The Jury’s out

The way this coming season is shaping up I will in all probability do a bit of rainbow trout fishing. Living in the Midlands during weekdays will severely curtail my normal boat fishing for wild browns but there are a couple of rainbow put-and-take fisheries close by to keep me occupied. The last couple of years has seen me dabble in the black arts of lure stripping and hanging washing lines of buzzers so I am slowly reacquainting myself with that branch of the sport. Those boxes of old rainbow flies hidden in a vintage Brady bag are, to be quite honest, a bit of an embarrassment. By the end of last season I had corralled all my rainbow gear into that receptacle with the intention of sorting it all out this winter but numerous other tasks intervened, allowing me to put that job on the long finger. Now, at the end of a bleak, bone chilling January, I have started to tie some flies to refill the boxes. This in turn has led me to a reevaluation of some patterns, including the two I am writing about here.

The Cormorant is a fly that I have never caught a fish on. Not one. Never. I tried it a few times but it was totally ignored. On the rare occasions that I read any of the angling magazines there always seemed to be someone extolling the virtues of the Cormorant and its ability to fool rainbow trout in extraordinary numbers or the flys ability to catch bigger fish. God bless those anglers who swear by this pattern, it has been a dismal failure for me. To be fair, I in the recent past I hardly ever fished for rainbow trout so it might just be my lack of skill or time on the water which is to blame. In an effort to address this embarrassing gap in my tactics I decided to dress some Cormorants for further trials.

The design of the fly could not be more simple, a body made of herl, quill, silk or tinsel with a wing of marabou over it. Cheeks are seen by many as a crucial addition while other tyers omit them. I think I am right in saying the original had a peacock herl body and a black wing but these days just about any colour combination can be used. I stuck with the original and made some tinsel bodied ones too. Hook size is your standard shank 10. For all the time it takes to whip up a few it made sense to tie a small selection and add them to my box for the ’23 season.

As well as the original pattern I have been making up ones with silver, copper, opal and mirage tinsel bodies and varying the wing colours from black through olives to pure white. Some have no cheeks while others sport jungle cock or dyed goose biots on either side. Will they work? By late spring I will have an answer to that question and who knows, maybe the Cormorant will become a favourite of mine.

My other great failure is the Cruncher. This design looks to me as if it should catch fish and it seems to be highly favored by many experience anglers, yet it is a fly I have no faith in. A herl abdomen, fur or peacock herl thorax, hackles and tail of hen and (optional) cheeks of coloured biot are all that it takes to create this fly. To my eyes it appears to be a good general pattern that should work a treat for both browns and rainbows yet, once again, I can’t make this pattern work for me.

Whether to tie in cheeks on Crunchers is a question I have yet to see a definitive answer to. With hundreds of variations of this fly out there it looks to be up to the individual tyer if they want to include cheeks. I am hedging my bets and tying up some with and some without. When it comes to hackles I prefer the look of hen to cock but maybe that is where I am going wrong. For now I am sticking to hen hackles but if the drought of catches continues I will revert to using cock hackles instead. Natural colours would seem to make most sense but I have seen Crunchers dressed in all sorts of bright colours too. For now I will stick to browns, blacks and olives I think. One tied with Canada Goose herl for an abdomen and badger hen hackles looks very nice to me.

Then there is the question of hook size for crunchers. I have a sneaking suspicion I have been guilty of tying mine of hooks which are too big. Size 10’s just ‘look’ like they are a size too large and a 12 would be a better size. I am currently busy making some more up and so far they are all on 12’s and 14’s.

Both of these flies are suggestive rather than imitative but that is the way I generally like my flies so there is a certain element of frustration that I can’t catch trout on either of them. For now, despite all my tying, the jury is still out on these flies. Maybe this year my luck will change I’ll be posting photos of fat rainbow trout landed on crunchers and cormorants. I certainly have enough of them in the fly box now!

Driving home to Mayo on Friday the sight of grey, mossy green on some roadside trees caught my eye. Willow catkins are starting to show, a sure sign that spring is on the way. April and May are a long way off yet but there is a stretch in the days and a feeling in the air that warmer days are at hand. February can be a bitter month here in Ireland but it is only 6 weeks until St. Patrick’s day and the notional start of my angling season. As we say in these parts ‘you won’t feel it comimg’


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