Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing, wetfly

Invicta variants

Possibly one of the most effective all-round wet flies every concocted, the Invicta will catch trout from the first day of the season to the last. Invented in the mid nineteenth century by a chap called Ogden, it has spawned a wide range of variations and I want to share a couple of those with you today.


Bright and easy to use, Mirage Opal tinsel

First up, the Pearly Invicta is a good fly for the times when trout become preoccupied feeding on pin fry. They can become notoriously hard to catch when this happens, probably because they have so many targets to aim for that our flies stand little chance of being singled out. When I suspect this is what is happening I look to fish quiet corners close to weed beds and work my flies in an erratic retrieve to simulate a wounded fish. I like to tie both the Silver Dabbler and the Pearly Invicta on to my cast for this type of situation.


Tying a Pearly Invicta

My tying of the Pearly Invicta has a Golden Pheasant topping for the tail and a body of Mirage Opal tinsel for the body, ribbed with fine silver wire. The body hackle is taken from a ginger cock cape and the throat is made of Guinea Fowl dyed bright blue. A wing of hen pheasant tail is over laid with 2 or 3 strands of pearl flash.


Pat McHale invented the next variant many years ago and it continues to give grand service to those who know of it right up to today. This dressing is identical to the original Invicta with two important exceptions. The Golden Pheasant tail is replaced with one of bright red wool. The body hackle is still the red game colour of the old fly but instead of using a cock hackle it is replaced with one taken from a hen. The softer fibres seem to make a big difference. I have caught so many trout on this fly over the years it has earned a regular place on my lough cast in just about any conditions.

Cahir Bay

Cahir Bay on Lough Mask. The Red-tailed Invicta once gave me a wonderful afternoon’s sport here during a hatch of Lake Olives

Sizes for both of these patterns range from size 8’s (think Lough Carra in a big, rolling wave) right down to size 14’s for the hill loughs. I can’t say I have ever caught a salmon on either of these flies but Pat McHale tells a stirring tale of boating a fine 9 pound springer on a Red-tailed Invicta one time off the Colman Shallows on Lough Conn. The way Pat tells it you could almost be in the boat with him when the reel screamed as the fish grabbed the size 8 fly.


A Red-tailed Invicta


Fishing in Ireland, fly tying

A typical spring day on the river

16th of March. A Monday, blessed with an overcast sky and light winds from the North East. By 11.30am I have cleared the desk and can hit the river for a few hours. A west wind would be better but beggars can’t be choosers at this time of the year so any day that is not frosty or stormy can be considered a fishing day. I make my excuses and check the gear is all in the car. Then it’s on the the N84 and the short trip to the River Robe.


The wet fly accounted for a nice wee trout in the first pool I fished and a couple of others splashed at the flies without holding on. A sprinkling of Large Dark Olives were hatching, always a welcome sight at this time of year. I fished down through the next pool and then the one blow that without further action despite the trickle of duns on the surface. Out of the lee of the bridge the temperature dropped as the wind cooled the air and I felt this was what was putting he fish off. I re-traced my steps and headed off upstream to find a warmer spot.


A trudge across a couple of fields brought me to a good pool which has given me big fish in the past. A few minutes watching for signs of life revealed some LDO’s and also a hatch of stoneflys. A small trout was rising steadily below me and another fish was taking flies off the surface some yards upstream. Time for a change.


On went a dry fly, a size 14 Olive Klinkhammer to be exact. I managed to fool the trout in front of me and he was carefully returned to the water after a brief fight. Great! My first trout on the dry fly this year. I worked my way up river looking for more rising fish but none were forthcoming. Searching the water with the dry fly produced nothing and after a promising start I was beginning to struggle. I had not fished this part of the river before and the going became harder as trees and fences barred my way.


Perseverance brought me to a nice pool which I fished through with the dry fly without response. A change to a nymph was equally unsuccessful and since there was no sign of rising fish I wound in and pushed on upstream once more.

Time to change the setup again so I swapped back to the wet fly and a three fly cast of Olive Partridge, Plover and Hare’s Ear and a Beaded PT occupying the tail position.


By now the wind had swung East and it was cold. Fly life has ceased too, so things were not looking too optimistic for me. However, the team swung around perfectly in the current as I worked down the pool and eventually the line tightened as a perfect Brownie grabbed the PT.

The very next cast produced another trout to the Olive Partridge and one more fell to the charms of the Plover and Hare’s Ear right at where the water breaks at the tail of the pool.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Enough was enough and I plodded back to the car going over the days events in my head. The trout were keen to take but only in certain pools. Other spots failed to produce a single take. Maybe I had stuck with the dry fly too long today and I should have gone back to a team of sunk patterns sooner. Ah well, we are always wiser after the event.


The fields were well populated with new lambs and the daffodils are in full bloom now adding a splash of colour to cheer the heart. So ended a typical spring day’s trouting. No monsters but a few problems to solve and the old familiar tug on the line and a wink of bronze under the surface. Spring is here at last!

This post is in memory of Ally Skinner, a great fisherman who would have been 40 years old on this day. His loss at such an early age is keenly felt by all who knew him. Rest in Peace Ally.


Fishing in Ireland

The Red Invicta


I was tying some lough flies yesterday evening and made up a few Red Invicta Bumbles. This fly is a hybrid of other patterns but the end result is a nice approximation of a hatching red midge. Fished on the top or middle dropper positions of a cast it can pull trout like magic on a breezy day. I like it dressed on a size 10 hook but you can vary the size up or down to match conditions.

The trend towards mixing different parts of flies to create new ones has gathered pace recently and ‘muddled-ice-snatcher-bumble-emerger’ type things are all the rage. How much of this is driven by the need to address actual angling situations or by the fly tying industry’s introduction of new synthetics is a moot point. Some creations look awful, totally lacking balance and form and just relying on ever brighter colours or increased mobile tinsels. I guess I am a bit old fashioned and like to base my flies on fur and feather, anyway, back to this Invicta.

Tag: Globrite floss, no.4

Tail: a Golden Pheasant crest feather

Rib: fine oval silver tinsel

Body: red seal’s fur

Body Hackle: Red Game

Wing: Hen Pheasant tail or secondary’s, which ever you prefer

Head hackle: Jay or Guinea Fowl dyed blue

That’s all there is to it, a very easy fly to tie. I would expect to use this one any time after the Mayfly and it can be good as the light starts to fade.

Happy tying.

Fishing in Ireland, fly tying

Killdevil Spider (great name for a fly)


What a name! ‘The Killdevil Spider’. It’s like something out of a 1950’s ‘B’movie. In practice it is a confusing little pattern which some anglers swear by and other rate as highly as Jeremy Clarkson’s diplomacy skills. Personally I think this is one which is misunderstood (the fly, not Clarkson) and you should make a couple up to try out.

A simple wet fly with not too many difficulties in the construction, the only real issue is getting the proportions of the body right. I favour one third silver at the rear and two thirds peacock herl at the front. The silver part should be made of oval tinsel wound in touching turns. Hackle and tails are fairly long fibred furnace cock hackle. Hook sizes are 10 down to 16. I say that this fly is misunderstood because there is another version which calls for a golden olive cock hackle instead of the furnace. I have not tried that pattern out but it looks as if that might be a good one for sea trout. I have also heard of some fishermen using a Killdevil with a teal blue hackle. I have more than enough blue hackled flies in my box already so I won’t add further complication to my life, but it would make a very pretty fly.

The way this fly is fished is also something to be aware of. For me it needs to be fished deep. I can’t recall taking a trout on it unless it was near the bottom. Like the Peter Ross, I fish it with a series of small pulls and jerks. I have never tried the Killdevil for Rainbow trout but it might be worth a try. Let me know if any of you have success with this one.

Tight lines!