Connemara Black Dabbler

I admit to absolutely loving this fly. Over the years it has given me so many trout in all sorts of conditions that I reach for it when I have no real idea what else to try. I place huge faith in it and it very rarely let me down. The dressing is almost the standard one with a couple of tweaks which I think make it even better than the original.

I first came across the Connemara Black as a kid. My uncle gave me 3 paperback copies of Tom Stewart’s ‘How to tie flies’ one Christmas. I devoured the contents, noting every detail of patterns like Black Dose, Camasunary Killer, Mystery and of course the Connemara Black. I remember Tom writing how he made some up for a customer who fished the Aberdeenshire Don and thought is was a wonderful fly for that hallowed water. I can’t say I ever used it there but I regularly give it a swim these days on Conn, Cullen, Mask and the rest of the Mayo lakes. Here is my version of this timeless classic:

  1. Start the black tying silk behind the eye of the hook and catch in a black cock hackle, concave side up.

2. Next you want to run the tying silk down the shank towards the bend of the hook, catching in a length of fine oval silver tinsel and a piece of Glo.Brite no. 7 floss.

3. Now for the tail. I like to use fibres stripped from the longest Golden Pheasant topping feathers. This gives me a nice long tail, in keeping with the overall shape of a Dabber. Tie the fibres in and take the tying silk to a point where you want the tag to meet the body.

4. Wind the floss down to the start of the bend and back up again to where the silk is hanging to form the tag. Tie down and snip off the waste. The point of doing this is to give the floss a chance to look orange, if you wind it over a base of black tying silk it will lose some of the brightness.

5. Dub the tying silk with black seals fur after applying a good waxing.

6. Form the body by winding the dubbed silk back up to about 4mm short of the eye. You need to leave enough space for the hackle and cloak. Don’t worry if the body looks a bit rough – the rougher the better!

7. Palmer the cock hackle down the seals fur body (not over the tag). Counter rib with the oval silver tinsel and cut of the waste hackle tip and end of the oval tinsel. Invert the hook.

8. Pinch off some blue – dyed Guinea Fowl fibres from the feather and apply below the hook only as a beard hackle. Remove the waste ends.

10. It is starting to take shape now and the next step is the add the cloak of bronze mallard fibres all around the hook.

11. Aim to have slightly more mallard on the top and sides with less below the hook.

12. Cut away the waste ends of mallard, tidy up the head and whip finish. All that is left to do is to varnish the head.

I use this fly mainly as a middle dropper and dress it in sizes 14 to 6 with a size 12 being my favourite on the trout loughs. It works during buzzer time in the early spring for obvious reasons but it pulls fish just as well in a hatch of olives and mayfly.


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