Flybox owner Ian Christie, like most of us, loves targeting trout that are feeding at the water’s surface. Here he reveals his favourite dry flies and materials for the job.
Here we look at dry flies, which, at this time of year, can see some regular action on rivers and stillwaters across the whole of the UK. In some cases dry-fly fishing is by far the best method!
I look at some of the popular styles and, as usual, see how we can breathe new life into tried, tested and often trusted patterns. Many people consider fishing dries for rainbows as being far easier than fishing dries for wild browns, I'm not sure why, In my experience, rainbows can be equally as fussy when they are up at the surface, unless, that is, you've matched the hatch correctly.
Fishing with dry flies is quite possibly the most frustrating method of fly fishing that there is, yet at the same time the most exhilarating. Success with this type of fishing is ultimately down to technique more than the flies themselves and dry fly techniques are a whole other matter that I don’t have time to even touch on!
So let’s look at the dries themselves, along with the materials they’re made up of…
Keeping A Float
There are various fly-tying materials on the market that will help your dries stay afloat. There are some excellent naturals, such as CDC and seal’s fur, along with ultramodern, air-boosted synthetic yarns such as Tiemco Aerodry yarn. Personally, while I'm always in favour of using modern synthetics for pretty much anything, I actually prefer natural materials for dries because the shape, feel and movement is far more realistic than anything manmade.
This month’s step by step fly is the Olive Sparkle F-Wing CDC, which is a fairly conventional-style F-Wing but with just a touch of flash. I've used a holographic butt in new olive holographic tinsel, which gives a sparkle to the rear of the fly without being too flashy. For the body I've hand-blended some olive seal’s fur with metallic-olive Flybrite dubbing which, when teased out, gives a nice rugged texture to the body.
Here’s a tip when tying dry fly dubbing bodies. Once you have secured the body with a rib, take a dubbing brush or old toothbrush and rake out the dubbing – usually, the more rugged it looks, the better. Not only will this make the fly look more natural, it will also give it more buoyancy because the fly will have more resistance on the water’s surface.
For the wing I've used CDC. The F-Wing is my personal favourite style for a dry fly, mainly because of its movement on the top – it skates across the surface nicely and without too much surface wake. When using CDC, use plenty. Too often you’ll find poorly dressed commercial flies that are light on CDC (mostly for commercial reasons – CDC isn't cheap!). As a rough rule I will use at least seven to eight plumes to make an F-Wing CDC. This will create a stubby, fat wing, which will literally keep the fly floating all day long. It’s one of the most frustrating things when your dries start sinking during a good rise! So avoid this happening by using plenty of CDC. For the flash under the wing I’ve used a few strands of olive twisted Krystal Flash – again, it gives the fly some sparkle to attract trout without going over the top.
Hoppers have been around for as long as I can remember and I recall growing up fishing Claret hoppers on Scottish waters. It’s a great style, which looks realistic and irresistible to surface-feeding trout. I like to add some extra buoyancy to my hoppers and a good style is the Bubble Hopper, which features a looped CDC plume behind the head that helps lift the head of the fly as it sits on the surface film.
When tying in the CDC loop, use approximately three or four feathers and, prior to forming the loop, twist the plumes together between your fingers to form a rope-like cord; this will make it easy to form the loop. I also like to use holographic butts on my hoppers and the fly featured uses an orange holographic butt that blends nicely with fiery brown dubbing.
For legs on hoppers, the old favourite ‘pheasant tail’ legs are still probably the best material around. They look very realistic and, when positioned correctly, can really make your fly irresistible to surface-feeding trout.
Aside from naturals, one synthetic material that has made a big impact on dry fly fishing is foam, usually closed-cell Plastazote which is ultra-buoyant and can be cut, trimmed and shaped to form any shape you want. I use it regularly for abdomens on Daddies, not only is it easier to work with than deer hair, it’s a lot more buoyant.
Claret hoppers on Scottish waters. It’s a great style, which looks realistic and irresistible to surface-feeding trout. I like to add some extra buoyancy to my hoppers and a good style is the Bubble Hopper, which features a looped CDC plume behind the head that helps lift the head of the fly as it sits on the surface film. When tying in the CDC loop, use approximately three or four feathers and, prior to forming the loop, twist the plumes together between your fingers to form a rope-like cord; this will make it easy to form the loop. I also like to use holographic butts on my hoppers and the fly featured uses an orange holographic butt that blends nicely with fiery brown dubbing.
For legs on hoppers, I’ve tied a simple Foam Beetle, which is really effective on stillwaters. This is an incredibly simple fly to tie. Simply cut a strip of Plastazote approximately five millimetres wide and tie it in as you would a shellback to give the fly some serious flotation. I will often fish a floating beetle on the point along with buzzers on the droppers in order to keep them high in the water, so the dry itself can be used to create a washing-line setup.
There are many other good naturals out there for dries, such as deer hair and other furs. With so many excellent materials available, both natural and synthetic, there’s never been a better time to experiment with tying dries.