Sunday, 24 January 2010

Dryz a bone!

When it comes to catching fish on a fly, the most exhilarating way has got to be on a surface fly. Whether you are stripping a popper back across the surface for bass or pike, or drifting a small dry fly down stream in search of a big old brown trout, in my opinion the visual way is the best way. One second the fly is minding it's own business as it works the surface, the next a big gaping mouth opens behind it, and all hell starts to break loose. It still get the heart pumping as you watch a huge fish turn onto your fly and suck it in. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the pull on a line that a subsurface fly gives when it is taken, but the added attraction of seeing what is going on is always a winner.

Like a missile, a big pike chases a surface popper.

With the new trout season around the corner, I thought I would have a blitz on tying a few flies. Not only do we get through them during our own fishing, but we always like to make sure we have enough for our guests and friends that come down to us for tuition and guiding sessions. If I don't get them sorted now, then next week will be a busy week. We have got a few days pike and grayling fishing lined up in Somerset, and by the time you get in late your not always up for an all-nighter behind the vice. So I decided to get things underway and make a start. I must be getting wiser as I get older. I usually fly by the seat of my pants and tie as they are needed! Or maybe it's because I am sitting here with a kidney infection with nothing else better to do.

It has been nice to have a bit of settled weather of late. It has seemed like spring has been trying to poke through. I'm not to sure how long it will last though, so regular casting and recce trips have been made along our stretches of rivers and streams to keep an eye on what is going on. There have been quiet a few natural flies showing themselves and plenty of trout have been spotted hanging around. Even during 'Britain's Big Freeze' or whatever they called it, we were still seeing flies buzzing around. Most were midge that are often found all year around whatever the conditions. Give them a small opening of warmer temperature throughout the day and they are always out and about. I think out of all the cold weather we had, there was only one or two that I didn't see any fly life at all. What was a surprise was seeing a couple of Large dark olives coming off whilst the air temperature must of been about -5 degrees. Something must of felt right for them to take flight. The rest had more sense and decided to hold tight until it warms up a bit.

With a batch of Varivas hooks arriving, I opted to crack on with some dry flies. Not only will they stock up the boxes for the forthcoming trout season, but hopefully they'll have a few grayling hanging onto them next week!

aff-UK 'fly lab', where magic or usually a mess is created!

Most of the dry flies that I use nowadays tend to be parachute style. This is for various reasons, but especially for the way that they sit in the water. Unlike a lot of traditional shoulder hackle dries that tend to sit high on the surface, parachute dries hold lower in the film giving it a much better footprint. Even in fast flowing streams, if the fly isn't sitting right it can still be rejected. A parachute fly is a stable fly which seems to land better on the surface and drifts well in both slow and fast flowing currents. So it is perfect for a lot of the wild trout fishing that we do on our moorland rivers.

A swarm of parachute flies ready to get chomped!

Probably the most famous parachute fly throughout the fly fishing world is the trusty 'Klinkhamer'. If you are going to tie a fly that has a reputation like the klinkhamer, then it pays to see the proper way to tie it. Check out Hans Van Klinken's website for the tying and history behind it. I have my own way of tying a similar pattern, but I like to add a tail to some of the flies and use CDC for the post. Colour and size are determined by the natural food that is floating down stream. It pays to carry a good selection to allow you imitate the footprint and shade of the natural flies that come off your rivers, or even still waters. Parachute flies are as deadly on both types of waters.

A typical parachute fly, size 20 for our moorland and river trout.

Dependant on the style of fly fishing that we are doing or the request of our guests, will determine how we use the dry fly. Like I mentioned at the beginning of the blog, visually watching a fish rise and suck your fly into it's mouth is the way to go. So when the fish are on the rise and feeding on surface flies, then we will usually fish a team of three dries. When the fishing are taking both emerging and emerged flies, then again a few parachute flies will be attached to the leader. One of the most common set-ups for the parachute fly, is to combine it with a nymph. Known by various names such as 'New Zealand dropper', 'Klink and dink', 'The duo', they are all the same method, that hangs a weighted nymph underneath the dry. This does two things. One it gives the fish two bites of the cherry. Some will hit the nymph, others will rise to the dry. Or simply the dry fly is pretty much used as an indicator and sets the depth for the trundling nymph. It is also good way to prospect a water when there isn't much surface action going on. Again you will be surprised what is lurking under your fly. One minuet nothing, next you are buckled over and trying to stop a fish from diving back into cover.

A few bits and a 'duo set up'.

When it comes to my own dry fly fishing, I always like to spend the extra time to get things right. If it doesn't cut into your fishing time too much, then it's always worth the effort. First is to use the correct lenght and diameter leader and tippet. I tend to opt for a co-polymer and flexible tippet. This will allow for a more natural movement of the fly, that in fishing practice should entice the fish more instead of a last minuet turn away. I always like to dress the tippet with a sinkant of some description. Even in faster flowing water I still like to have to tippet leading to the dry fly sunk under the surface. We have spent loads of time trying untreated and treated leaders, and found that the more discrete tippet fooled even the most line shy fish. Last is to use a decent floatant on the fly. Most people tend to use Gink for this job. Personally I have changed to 'Loon Aquel' after years of use. Gink will keep most flies floating, but it has the problem of going hard in the cooler temperatures and sometimes gives a slick off when the fly lands on the water. Giving the leader a quick stretch before making the cast will also help land the fly further away from the fly line. I have witnessed it countless times when a coiled leader lands on the water and spooks fish as it drifts over them. Also with the added slack in the leader, it can also be tricky to set the hook in time before it is spat out.

Hopefully with everything set right it will help to get a few more fish out. You still always manage to spook or miss a few but that's fishing. Again, making sure you have a stealthy approach will help just as much as a decent set up. There is no point in spending your time tying the perfect fly, setting the leader up and finishing everything off nicely, only to alert the fish when you get in the river. Gravel crunch is one of the first indicators to the fish that you are in the area. So watching where you put your feet is a must. If I could get away with it, then I would opt for not using studs in the soles of my wading boots. But with the kind of rocky ground that we have in our Devon streams it can be like walking on bowling balls and ice.

The thing that I love about wild trout fly fishing or river fly fishing in general is the mobility factor. I wouldn't say I'm an impatient angler, but If there are a few miles of river to fish then I will try and get as much of it covered as possible in a session. This could take one or two days, but I like the challenge. You don't get much freedom in life, so when your faced with an open stream and a few hills to walk over I'm in my element. I'm not one for getting out of the car and dropping into the first run that we stumble across, (unless its a good one). I prefer to travel light and get up to some mischief. Only experience can really teach you what to take, but most importantly what to leave in the car. We have all made the mistake of carrying unnecessary stuff with us. Trying to clamber in and out of the river with pockets bulging with fly boxes, spare spools and lines, zingers draping all sorts of iron works, over sized nets that get caught up on everything and a couple of spare rods. Dependant on conditions, if it doesn't fit in a bum bag or help to catch fish then it doesn't come along. The trick is not to buy things with too many pockets or compartments. For some reason if we have them, we seem to have to fill them. In my next blog, I will write a short piece about the kind of gear that comes along with us. I recently had an email asking about chest packs and lines trays. Both have their positive angles, but can make things awkward for both wading/walking and fly casting. Again I will try and fit a bit in about the pros and cons of carrying them. Till then, tight lines! Roll on the fishing.

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