On The Dries
There are now myriad patterns available for stillwater dry fly fishing that offer all sorts of profiles, colours and size options, covering every possible aspect of aquatic and terrestrial insect life. This article aims to cover some of the patterns that have worked for us in a variety of fishing situations.
This is a Dougie Skedd pattern that was first developed to imitate the large red midges encountered at Chew and Blagdon reservoirs but which I have subsequently found useful as a general searching pattern, particularly in a big wave on the larger reservoirs. It is otherwise known as the "red shreddie" (buy me a pint and I'll tell you the story).
The key is to gink only the wing post and hackle and let the abdomen sink below the surface film. If you gink the body, you might raise every fish in the water and hook none of them. I had a "road to Damascus" conversion to this fly at Rutland last October. Fishing at the Monument area, Whitwell and Barnsdale, it accounted for over ten fish each day, the majority of them out the blue; and this was during a time when the other boats and bank anglers (who were all pulling) were struggling for a couple of fish.
The idea for this fly was for a general pattern to imitate both the small, dark, early season buzzers we tend to encounter, as well as various dark terrestrials, such as black gnats and even beetles at a push. It turned into one of my best dries.
It's really a refinement of Marjan Fratniks brilliant F-fly but I think it's a good combination of colour and profile for the waters that we fish. I caught a nice resident on the April outing to The Lake on this fly. Jimmy Millar reports that it did well for him at Menteith, Carron Valley and Gladhouse. He found it was at its best when covering risers, rather than when used as a general, prospecting dry.
Because of its diminutive size, that's no great surprise. Jim only uses it in one size, a B-170 size 14. This fly accounted for a lot of fish right through last season, and was first choice ahead of a pure black F-fly, apart from when falls of black gnats were in evidence.
This is a very sparse fly and one which looks very natural when sitting in the surface film. I have found that this fly works very well for brownies and indeed was the top fly for John Wastle and myself when we fished the limestone lochs at Durness in late August last year.
Any fly that can attract wised-up brownies in crystal clear water is worth a place in your fly box and this is a nice utility pattern that can be pressed into action under a wide variety of conditions.
This fly was developed by Jimmy Millar as a response to the large numbers of cowdung flies that were being blown onto the water at several venues last season. It is an excellent fly to put in front of the fish on any water where cowdungs are encountered (e.g. Coldingham Loch). Again, this is tied in F-fly style and would probably work pretty well as a general pattern when buzzers and sedges are on the water.
Jimmy's fur mix is very different from Frankie's blend, although this is probably not too critical. This pattern was definitely getting picked out by the fish that were lying tight to the sheltered shore margins.
On some of our upland waters it is common to see brownies rising splashily in the margins as they take terrestrials that have ditched. Given the seemingly unfussy nature of this behaviour, one would expect any pattern to be taken with equal gusto. That was not the case last year, because time and again it was the cowdung F-fly that was taken in preference to anything else on the cast.
I have to admit to being not that fond of shuttlecocks. I find that they raise lots of fish but hook few, even after fervent degreasing of the leader. This one was developed (not by me I may add) after a tip from Jimmy. The key to the dressing is to keep the CDC wing as short as possible, but still sufficient to support the fly.
This is achieved by using more plumes than normal but keeping them short, say 4-6 mm. This helps to minimise the splashy rises. Jimmy recommends taking time to line up the tips of the feathers carefully when tying in, so the maximum bulk against length is achieved.
Daddies - don't you love 'em? Big muckle creations, which spin up the cast, raise plenty of fish without hooking them and then fall apart when you hook a fish (particularly a brownie). This pattern does not address all these problems, but it does help with some, and it has worked pretty well on the Durness waters, as well as some lowland lochs such as Portmore and Loch Leven.
The use of Roman Moser power thread and optionally treating the body with. "Floo Glue" or "Dave's Flexament" helps durability. I have found that using Rio Powerflex in 8.2 lb B.S. makes for a strong but still reasonably fine tippet that reduces the propensity to spin.
Jimmy suggests using 5 lb Sightfree XL as a leader material when using daddies. Its stiffness helps reduce spin, as does using a pair of daddies rather than just one. The idea of a pair is that with luck the spins counter each other. On a bad day the spin will be doubled.
Thanks to Alan for kind permission to use this article