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;

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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,