Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing, wetfly

Sweeney Todd Dabbler

This was a fly I dreamt up a couple of seasons ago but due to the pandemic it has not been tried. It should work but I am taking no responsibility if it is a lemon.

I wanted a black dabbler for early season work on lough Conn, something with a bit of bling in it to attract the trout who are notoriously hard to stir in cold water in the lough. Usually it is not until the water warms up in May before the fishing takes off there but the lough is quiet early on in March and April so I like to get out early if possible. This is the time for sinking lines and slow retrieves. Fiery Browns, Silver Dabblers and Bibios are my normal patterns for April but I wanted to ring the changes so I sat ant the vice and came up with this lad.

I used the original Sweeney Todd for rainbows back in Scotland after reading about it is a book by the inventor, the late Bob Church. All black apart from a dash of pink at the throat and a red hackle, it worked alright but I thought the ace of spades was a deadlier pattern. Fished deep for rainbows, it did enough to convince me that the combination of black and pink was a winner.

Like many anglers here I already use a pink-tailed black zulu for salmon. It was something of a cult fly on Carrowmore lake a few years ago and I still use it up there.

To make this fly 8/0 black tying silk is started at the eye of a size 10 heavy wet fly hook. Leave a bit of space at the head before tying in a short fibred black cock hackle and running the tying silk down to the bend. Catch in a tail made from some pheasant tail fibres dyed black, flanked with some pearl flash and a length of oval silver tinsel. Dub some black seals fur on to the silk and make a body to cover two thirds of the hook. Now tie in and wind a piece of fl. pink wool. You can chop and dub it if you prefer. Remove the waste and wind the cock hackle down to the bend in open turns. Bind the hackle in place with the oval silver tinsel, tie in and cut off the tag end. A cloak of bronze mallard finishes off the fly.

The body complete it is now time to add the bronze mallard cloak
The finished fly

The dash of pink just might make the difference on a slow day. I will give it a try if/when we get to go fishing again.

Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing, wetfly

Bloody Dabbler

On holiday now so I am busy tying flies for the upcoming season. I have lots of ideas floating around in my head and one of them took shape this morning in the form of a Bloody Dabbler. This is loosely based on the Bloody Butcher, a great old pattern which used to work for me in either the standard feather winged form or busked on a longshank 8 and fished off fast sinker at night for sea trout.

I made the body of the fly from flat silver tinsel body, ribbed with fine oval silver and a palmered hen hackle. This hackle came from a hen cape I dyed flourescent scarlet. Tails of cock pheasant, a cloak of bronze mallard and a pair of jungle cock cheeks were added and the head was formed from the fire orange tying silk. I have high hopes this one will work when the pin fry are on the go in June/July.

I have been reading some ideas from Rob Denson and in particular his use of hen hackles for palmering dabblers and bumbles. This gives a very different look to these flies and I like the idea they will move better in the water than our normal stiff cock hackles.

Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing, wetfly

Jenning’s Dabbler

The inspiration – a Jenning’s nymph

I was contemplating the Jenning’s Nymph the other day and decided to make a Dabbler based loosely on it. I already have plenty of Claret Dabblers in the box but none sporting a peacock herl body. The more I thought about this the stranger this omission looked. We all know how deadly flies with peacock herl can be yet I’ve never seen it used on a Dabbler. The same applies to brown partridge hackles. I intended to right this grave injustice.


Hook: the trusty old Kamasan b175 or something very similar

Tying silk: I used some Fire Orange in 8/0

Tail: A few fibres from a cock pheasant tail feather

Rib: fine copper wire

Body: in two halves, the tail end is dubbed with light claret seal’s fur. At the head end wind on three peacock herls

Body hackle: medium claret cock hackle

Cloak: bronze mallard

Head hackle: tied in front of the cloak – a large brown partridge hackle

Head: formed with the tying silk then coated with clear varnish.

As yet untied but this looks like it should be a useful pattern for early trout fishing on the western lakes. It will get a swim in Mask or Conn soon I hope.

Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing, wetfly

Holiday weekend (1) a Dabbler pattern


Outside, there is only what can be described as a storm blowing. Trees are bending in the wind and sheets of cold rain are filling the gutters to overflowing. While the east coast of Ireland is just breezy and cool we here in the west are being well and truly battered and soaked. It is so bad that all of the local St. Patrick day parades have been postponed (Castlebar, Westport and Louisburg). Not a day for fishing then, so I am making some flies instead.


The Silver Dabbler, a great pattern in it’s own right

Two of my favourite early season trout patterns for the lough are the Silver Dabbler and the Fiery Brown. Like many other anglers I place great faith in both of these fished deep to entice browns who are grazing on the bottom on hog louse and shrimps. At the vice today I hit on the idea of combining them both into one fly and here is the result of that particular Eureka! moment. This is a nice, easy dabbler style fly to make, demanding no special skills or new-fangled techniques or flashy bits of plastic which seem to adorn so many new patterns.

The dressing is as follows:

Hook: a size 10 wet fly hook

Tying silk: I use brown 8/0 but please yourself, black, red or even fl. orange should be just as good.

Tag: Globrite no.4 tied under the tail

Tail: a few bronze mallard fibres, roughly the same length as the hook shank.

Rib: fine oval silver tinsel (I use Veniards no. 14)

Body: flat silver tinsel

Body hackle: good quality chocolate brown cock hackle, palmered. (Note that this is a lot darker and ‘richer’ in colour than the red game hackle used on a Silver dabbler)

Cloak: bronze mallard, tied around the hook

Front hackle: long-fibred cock hackle dyed Fiery Brown

Lovely rich dark brown cape

This colour is called Coachman Brown in the states


The finished fly, just nededing a lick of varnish on the head

Since this fly has only just been dreamt up I can’t say if it will be a success but it looks good and inspires confidence in me. It may need a bit more ‘tinkering’ to get it exactly right and I am already thinking along the lines of a red head formed of more Globrite floss as an additional trigger point. I will let you know if this one does work later on when the weather has settled down again.

North West view

Lough Mask, the new dabbler should work well here

Plans are afoot to launch a couple of boats this weekend and I’ll post some pics if we make it out tomorrow or Sunday.