Wylye trout 2014 – first preparations

Isn't this the most alluring Mayfly Emerger you've ever seen ? - Not mine, I've copied and adapted it from an American fly tyer.

Isn’t this the most alluring Mayfly Emerger you’ve ever seen ? – you almost want to bite on it yourself don’t you.  I’ve taken the design from an American fly tyer, scaled and slightly changed components to suit what we can get here, – can’t wait to try it out, roll on May 2014

Am I suffering from some form of insensitive lunacy ? – I’m sat in my fly tying room in Somerset.  Outside it looks as if the end of the world is nigh, – 70mph winds driving rain and sleet sideways across the meadows; trees on many of the side roads to the village are down, and it seems that it hasn’t been properly light for four days.  The Somerset Levels have been flooded since Christmas, where residents have been unable to live in their homes for seven weeks now, further East towards London,  Old Father Thames is flooding his Home Counties neighbours,  David Cameron is on TV wearing wellies standing by a fire engine,  and what is it that I am doing ? – I’m sat tying size #18 and #20 small delicate olive upwing flies, larger emergers, and #14 and #16 buggy nymphs, in readiness for the Summer ! ! –  as I tie, I have an  image loop running through my head, when describing to anyone the River Wylye, clichés are unavoidable.  A classic gently flowing chalkstream, it is mid summer,  countless Swallows and Swifts swoop in to either drink or take flies from the bright babbling ripples, distorting and mixing the colours of wafting bright green melding with the glow of golden gravels.  Currently it is over the banks into the fields for some distance.  I think I need treatment.

I wind a badger hackle parachute,tie in and crinkle, a few fine deer hairs to create the impression of delicate legs, catch in the tips of a couple of CDC feathers and curve them over towards the eye, the side wisps splay out so beguilingly as it curves, one of my essential ‘trigger’ points on emergers;


I’m planning my attack on the river as if it is some kind of warfare, which I think is how I see it, I envisage myself as a sniper.

The tail and schuck are deliberately this colour, if you've ever picked any out while fishing, you'll know what I mean to represent, these are a few wisps of Emu.  The abdomen is tied with a single Turkey biot.

The tail and schuck are deliberately this colour, if you’ve ever picked any out while fishing, you’ll know what I mean to represent, these are a few wisps of Emu. The abdomen is tied with a single Turkey biot.

The Wylye’s lower reaches, and carriers near the stables are my prime areas.  I do most of my fishing here, main river, sluices and ancient hatches, much of this area is akin to jungle warfare, fewer but larger fish, which even spook at cloud movement or if the sun suddenly peeps out.  If I fail here, as I often do, then I’m off to that overhanging willow just above the railway bridge where last summer, from less than four metres away, close in at the margins, a trouts very large head, appeared directly in front of me, under the overhanging fronds,-  slowly, timing its rise to synchronise the gulping down of a hatching, twitching  floundering  ED, – then sinking out of sight, all one smooth continuous movement leaving neither ripple nor splash.  No one would believe me if I told them of the heart stopping  fish like this one that I’ve seen on every reach of this part of the Wylye.   Emergers I’ve tied like these are for him.


Further upstream from Wilton, there is a narrow arched stone bridge, where a muscular brooding brute of a trout appearing to be in excess of 18” holds to one side of an archway.  I’ve watched him several times for the duration of eating a sandwich and drinking a coffee, – he never moves more than a foot either side, holding just out of the main current.  I’ve begun to think of him as my ‘training fish’.  This is the fish that spurs me into trying to improve my fishing skills, trying to perfect an underhand cast up inside the arch, trying to achieve for the fly to land as close to the inside edge where water meets stone as possible, so that as it comes back towards me, emerging from under the arch with no drag or hint of an unnatural movement  hoping to entice him into making that short open mouthed move before the current swings it away downstream.  I really don’t want to anthropomorphise, but this fish exudes brooding malevolence.  I’ll have him, I just want to have that few seconds of adrenalin fuelled fear as I feel his weight, the fast deep head shaking runs as he attempts to dominate the angle of my rod and test my tippet and knots.  I just want to put my fingers round those shoulders, feel the prick of those needle teeth as I remove the fly, and I want that special lingering moments of looking down, holding him in the current waiting for the kick away – for this fish, it is one of these emergers or maybe this new nymph that will give me that experience this coming season.


Further upstream from this stone bridge is a series of carriers, where a heart  stopping sulky  20” fish resides,  in a narrow piece of water with overgrown banks that you could almost stride across.  He’s hard up against a big Hawthorn root stock that extends out into the water.  This is a one cast fish, no one ever, within half a day will have a second cast at this fish.  Last season I chose to walk and stalk this one fish three or four times.  Only once did I rise him, Just the once, he closely inspected my fly, matching his drift with the fly and current, then I’m sure he sneered at me, hidden amongst the reeds and nettles, before sinking away below the ranunculus.   He’s a real canny one, seemingly tolerating the presence of four or five smaller fish that hang around, a couple of metres behind him.  They are his warning signal;  if anything disturbs them, they shoot upstream towards and past him, then he’s gone in a blink, leaving a very slight swirl of silt drifting and settling in the current.

The poly yarn fibres mixed with tail filaments are to represent the schuck, you can just see the three tail filaments amongst them.  Quite often I colour them with a brown permanent marker.

The poly yarn fibres mixed with tail filaments are to represent the schuck, you can just see the three tail filaments amongst them. Quite often I colour the poly yarn with a brown permanent marker.

Summer 2014 will mark an epoch in the catching of large trout.  I wish, – and yet it is precisely this kind of lunacy, more charitably described as an over developed sense of optimism, –  that makes us  fly fishermen, an unswerving belief that everything will improve and we’ll have better luck tomorrow.


Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Books that every fisherman should have Part 2

To me this man is as close to the US term  ‘Trout Bum’ as you’re likely to find in the UK.   Gordon Mackie is a one off, and after him they broke the mould.  Renowned for his monthly half page column ‘From the Chalkstreams’ in FFFT Magazine, Gordon has kept diaries from sometime in the fifties and sixties and up to date, on where he fished, how he fished, through a golden period when the taking of 4 – 6lb wild fish was quite a common occurence.  Written in an easy and narrative style, highly observant of his rivers and all wildlife around him, in short chapters,often quite controversial which Gordon is unafraid to shirk the confrontation and he can defend his position robustly based on a wealth of knowledge.  His particular and forthright view of rivers, their management and fishing practices are based on the many years of fishing and how he sees the deterioration in the quality of our fishing today.  He is candid and critical, but always with a stimulating insight.   He is a minimalist in respect of what he thinks you need to carry, with great emphasis on observation and stealth skills and deep scorn for the ‘all the gear – no idea’ types.  There is so much trout and grayling fishing knowledge in this man it should be sweated out of him and presented to us at fishing seminars before he expires.  I think its quite possible that he’s fished more days, for wild fish, around the UK than anyone I’m ever likely to meet again.  This man lived to fish and suffered hardship as a result.  To finance himself he’s even been a gold prospector because it involved him with a river ! a rare man who’s pursuit and his passion of fly fishing for trout was regardless of personal and social consequence, e.g. none of us would want to research a section in the book called ‘chalkstreams on a shoestring’.  If you can’t get a copy of this book, beg, borrow, enquire, and do whatever to ‘acquire’ it.  Currently there are ten used ones on Amazon, go buy. You’ll not be disappointed.   Makes the average fly fisherman look like a home loving wimp.  My hero.

An icon of fly fishing in Ireland.  If you dare to fish in Eire before reading this, the quality of your holiday will be diminished.  A time gone by, written by a man with an astonishing professional career, but who’s command of language and sentence structure make me feel like a mumbling muppet.  Hugh Falkus said this was one his top twenty fishing books ever written.  If you’re an enthusiast of John Geirach you’ll struggle with the intellectual breadth of this mans writing on a subject that he was the master of.  Read this and you know you’ve read a book, beautifully descriptive salmon and sea trout events that give you a mental workout at the same time.  No golden moments of nostalgia, just hard core real knowledge with expertise imparted to the reader.   The final chapters are to do with waves and the effect of stained water on a salmons vision ! if you dodged physics at school, then this bit of the book maybe isn’t for you.    Whilst carving a spectacular careet in the Law and Politics, it made him financially secure whilst at the same time restricting his time with a rod, but he made up for it later. Through an  era when ghillies touched their forelock, and tied flies for the master, Salmon and Sea Trout runs that we can only ever dream about, threaded throughout with nuggets of information, humourous social observations, and cameo moments.  Its phraseology and terminology, not to mention some of the gaelic references make this a tome for the better readers ! – but very rewarding.

The fly pattern and materials source book.   Think of a fly – its in here, together with all the regional variations of how it might be tied.  Contributions and acknowledgements read like a who’s who of the fly tying world.  Every fly has some little comment of note that gives insight to its history, development, application, and how to fish it.   If I have a criticism at all it is that I wish the publishers had not used ivory coloured parchment style of paper as a backdrop to the flies, most of which should have been much larger.   A must have book so you can tie any named fly for UK trout and grayling.

It is precisely what it says on the cover. Not really to identify flies, but showing you the detail and relevant parts and colours of flies and their familial group.   Excellent drawings rather than photographs, and opposite each fly and fly family he offers suggestions of the artificial flies you might want to try.   If you’re relatively new to fly tying and fly fishing, in a single plate this book presents each stage of development for the fly and points out what you should be trying to achieve when tying.  No fishing advice, but thats not what it ever offers, and I found the drawings much better than any photographs I’d ever seen in other books.  An excellent book from which to become more conversant with the denizens of the river and lake.

There are many more books I have but I didn’t think they deserved mention here.  I’ve deliberately not included any of the John Geihrach books, not because I don’t like them, they’re entertaining and make me smile, but when you finish them you don’t ever think about them again, and don’t refer back to them, – but they did enthuse me to go fishing in the USA for which I’m very thankful.  

Thats it, – there are more I am sure, so if you have a fierce support for a fishing book in particular, let me know and I’d be pleased to read and possibly include it.

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.

Flies for the coming Season

Each winter I find myself busy tying new patterns and adapting others, that I’ve seen on other Blogs or in the media.  Currently trying to cut down the new patterns so that a complete box for a season on a Chalkstream is less than two dozen, or, in my case, between forty to sixty patterns ! At the moment I’m intent on having a box full of new Mayfly patterns from nymph through to spinners.

Its a very personal thing tying flies, alone with your own thoughts, background music or radio, intensely focused on the tip of the vice, the hook and the way the pattern is forming in front of you.  I think it should be used as a new dieting method, because I’ve noticed that while I’m doing it, I don’t snack or even have a beer.

The Nymphs are easy to assimilate, this one, is the ever popular Gold Ribbed Hares Ear, it is an easy one to tie, and one that I’ve found to be a deadly pattern, and has taken in the past season or so, superb Grayling and Trout throughout the season.   

 It is one that I’ve copied from Dave Wiltshire, its well worth spending some time looking on his blog, http://www.riverflybox.co.uk/grhenymph.html  for for tying instructions on this and some others of his beautiful patterns.  

Other nymphs will have to be, Pheasant Tail Nymph, Peeping Caddis, Grey Goose, and maybe another half dozen Czech style nymphs with Tungsten bead heads, and a few floating nymphs which on the day when the fish are being ‘picky’ have been a day saver for me.  

Emergers become a little more complex, the universal Klinkhammercould cover most scenarios if I have them in four different thorax colours, mostly I tie them on a size #16.   I’ll also have Caddis Emergers in three or four patterns, essential for those exquisite hot, almost thundery Summer evenings, when, just as the light fades, – larger Trout become less cautious and begin to feed, slashing at them hungrily even if they are dragging in the current, which can be the trigger for them to attack them.   It is during this twilight into darkness, when you often can only guess where your fly is on the water and you instinctively lift into a fish rather than see a specific take.  I try to use the sky reflection in order to be able to assess where my fly is, but more of this in a later posting.   

Mayfly family are crucial for June through to mid August.  Nymph, Emerger, Dun and Spinner, I have some killer patterns for all of these with the trigger points essential to draw fish up.  The patterns have been so successful for me that you have to turn your back on the water when you tie them on otherwise the fish will leap out of the river and take them from your fingers!  I’ll be showing step by steps on detached bodies that are durable and don’t get shredded on the first Trouts teeth.

Here are the basic flies I think I need, there will be more variation later.  If you have any ideas or think any crucial ones have been omitted, please let me know and if I agree I’ll include them and a tying pattern.

Beacon Beige – Grey Duster – Daddy Long Legs – F Fly – Olive CDC Emerger – CDC Sedge – Pale Olive Mayfly – Parachute Adams – Klinkhammer – Mayfly Family – Caddis in CDC and Elk Hair – ParaAdams – SplitWing Olive – Blue Winged Olive – Yellow Duster – Black Gnat – Hawthorn – F Fly – Elk Wing Caddis: 

I’m a fly fisherman and a fly tyer,  but I’ve realised that to properly illustrate this BLOG, I’m going to have to get to grips with some basic photography skills, so bear with me a short while, over the next week or so,  I might be changing some of the pictures as I go through a learning curve, – tolerate the existing ones for the moment.

Let me know if you feel that I’m missing out on a good fish taking fly, I’d be pleased to include it. .