Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing, wetfly

More Dabblers

I’ve been bust at the vice again and the fly boxes are filling up nicely now. For me, Saturday afternoons are my preferred time to tuck myself away with the radio on, happily snipping and whipping away. Steam rising lazily from my umpteenth mug of coffee while the room around me gradually fills with half used packets of feathers and reels of silk as I swap from pattern to pattern. Then an all mighty tidy up at the end of the session to restore a degree order once again. There are often a small pile of scraps of paper on the bench beside me, hastily devised patterns which popped into me head and I noted down on whatever was handy at the time. Lately I have been churning out Dabbler patterns. Some have been your bog-standard clarets and golden olives but I’ve also created some new ones too.

This handsome fly is a variation on the standard silver dabbler. Simply add a Glo-drite no.4 tag under the tail and use a badger hackle dyed green-olive instead of the usual red game. This fly has caught me plenty of fish in the past.

Here’s one I guess you could call a rhubarb and custard dabbler. Untried as yet, I have high hopes for it on Lough Mask. Yellow body and hackle with a blood red hen hackle wound in front of the wing, there is more than a hint of the Mayo Bumble about this one. It should work as a pulling fly when the trout are on the daphnia in the deeps on Lough Mask.

This bright dabbler looks to be a bit of a long shot to me but I guess you never know until you try it. Flat silver tinsel or Opal Mirage for the body and a teal blue dyed grizzle hackle under the cloak combine with a red tail to give a fry imitation look to it. It will either blank or give me the biggest trout of the season!

Why am I tying so many dabblers right now? There just seemed to be so many gaps in that part of the fly box is the only answer. I have not been doing much in the way of lough fly fishing for a few seasons now and as a result there has been a lack of focus on my part on what there is in there. I am forever handing my fly boxes around to others that I am fishing with and letting them help themselves to whatever takes their fancy. This of course leads to popular or interesting patterns disappearing, which is fine by me. I like to hear other anglers are catching fish on my flies.

I’ll need to address some major gaps in the lough dry fly box next. I have neglected this box too and there seems to be a lot of very old flies in there which need to be cleared out and new patterns added. Wulff’s in particular are conspicious by their absence.

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing, wetfly

Holiday weekend (1) a Dabbler pattern

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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.

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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

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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.

 

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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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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing, wetfly

Flies for Lough Conn, part 1

Every year hundreds of anglers from every corner of the world travel to County Mayo to fish Lough Conn. I used to be one of the hoard and can remember the intense excitement preparing for the trips, that deep rooted anticipation of each detail of how the fishing would be. Perhaps the greatest thrill was tying up flies for the trip on the long, dark winter nights. The pages of angling magazines were  thumbed and the merest details of last seasons killers slavishly adhered too. Now that I live close to the lough and can fish it more or less when I want to that sense of urgency to create exactly each potential new fly has all but disappeared, but the memories of preparing for those trips still lingers like the after taste of a good malt. It’s almost a metaphore for the way my whole life has changed since moving to Ireland; that strict adherence to detail with everything planned and double checked has been replaced with a more gentle acceptance that there is a need to enjoy what life brings and not to attempt to control it too much.

This series of posts are intended to give visiting anglers some basic information about patterns which have worked for me on Lough Conn over the years. It is far from exhaustive and should be taken as rough guide rather than an exact piece of scientific reasoning.  To prevent you all being bored to tears with a super long blog I will post this in a number of sections as individual posts.

A word first about hook sizes. Too often I meet visiting anglers who are fishing with flies which I consider are too big on Lough Conn. As a general rule the trout on Conn tend to want slightly smaller flies than on Mask or Carra. Where I would use a size 10 on Carra  would drop to a size 12 on Conn. Of course there are exceptions but when making flies for this particular lake think of size 12 as your normal size with a few size 10’s for special conditions. I rarely use anything as large as a size 8 unless I am targeting grilse.

I will take as read that you will have ‘standard’ lough flies already in your fly box. By that I mean the following patterns:

Green Peter, Fiery Brown, Golden Olive Dabbler, Connemara Black, Bibio, Jungle Bunny, Gorgeous George, Daddies, Claret Bumble, Golden Olive Bumble etc.

Let’s start with some patterns for the early part of the season. While there are duckfly hatches on lough Conn they are not as dense as those on Corrib or the better duckfly holes on Mask. I am guessing this has something to do with the topography of the lake bottom. There certainly plenty of duckfly hatching in February – April but they are well spread out across the lake meaning local hotspots are rare. Regardless, visitors will need some duckfly patterns to meet the occasion of feeding fish and hatching buzzers.

Patterns: Peter Ross, White winged duckfly, Watson’s Bumble, Blae and Black and assorted buzzer patterns.

I use a variation of the Peter Ross which has worked for me in difficult conditions at Duckfly time. High winds and rough water are not good for fishing during a duckfly hatch but I found that a Peter Ross with some added bling will pull a few trout when you can see flies hatching but there is no sign of trout feeding. I presume they are still eating the pupa as they ascend to hatch but normal buzzer fishing is out of the question in a big wind. Give this one a try when faced with this situation.

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Hen cape, dyed fl.red

Standard dressing for the Peter Ross except the black hackle is replaced with one dyed florescent red (you can get the dye from Veniard). I also add some tails of GP tippets dyed the same colour and use Holographic silver tinsel for the rear part of the body. Sizes 12 and 14 have worked for me and I fish this one on the tail on the cast.

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Hackle tied in

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nearly finished the body

 

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Finished fly

Next up is a white winged hatching buzzer which does well in calm conditions when a more exact profile is required. I use some fine dubbing from Frankie McPhillips to make the abdomen and thorax.

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This comes in a wide range of shades

The wings are white poly and are tied in spent fashion using figure of eight turns.

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Tie the wings in first

I also add a short tuft of the same material as a tail. The rib is fine Fl. red floss.

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Tail tied in. Both wings and tail will be trimmed to length later.

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Finished fly

The Silver Dabbler is a fly which works all year round but it does great work early in the season. I like to fish it on a sinking line on Conn on those all too common days when nothing is showing on the surface. There are more variations of the Silver Dabbler than you could shake a stick at, but here are three which I use.

The original Dabbler sported a seal’s fur body but a silver tinsel bodied variant was quick to follow. I still use that one with the only addition being a couple of strands of flash added to the cloak.

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An original tying of the Silver Dabbler

Next we have the red headed version. This is identical to the fly above except the head is formed with Globrite no. 4 floss. This makes a good aiming point for the fish and it can work wonders some days.

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Red-headed Silver Dabbler

Finally I tie a fry imitating version with a red floss tag under the tail, a pearl tinsel body, grizzle body hackle, small Jungle Cock cheeks and a red head. A few strands of pearl flash are also added to the cloak.

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Lookout for some more posts on flies for Conn over the coming weeks.

 

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