My favourite mayflies.

I know it is only April but the merry month of May will soon be upon us so with that in mind here are a few of my favourite Mayfly patterns. My own fly boxes are full of old masters and new patterns and most of them will catch a fish or two. Finding consistent takers is harder though and the fish can switch off from one fly very quickly. Anyone who is thinking of coming to Ireland simply must read Patsy Deery’s wonderful book on Irish Mayflies. You will find patterns to meet every occasion, all beautifully tied and described. OK, let’s take a look at a few of the mayfly patterns I have faith in.

We will take a look at nymphs first. I urge all fly fishers who come to fish the may fly hatch to have a few nymphs in their box. We all long for days of warm, steady wind and overcast skies with trout slashing at hatching duns but the reality is you my be stuck with calm conditions when the wets won’t work and even dries are usually ignored. A well fished nymph can save the day so here are a couple to try.

This is one of my own and has no name. It can be tied weighted with a few wraps of lead wire or left unweighted to fish higher in the water.

Hook: long shank, size 8 to 12. I like to tie it on curved hooks too.

Silk: I use brown but any dark colour will do

Tails: A bunch of fibres from a golden pheasant tail feather, tied short. You can add a strand or two of pearl flash if so desired

Rib: black flexifloss

Abdomen: natural seals fur with a pinch of the same fur dyed yellow

Wing pads: Any dark feather tied in over the thorax. I use a pheasant body feather normally

Thorax: red seals fur

Hackle: Grey partridge

Next we have a more common pattern which works well on Conn is as follows:

Hook: long shank or a normal wet fly hook, size 8 or 10

Silk: black

Tails: pheasant tail fibres

Abdomen: tag of orange fur then natural seal’s fur

Rib: fine oval silver tinsel

Thorax: Natural seals fur tied thick

Hackle:Grey hen hackle, 2 turns at the most

Wet flies next. Where do I start! No two Irish anglers are going to agree what is the best mayfly pattern so all I can do is give you some that have worked for me. Bear in mind that some days a claret bumble or a golden olive dabbler can slaughter fish during a mayfly hatch so it pays to be flexible and willing to change as required. Here goes!

Green French Partridge

A reliable fly when the green drakes are hatching. I tie this up in various shades of green (and olive and yellow for that matter).

Hook: 10 or 12 wet fly hook

Silk: yellow

Tails: original uses cock pheasant tail fibres but I prefer hair such as moose mane or dark squirrel

Rib: oval silver tinsel

Body: dubbed green seal or substitute

Body hackle: Cock hackle dyed the same shade as the body fur, palmered

Head hackles: a cock hackle longer in fibre than the body hackle, dyed the same shade of green, wound under a french partridge body feather dyed green olive

Many years ago another angler gave me one of the next flies. Since then it has caught me many trout but I have no idea what it is called.

Hook: size 10 wet fly hook. You could tie it on a size 12 too I guess.

Tying silk: black, 8/0

Tails: A long golden pheasant topping.

Rib: oval silver tinsel

Body: Sooty olive fur

Body hackle: As short fibred grizzle cock, palmered

Head hackles: Two golden pheasant yellow body feathers wound together

Note the length of the tail

Stimulators have become very popular over here with green or yellow being favourites.

Hook: 10, normal or long shank

Silk: black 8/0

Tail: a short bunch of natural deer hair

Rib: oval silver tinsel

Abdomen: green fur

Body hackle: short fibred red game, plamered

Wing: natural deer hair, tied short

Thorax: red fur

Hackle: grizzle cock wound in open turns over the thorax

Green Stimi

When is a mayfly pattern not a mayfly? Here is an Octopus which can be deadly when the mays are on the water.

Hook: size 10 or 12 wet fly

Silk: I use fl. yellow in 8/0

Tail: a tuft of Globrite no.5 floss

Rib: fine oval silver tinsel

Body: brightest yellow fur. Don’t hold back here now, phosphor yellow!

Body hackle: bright yellow cock hackle, palmered. Some days the same fly but tied with a pure white body hackle works better.

Head hackles: a long fibred cock hackle dyed bright golden olive with a GP yellow rump feather wound in front. I sometimes dye the GP feather golden olive.

Goslings have fallen out of favour as new patterns have been developed but I still use them as an effective tail fly. The grey winged gosling is as good as any.

Hook: What ever you like, sizes 8 down to 12. I sometimes use a double.

Silk: olive

Tails Pheasant tail fibres or dark hair

Rib: oval gold tinsel

Body: golden olive seal’s fur

Hackles: Hot orange under a silver mallard body feather, doubled.

Grey Gosling

Yellow Emerger

This is a versatile fly which can be used on the top dropper of a wet fly cast, ginked up and fished dry or fished damp in the surface film as an emerger.

Hook: Kamasan B170, sizes 10 or 12

Silk: yellow or olive

Tails: Cock pheasant tail fibres or dark brown hair

Rib: gold wire

Body: yellow fur with a hint of flash mixed in and a tag of crimson fur

Body hackle: yellow cock, palmered

Legs: a pair of knotted pheasant tail fibres knotted once, tied over the back of the fly

Hackle: Cock dyed yellow and a grey partridge hackle dyed yellow

Use the same design but change the colours as required for different situations.


That is enough for one post, I will write about dry mayflies soon.


2 thoughts on “My favourite mayflies.

  1. That’s a great set of may flies. The longer hackles should definitely produce a great amount of movement in the water. And I especially like the color combination on the stimulator.

    Liked by 1 person

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