wind is a fools errand, besides,  I had a new Hanak Nymphing 10’ 3# rod I bought in December, from their UK agent, John Emerson of Unique Flies, so come hell or high water, this was going to be its christening.   I chose the three meadows reaches,  very pretty at the end of April early May when wild Irises in yellow and blue peer through the bankside rushes.  The rod was everything I wanted it to be, and despite the wind, I was  able to flick a single nymphs on a long leader quite precisely into specific holes and riffle holes exactly as I wanted, I drew a deep breath and complimented myself.

A satisfying number of small trout under 11” prevented  me from becoming obsessed with the cold water leaking  through my waders and into my crutch.  I moved quickly further along as a number of out of season small grayling found the GRHE particularly attractive.

At one point there were waves coming downstream, which stopped instantly the wind dropped, causing the flat surface to have a  ‘brushed feathering’ effect.  A twitch of the leader and then a momentary steadying, and I lifted into a very lively wild brownie that  made me completely disregard my now cold and sopping wet crutch  inside my waders.

Minutes later, fishing left handed from the TRB to counteract the wind and to prevent disturbing where I wanted to fish,  I had another from the foot of the riffle just over the bright golden gravel.

I brought it gently onto the waters edge bright green vegetation and slipped the nymph out of the scissors, dropping it behind me in the water.

Two clicks with my £15 ebay camera on ‘muppet’ setting,  and then he decided enough was enough,   and with a flick of the tail,   splashed and slipped through the weeds back into the river.  I saw him seemingly sulkily slide into half a metre of water between two rocks and hold his position,  possibly  contemplating what the hell it was he’d just eaten  to cause such an unusual experience, and resolving not to eat one of those kind of nymphs again, I’m quite sure that I saw the words  ‘from now on I’m sticking to Gammarus’,  encapsulated in a bubble of air he emitted before disappearing into deeper water.

Picking the rod up to begin to sorting out the line, I was intending  to move upstream a short distance, but the nymph that casually tossed  behind me only a couple of minutes earlier , had been taken by the current, no more than about15 – 18 feet downstream, just the length of the  leader and a little line extending  from the rod tip.  Possibly, because of  the movement of my boots in the shallows, I’d  disturbed some invertebrates, but as I was passing line between my fingers feeling for the beginning of the leader to examine the nymph, there was a noticeable tightening that became  positive live resistance, and then I was half handlining, trying to get my rod into a manageable position whilst a good fish used the midstream current to slice line away between my fingers.

A sturdy and healthy grayling eventually thrashed and twisted onto the surface.   My chest pack was still wide open, camera precariously balanced on the top, my landing net  had caught in bankside vegetation  retractible retaining cable stretching  at full length,  suddenly released and with some velocity hit me in the back of the head.  Talk about Muldoons Picnic, I grabbed the camera, and took another couple of clicks of the grayling as I pulled it towards me.

If I can, I try to avoid handling fish wherever possible,  however, sometimes , particularly with grayling under 12” this isn’t possible because they continue to flex and contort themselves  right up until the moment you release them.  I removed the hook whilst holding him steady in the current, a few moments recovering and he kicked and slid sideways and forward into the deep pools.

The wet crutch, increasing wind,  and more frequent hail stones made me review my days choices, and I felt that it was quite unreasonable for me to have not put the rabbit fence up.  No complaints, this junkie had had his couple of hours fix and could now temporarily return to civilised society with those not addicted, or  needing to, as John Geirach put it, ‘stand in a river waving a stick’.

Mayfly Emerger Swimming Nymph – Step by Step tying guide.

Hook:                         Daiichi 1770  #12                                                      Thread:                      Uni 6/0 Brown or Tan                                         Tails:                          Pheasant Tail fibres                                             Abdomen:                  Goose Biot                                                                Gills:                           Single Peacock Herl                                           Thorax:                      Hares Mask fibres                                                Wing:                          Two CDC Feathers Folded over. 

Each winter I tie up a few experimental patterns, some fail miserably, others surprisingly effective.  This is one, called The Isla Wren, I tied it up two years ago, and I now count it as one of my most successful flies.  It is obviously to simulate ascending emerging mayflies.  The weight of the hook wants to submerges the fly, but, depending on the water condition, the CDC and the other tying materials have a natural buoyancy and also trap sufficient air to prevent it sinking completely.   I’ve caught many good trout on this last season, rarely did it fail me.  I’ve tied up a couple of dozen for this season, half of which have slight variations, some have dubbed hares mask for the thorax, some have partridge fibres tied under the CDC wing to  to simulate legs.  Experiment mixing materials and colours to suit your own locality; I haven’t changed the abdomen because the wound goose biots have a bright natural translucency.  I’ve tied it in diffferent colours of goose biot and its just as good on waters different to the chalkstream I fish.

Hook in Vice, wind a thread base along its length.  Tie in three pheasant tail fibres to form tails. Once the tails are secured, catch in a peacock herl, and a single goose biot. Wind thread forward over butts to hold firmly in place.

Use hackle pliers rather than fingers to wind the biot as far as the main kink in the hook. Tie it down.                                                                                                                                            Now carefully wind the biot, ensuring it is done with even spacing in order for the goose biot to show clearly through. Secure the end. 

Dub the thread with dubbing.  Here I’ve used Orvis Spectrablend – Tan, Wind it on but only to create a natural division between the abdomen and the beginning of the wing.  

Select two CDC feathers – these are natural.  Lay them on top of the hook, tips towards the bend, have just enough curling towards the bend so that when you curl them forward and secure at the eye, there isn’t very much to cut off as waste. 

I’m not very pleased with this pic,  I’ll replace it with a better one tomorrow.  Dub the thread with more hares mask fur, particularly the spiky guard hairs, and wind over the hook shank towards the eye, stopping about 2mm from the eye.   Curl the CDC feathers over together, over the dubbed hare, and tie down just before the eye, trim, and finish with a small head. 

 Fishing tip:  Grease tippet except final twelve or fifteen inches.  The fly will sink eventually, but I’ve  taken fish both whilst its been on the surface or completely submerged,

What’s the real cost of a seasons fishing ?

There has to be a name for this form of psychological disorder that I’m suffering from, I can’t possibly be the only one,  I obviously need to seek help.  However, at last its here ! – the first day of my trout season.   For the past week I haven’t been able to settle.  Yesterday was awful, I was up very early, but the day just dragged,  I was like a child waiting for Christmas.  I also had a mirror image behaviour pattern of the one I had a day after last season ended, different only that this time I’m in a good humour.   I fiddled with the contents of my fishing bag, checked the end of my fly line for the third time, pondered over the nail knot and wondered whether I ought to redo it – again, checked the laces in my wading boots, randomly opened and closed fly boxes to scan their contents, had minor panic attacks that I’d wasted so many days of the winter, merrymaking with friends and family, which has now resulted in me realising that five or six hundred flies is absolutely inadequate for the 2012 trout season.  I just know that, in some category, I will be short of the subtle pattern\colour\size variations essential for the weather\temperature\light\seasonal vagaries that I am bound to meet in the coming months……. just because I can’t be specific at the moment, doesn’t mean that I’m wrong.   

The next problem I have looming is that my wife is being absolutely unreasonable, she will undoubtedly expect, as in previous years, a holiday during the summer and another one with our children, their partners and grandchildren ! –  well this years going to be different, I’m going to be one of those Northern brooding macho men, moody glowering looks, stubble, demand a meal on the table when I want it, I’m going to be putting my foot down, there’s only one pair of trousers in this house……besides, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a holiday in October – less crowds and lower cost. 

So today is the first of my 183 day long fishing season, 26 weekends, but bliss, oh bliss, I’ve retired, the days are my own, nearly, so my target is for 100 days minimum fishing ! – I’ve found a local guy who will cut the lawns, the newspaper boy will walk my dog twice a day, I’ve engaged a local DIY guy to clean and paint the gutterings, a local farmer will top my fields for beer tokens, all of these come at what I think is a very reasonable cost which enables me to make maximum beneficial use of my membership.  It is of course, this ancillary planning that racks the costs up, so why can’t she realise that the more days I fish, the daily cost also becomes lower ….mmmm, on reflection, ….that could get difficult, her feminine mental arithmetic skills would instantly come into play, she’d apply one of those peculiarly female conversion rates,  Guerlain, L’Oreal, or her current favourite seems to be Jimmy Choo, whoever he is, I suppose that I’m fortunate really because she is so frugal and careful.  She tells me that everything she manages to buy, is during a ‘sale’, or at ‘half price’ or ‘two for one’ – I’m still astonished she bought that MaxMara Scelta coat with Nectar points !

Hawthorn Fly – Springtimes best fly


Hawthorn Fly –  A step by step tying guide.

Hook:                                      #12 Hanak BL130 or similar dry hook Thread:                                   Black Uni6/0                                           Abdomen\Thorax:                 Orvis Spectrablend Black (or similar)  Wing:                                      Niche Polypropylene Yarn           Legs:                                      Knotted Pheasant Tail Fibres (Black)Hackle:                                   Black

Here I’m using the Hanak #12 dry fly hook  BL130, but others will be just as good.  Personally I don’t like this fly tied on a larger hook, but that could be just a regional thing. 

Run thread to the bend of hook

Dub on a slim noodle of black spectrablend and build abdomen and thorax, thickening as you go.

 Make it look like this.

 Cut 1” of the poly yarn, hold in place on top of the hook, while you secure it with a single wrap.  The weight of the bobbin holder will hold it in place.

Now cut two of the pheasant fibre legs and hold in place on one side, secure them with another wrap over.  Repeat for the other side, before attempting to hold all items in position, while you tighten the wrapping, ONLY TWO WRAPS,  with the dubbing on the thread.

Trim the waste ends off the legs and the yarn, and top wing of yarn.  Now its time to put the hackle in place. Choose the hackle with suitably short barbs, they mustn’t be too long or they create problems in use.  The general rule of thumb is that the barb length shouldn’t be more than one and a half times the gape of the hook. 

Strip the flume off this feather, you can just see in the picture a dart of shading, pointing towards the tip, after this, the barbs are stiffer and have a little more sparkle. Strip the shaded barbs off, and then tie the feather onto the hook, just in front of the poly yarn. 


Wind the hackle no more than three times, prefably just twice around the hook.  Secure tightly the feather before you trim off the butt, – there’s nothing more aggravating than cutting it and watching it spring into unwind mode.

 Whip the head tightly and trim thread, – if you’re a bit paranoid about the thread coming loose at the eye after cutting, either do a couple more half hitch securing knots, and dab it with the tiniest drop of Sally Hansen Hard as Nails, or smear a short length of the tying thread with very small amount of varnish on the end of a dubbing needle or cocktail stick, then finish the whipping and tie off.  

Repeat another eleven times and then go fishing, this is a fly that works early morning as well as during the afternoons. 

 FISHING TIP:  Apply floatant only to the poly yarn, legs, and the top half of the hackle.  Then, consider carefully which way the wind has been\ and is blowing, you might  discover that there are strips of water, along one of the bankings, or by back eddies, where the wind might have blown them in numbers, it is here that the fish will have been picking them off and possibly anticipating others to fall.   

Alternative:   If you struggle tying in the legs, because they’re a bit slippy, do them immediately after the dubbed thorax, once you have them firmly in place, tie in the poly yarn before completing as above, remember to have some dubbing on your thread to complete the very noticeable largish head on the fly.

Drought ? – what drought ?

Here’s an interesting link, I came across it on the bbc website, it illustrates the waste of water by each and every water authority due to leakage, if half of it could be prevented then our rivers would be in a healthier position.  Have a look at how much your water company is allowing to leak away into the ground.   Just type a water company name into the box and you get immediate data about their wastage.


Does an SSSI mean anything at all ?

Here we are then, arriving at the beginning of the 2012 trout fishing season, enthusiastic – certainly….. but not as excited as we should be.  We’re all chastened by a nagging fear, and there is also a nervous tension.  Its jacked up quite a few more notches since last season.  Every one of us will, either between casts or when we’re just watching the river, be visually absorbing, mentally comparing past seasons water line with what we see now.  We’ll take interest in exposed bankings not seen before, from the revealed tree roots and bridge supports, we’ll see, risen up, the snags where we lost fish a few seasons ago.

It conveys a feeling that very soon, we might be all dressed up with nowhere to go. Water levels that only a few years ago, swirled and chilled just above your crutch, is now only up to your knees, once essential chest waders have given way to thigh waders, their poignant redundancy epitomises what many better informed observers, consider to be an avoidable environmental obscenity, and, if their prognositcations are half accurate, then it should make anyone with an interest in the environment take to the streets.  

Past seasons comments and concerns about the welfare of Chalkstreams, have given way to very genuine fears for the immediate future of these beautiful and unique eco systems, that fear is now fuelling a burgeoning regional anger …. and its not just from fishermen. Hardly surprising really, everyone in the country is aware of dry winters and the drought measures brought into effect in neighbouring areas. 

Anger in the Wiltshire and Hampshire chalkstream region is specifically because of the perceived obfuscation and weasel words of Wessex Water, who it is felt, are taking cover in the impenetrable fine print of their Abstraction Licences, which permit them to remove seemingly huge amounts of pure fresh water, (literally, tens of millions of litres of sparkling nitrate free water) from the aquifers, their fudged answers to specific questions, their convoluted interpretation of scientific data and complex geographic terms, all of which can only really be deciphered, by hydrologists, scientists, engineers, for them to be properly challenged, emotive invective is easily dismissed.  Careful analysis of their statistics with more of the river watchers own is the way to go.  Legal action would be a high game requiring high stakes, not something the concerned can currently contemplate. While this all might take place, the worrying drop in river levels plays on in the background; the monthly flow for Nov 2011 on the River Wylye is the lowest on record, and the calculation of groundwater levels in a primary aquifer for the Hampshire River Avon is the lowest since February 1976, and the most recent figures from the Environment Agency starkly illustrate that the monthly flow rates between Warminster and Salisbury, as a percentage of the long term average, is on a very worrying downward spiral during the critical winter period when it was hoped the aquifers would recover.  It was only 32% in November, but alarmingly 22% in February.  

It is inconceivable that specific chalkstreams which are designated as SSSI\SAC can have their very exisitence put into such an ecologically damaging position with impunity.  If Wessex don’t take action to protect these chalkstreams, not from within the security of their data, but from an ecologically and socially responsible position of having their officers visit and see the real condition of the river, rather than baldly stating that their statistics show sufficient to meet the anticipated demand, they would gain the moral high ground in the eyes of the regions consumers and at a single swipe reverse the negative press they’re currently receiving in so many fora.  Failing that, this years thigh waders might next season be replaced by wellingtons.  The picture isn’t mine but it shows how the winterbournes haven’t filled or flowed this winter, it portends a grim picture for the coming summer.

Fly Fishing Art

This picture,  by Chris Turnbull the English artist of many fish and fishing picturesbrings out a confusing mix of reactions in me,  I don’t know whether to rise to snatch the fly, or go snatch the rod and go fishing, but it sums up exactly what we are imagining when our fly first lands on the water – and he’s not a fisherman !

In the USA, Fly Fishing and Duck Shooting sports have so many aficionados that they are actually a powerful political lobby; each year, thorughout the whole USA professionals and amateurs, members of art groups vie with each other and submit thousands of pictures to the US Postal Service, the chosen pictures are then depicted on a range of pictorial postage stamps.     

Here in the UK we have a number of notable wildlife artists,  but their work isn’t as widely recognised by the fly fishing community, and yet some of their exquisitely realistic portrayal of trout, salmon and fly fishing are so evocative they bring out the acquisitive side of my nature, and I desperately want to own many of the pictures I discover, but, its a toss up between available finances and my wifes steel grip on domestic decor that prevent me going any further than maybe a few prints.  I keep them in a folder, in readiness for the day that they can go on the walls of my purpose built fly tying room, overlooking my own piece of trout stream……ah well we can all dream.  Its now only eleven days to go before my fishing season opens.  Have a look at some of the art on these websites, there’s some superb pictures.




More coming shortly

Footprint Dun – The Summer Saviour step – by – step tying guide.

I’m getting the hang of the step by step sequences, but my photography still needs sharpening up, but bear with me, a new one is in the post, and a photographic enthusiast is coming to visit.  Tie a dozen of these, in a couple of different colour hues.  If you are reasonably competent tyer, and don’t have a problem tying them on 16’s, do another half dozen or so on 18’s, if you go larger than 16’s, then the weight of the hook compromises the ability of the legs to support them, – I’ve seen them tied on a #26 !  When you’re confident with tying this fly, try a couple of colour and material variations, maybe a stripped peacock herl abdomen, a touch of Hares mask fur for thorax.  If you’re an experienced tyer,  instead of the usual Uni Thread, try tying them with Danville Spider web, its less bulky and I feel easier to manage, and for the head when you finish the body, mark it with a black or dark brown permanent marker and whip finish to form the head. 

Below is a picture of the basic materials; I’ve used a Kamasan B170 #16 hook, and for the purposes of this set of pictures, Uni 6/0 Tan tying thread.   For the Abdomen and Thorax, in this example I’ve used    Fly Rite Fine Dubbing.   Select the colours that suit your locality, in this instance, I’ve used No29 Western Olive. The tails, and the supporting legs are bristles from a fairly cheap paintbrush.


Begin a normal whipped thread base at the eye, stop after approx 3mm, and tie in one inch of Poly Yarn by the tip. This will become the loop wing in a couple of moments 


Having secured the first part of the yarn, lightly, pinch it lightly with finger and thumb, using a dubbing needle or similar, lift the yarn to form a wing loop, whilst still holding the yarn, then tie the rear part of the now formed wing loop down onto the shank so it appears as in the picture.

Secure the rear of the loop, not too tight at first, hold it with the first few turns, then tighten it by pulling tying thread upwards which should prevent yarn spinning on the hook shank.  Keep hold of it between thumb and forefinger until its well secured.  Snip the waste off at an angle and cover it with thread.

For the legs and tails, and for tails on other flies as well,  I use the bristles from a cheap paint brush that I picked up from B&Q,  I can’t discern any difference in the bristles compared to the more expensive microfibbets, you can select alternative colours from black through to a light olive ! – three for a £1 when I bought them !

 Tie in just two of the fibres on the opposite side of the hook, don’t try to do four at a time, its quite difficult to fix them to the shank.  Measure the approximate length of hook shank, and match it for the tail filament length on the finished fly, it doesn’t matter if you get it wrong, whilst its only held with a couple of wraps, you can pull them through the wraps to get them the length that you want them.   

 Now tie in the second pair of fibres, measuring and adjusting their length to match the opposite side.  Tie and tighten the threads, remembering to put a loop of the thread under the tail fibres to make them slightly cock upwards.  Once you have them secure, pushing a thumbnail under them, towards the eye will make them lift and seperate nicely.   If you have any problems, use a dubbing needle to seperate them, and pass a seperating thread in a figure of eight which should do the trick.  Some tyers prefer at this stage to put a tiny dab of glue or varnish on the seperated filaments to keep them in an exact position.  

Using your chosen dubbing colour, dub on a sparse, and slim short length and begin wrapping around the shank, start very sparse at the end of the abdomen, overlapping each time to increase thickness of abdomen as you wind on.  BEFORE you go too far, pull the outer bristle from each side backwards, to form the rear legs.  Tighten the dubbing, and wrap around,  binding each leg filament to the hook shank, and then between the shank and the leg, and it should cock out nicely at an angle from the hook.  Wind on more dubbing, and just before the wing post, repeat the splaying and tying of the fibres in reverse, to create front legs.

This is how it should be looking at this stage.  Once you’ve got the front legs splayed as the rear pair, finish dubbing wrap, ensuring that the wingpost is properly covered and tapering down sharply.   About 2mm from the eye of the hook, whip on a neat small head. 


 These are a few I tied this morning, you will notice that one or two of them have the alternative hares mask thorax dubbed onto them, with a stripped Peacock Herl abdomen.  

Here’s a closer picture for you to see, – maybe to the purist they’re not OE’s pattern, but the significant feature is that they land upright on the water, their feet causing dimpling and refraction of light, whilst the tail provides extra stability.  They are very easy to see, and provoke fish to take them when they’ve refused other flies.   See my comments on the earlier posting below re when I use this fly to rescue what might otherwise be a blank day.

The Footprint Dun – Olly Edwards Game Changer Fly

Oliver Edwards Footprint Dun is as much a game changer, and as essential to have in the fly box as the Klinkhammer.   I’ve had many days on the river when its been menacingly warm early in the day, and I knew in advance thats it wasn’t going to be an easy or very productive days fishing.  The heat builds continuously from  mid morning to glaring brightness  that makes it tough for even the darkest polaroids, and then its steady until early evening.  This is only tolerable because I know that it will be a fabulous few hours 7’ish through to sunset, and darkness.      

The sad thing is, we can’t always choose the day when we’ll be able to get away fishing, and we just have to make the best of when we can.  Bright hot days such as these are a torment.  On the river, the give away clue that confirms the apprehension is that its easy to have sight of fish, many are specimens, holding station, tail gently fanning, right on the edge of bright green waving fronds of a ranunculus bed, tucked under the far banking or an overhanging tree, not even bothering for passing nymphs.  Easily spotted pods of grayling, any one of which would make it a red letter  day, if only you could get just one of them to take a fly or nymph.

I had one such day on Reach 10 last season.  R10 is one of the shorter reaches of this wild trout chalkstream.  Single bank fishing only because of the trees curtaining one side, most of which overhang half way across the river.  The true right bank is a wheatfield, the farmer leaves an access strip which is overgrown with meadow weeds  occasional thistle, and compulsory nettles.  Its all wadeable, not deep at any point,  crotch deep most of it, but casting has to be carefully thought about.   Occasional vertically hanging fronds.  If you’re left handed this must be really tough. 

The reach is accessed down a dusty track past an old water mill that is now a B&B, over a rattley old slotted tractor bridge spanning the river, where I pause for a moment to look up and downstream, pondering whether its going to be 9A or 10.   Near the top, there is an intriguing short stretch where a number of willows  lean further across forming a 30’ green shaded tunnel under which it is very difficult to cast a fly, in there, occasional powerful swirls, or teasing small dimples  which is an indicator of the larger fish.  One day, I’ll explore the overhanging branches, there must be many a cursing anglers lost flies.  Here I disturb a Kingfisher on the lower branch tips  surveying the margins, from where methodically during the day it picks off fingerling minnows and grayling.  Tackle up by the rattley bridge,  before setting off I examine the metal uprights of the bridge, where spiders webs reveal the previous days and nights flies, Another minute sampling and examining the contents of what is coming down or up from the gravelly bed, – nothing of any significance…Mmmmm.

Its about three hundred yards downstream where the reach begins, its important to keep well back into the edge of the wheat field, somehow resisting the temptation to go closer to take a peek at the river, walking past water without looking is just unnatural.

An hour and a half later, after my usually dependable emergers, small olive duns, black midges I’m becoming concerned that I hadn’t had a fish.  Several had rose, examined, almost sniffed the fly but decided it wasn’t for them, today.  Even the tiniest flies have proved fruitless, high temperatures and bright sunlight makes them unwilling to exert themselves. 

The usually dependable Grey Goose nymph, is only glanced at, GRHE causes a momentary half turn off station, nothing more.  The river is so rich in subsurface invertebrates, its was going to take something special, different or interesting to unpin them from the golden gravel.      

I tied on a pale olive Footprint Dun, the splayed legs make a wonderful dimpling effect, and the forked tail filaments confirm it is a genine fly.  I don’t know if its aggression or interest, but it had an immediate impact.  I cast it up to where a riffle finished and a reasonable smooth but speedy glide ran towards an overhanging willow.  The FD lands beautifully on its four legs.  The trout I could occasionally spy as the weed waft exposed it, didn’t move, but from a narrow channel between two weedbeds, a previously unseen fish detached itself from the cover of the overlapping green ribbons of weed, and without hesitation, in once synchronised move, intercepted, gaping flash of white mouth, completed the turn showing a thick spotted flank before sinking downwards again, leaving a blur of olive brown and spots that instantly punches adrenalin into your bloodstream.  Actually it hooked itself, all I did was hold the rod, I don’t think I lifted or tightened.   Outraged or frightened at the sense of its chosen line of progress being restricted.  Careering up and down the pool, trying to get under the willow, plunging for the ranunculus roots on the periphery of my vision I recalled numerous smaller fish scattering.  Eventually it came towards me, three times finding renewed engergy to make a break as it came within a rods length.  I’d had several of those nerve shredding moments that trigger the ‘please don’t come off’ anxiety.   I do my best to try to never remove a fish from the water unless I have to,  I drew it in to me, tucked the rod butt under my arm, ran my fingers down the leader and tippet, felt for the hook, realising but disregarding that I was cutting my fingers on its teeth in the process.  Barbless hooks make the unhooking easier, my wet hand holding it gently by the wrist of the tail while it recovered.  Measured against the whippings and markings that I’ve tied on my rod, nineteen inches.  Thats not a fish to be sniffed at.   It kicked and flicked its broad tail, heading under the nearest weed bed, and I relived the feeling of its thick tail.   The footprint dun accounted for just another three fish that difficult afternoon, not as large, but all very welcome.  

Here is my step by step tying guide for Oliver Edwards superb fly, don’t be frightened of by the thought of microfibbets, its nothing a little practice wont overcome, and you really do need this innovative fly by one of Englands most accomplished fishermen in your box.

Mayfly Emerger – a step by step tying guide

This is the ED Emerger, I discovered it on the absorbing and inspiring  Hans Weilenmann website, www.danica.com   I think it is one of his own designs, with a slight modification by me, maybe not for the better, but how I’ve tied it here gives me a lot of confidence whenever I tie one on.   I first tried this fly last season, just tied up half a dozen, and they proved to be excellent, taking fish right through the summer.  It floats all day, is durable enough to withstand the teeth of several catches, but of most relevance is that it has the trigger features that I think are more important when fly tying to catch fish.  I’m not as sure these days that a very close replication of a specific natural insect is as valid as GISS.  This concept is partially borne out of my experiences of fishing into late dusk and night time, when the fish become less cautious, they can’t see colour, just silhouette and surface movement.    During the daytime, the Muskrat guard hairs possibly cause light refraction and surface distortion that indicates a struggling emerger, so to the fish it looks a healthy mouthful thats well worth the effort of briefly leaving the protective underbanking in order to snatch it.  For the coming season I’ve tied this fly in a modified colour tones and sizes from #12 to #16.   

At first I was cautious about these GRIP hooks, fearing I might lose a good fish because the gape looked quite wide, but I have to say they haven’t distorted once either in tying or whilst playing a fish, and this season I’ve bought more of them in different styles and sizes, so thats a vote of confidence.  At some time I intend to make another posting about hooks, but my favourites for the past couple of seasons have been TMC and HANAK. 

Using Brown Uni 6/0 Thread, tie a bed from eye to round the bend, it doesn't have to be perfect for this fly. Leave a trailing loop for the rib, shown in next picture.

When you come to the end of the thread base, – just around the bend of the hook, pull out a few inches of thread and then tie in again, leaving this trailing loop of thread. This loop of thread will later be twisted and then wound up the abdomen to make a visible rib that also makes the fly more durable when fishing.



The dubbing I’m using here is Orvis Spectrablend, I’ve used others, and mixed some materials together, you need to make slight colour variations to suit your own locality.   One method I used successfully last season is to tie in a long whitish\cream CDC feather by the tip, or two twisted two together (cream\fawn) and then wound the CDC rope up to form the abdomen.  Try experimenting with a few once you’ve got a few standard ones already in your box.                                                    

Wind the dubbing rope up the body, forming the natural shape taper as you go, keep twisting the dubbing just before you wind it, it keeps it tight and more easily to shape and form the abdomen.   Next is to wind the rib up in even-ish turns, heres the picture. 

The loop of thread left earlier is now twistedspun, and I hold it in a crochet hook to prevent it untwisting. Wind the rib up the body a few times, to be prominent at end of abdomen, tie it down, and snip off. Next is the Muskrat guard hairs.

Muskrat is quite a popular fly tying product, it is naturally water shedding, will float forever, but what makes it one of my favourite materials is its versatility, – on the surface there are a lot of glassy rigid guard hairs, if you get a good piece, then they are long and can be used for a variety of purposes, they grow out of the main fur which is a lovely creamy brown colour, (think of the colour of warm milk with some cocoa stirred in) and best of all, is that the underfur is a sublime shade of blue and grey that can be dubbed onto thread as easily as rabbit, and can be blended to make a number of shades.

Take a pinch of the long guard hairs, cut as close to the pelt as you can, and then comb out the unwanted underfur.    Place on the long hairs on the shank of the hook so they extend over the bend, and tie in, tie down, quite firmly.  I tend to do a final half hitch and then dab the knot with a touch of Sally Hansen Hard as Nails on the point of  a dubbing needle.

It wasn’t in the original tying, but at this stage, I give the thread a quick rub of wax, and lightly dub onto the  thread some chopped Hare, wind on for a couple of turns – it gives a prickly leggy effect which I feel is another of the triggers that makes this fly so successful.

Hope this isn’t going to make this look too long winded for you to try yourself.




Now you have to tie in the Deer Hair wing, cut and stack in the usual manner, it doesn’t have to be a large bunch.  It helps with floatation, I think light passing through the hairs creates a lifelike movement.  Deer Hair will always flair, well, it does for me, so once securely tied in, begin the task of cutting the unwanted butts as close as possible.  If it looks a bit spiky, dub on another small pinch of Hares mask onto the thread and tie on directly in front of the wing, you can see it in the picture  – but leaving room for a clean tidy head immediately before the eye.

Just snip the tying thread, touch of varnish on the head, - tie another two or three, go fishing.

The close up picture shows a few straggly hairs, these can be teased or cut out when finished.  The good thing about this fly is that it isn’t like slim bodied Duns – it can be a bit scruffy, we all know about flies still taking fish, well after they’ve been chewed and slimed a few times, so perfection isn’t a requirement on this fly. 

Finish by whipping on a head, add a blob of Sally Hansen or similar, do half a dozen and get out onto the river, – season for me doesn’t begin until April 15th !