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

4 for the new season

I have been busy at the fly tying table again. With a bit of time on my hands this week I was able to spend some time immersed in fur and feather. Ever the optimist, I am hoping this year will be kinder to me and days on the water will be more frequent than in 2016. With that in mind I have been examining the fly boxes and filling the obvious gaps. You and I both know that I have too many flies as it is, but I always seem to find an excuse for some new patterns to try out on the unsuspecting fish. Let’s start with a very easy one.

  1. Plover and Peacock

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I have not come across this pattern anywhere else but surely others have tied something very similar. Plover feathers are hard to come by these days as the poor wee birds are now quite scarce. Gone are the days when you came across them frequently on any upland moor. I am down to my last pair of wings now so I am only using the feathers sparingly. The combination of stripped peacock quill body and a couple of turns of one of those marvellously spangled Golden Plover hackles makes for a lovely subdued combination. Keep the dressing light, not more than a couple of turns of hackle. Untried as yet, this is one early in the season for river brownies. It will get a wetting on the Robe in April, swung gently down and across or flicked upstream into the tight wee pockets around the stones and limestone outcrops.

2. Bibio variant

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Yes, I know that the last thing I need is another Bibio pattern. I have pearly ones, copper ones, green ones, ones tied with legs, some with tails and god knows how many other blooming Bibios. Serried ranks of them line my fly boxes and they get frequent use throughout the season. So why add to the confusion by introducing another one? It was the yellow tag that hooked me; in my imagination I could just see that dot of yellow glowing in a peaty loch and turning a trout’s head. This is not my pattern; I spotted it on a Twitter in a post by Connor McLennan. Standard Bibio dressing but with a fl. yellow butt wound at the bend and a browm partridge hackle at the throat. Looks nice, doesn’t it?

3. The Sooty Bumble

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Nothing new here eh? Just your normal Sooty Bumble. Well yes and no! I love using Sooties in the spring, they seem to have the ability to produce fish like magic, in even the most challenging conditions. A size 12 sooty with a red rib is a frequent addition to my cast from March right through until the greendrakes start hatching. The bumble version is a good fly too but I always had reservations about the head hackle and figured it was needing something different. Inspiration came to me at the vice a couple of years ago and I used a ‘Mexican blue’ feather from the rump of a cock pheasant as a head hackle on an otherwise normal tie. The result is a very useful pattern, even if it does not exactly jump out at you in the box. the next time you are on a lough with dark buzzers hatching in a stiff wind give this lad a try.

4. Hairy Mary. Just the mention of this lady’s name evokes memories of tea-coloured rivers, sparkling grilse, damp Irish summers and bent rods. It is with great trepidation that I tinker with this iconic pattern but you see the blue hackle is a bit of a problem for me. I think that blue works well for very fresh fish but they tend to to off it very quickly. I have read this in many books and it does seem to be generally true to me. So what to do with the redoubtable Hairy Mary then?

I decided to replace the blue throat hackle with one of Golden Olive. This is not a colour you see used too often on salmon flies but it looks fabulous in the water, seeming to glow in the peat stained waters of the west. The shade of golden olive I want is a rich, deep olive, not too pale and watery. And I’ve tied it long in fibre so there is plenty of movement. So far this one is untried and may be a complete disaster but I like the look of it and have high hopes. Oh for a wet summer!

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying

Tag tips

This is going to be a short post which may help some of you to make neater and stronger flies. Many patterns call for tags at the end of the body of the fly. Historically tags were part of fully dressed salmon flies (think of Jock Scott, Durham Ranger etc). These allegedly provide ‘aiming points’ for the fish, which may or may not be true. Tags, especially fluorescent ones, do seem to improve the attractive qualities and these days many modern patterns incorporate them in their dressing.

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Neat tag on this Silver Dabbler

Tags used to be generally made from tinsel, flat, round or oval but silks have become more popular of late and these present a specific problem. When tied in the usual manner and simply wrapped around the hook the slippery floss tends to slip around the bend of the hook, leaving  fly which looks untidy and a tag which is easily broken by the fishes teeth. Here is an easy way to stop that happening.

The tag is going to be the first item wound around the hook after the tying silk. Run the tying silk down to opposite the barb of the hook. For the photos I m using a Kamasan B175, size 6

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Tying silk stopped near the barb

Now cut a length of floss, in this case I am using Glo-brite no. 4. This is the crucial part, tie the floss in ‘backwards’, this is with the waste end pointing away from the hook eye. Leave this end around one or two inches long or whatever you feel you can easily work with.

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Waste end pointing backwards, the floss is secured with a couple of tight turns of tying silk

Floss is a slippery material so make sure you are using tight turns of tying silk when tying it in. Now run the tying silk back towards the hook eye the distance you need for the completed tag.

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That’s about the length of tag I am looking for

Leave the waste end just sticking out there for now and take the main part of the floss and wind it in tight, neat turns down to the point where the floss was caught in then back over itself again, creating a double layer of silk.

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Tag has been wound on

Tie in the floss with the tying silk. Now take the waste end and loop it over the tag and tie it down tightly with the tying silk.

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looping the wast end over the tag itself

Remove the waste ends of floss with scissors.

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Ready to remove the waste ends

By using the waste end to ‘trap’ the wound turns of floss the tag is now secure and won’t unravel or slip around the bend of the hook.

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While I am talking about tags let’s take a look at how the same idea is adapted for use with double or treble hooks. This is the method I use and I know that many other fly tyers are using the same concept, but for those of you who don’t know about this wee trick I will run through the it step by step.

Here I am using a size 6 double iron. As you can see from the photo, the brazing on this particular hook is not the best and there is a groove running all the way down the shank where materials could slip when being tied in. Hooks like this are fine to use, but make sure you run close turns of tying silk down the entire length of the shank so there is a firm base to tie on to.

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Notice the groove on the shank

Start the tying silk near the eye and cover the shank in close turns until you reach the point where you want the tag to come to. The waste end this time is facing towards the eye of the hook. You can keep the waste end short (as in the illustration) or make it the same length as the shank. The latter gives a smoother body to the finished fly.

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A piece of oval tinsel is trapped using the tying silk

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Now begin to wind the oval tinsel away from the eye, wrapping around both ‘legs’ of the double hook. These turns need to be tight and touching, so take your time and be neat with these wraps.

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The number of turns will depend on the size of the hook, the width of the tinsel and your own preference. Between 4 and 6 turns is probably the norm.

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The final turn

Once you have enough turns take the oval tinsel and wrap it around just the ‘leg’ nearest to you and pass it under the hook.

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Around just one leg

Pull the tinsel tight along the underside of the hook shank and tie it in with a couple of tight turns of tying silk.

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Remove the waste end of tinsel and there you have it!.

As with all fly tying instructions it is way easier to do in practice than it looks in the sequence of photographs.

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completed tag on a Hairy Mary

 

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