Fishing in Ireland, fly tying

The Iron Blue Dun

I want to discuss the Iron Blue Dun (it is too much hassle to write Iron Blue Dun all the time so I will refer to it as ‘IBD’ in this post). For such a tiny insect it has generated a huge amount of words in  angling literature, and rightly so. From the earliest history of fly fishing the IBD has been recognised as a hugely important species. I won’t bore you with the minute differences between the three separate species as they so closely resemble each other it requires a magnifying glass to differentiate. I am more concerned with the practicalities of catching trout when the IBD hatches out.

IMG_6875 There is a common misconception that the IBD only hatches out on cold, windy days when no other fly life is active. While I have certainly seen them hatch in just such conditions I have also seen them coming off the water on mild and calm days too so I am inclined to treat the whole ‘bad weather fly’ theory as highly dubious. What is not in doubt is the high regard the fish have for the IBD. Back in the days when I fished the Aberdeenshire Don it was not unusual to see heavy hatches of Large Dark Olives, March Browns and IBDs on the same day. The Olives would come down the rivers in a pretty steady trickle and the March Browns would just appear in explosive bursts, none on the surface one minute then a host of them like miniature speckled sail boats the next. Within the space of a few moments the March Browns would be gone again only for the process to repeat itself  20 or so minutes later. The IBD hatch can vary widely. Some days they would gradually build from one or two flies to a heavy hatch over the period of up to an hour while on other occasions they never seemed to appear in more than a trickle.

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The problem for the fly fisher is to initially spot the IBD when the hatch starts. They are tiny and in moving water can be hard to spot, especially when other species are present at the same time. I have been guilty of missing the start of an IBD hatch more than once because I simply didn’t see them. Surely an experienced fisher would not not caught out like this? Well, let me tell you that when olives and March Browns are drifting down the stream and trout are rising all over it is very easy to fix your concentration on what seems to be the obvious and automatically cast your olive or March Brown copies at the risers without stopping to study the water for the possible appearance of something else. I have been fooled many times into thinking I knew what was happening because I had seen fish actually take a few olives. Trout will accept the olives all right but they much prefer the IBD when it is available in my experience.

Iron Blue spider pattern

That brings me to the question of tactics and fly patterns for fishing the IBD hatch. There are a number of traditional spider patterns which imitate the IBD such as the Snipe & Purple and the Dark Watchett. Fished up or downstream as the situation dictates these are very effective cathers of trout. Avoid the temptation to use flies bigger than a size 16. the naturals are very small and size seems to be one of the triggers for the fish. Some IBD patterns sport a crimson tag and while I have netted numerous fish on flies with this adornment I remain sceptical they add significantly to the success rate.

Personally I prefer to tackle trout rising to IBD’s with a dry fly. I find that they take a floating dun imitation well and will come to it even if the hatch is light. Tiny klinkhammers and parachutes are ideal for this job. Brightly coloured wing posts are a real help to those of us with dodgy eyesight.

You can expect to find the IBD in numbers from now until mid-May so be prepared to scan the water closely for them. It is so easy to miss them but you can be sure the trout won’t. Those minute flies which resemble spots of ink in the water can provide you with some unforgettable sport if you keep your eyes peeled.

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying

Scratching a dry itch

The fickle March weather has turned cold and wet again. The balmy few days we had last week have been swept away by mean winds that seek out every opening to send a chill through me as if to remind me of my advancing years. Looking back over the season so far the rod has bent into a few nice trout already but I need more. That old itch to catch trout on the dry fly needs to be scratched. Like an addict missing a fix I prowl the house these days wishing for a break in the weather so I can sally forth with the dry line and actually see the fish swallow the fly.

Adams

The Adams, my favourite for the spring time

I managed to fool one trout on the dry last week and the feeling of satisfaction when he rose to the fly and I tightened into him remained as strong as ever. The process of spotting the rise, matching the natural, casting to the fish and finally setting the hook is surely one of the highlights of the fly fishing experience. The wet fly can be extremely effective and nymphing is an art unto itself, but the dry fly remains for me the most exciting branch of our sport. That visual element makes all the difference and engaging that sense turns an already absorbing pastime into something very special.

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For dry fly fishing in these parts I use either my 10 foot, no. 5 Orvis or a 7 footer which is rated for a no. 3 line. I accept that the Orvis is over gunned in most situations but I have landed tout up to nearly 5 pounds on the Robe and lost bigger fish, so the longer rod has its uses. The seven footer is lovely to fish with but struggles badly with anything over a couple of pounds in weight. I use a heavy butt section on my leader set up to give me some assistance when trying to push a fly into the inevitable wind. I then steeply taper down to a tippet of between 2 and 4 pounds, depending on the situation.

Dry patterns are centered around the ever popular Klinkhammer design and the more traditional spider and upright winged flies. I like wings on some patterns as they help me to spot them in turbulent water.

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A winged GRHE on a size 14 hook

Adams and GRHE tend to be the ones I gravitate to in the springtime. These are general patterns rather than specific imitations and they provide me with sufficient sport to encourage a high level of faith in them. I mess around a bit with both patterns so they can be found in my fly box as conventionally winged, spider, klinkhammer and even Irresistible versions to cover a wide range of situations.

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Irresistible Adams, a high floater for rough water or a windy day

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My Adams variant with an olive hares fur body

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Adams/GRHE/klinkhammer thingy (it works too!)

Outside the trees are bent in the blustery westerly and the rain is hammering down. but by the weekend conditions should have improved sufficiently for me to dust down the dry fly box and give these lads a go. I am not looking for a cure to this particular itch, I just need to scratch it some more.

Tight lines!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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