Fishing in Ireland, fly tying

Keeping it simple

Sometimes I look at the plethora of new fly patterns which appear every year and wonder if we anglers are deluding ourselves. The latest ‘must have’ synthetic materials or the most fashionable hooks adorn the pages or screens of every angling periodical, begging us weaklings to part with hard earned cash so we too can tie up this season’s killer patterns. I’m no expert when it comes to the wider angling world but here in the West of Ireland I find the old reliables just as effective as always.

That old warrior, the Stoat’s tail still catches fish when the water is low and warm, just like it did all those years ago when it was invented. I play around with body materials just for something to do rather than any great conviction one is significantly better than the others. I like a red body on my Stoat’s for no reason other than I like the look of it. A dash of red never does any harm in my book. It looks like the colour of fins on small fish to me. The rest of the dressing remains the same though, there is no need for any flashy new bling.

We are in August now so a daddy is a likely performer. Again, I don’t get too hung up on exact patterns. A natural colour body for the browns or a silver body for the migratory lads, be they trout or salmon. Legs? Yes, and plenty of them. Hackles? long and flowing to give life. After those essentials I’m not overly pushed on the exactitude’s of the remainder of the dressing.

Tying in some legs on a silver daddy

I am more than willing to accept, and indeed revel in the tag ‘old fogie’ as at my time of life change is hard to enjoy. But my bias for the simple has been born out over the years and in all kinds of angling scenarios.

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dryfly, Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, salmon fishing, trout fishing

Green tinsel

I was given a fly the other day by a highly experienced local angler who has had some success with it on Carrowmore Lake. It is predominantly black and dressed in bumble style but the thing that caught my eye was the body material – green tinsel. For years I have found this colour of tinsel to be an excellent attractor of both trout and salmon.

My infatuation with green tinsels started a long, long time ago when, as a young lad I bought a book called ‘Clyde style flies and how to dress them’. This slim volume contained some great patterns but the main emphasis of the book was on the design of the flies and how to keep the dressings to a minimum on small hooks. Back in those days the smallest hook I could buy was a size 16 and I tied up lots of the patterns from the book on Mustads. The big attractions for me was the simplicity of the patterns and the readily available materials they required.

One of the flies which I tied was a thing called the Murray’s Blue bottle spider. There were a few variations of the bluebottle. They all had a small black hackle but the body could be made out of either blue or green lurex. There was even another variant which sported a couple of turns of pink lurex as a butt. In use, the blue bodied one did not catch me very much at all but the green one was a sure fire killer on the Don on summer evenings before the rise got going.

Not much left of this 50 year old lurex!

The big drawback with the small Murray’s spiders was the lurex itself. While it was very shiny it was also extremely delicate and rarely lasted beyond the first take. I spent so many frustrating evenings cutting off one damaged spider to replace it with a fresh one, only for it to be destroyed in short order by the next fish. I tried covering the lurex with varnish and this helped a little but the fly was inherently weak. These days I’d use epoxy to coat the lurex but back in the day varnish was all that was available.

I never found the blue lurex to be as effective as the green

A tiny dry version of the blue bottle spider is an effective pattern but I suspect it entices smaller trout ahead of their larger brethren. I can’t recall landing any big brownies on a dry Bluebottle but it used to catch me loads of small fellas.

Fast forward to a more modern era and the arrival of mylar as a tinsel. Much stronger than the outdated lurex, mylar also comes in a nice green colour.  Of course nowadays there are a profusion of different types of tinsel-like materials to pick from in just about any colour you can imagine but I like Mylar and use it for most of my tinsel bodied flies. We fly tiers get used to handling certain materials, become more dexterous with them in use and better able to judge just the right amount of tension we can apply.

A stoat’s tail with a green mylar body is a capital fly for grilse in pretty much any conditions. I rib the green body with oval silver tinsel to add some more flash and to protect the mylar a bit. I fish this fly fast, darting it across the lies so the fish don’t get too long to look at it. In the past I used to add a layer of pearl over the green which makes for a very pretty fly but I can’t in all honesty say this made the fly any more deadly.

I have tied  green shrimp pattern for the summer grilse fishing but it has yet to be tried so this one comes with no recommendations (yet). The silver tag and a wound GP body feather as a tail are standard. The body is in two halves, the rear being green tinsel ribbed with silver and front is red fur or silk, also ribbed with silver. A doubled badger cock hackle is wound at the joint of the body and another one at the head. You could add a couple of Jungle Cock eyes too if you feel the need.

it looks like it should catch fish!

So there you have it, green tinsel is a great addition to trout and salmon flies. In a world of increasingly complex patterns and ever more exotic synthetic materials the humble coloured tinsel can still be relied upon to give some action. Give it a try!

pools on an west coast spate river, ideal water for these flies

 

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, wetfly

Bibio Dabbler

There can’t be many Irish lough fishers who don’t have this fly or something very like it in their fly box. Perhaps one of the earliest variations on the Dabbler theme, this one is a good early season pattern for trout.

Use black tying silk, an 8/0 for preference. Hook sizes vary depending on what you will be fishing for and I go all the way from teensy-weensy 14’s right up to gigantic size 4’s for use on Lough Beltra. Tied on a size 8 or 10 it is a great pattern for the salmon in Carrowmore lake.

Start the silk near the eye of the hook and catch in a black cock hackle. Now run the silk to the bend in touching turns.

hackle(s) tied in

Make the tail out of a few fibres of nice dark bronze mallard. Tie them in so the tails are about the same length as the hook shank. This is important as short tails will upset the balance of the fly and makes it look odd. I you feel like adding a bit of bling then a couple of strands of pearl flash can be added to tail at this stage.

Tie in a length of oval silver tinsel which will be used for the rib and dub the tying silk with seals fur a similar rough fur. Begin with black at the tail end, then a band of red in the middle and finally black near the head.. Leave plenty of space at the head.

Palmer the black cock hackle down the body and tie it in with the oval silver tinsel. Wind the rib up through the hackle, carefully binding it down in open turns.

palmered black hackle is secured with open turns of tinsel

I like to add a couple of turns of a long fibred hen hackle dyed red under the wings but you may decide not to bother with this refinement.

The wings are your normal bronze mallard tied in cloak style around the hook. Finish off my making a neat head with the silk and applying your favourite cement or varnish.

The real beauty of this fly is adaptability. It can occupy any position on the cast and can be fished with confidence on a floater of sinking line. It’s well worth tying a few up if you are doing some fishing in Ireland or Scotland.

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, salmon fishing

2 for the Moy

Saturday afternoon, in the room listening to my collection of Pretty Things albums. I guess that is a sure sign of my advancing years! Got through all the classics and ended up at Savage Eye. Loved every minute of it. Oh, and I was making salmon flies too.

I have plans to fish the river Moy this season so I need to update my fly box with some flies for that famous river. I am OK for small flies which will be needed in the summer when the grilse are running but I seem to be a bit short of patterns for the spring fishing. Here are a couple of flies which should produce the goods for me.

Gold Ally’s Shrimp

A fly for a bright day, this is a variation on of the normal Gold Ally.

 Tail: long orange bucktail with a couple of strands of sunburst flash

Rib: Oval gold tinsel

Body: flat gold tinsel/mylar/lurex/whatever you’re having yourself

Under wing: tied below the hook, orange squirrel under natural grey squirrel tail

Over wing: tied on top of the hook and slightly longer that the under wing. Orange squirrel under Natural grey squirrel under GP body feather fibres dyed claret

Hackle; tied in front of the wings, long fibred Orange cock

Head: red varnish

I also tie a variant which has a split body, gold tinsel at the rear and Globrite no. 5 at the front.

The next fly is also a variant of a popular pattern, this time the Hairy Mary.

Tag: oval gold tinsel

Tail: a golden pheasant topping or a small bunch of yellow hair

Body: black floss

Rib: fine oval gold tinsel

Hackle: Blue cock or hen. you can wind the hackle on either before or after you tie in the wing. I like to double the hackle, it seems to lie better that way.

Wing: bucktail dyed red

Tied on a single………………..

or a double hook
Sorry about the colour, that wing is actually crimson red

Sizes for both of these patterns range from 6 down to 12, depending on conditions. I like them on either singles or doubles but there is no reason why you could not tie them on trebles. To me these are patterns I associate with the Moy but they would probably work elsewhere too. I may give them a swim on Carrowmore or Beltra this year.

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, salmon fishing, sea trout fishing, trout fishing, wetfly

Watson’s Fancy

A few small spaces remain to be filled in the fly boxes and I made a couple of big Waton’s fancy this afternoon and the heavy mist turned the garden a silvery mossy colour outside the window.

The Watson is not a fly I have caught a huge number of fish on but I find it seems to be attractive to larger trout. I used to fish them tied on size 12 or 14 hooks early in the season for brownies but these days I prefer them in much bigger sizes for sea trout and even salmon. I’m thinking here of dark days after a summer spate, high water and grilse running hard. A Watson on the tail and something brighter on the dropper above it have been a winning combination for me over the years. For this job I like to use a size 6 or 8 hook.

Jungle cock eyes, these are indispensable for the Watson’s fancy

This is an easy fly to tie once you have mastered wet fly wings. In smaller sizes the Jungle Cock cheeks can be a bit fiddly but apart from that this is a good pattern for beginners to cut their teeth on.

Proportions are important to make the fly look ‘right’

Only a few small gaps to fill now and I’ll be ready for the new season.

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing, wetfly

More Dabblers

I’ve been bust at the vice again and the fly boxes are filling up nicely now. For me, Saturday afternoons are my preferred time to tuck myself away with the radio on, happily snipping and whipping away. Steam rising lazily from my umpteenth mug of coffee while the room around me gradually fills with half used packets of feathers and reels of silk as I swap from pattern to pattern. Then an all mighty tidy up at the end of the session to restore a degree order once again. There are often a small pile of scraps of paper on the bench beside me, hastily devised patterns which popped into me head and I noted down on whatever was handy at the time. Lately I have been churning out Dabbler patterns. Some have been your bog-standard clarets and golden olives but I’ve also created some new ones too.

This handsome fly is a variation on the standard silver dabbler. Simply add a Glo-drite no.4 tag under the tail and use a badger hackle dyed green-olive instead of the usual red game. This fly has caught me plenty of fish in the past.

Here’s one I guess you could call a rhubarb and custard dabbler. Untried as yet, I have high hopes for it on Lough Mask. Yellow body and hackle with a blood red hen hackle wound in front of the wing, there is more than a hint of the Mayo Bumble about this one. It should work as a pulling fly when the trout are on the daphnia in the deeps on Lough Mask.

This bright dabbler looks to be a bit of a long shot to me but I guess you never know until you try it. Flat silver tinsel or Opal Mirage for the body and a teal blue dyed grizzle hackle under the cloak combine with a red tail to give a fry imitation look to it. It will either blank or give me the biggest trout of the season!

Why am I tying so many dabblers right now? There just seemed to be so many gaps in that part of the fly box is the only answer. I have not been doing much in the way of lough fly fishing for a few seasons now and as a result there has been a lack of focus on my part on what there is in there. I am forever handing my fly boxes around to others that I am fishing with and letting them help themselves to whatever takes their fancy. This of course leads to popular or interesting patterns disappearing, which is fine by me. I like to hear other anglers are catching fish on my flies.

I’ll need to address some major gaps in the lough dry fly box next. I have neglected this box too and there seems to be a lot of very old flies in there which need to be cleared out and new patterns added. Wulff’s in particular are conspicious by their absence.

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fly tying

Ginger peachy

Funny how memories come back to you across the years at the strangest of times. I know one or two of you who follow this blog reside in the North East of Scotland and if you are of a certain age you will probably remember an announcer on the telly called David Bennett. He used to round off the late evening shift with his catch phrase – ‘A ginger peachy goodnight to you all’. I was doing a small bit of dyeing this morning when David’s words came back to me. I was trying to get a colour which I could see in my mind’s eye but just couldn’t put a name to it. A light tan/ peach kinda shade, or even a ‘ginger peachy’ hue!

All the dyes and associated gear were fished out and the process started. I have written before on how I do this so I won’t bore you all with the same information. Here are a couple of tips though that may help you if you try this at home though.

The ginger cape immersed in the dye

Firstly, I like to wash the feathers on a solution of Venpol and I gently heat the water. I think this helps to clean more of the grease and dirt, from the capes especially.

Next, I organise the washed feathers into groups if I am dyeing more than one colour. This way I can chuck all the different feathers which are to be dyed the same colour into the pot at the same time.

When you have added the dye put the small canister of dye back into the packet. Veniard dyes are very good but the little grey container does not have any markings on it so it is easy to mix them up if you are not careful!

I add the vinegar just before the feathers reach the required depth of colour as I think the colour darkens a little once the mordant is added.

Back to the ginger peachy colour. I used a very pale ginger cock cape and dyed it in as strong solution of Veniards peach dye (I chucked some French partridge hackles in at the same time). The resulting colour is an interesting one, very different from the standard peach you get if using a pure white cape. I have a notion this colour should work on the small lakes around here. I have tried Orkney Peach colours on these waters before but they were not particularly successful. To my mind the peach needs to be more muted and, well, ‘gingery’.

BEFORE

The pale ginger cape, washed and ready to dye

AFTER

While I was at it I dyed some other colours, a nice Green Olive and then my favourite for river trout flies – Brown Olive.

Ginger Peach, Green Olive and Brown Olive capes
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