Although the fish, cold-blooded creatures that they are, may not be so active in these freezing days, they are still catchable, and when you do catch one they are liable to be in very good condition and give a good fight.
But if the snow, ice and fog are having a similar effect on your activeness, you can at least use the time to stock up on flies. You can shop for them at some of the excellent stores online [Glasgow Angling Centre is a favourite of mine], or go along to a fishing shop – but why not tie your own?
Flies are pretty cheap to buy these days, while capes and feathers can be expensive. So it’s not so much an exercise in saving money, as in creating flies that look and act exactly as you want them to. That, and the sheer pleasure of fooling a fish with a fly you have tied yourself.
Over Christmas I’ve been filling my dry fly boxes with some flies that I know have been effective at Redbournbury and elsewhere. Some of them have their prime times, others are all-rounders, bringing fish up in the water for the whole river season.
Here are a few that have come off my vice this Christmas.
Parachute Adams: the Adams is a classic fly from the States, one of the great all-round dries. This parachute version can be tied in a variety of sizes – generally I use them in sizes 14, 16 and 18.
The basic materials for this tying are:
Tail: grizzle and brown cock.
Body: dubbed rabbit fur.
Post: pink foam or antron yarn.
Hackle: brown and grizzle.
This seems to work best on the Ver from late May through to early August.
Grey Duster: another successful all-rounder, generally representing lighter-coloured flies, but with a dark thorax. Even when no upwings are hatching, this makes a good representation of a hatching midge, in which form it is a useful fly on the lake as well as the river.
The basic tying is very simple:
Thread: tan or grey.
Tail: badger cock fibres.
Body: mixed rabbit and hare’s ear guard hairs;
A version with a strand or two of twinkle in the tail is a useful addition, with the tail then representing the pupal case or ‘shuck’ of the hatching insect.
Lunn’s Particular: this fly, created originally by Mick Lunn, river keeper and angler on the Test, is a very good representation of a small brown upwing of late Summer and Autumn that is quite prolific on our river. They are also blown on to the lake so the fly is a useful dry for the Rainbows. Tie it in sizes 16 and 18.
It’s a very easy tying.
Thread: red brown.
Tail: brown hackle fibres.
Body: tying thread.
“Simples” as the meerkat might say.
The fly is also very effective as a traditional tying with a vertical hackle.
Robjent Daddy: this dry Daddy is a tying you can buy only, to my knowledge, from Robjents fishing store on the high street in Stockbridge. Unusually the body is from peacock herl, instead of the usual [and more naturalistic] deer hair or tan foam.
This seems to make the fly more adaptable, and it catches readily throughout the season – perhaps the trout mistake it for a spider or beetle with its dark body, although Mr Robjent’s theory is that the herl causes the body to stand high on the surface, much as real Daddies float – their bodies rarely sink into the surface film.
My version of the tying is on a size 12 dry fly hook, although you could use a size 10.
Body: 2 or 3 strands of peacock herl.
Legs: knotted pheasant tail fibres.
Hackle: 2 or 3 red-brown.
Wings: badger hackle tips tied ‘spent’.
Olive Emerger: fish are very keen on the ‘emerger’ stage of an insect’s life, when the emerging adult fly is struggling in the surface film to release itself from the pupal shuck. This makes the fly a ‘sitting duck’ for the trout – an easy meal without too much energy exerted.
This pattern is good any time olives are hatching, and can even bring fish up when there is no hatch. It’s a similar idea to the Klinkhammer and, like that classic fish-catcher, can be tied in any colour to match the hatch.
The tying is on a curved hook, a Kamasan B100. I usually tie them in sizes 14 and 16.
Thread: olive, tan or grey.
Body: olive dubbing with a little hare’s ear.
Rib: a ‘tag’ of tying thread, or you could use fine tippet nylon.
Thorax: peacock herl.
Post: pink foam, yarn or calf’s tail.
Incidentally, my preference for pink posts is not an indication that I’m particularly in touch with my feminine side, it’s simply that pink is highly visible in any water conditions, either against light reflections or dark shadows, and against any colour. Honestly.
With thanks to Paul King Photography for all photos.