dryfly, Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing


Of all the many things I dislike in this world, sitting in the waiting room at a doctor’s surgery is right up there near the top of the list. It was my misfortune to find myself in just such a hell-hole yesterday through no fault of my own. My new employer required me to have a medical check up to give them some peace of mind that I would not keel over in the workplace, so the beautiful sunny morning was spent in close confinement with a number of sick people. I entered the cramped room perfectly healthy but left after a couple of hours with my immune system battling every sort of air-borne infection.


At least I had time to ponder where I could cast a line over the weekend and I settled on another trip to the River Robe this coming Sunday. Between the frequent coughs and sneezes of my fellow sufferers I day dreamed about which stretch to fish and what patterns to try. It must have been the medical surroundings, but I decided that a wee fly called the Sanctuary could be the job on the Sabbath as it often works at this time of the year.

Not a fly that I see other anglers using but one which has done the business for me more than once. The Sanctuary is a simple fly to tie. It is not substantially different from a number of other patterns which you can use to imitate the large dark olive but I like catching trout on different patterns.

I think I’m right in saying this pattern was devised by a certain Dr. Sanctuary (hence the medical connection). He fished the chalk streams of east Yorkshire in the late 19th century and was an avid fly tyer.


The Costa Beck in the east riding of Yorkshire – it looks very similar to the Robe!

As usual, I have mucked around with the original pattern! The good doctor saw fit to omit tails from his fly but I like tail fibres on my dry flies so some were duly added. To my eyes the Coch-y-bondhu hackle was too dark on its own so I wind an olive hackle through it.

  • Hook: your choice of dry fly hook, size 14 works best for me
  • Tying silk: 8/0 or, if you want to more traditional, use Pearsils in brown
  • Tails: A few stiff fibres of dark ginger cock hackle
  • Rib: fine flat gold tinsel
  • Body: dubbed with fur from a hares ear
  • Hackles: a Coch-y-bondhu cock hackle with a couple of turns of olive cock wound through it

The coughing and spluttering of my near neighbours seemed to be reaching a devilish crescendo and my mind wandered of down different paths in an effort to blot out the horror of being confined amid all this disease. It took me all the way back to the eighties and that brilliant track by the Cult – She sells sanctuary.

dryfly, Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing

Variation of a spinner pattern

Old age is a bugger, isn’t it. Advancing years bring some positives I will grant you; experience, appreciation of the good things in life and a calmness which is rare in the young. But weighed against these positives are some pretty hefty negatives, the chief one being (in my opinion) failing health. Now look, I’m not ready for the pine box just yet but as 60 looms large my body is starting to show definite signs of wear and tear. Joints are arthritic, energy levels are noticeably declining and my eyesight deteriorates and a near daily basis. I used to be blessed with excellent eyesight but now life revolves around the never-ending hunt for my glasses. I hate spectacles with a passion, they are never where you want them and the fiddle of putting them on to perform the smallest task irritates me enormously. Unfortunately I just can’t see without them so I am trapped in the thrall of these hideous contraptions.

the top pool

the neck of a pool where sighting your dry fly is a real challenge

Given my ocular limitations, spotting tiny flies on the water is a huge challenge for me. It is bad enough in good light, but as the shadows lengthen in the evening I struggle to see anything at all, let alone a size 16 spinner floating along in a streamy run. Glasses or no glasses, frustration grows as cast after cast is fished out with me blithely unaware of where the damn fly is. A remedy was called for so I spent some time at the vice this afternoon to tackle the problem of making my small dries more visible.

My particular issues were how to make spinners easier to see in low light. I was thinking of evenings on the Robe and the Keel canal where, by mid-May there should be falls of olive spinners. The brownies can rise in big numbers during these occasions so a good copy can be very effective and my normal design incorporates a couple of features which I think make them winners. Firstly they have wings tied fully spent made from pale grey floating yarn. I imagine this gives an instantly recognisable shape for the fish to key on to. The second feature is a fur body which allows any remaining light in the sky to shine through giving a ‘glow’ to fly. I am not a fan on ‘hard’ bodies on spinner patterns (quill, silks etc).

Micro fibbet tails, a body of dubbed rusty fur and a post of pink fibres for me to see gave me the look I was after. I tied up a couple with a chocolate cock hackle wound around the pink post but it didn’t seem to add anything to the fly so I didn’t bother with it on subsequent models.

These flies are fine for the streamy necks of pools but in the flat water and smooth tails I feel the need for something softer for presenting to trout who have time to be very choosy. I replace the synthetic yarn wings with CDC for challenging water.

Looking downstream

Challenging water on the Keel canal