At this time of the year we fly tyers are as busy as beavers, crouched over the vice winding and snipping to our hearts content. After a couple of very quiet seasons I had little need to top up my fly boxes until the plan to fish all 32 counties was hatched. Now I had to make sure I was going to be fully equipped for all eventualities.
The sub plot to doing the 32 counties is that I would keep some basic fishing gear in the car with me at all times so that I could take advantage of any free time while I am travelling with work. My trusty Orvis rod and a floating line will be in the back of the car this coming season but the question is what flies do I bring with me?
It is simply not possible to cover all eventualities so I figured I would take two boxes with me, a small one with dry patterns and a larger wooden box containing anything else, be that wets, nymphs or lures. This may not be as limiting as you might imagine as I tend to stick to relatively few patterns for 90% of my fishing.
Looking at the wet flies I can see myself stopping for a few casts at roadside loughs around the country where my quarry will be small, wild brown trout. These fish tend not to be overly fussy so some smallish bibio, bumble, invicta and dabbler flies will form the backbone of my collection for these types of waters. I will make up some other traditional style patterns too so I have something to try for a change if my regulars are not producing.
For rivers I love using spider patterns and I have loads of these already made up so I selected some and added them to the box. Mainly tied on size 14 and 16 hooks, I am fully confident they will catch me trout all across Ireland throughout the season and I would urge you all to have some of these simple but deadly flies in you armoury. There are some Wickhams, Greenwells and other similar flies in here too (all proven killers).
There may be opportunities for an hour or two on lakes stocked with rainbows and this had me reaching for the vice to knock up some lures and buzzers. I am woefully out of touch with the rainbow fishing scene, so bungs, snakes and the rest of the new-fangled patterns are not going to be considered. Instead, I will generally stick with oldies such as Cat’s Whiskers, Gold-head Daddies and Muddlers. One exception is those damned squirmy worms that everyone seems to be raving about. I have made a couple of them but my God they are annoying little yokes to whip up! The worm material itself is the devils own work to lash on to a hook. I may (or may not) persevere and make up some more.
For some reason I find tying buzzers difficult and I am never 100% happy with how my attempts to tie them turn out. I have made a start but I really need to up my game to make some decent copies. I can’t recall catching trout on buzzers of any colour other than black or claret, so my buzzer fishing needs a tune up as well as my fly tying!
I am not planning on carting salmon gear around in the boot of the car but I have slipped a few small grilse flies into the box too. I would hate to be in a position to fish a falling spate river for an hour and not have any flies with me. The old Orvis rod could handle grilse OK but it lacks the backbone to deal with a full grown salmon. Given that Irish grilse run from a couple of pounds up to about 5 pounds I think the trout rod can do the business if required. Anyway, some Hairy Marys and shrimps are in there too.
There are still some gaps to be filled in the double-sided box so I am going to troll through my angling books and look out for any specific regional flies which may come in useful. I am sure the wily fishers of Kerry or Wexford have their own patterns!
As a young man I used to revel in making difficult patterns. The more complex or challenging the fly the more I enjoyed tying it. I had to try out any new material that came on the market or make up the latest pattern from the monthly fishing magazines (we are talking pre-internet days). I learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed making all those weird and wonderful flies at the time. These days I find tying simple traditional flies much more satisfying and knocking out some Invictas or sooty olives gives me more pleasure than anything else. January is proving to be a happy month so far, filling the boxes and anticipating the coming season like a child before Christmas.