Presented from Issue 101
It’s warming at last! The weather is becoming more predictable and water temperatures have accordingly risen. Along with this comes the hatches and falls of insects which bring trout to the surface. The sinking lines can be put away for a while and the excitement of top of the water fishing can take its place. Not only does static dry fly come to the fore, but also top of the water loch style techniques particularly on rougher days.
Loch style fishing - is generally done with a team of three flies and it will produce some very visual and exciting fly fishing. Trout are drawn to the surface morsels. Loch style fishing is not new, it has been mainstream in Tasmania for well over a decade, brought to the attention through successful use by competition anglers.
The bob fly is the top fly in the team which causes a wake in the surface and imitates a natural insect blowing along the surface of the water or attempting to fly free of the grip that water surface holds on it. There are many bob flies, however probably the best known amongst local anglers is the claret dabbler. The mixture of a claret seals fur body and palmered hackle, along with bronze mallard over and under wing makes this a very ‘buggy’ looking fly which is really successful around the mayfly lakes.
There are many other successful flies such as the Clan chief, Kate McLaren, Bibio and Zulu, all traditional patterns which are predominantly constructed of feather. There are two bob fly patterns which break this mould and are very successful, they are designed to imitate sedge, however they can be modified for use when mayfly or other insects are on the water. While the other bob flies will drown easily and be drawn under the surface, these will stay in the surface, even if drawn under they pop right back through, which is in itself a deadly inducement to trout.
The Muddler, which was originally the Muddler minnow originated in the USA in 1937. This pattern was originally tied as a large streamer to represent a bait fish the sculpin, however downsized versions are recognized as a good pattern to imitate sedge (Caddis). The Muddler can be tied in a number of sizes and colour combinations and I find size 10 - 14 the most valuable, (however #14’s are a bit of a pain to tie). They work well in rough water, and as a rule the rougher the water the bigger the fly.
They are fished with one or two trailing flies such as traditional small wets, soft hackled spider or nymph patterns or even a small woolly bugger. The pattern is commercially available as a mini Muddler and the best colours are natural, black and orange. They are a good pattern for more than just when caddis are around. Try them as a general attractor/bob fly.
The second fly is the Sedgehog and this too originated in the USA. Again constructed largely of deer hair, it also represents sedge and is very effective in the surface at creating a strong wake to get the attention of a trout. The simplest Sedgehog fly is tied with a silk underbody and small clumps (usually three) of deer hair tied in a layered fashion on top of the hook. More developed ties involve dubbed fur body and tinsel ribs, with tails of various Materials. The under body is very visible and can be tied in a variety of colours to suit your favourites, Hares fur, Bibio, and Claret are top colour combinations. A well tied sedgehog is almost unsinkable and can be pulled under the surface only to pop back up again.
The Sedgehog was the best top dropper fly for the Australian Team at the Commonwealth Fly Fishing Championships when getting the bronze medal at the Isle of Islay in Scotland 2009, a claret Sedgehog was also used by the Gold medal Australian team during the 2012 Commonwealth Championships on the shore beats at Little Pine Lagoon.
Both the Muddler and the Sedgehog are fished in a similar way, prior to fishing they should be sparingly treated with floatant. Once this is done you fish the fly with a floating line with a twitchy retrieve to create an erratic slow wake in the surface. This will draw fish up to take the fly, but if the trout does not take it will still bring the fish to where your trailing and less obvious flies are following. Often they will find these more acceptable.
Like all techniques with fly fishing, no single retrieve is ever all you need as fish react differently in varying conditions. Some days a fast pulled retrieve will result in vicious slashing takes, while on other days it will result with fish coming up boiling under the fly excited but not willing to take.
In windy conditions with a big wave a floating line on the surface becomes a little problematic, the excess slack in the line from the waves makes hooking fish harder. A slow sink tip or slow intermediate line can be used in these conditions to effectively pull the flies through the waves. This can be very effective and again result in good takes and hook ups because of a more direct line to the flies.
In calmer conditions a dead slow figure eight or hand twist retrieve just moving the fly can result in a snout appearing over the top over the fly drawing it into the trout’s mouth. I always find these takes exciting as they often occur without any sign that the trout has been following the fly and all you see is the snout appear from calm water and sink back through the surface with your fly.
The Sedgehog is also a very good static dry fly, it is very visible due to the bulk that is achieved above the water with splayed layers of deer hair, while it keeps a slim natural profile from below.
Tips for tying a Muddler for Tassie
Use good quality deer hair, dyed or natural for both Muddlers and Sedgehogs. Choose or model the rear of the fly on known working patterns. I like chocolate hare’s fur with a palmered brown grizzle hackle, or claret seals fur palmered.
Use a long shanked hook. Don’t use Tasmanian fallow deer hair for floating patterns, this particular deer has very coarse hair which does not float at all well so your Muddlers won’t float either.
Proportion is the key to tying this fly. Getting the right proportion can take a bit of getting used to, so persist. Dub small sections of the body before tying in small clumps of deer hair tips.
Make sure the deer hair sits on top go the fly and does not ‘roll’ around the hook.
You can tie Sedgehogs on either straight or curved hooks.
Tie some of your favourite pattern as Sedgehogs to give them extra float ability.
I haven’t gone into full tying instructions for these flies are so many variations you can make. there are also dozens of video clips on YouTube as to how to tie them. Davie McPhail does many good flies including Sedgehog and River Muddler, these are on the money and far easier to follow than any tying notes I could make.
The Muddler and Segehog can add another dimension to fishing an active dry fly either solo or as a bob fly for a team of loch style flies. Their buoyancy coming from deer hair makes them perfect for keeping a fly high on the water, they fish particularly well twitched slowly in the surface around weed beds and other structure where trout may lurk. They are exciting to fish as they induce visible takes not only from small fish but larger trout which confidently ascend to the surface and take the fly.