Movement in your fly when fishing dry fly. Give it a twitch!
June 22, 20233 min read
by David Southall
A couple of days ago I was reminded about the times when the application of subtle twitch, or even more exaggerated movements, to our flies can make all the difference between acceptance or rejection by our target fish. Frank Sawyer and Oliver Kite showed nymph-fishers the value of the induced take when nymph-fishing and stillwater fly-fishers are aware of the importance of applying movement to lures. However, many of the dry fly anglers that I see appear to rarely apply movement to their surface offerings, believing that ‘dead drift’ is the most effective way of presenting surface flies. There are many situations when the application of appropriate induced movement to dry flies can make all the difference between success and failure.
A couple of days ago, mid-June 2023, a friend and I were having a frustrating time on a small north Yorks. Moors stream. A number of fish were rising intermittently in a slow pool. Despite close inspection we could not detect what they were taking. They were ignoring the occasional emerging big mayflies and the rises were too splashy for them to be feeding on the numerous aphids that covered the surface. After a half hour trying a range of flies I was fortunate enough to notice to see a fish swirl twice in quick succession, followed immediately by a caddis/sedge that emerged from the surface in the immediate vicinity. This prompted me to attach a size 16 Grannom Emerger Shuttlecock to my 6x tippet. After wetting the abdomen with saliva to make it sink and applying hydrophobic fumed silica floatant powder to the CdC wing and hare’s ear thorax of my fly I cast it into the area of the rises and gave it frequent tiny twitches to simulate life. A wild trout of about 10inches responded instantly and aggressively first cast, soon to be followed by a second. My friend Pete hadn’t got a suitable Shuttlecock Emerger, so I suggested he use a size 16 or 14 Klinkhamer. The twitched Klinkhamer proved to be equally successful.
Shuttlecock Grannom Emerger
Other dry flies that lend themselves to the tiny-twitched approach include a wide range of drowning terrestrials (eg beetles, grasshoppers, craneflies, hawthorn flies, black gnats and dance flies), failed aquatic emergers (eg upwing duns that have been unable to escape their nymphal exoskeletons/shucks or that have been blown over by a gust of wind), spent upwing spinners and spent caddis after egg-laying. Big mayfly duns, dragonflies and post emergence caddis/sedges can often be more effective with much less subtle movement, including more vigorous twitches and dragging across the surface so that they create a v-wake. Emerging big mayflies and caddis flies often skitter across the water surface as they try to take to flight on emergence, while dragonflies often skim across the water surface whilst catching their prey, which includes emerging upwings and caddis flies.
A failed emerger mayfly dun
Mayfly spinners twitch during their death-throes
The best means of applying controlled, subtle movement require direct contact between rod tip and fly (with no heavy, sagging fly line or leader damping down any movements of the rod tip). They are as follows:,
Use as light a fly line as possible, ideally 1-weight, 0-weight or micro-nymph (eg the Sunray Jeremy Lucas lines, with their long, thin, front taper or the Sunray micro-nymph line).
My favourite methods of fly fishing are dry-fly or sight-fished nymphs/bugs, but particularly during the winter, when fishing on spate rivers, the grayling are usually loath to rise to a dry fly and the water is too coloured, or the light too poor, to see the fish for sight-fishing. It is then that I resort to a range of nymphing techniques. Of which Euronymphing is my most used technique
Frank Sawyer and Oliver Kite showed nymph-fishers the value of the induced take when nymph-fishing and stillwater fly-fishers are aware of the importance of applying movement to lures. However, many of the dry fly anglers that I see appear to rarely apply movement to their surface offerings, believing that ‘dead drift’ is the most effective way of presenting surface flies.
In the early 1960s when I first started fishing split cane was still the most popular rod-making material and fiber glass was just starting to become popular. However my first ever coarse fishing rod was made of ash butt & middle sections with a greenheart wood tip. My first fly rod, bought in the early 1960s, was a second hand 9’ cane rod built by E. Kerry of Lockton, a small village near Pickering.
Presentation is another critical factor in achieving success & grayling are just as unpredictable with respect to this. Sometimes they want a fly ‘on the drop’ & often they will travel quite a distance to take a fly as it slowly sinks. So there are times that it doesn’t pay to fish a fast-sinking, heavily weighted fly.