Tuesday, 31 March 2015

My early season essentials.

Tomorrow is opening day, Thursday is the day of my first fishing session. A hatch of large dark olives isn't guaranteed but it wouldn't be unrealistic for me expect to come across a few. Even if the duns don't appear, I'll certainly be using appropriate imitations, and with a bit of hope, I won't have to resort to river-bed dredging with heavy nymphs.

To imitate the nymph of any baetis, my number one pattern is Oliver Edwards excellent Baetis Nymph. To look at the fly it appears complicated; the individual processes used to make the fly are simply enough and once you've learnt the "route" you can tie them reasonably quickly, but they are by no means a five minute fly. Sizes 16-20 will cover all of the common species, all you'll have to change is the colour.

Oliver Edwards baetis nymph

Oliver Edwards baetis nymph

Oliver Edwards baetis nymph

Oliver Edwards baetis nymph

The next stage to imitate is the emerger. I don't have many emerger patterns and one that I've recently tied is a variant of the Cul-de-Canon. This is a pleasantly quick tie along with being a simple pattern; I feel the addition of a squirrel thorax enhances the suggestiveness.


Once the emerging fly has hatched into the dun I won't hesitate to tie on my Barbour Paradun. An amalgamation and rip off of two Peter Hayes patterns. I have taken the shape of the PhD and combined it with the silk thread body soaked in liquid wax of the Muskrax. 

Barbour Paradun

Barbour Paradun

I'll also have a few PhD's tucked away if needed; this style of fly is very versatile and will even imitate large mayflies if tied in the appropriate colours.

PhD (Peter Hayes Dun)

If the trout won't take a hackled fly then a sure fire bet is the JT Olive.

JT Olive

Friday, 27 March 2015

The last few North Country wet flies....for now.

I have pretty much used all of the Partridge Classic Spider hooks that I bought. There were a couple of patterns I wanted to tie, but didn't have the relevant materials. Magpie tail, snipe and golden plover wings were essentially all that I needed.

A fantastic magpie tail from Cookhills found it's way to me via Tom who picked it up for me during one of Steve's presentations. Along side the magpie was a wonderful surprise in the shape of a snipe wing; I could finally tie the legendary Snipe and Purple.

Before I was aware of the snipe wing I had already secured the purchase of a snipe skin as well as a golden plover skin, it couldn't hurt to have extra ones. As it turns out the snipe skin was but wasn't; another quality Cookshill skin turned out to be misidentified and a quick look in a bird book confirmed my suspicions and I have in fact a jack snipe skin. The smaller size, subtle differences in plumage and shorter beak positively identifies the skin in my possession.

Golden plover skins are the proverbial rocking horse shit; I know Steve at Cookshill hasn't seen one last season. The skin I bought had some feathers missing, typically they were the feathers most sought after, the marginal (upper) coverts; thankfully they hadn't all been used and given the price I paid for both the snipe, plover and a Chevron hen neck that was also part of the package, I wasn't too bothered.

So with my mix of newly acquired materials what have I been tying.

Previously mentioned is one third of the classic trio the Snipe and Purple. As an imitation of the iron blue dun, it may not really serve useful for its intended purpose as I've never seen an IBD, but I have no doubt it will catch me fish.

Snipe and Purple
Snipe and Purple
Hook: Partridge Classic Spider size 16
Thread: Pearsall's no.8 purple silk
Body: Silk
Hackle: Snipe marginal (upper) covert
 With the Pearsall's no.8 purple silk still on my bobbin, the snipe wing still in my hand I tied an intriguing little blackish spider. I deviated a little on the dressing of the Smoke Fly using magpie herl for the body instead of peacock. I assumed the iridescence on the magpie would be as distinct as peacock herl is, it didn't turn out to be.

Smoke  Fly
Smoke Fly
Hook: Partridge Classic Spider size 16
Thread: Pearsall's no.8 purple silk
Body: Peacock herl - I have used magpie
Hackle: Snipe under covert or light dun hen
Head: Peacock herl
 The Little Black uses the same purple silk as the last two and combined with a magpie herl body and starling hackle produces a pleasantly neat small dark fly.

Little Black
Little Black
Hook: Partridge Classic Spider size 18
Thread: Pearsall's no.8 purple silk
Body: Magpie herl ribbed with silk
Hackle: Starling

I had another go at a herl headed fly. The Moorgame and Orange is similar to both the Winter Brown and Brown Owl, except it is a well mottled grouse feather that provides the hackle. I chose a feather from high up on the back of the neck.

Moorgame and Orange
Moorgame and Orange
Hook: Partridge Classic Spider size 14
Thread: Pearsall's no.6a gold
Body: Silk
Hackle: A well marked grouse feather
Head: Peacock herl

I was surprised by the beauty of a golden plover feather, the yellow bars are bright and clean looking, offsetting the brown dun colour of the rest of the feather. Mention golden plover and most anglers will name the Hare's Lug and Plover, a wonderfully buggy suggestive fly that would probably imitate most things.

Hare's Lug and Plover
Hare's Lug and Plover
Hook: Partridge Classic Spider size 14
Thread; Pearsall's no.5 yellow
Tag and rib: Fine gold wire
Body: Hares ear
Hackle: Golden Plover marginal (upper) covert

Monday, 23 March 2015

One saddle to rule them all

Dun Grizzle Variant Saddle

Mike and I went halves on a couple of saddles from eBay. The remains of the hackle craze that overcome the states mean you can find barely used saddles for reasonable money.

My dun grizzle cape dyed in picric, as you
see the barring wasn't really distinct
One that caught my eye was a dun grizzle. What I liked about his saddle was the depth of colour in the barring; I had a dun grizzle neck that really wasn't - it was more a medium grey dun with a hint of barring over some of the feathers. Incidentally I split this cape and gave half to Mike; I dyed my half in picric producing a wonderful golden olive hue.

Although I could see the saddle was a variant it wasn't until it was in my hands that I could really appreciate the colours found within. If you could ever be turned on by some feathers, then this will do it. I have found the obvious dun grizzle, dun badger, greenwells/furnace, dark and medium brown dun and black. You wouldn't need many other colours to complete your collection. All that remains is to find another one like it - now there's a challenge, one I'll pass on to Nige at Lakeland.

Of course I had to use it. I had tied a couple of Peter Hayes' S.O.S. (sits on shuck) using a medium grey dun, the results were pleasing, but when I tied the same fly with a dun grizzle hackle, I was astounded. The dun hackle really gives the appearance of life, so much so I may only use dun grizzle from now on.

Peter Hayes' S.O.S.
Peter Hayes' S.O.S tied with a medium grey dun hackle - perfectly acceptable.
Peter Hayes' S.O.S.
The same fly with a dun grizzle hackle - what a difference.
Peter Hayes' S.O.S
18 - 16 - 14

Monday, 16 March 2015

More North Country Wet Flies

As I acquire more and varied materials I find myself tying more North Country wet flies. Something that took a while to purchase was a black hen neck, I couldn't find any I was happy with at the BFFI, Cookshill were sold out so I held off. Becoming impatient I bought one from eBay; now it's not to be recommended to buy hackles unseen, but I was buying a cape that was pictured and I was confident it wouldn't be a dud purchase.

I also found myself in a lucky position to spot a dead tawny owl on my journey to work; it saddens me to say I frequently see barn owls laying on the side of road but I have never come across a tawny. To try and stay within the law I removed a few marginal coverts to tide me over - I'm unlikely to ever need lots of them so they should see me through for a long time.

I have also tried herl heads for the first time. The first fly I tied I made the mistake of making it far too full, not something I repeated again - a lesson learned.

Brown Owl
Brown Owl
Hook: Partridge Spider size 14
Thread; Pearsall's Silk no.6a orange
Body: Silk
Hackle: Tawny Owl marginal (upper) covert
Head: Peacock herl
This was my second attempt at a herl head, a much better effort.
Winter Brown spider
Dark Spanish Needle
Hook: Partridge Spider size 14
Thread: Langley superfine silk golden brown - an
almost exact copy of the old Pearsall's colour 6b
Body: Silk
Hackle: From the armpit of a starling - a dun coloured feather with cream edge
Head: Peacock herl
Black Magic Spider
Black Magic
Hook: Partridge Spider sizes 14-20
Thread: Pearsall's silk no.9 black
Body: Silk
Thorax: Peacock herl
Hackle: Black hen
Another crack at a winged wet fly - Broughton Point - I'm particularly pleased with this effort, however the silk is the wrong colour, dark claret instead of cardinal, that will teach me to select colours under tungsten light bulbs.

Broughton Point Wet Fly
Broughton Point
Hook: Partridge Spider size 14
Thread: Pearsall's silk no.12 cardinal - this is no.15 dark claret by mistake
Wing: Starling primary feather bunched and split
Hackle: Black hen

Monday, 2 March 2015

Discover Tenkara DVD

Image reproduced by kind permission of Dr P Gaskell
I'm not a tenkara cynic. But I am guilty - along with many other people - in assuming that this technique is best used on the type of environment it was developed on - small, tumbling, boulder strewn streams.

A conversation with Paul Gaskell at this years BFFI caused me to reconsider and possibly turn my opinion. He assured me there was a DVD in the making that would prove to me that tenkara has uses beyond those small boisterous waterways I don't have access to.

But before that DVD arrives I ought to get to know the basics.

The first DVD by Paul Gaskell, John Pearson and Dean Hodson of Discover Tenkara fame, titled An Introduction to Tenkara - Basics and Fundamentals, skillfully covers the essentials for anyone who has never seen or tried tenkara. I'm sure we've all seen various videos on YouTube but none cover the depth of knowledge contained in this DVD.

Dr Hisao Ishigaki guest stars, passing on his in-depth knowledge explaining in detail various aspects of tenkara. Paul and John also feature in the practical demonstration with Paul providing the narration. If you have ever watched any of the many excellent Wild Trout Trust videos, you will already know Paul narrates with clarity, making explanations easy to understand. The footage is the high standard expected from the Fish On production team, filmed high up on the Derbyshire Derwent in the Peak District. this DVD shows the style of tenkara fishing most associate with the technique.

At the end of the DVD I'm left feeling confidant enough I have been shown what the film sets out to show, the basics and fundamentals.

The following is a list of the DVD chapters; as you can see the essentials are covered. Each subject is fully explained leaving few if any questions.

Tenkara with traditional dry fly
Fishing with Japanese wet flies
Dr Ishigaki explains short drifts
Note on fish location & tenkara
Making the cast
Dr Ishigaki on casting into the wind
Advantages of long lines
Hand-lining skills
Dr Ishigaki on playing larger fish
Kebari - Japanese tenkara flies
Dr Ishigaki's choice of kebari
Dr Ishigaki ties his kebari

If you don't really know much about tenkara and find the technique intriguing you won't go far wrong in getting a copy of Discover Tenkara. Below is a teaser trailer showing the quality of footage - well worth the money.

Discover Tenkara is available through the Fish On shop here.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Small and different

There are a number of YouTube channels I follow. One of the very best in terms of video quality, editing and instruction is tightlines video. They have provided much inspiration and one pattern I have really wanted to tie was Matt's Gnat.

The Griffiths Gnat has been successful for me when I've needed something small, Matt's Gnat is a different take on the Griffiths; it is a little more difficult to tie but can be considered more durable. The use of snowshoe rabbit foot fur trapped in a dubbing loop, and wound along the hook together with the peacock herl, is clever and simple, but I found it took a few goes before it looked right. You do need a really sticky wax to make the fur more manageable and the job easier.

I tied these on the Partridge Midge supreme in sizes 20 to 24, these being the most useful sizes. I did tie one in a size 18 and to be honest it didn't really look right so I'll stick to the sizes mentioned.

Matt's Gnat
Hook: Partridge Midge Supreme sizes 20-24
Thread: UTC70 Red
Body: Peacock herl
Hackle: Snowshoe rabbit foot hair fibres
Matt's Gnat

For a much better demonstration of tying than I would provide, here is the YouTube video that provided the inspiration to give this pattern a go.