How many flies should we fish at the same time? There is no set answer to this question since there are numerous variables that must be considered before making an answer. In some cases the choice is already made. Several fly fishing clubs that I belong to restrict members to the use of one fly only. However, on many waters the answer is not so simple.
Remembering Dick Walker’s philosophy of caricaturing the natural organism being imitated and using some sort of bright target spot, I had decided to tie up some weighty, bright red buzzers, hoping they would quickly sink to the correct depth and would be easily visible to the fish in the low light and slightly murky water.
The use of metal beads is now standard practice when tying heavy sub-surface flies. Gold Head or Pearl Head flies incorporating glass beads were used over 100 years ago in Northern Italy. Roman Moser tells how in 1978 he was given some Pearl Head flies by a Tyrolean friend which prompted him to use gold brass beads in his nymphs as additional weight and thus the “Gold Head” was invented. In 1981 Moser bent some size 12 and 14 soft wire hooks with pliers to produce Micro jigs with a lead shot super glued behind the eye and then coated with gold varnish.
Let’s first consider casting skills for the dry fly angler. Whilst on many still waters much of the time all that is needed is the ability to perform a conventional Overhead Cast with when necessary accuracy, the river fly fisher needs to have a large repertoire of casts at his or her command in order to cope with the demands of casting underneath overhanging trees and avoiding/limiting drag caused by complex currents as well as pinpoint accuracy.
Fly tying is an art, with some folks like Oliver Edwards & Steve Thornton producing unbelievably realistic imitative patterns; however I’m one of those tiers that seek to produce the simplest pattern that will fool the fish. Fish have tiny brains & it has long been known that it only requires very simple ‘releasers’ to trigger certain behaviour patterns.
The fish was actively feeding but my offering was studiously ignored. Shrimps in a range of hues from subtle tan to garish pink received the same disinterested response, as did Peeping Caddis, Black-bead Pheasant Tail Nymph and several other patterns. Finally in desperation I tied on a size 26 Black Buzzer Pupa tied with a 1.5mm tungsten bead. I cast my tiny fly well upstream to give it a chance to sink the four feet to where the grayling was swinging from side to side intercepting food items.
Water levels were very low & for optimum success I had to fish with 1 weight or zero weight Sunray Jeremy Lucas, delicate presentation lines & 12 to 14’ leaders ending in 8x tippet & a size 26 to 30 CdC IOBO Humpy. Even with such super-light gear I had to use maximum stealth, often crawling into a suitable position to cast to rising fish. My knee pads got heavy useage.
Sight-fishing with nymphs is particularly skillful as it requires the ability to determine the precise location & depth of the fish, calculating the effects of refraction which makes a subsurface fish appear to be further away than it is & nearer to the surface.
Over the winter I’d usually have been sight fishing with tiny Buzzer Pupae (size 24 to 30) or Micro CdC Midges, but this winter I have had to be very versatile. During the periods of heavily coloured water I’ve mainly fished with black or dark coloured flies since they silhouette well when viewed against the light from the sky. I find that black flies always work well in coloured water & it is no surprise that many sea trout flies used at night are black with a bit of silver flash to reflect any available light. Flies that have worked well for me have been size 18 & 20 Perdigon nymphs tied with black tungsten beads, black 0.09mm diameter wire bodies with a red wire rib & collar behind the bead & size 16 Squirmy Worms tied with a 2mm black tungsten bead & dark brown squirmy material.
Now, over 20 years later & with many thousands of trout, grayling & char, plus numerous coarse fish caught on fly gear I have mellowed & what I want out of my fly fishing has changed significantly. Whilst I still enjoy the days when I catch a good number of fish & I get a real kick out of catching a really big fish for the species or water, there is so much more that I want out of my fishing than just catching fish. So what do I want?
The place that fly fishing occupies in my life is impossible to describe; deeply personal, as it is for any one of us. It has become somewhere I go, on waters I love so much, where I can do exactly what I want to do, without hindrance from anyone, or dogma, but rather where I can take experiences from so many years with a fly rod to the next level. I have always been fascinated by instinctive fishing, rather than mechanical technique, while always supported by experience. I have enjoyed the evolution of tackle in our sport and frankly endured the severely limiting nature of some of it over the years. We are so lucky nowadays, because the tackle is supremely good; so much so that there is little that is genuinely new, or significantly more advanced.
‘Duffers’ Fortnight’ in late May & into June is supposed to be when trout are at their easiest to catch on rivers that have good Mayfly (Ephemera danica) hatches, but this is not always the case. Whilst there are times that epic catches can be made, for those who believe that with the Mayflies will come suicidal trout feeding there can be disappointment & frustration.