On The Dries

On The Dries
with Alan Morrison

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. 
They can be used to supplement the hoppers, Shipman's buzzers and Bits that we use on a day-to-day basis.  I have tried to cover both general patterns, used for "searching the water", as well as more imitative dressings, designed to match hatches.

1. Red Klinkhammer

Hook: Kamasan B100 size 10
Body: Red seal's fur
Rib: Fine round pearl
Wing Post: White polyarn
Hackle: Grizzle cock - about 6 - 7 turns around the wing post
Thorax: Red seal's fur
Thread: Unithread 8/0

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.

2. CDC Adult Buzzer/Terrestrial

Hook: Hayabusa 752 lightweight Sproat, or Kamasan B170 size 12-16 (size 14 is best)
Body: Mixture of dark hare's ear, and black Antron or SLF Finesse (70/30) with a few strands of black Litebrite or Holodub (optional)
Rib: Fine Flashabou Mirage
Legs: 4 Dyed black pheasant tail fibres, knotted once and tied short
Wing: CDC, 2-3 plumes
Thread: Uni 8/0 black

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.


3. Hare's Ear Hopper

Hook: Kamasan B400 size 12
Body: Light hare's ear, or body fur, with a few guard hairs mixed in
Rib: Fine Flashabou Mirage, or pearl tinsel
Legs: 6 Natural cock pheasant tail fibres, knotted once and tied in pairs on each side of the body
Hackle: Grizzle cock, clipped in a "V" underneath to sit in the surface film
Thread: Uni 8/0 tan

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.

4. CDC Cowdung

Hook: Kamasan B170 size 14
Body: Mixture of 50% dirty yellow, 25% grass green and 25% medium olive seal's fur tied fairly fat to mimic the shape of the natural. (I have used Frankie McPhillips Cowdung blend in another variant)
Rib: Fine Flashabou Mirage
Wing: CDC, 3 plumes
Head: Small ball of body material tied in front of wing
Thread: Uni 8/0 tan or olive

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.

5. Black Shuttlecock

Hook: Kamasan B400 or B170 size 14
Body: Black tying thread
Rib: White Flexifloss
Wing: 6 CDC feathers tied shuttlecock style
Wing buds: Orange Globrite floss
Thread: Uni 8/0 black

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.

6. Refined Daddy-Long-Legs

Hook: Hayabusa 752 lightweight Sproat, size 10-12
Body: Extended body of fine deer hair tied slim and cross-wrapped with the tying thread and tied in half way up the hook shank
Thorax: Ginger seal's fur
Legs: 6 Cock pheasant fibres knotted once and tied in pairs
Wings: Slim Cree hackle points
Hackle: Cree cock, not too bushy
Thread: Brown Roman Moser power silk

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.

Tight Lines,

Alan M

Thanks to Alan for kind permission to use this article