New Booby Techniques

Boobies Aren't Just for Sinkers...
So you thought booby fishing consisted of chucking it out on a Hi-D and waiting.....
Colin Riach takes a new look at booby fishing.

Dougie G asked - "Could I suggest that you write a piece on the booby washing line technique?  I have been in the boat whilst you have been using it, but I am unclear as to what line works best and whether this can be varied according to how high the fish are in the water."

The way we have been fishing it, it is more of a pulling minor tactic, and not strictly the "washing line" as it was conceived.  For anyone not familiar with that, the idea is to use 2 boobies, on bob and tail, and to suspend one or 2 nymphs on droppers in between.  These are either "hung out to dry" at the surface on a floating line (in which case you can probably dispense with the bob position booby), or sunk on a Hi-D.  If Hi-D-ing, it is retrieved to the point where the buoyancy of the boobies gets the upper hand and slowly lifts the nymphs to the surface - the idea being to imitate nymphs or pupae that are ascending to hatch.

My experience with the method Dougie refers to started when I fished the national prelims at Menteith in 2001.  The Lake fish were on top from the start, that year. It was a cracking day for dry fly and I thought I was set to show my boat partner, Stevie a thing or two about catching risers, as I could see he was rigged with a booby combo on a slime line.  After about an hour of covering rising fish, I had one with no other chances and Stevie had 5 with at least a dozen other chances.  What was he up to?  He was covering rising fish and the instant the line landed was stripping like a mad thing for 3 or 4 pulls.  Those 3 or 4 fast pulls caused the floating booby to cough, splutter and pop against the surface of the water, as it resisted the shallow angle pull of the line that was trying to drag it under.  The commotion caused by the popping of the booby was getting the attention of the nearby fish that had been cast to.  The fish would key-in and rush after the booby.  The next job was to convert the follows into takes, and Stevie used an assortment of tactics, sometimes continuing to strip, sometimes changing to a figure-of-eight, sometimes stopping altogether.

Well, I wasn't going to sit with dries on while I got my bottom kicked, so I rigged up with what I thought was Stevie's set-up: a small booby on the bob and 2 nymphs - a Diawl Bach on the middle and a mini-damsel on the tail.  That seemed the best arrangement to me, as I thought a fish keying-in on the booby but being too wary to take it, might, on falling off the pace, see the nymphs coming after and be more tempted to take one of them.  And so it seemed to prove.  I started to get loads of action, catching one or 2 on the booby, but actually more on the nymphs.  In fact, I was doing even better than Stevie for a while.  That's when we compared notes and I realised Stevie had his booby on the tail.

A couple of weeks later we were back at The Lake for our heat of the Scottish Club Championship and the same method worked a treat.  I was finding that it was critical to get the balance right between the sink rate of the line and the buoyancy of the booby.  I felt that the line didn't want to be faster sinking than a slow glass or a slow intermediate, or the booby got pulled under on the first pull.  The booby, for its part, needed to have decent enough sized eyes to make a commotion, but not so large that it was still popping at the surface all the way back to the boat.  That got plenty follows, but not many takes.

The method worked a treat for me on yet another occasion that year at Menteith.  I think the only change to my rig the whole time was to try a change of booby between a coral size 10 or 12 to a cat's whisker on a 12 or 14 - that, and a change from the Diawl Bach on the middle to a claret buzzer.  The 3 flies were, at all times, spaced at 5 ft / 5 ft / 5 ft, on 6 Ib fluorocarbon.  I did go through a rough patch later in the season, when I was struggling with the method.  I knew Jimmy M and Ian Mac had been continuing to get fish with it, and I asked them to describe the way they were using it...

A coral booby designed for 'top of the water' fishing.

The eyes are left deliberately un-aerodynamic to increase disturbance when retrieved


:- Last season I used the method more as it was designed, ie, using a booby on the point of the cast with nymphs on the droppers, and fished static or slow figure-of-eighted on the floater.  In this format the main task of the booby is only to serve as a controller; a means of keeping the droppers close to the surface.  For me though, I may as well have dispensed with the nymphs and the droppers because all the fish I caught on this rig took the booby.  On the night of our SCC heat this season I rigged up a washing line on the fast slime, and the fish were again locking on to the booby whilst it was still on the surface -- using a steady fig-o' eight -- but they seemed to lose interest at the point where the booty was pulled under by the line.  A change to the floater kept it on the surface and the fish preferred it that way that particular evening.  Sometimes I was covering risers with it and they would rise to it like a dry before I had begun retrieving, or they would lock-on, follow and take it while I was retrieving.  When I try it in reverse, the way Colin does, with the booby on the bob as an attractor, I still don't get many fish on the nymphs.  It is the booby that scores best for me.

I've been using standard pulling length 16-18' leaders, always fluorocarbon in conjunction with the slime lines, but I used 7 lb double strength with a floater, as I was trying to keep the flies as high as I could with as little "drop through" motion as possible.  The boobies I have been using have been my favourite "booby colours" ie, sunburst, black with yellow eyes or cat's whisker: fairly garish in other words.  As for the nymphs, I've tried Diawl Bachs, buzzers, PTNs and hare's ears, all with the same lack of success.  To be fair to it though, I haven't tried it enough anywhere other than Menteith, and I never found the Lake fish to be particularly keen on nymphs at the best of times.  It would probably pay to experiment more with the method on the likes of Lindores or Linlithgow.

Ian:- The three times I tried this method at the Lake I was using the same three flies.  My cast was about twenty feet long, fished on a Mastery slime line.  The booby on the bob was a size 12 with an olive Lite-brite body, and darkish green eyes.  The two nymphs were both size 10 Diawl Bachs, both with jungle cock cheeks: one natural and the other dyed orange.  This rig probably accounted for between 12 and 15 fish, most of them falling to the nymphs.  Some of them were fish I had covered, but most were out of the blue, taken on a slow figure-of-eight retrieve after letting the cast sink a little.

As all the above so far has centred on Menteith, I asked Dougie S to comment on his experiences at Rutland in the Hardy final in 2001.

Dougie:-  I did get some fish at Rutland on the washing line but like many others I didn't get a real handle on it.  The one impression that I got was that you need something that makes a big initial impact, but which has a minimal impact at the point of contact.  In other words, the fly needs to pop like a thing that pops a lot, but needs to be quite small and non-scary at rest.

I know what Dougie means here.  The more commotion, the more the interest, but the less scary, the more takes you get.  That's a difficult combination to get on to the fly.  I think there is scope there for an improved booby design.  Let's face it: the basic one is fairly primitive and not designed in any way to maximise the commotion.  How about something like a size 12 or 14 popping bug in cat's whisker livery.  I wonder?

Having said all this, the method will probably not be worth a sook this year!  However, we'll be giving it a good try.  It's certainly an exciting way to catch fish.  The all-important visual aspect is very much involved, as you often see the mini-bow wave of the booby being followed by the large bow wave of the fish that's chasing it.  Have a go!
Thanks to Colin for kind permission to use this article