Methadone for the Fly Fisherman

The trout fisherman has at his disposal, unlike so many other outdoor activities, a fallback position.  Whilst the world is experiencing a deluge of rain, freak storms, flash floods, and complicated explanations of jet streams, we can throw a log in the log burner (essential in a July like this one) and settle down to tie flies.   Fly tying I describe as a form of Methadone for people who are addicted to fly fishing, not quite the real thing, but a passable alternative until you can do the real thing.  

The non stop sheeting rain last week had parts of the South West and Midlands  sandbagging up to the bedroom windows, uprooted trees were being swept down unseasonally high and fast Welsh rivers.  I decided there wasn’t anything I could do, things couldn’t get any  worse so I’d go fishing.   What astonished me was watching flies emerge from raindrop splattering river surface.  I couldn’t identify what they were other than some kind of upwing olive, but occasionally I could see a different surface disturbances which were fish taking emergers just sub surface.

In a desperate attempt to catch something, unable to see the end of my fly line, never mind a fly, I tied on one of these patterns more in hope than expectation, but it had a CDC bubble wing that I could see and would float, as well as making a discernible surface shape to fish.  Within seconds I had a take and a fish, followed by another couple in the next half hour.   Sometimes, there is just no logic to what fly will take a fish in unusual circumstances.  What I did realise is that the fish are less cautious because you as a fisherman are obscured.  However, by this time, I was at that stage that maybe only fly fishermen know.  Water was rolling off the hat and down my neck, rolling down my wrist as I held the rod, and wicking up my sleeves, and the occasional cold shiver had set in.

Returning home only to watch incessant rain for the next few days left me going through my end of season, sorting and re-sorting of fly boxes, until I settled into the realisation that I just had to tie flies because I wasn’t going fishing.  I tied up a dozen of these which are essentially a basic emerging mayfly, so as to have them available, because if I believe the media’s weather pessimists, this rain isn’t going to let up for some time, and these flies float and can be seen through all the dimpled surface by fish and myself.  If you don’t use them, keep them for next season, and tie them slightly different shades, not just Mayfly emerger colours. his is a standard tying process, nothing fancy.

The Hook is a Daiichi   #12.  I’ve used brown tying thread, normal pheasant tail herls for the three or two tails, whatever your choice.  As you come to the bend in the hook, catch in a piece of normal embroidery thread in a colour of your choice, this is dark olive brown.  Dub the thread with a noodle of dubbing, this is just a creamy ginger rabbit, but I’ve used other colours as well.  Stop winding the noodle at the upward bend part of the hook shank.  Let it hang, and then counter to the way of the noodle you’ve just wound, rib the abdomen in neat spacing turns, tie down the end with the thread, give it a couple of wraps, snip off all the waste.

At this point tie in two CDC feathers, inset to each other, tied in tight to the shank, with their butts towards the eye, BUT, they must remain on top of the hook, not swivel.  Dub the thread with either a Hares mask mix, or, as in this case, I’ve used some dark almost black CDC fibres plucked off a couple of feathers dubbed onto the tying thread, and then wind them up towards the eye, stopping a couple of mm (3/16ths) off the eye.  The thread must be clean for when you tie down the CDC wing next.  Use your dubbing needle to helo in lifting and curling the shape of the bubble part of the wing, and pinch and hold down while you tie it down with a couple of threads immediately behind the eye.  Snip off the waste thats extending over the eye, form a neat head and snip off the thread.    How easy does tying an emerger get ?  Ensure the eye is clear and doesn’t prevent the tippet tying on when stood in the river.

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,