Saturday, August 29, 2009

My wet fly revolution: some thoughts on stillwater fishing.

I was discussing with a friend the other evening, my new found enthusiasm for tying wet flies and dabblers in particular. This season has seen me fishing stillwaters more regularly than in the past - in my quest to become an all round better angler, I have tried my best to get some sort of a grip on this branch of the sport and part of the territory is the dressing of appropriate fly patterns.
Although my fly fishing teeth were cut on various popular small stillwaters of the north west, I soon fell out of love with this branch of the sport. Some of the fisheries I frequented required little in the way of guile or imagination and could become crowded to the extent that I began to crave wilder places and the company of as few other anglers as possible. The logical progression was to seek the challenge of running water......and that's pretty much how it's stayed for the last few years.

Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed an odd stockie bashing session each season, and a few forays into the fells to tackle the wild Cumbrian Tarns and such like. But before this season I'd have classed myself a confirmed river man. Strange then, that I've felt an increasing draw this time around to our stillwaters - both wild and stocked - albeit the larger waters which offer what I would call 'man's fishing' as opposed to the numb pursuit of daft stock fish at some of our overcrowded small water fisheries.
I still find the variety of running water has the strongest draw for me.....but fishing from a drifting boat now comes a very close second. And if that involves use of wet flies or suggestive nymphs and dries, then so much the better. I'm still very much a novice in this department, but keen to learn and I've been trying to develop my tying skills to allow me to produce passable dabblers, hoppers, mini lures etc a few of which are shown below.

Having previously concentrated on the dressing of delicate nymphs, duns, spinners, pupae, etc, I initially found the world of stillwater flies to be bewildering and daunting. For a start, a different set of materials are required; out go fine dubbings, genetic hackles and size 18 hooks and in come bronze mallard, seal's fur and an array of flosses and tinsels. The first stage was to lay my hands on some of these.

Next came the challenge of proportion. My first few attempts were hideous as I tried to introduce several materials without creating unecessary bulk. Ragging out seal's fur to within an inch of its life, palmering, cloaking with bronze mallard, and producing a neat head (I've never been a good finisher of flies), were - are - all challenging techniques to me.

Anyway I seem to have arrived at a point where I've just about got the basics sorted. Taking some inspiration from excellent tyers like Stan Headley, George Barron, Alex Ferguson and Rob Denson I've kept at it and have reached a point where the whole thing fascinates me greatly. The creativity it allows is infinite. Whereas in tying for river fishing, one seeks to imitate a certain insect or life cycle stage, in stillwater fishing the emphasis seems to be more on suggestion, attraction and the interplay of light and colour. I haven't found myself blending so many different shades of dubbing materials since I first started tying nearly 10 years ago.

So I'm definitely enjoying my foray into the stillwater world and if I can attain a degree of competency, then I will surely be a better angler as a result.

Perch Fry Dabbler

Hook: Fulling Mill comp #10
Thread: UTC olive
Tail: Cock pheasant tail fibres with Glo-Brite #5
Rib: Hot orange wire
Body: Blend of various olive seal's furs
Hackle: furnace hen palmered
Wing: Bronze mallard wit JC splits
Throat: Claret dyed golden pheasant

This was designed with the perch feeding Malham Tarn brownies in mind.

Airehead Dabbler

Hook: As above
Thread: Black UTC
Tail: Dyed dark olive pheasant tail
Rib: Fine silver wire
Body: Mirage tinsel
Hackle: Black hen
Wing: Bronze mallard with JC splits

My version of Alex Ferguson's creation.

Claret Dabbler

Hook: As above
Thread: Rusty brown UTC
Tail: Cock pheasant tail
Rib: Red wire
Body: Blend of clarets and red seal's furs
Hackle: Furnace hen
Wing: As above

Picric Dabbler (header photo)

Hook: Kamasan B175 #12
Thread: Olive UTC
Tail: Picric dyed pheasant tail
Rib: Oval gold
Body: Blend of fox squirrel and golden olive seal's furs
Hackle: Cree cock
Collar Hackle: Dyed golden olive partridge
Wing: Bronze Mallard


mike said...

A really nice post Matthew. I really got into stillwater (loch) fishing about 3 seasons ago, and even though I don't do it more than a handful of times each year, it really does have a special charm, particularly when the conditions are right.

As for the flies, I've used a handful of standard patterns (bibio, kate mclaren etc) so far, but I'm increasingly attracted by the romance of the myriad patterns of which you speak. Reading about the great loughs in the west of Ireland has really got my imagination going recently.

I hope you have a good end to the season,

Matthew Eastham said...

Cheers Mike. I see you are reading Street's book. If your imagination is fired by the Irish waters, then wait until you get to the chapter titiled 'The Quare Place'!


Rob Denson said...

Matt, that top one is real beauty.. I'll be lashing a few of those puppies for the back end. Such accomplished work so soon! You make me sick!!!

Abis Morkal said...

I have read above your blog thanks for share with us such a nice blog.
Stillwater Fly Fishing British Columbia