Dry Flys With Attitude
If there has been one single revolution in Tasmanian fly fishing in the last three years, it would have to be the use of the English style reservoir dry flies. Popularly known as the pommy" dries, these bright little numbers have taken loch style fishing in the Tasmanian entral highlands by storm. There has been quite a bit written about them lately, and as he technique is developed even further, no doubt a few more thousand words will be pawned in fly fishing publications.While the patterns are no longer what you would call secret, the key technique to using them probably still is. The killing technique with these flies will confound conventional wisdom, probably upset a few purists, and cause great guffaws from others still. Yet talk to some anglers who use the technique regularly, and a knowing smile will spread across their dials.
But before we get to the real secrets of the technique, we need to expand and dissect what actually constitutes the formula that creates their success. These flies are really designed to be adaptable, and while not the food of purist fly tyers, in other ways are more representative of the essence of fly fishing than may be first imagined. These flies are est fished in a team of three, each spot on the leader fulfils an important role. Beginning with the bob, or top fly, then middle flies, then the point flies.
The Top Fly
To be quite frank, you can use any fly you like on this spot, as long as it's the Carrot. After talking with Peter Hayes about the Carrot, it ranks in the top three of fish takers last season, and our clients caught over 1200 trout last season. That speaks volumes about its effectiveness in catching trout. It produced results right through the season, from October until the last day of the season, where it was still taking good trout off the top. We have at time substituted it for other flies, but we still keep returning it to the same spot. Its name is due to it being shaped like a carrot rather than the colour - which is usually orange.
It works well for us on the top spot in the leader for a number of reasons. The first one is perhaps the most important, and that is that it creates a great sighter for the angler using it. It stands out like a beacon on the water, and is easily seen by all anglers, of all ages. Orange would have to be one of the best colours that trout like: that and red. Orange must be really visible to the trout's vision spectrum, as even on really dour days, the Carrot will pull the fish up from the depths. Last season when the water got really warm in the shallows, and the fish retreated to the deep water; the Carrot still lifted fish up from ten to twelve feet of water.
That is the key reason that we like the fly so much, it's pulling power. Even on days where we only get one or two to the Carrot, it attracts the fish over to the other flies in the team. Quite often we see the trout respond to the Carrot, only to turn away at the last moment and nail the middle fly, or the point fly. These flies really are working as a team; each one compliments the other. Look carefully at the fly in the photo; you will see that it has a bright flouro head. This is no accident, we only use these with the bright head, and it increases its catch rate by at least double. And we have tested it to; don't worry.
The Middle Men
These flies have a special role on the leader, for they have the most exacting role, that of the imitator. If there are any of the pommy dries that actually look like anything trout food like, then these are it. Originated in the Bob's bits, we have adapted them to suit the predominantly Tasmanian conditions we use them in. We now have a whole range of flies based on a modular way of tying flies, the colour of the body the only real change.
We use different colours to suit different conditions; their names say it all. Depending on what the day offers, we can choose from the following types of bits, purple, red, claret, green, black, possum, fire engine, and grey. All these patterns will have flouro heads to suit: red, orange, green, or purple. Purple is a colour not often seen in trout flies, which is odd, as it is a sensational variation to many standard patterns, particularly when the weather gets rough.
These flies are best ties reasonably small, usually size 14, although on really rough days a size 10 can work wonders. Big waves, big flies, and just maybe big bags, well worth remembering come the summer months. To give you some idea of what colours suit what conditions, possum and claret are good when the duns are up, red is great when the midges hatch, purple when the weather gets cold and wintry, and the rest is up to your experimentation, you may come up with better colour combinations that we have, no reason why not.
The Point Flies
This place on the leader is again filled by a modular method of designing flies. There are only two types of flies I use on the point with this style of fishing, possum emergers, and the English hopper style of fly. The hopper would be far and away the most versatile, there are a myriad of combinations to the formula, all brilliant on their day.
First of all the Possum Emerger:
The Possum Emerger pattern found Peter Hayes and I a couple of years ago, courtesy of an angler staying at the Central Highlands Lodge. It really is very simple to tie, (as are all good flies), floats all day and probably all night as well, the trout love it, and so do I. It is a great mayfly pattern, and I think that I would rather leave the lunch behind than set out without them. And if you have had one of our lunches, you will know how big a statement that it!
There really is no need to embellish this pattern with flouro bits and pieces; it works because it just exudes mayfly-ish-ness. I'll bet that word isn't in the dictionary! I wrote about the hopper style of flies a while ago, and much has changed since then. While the patterns still basically are the same, we have made some functional changes that add to the overall success of the flies. I would imagine that between Haysie and I there would be enough prototypes stuck to the carpet in the boat to fill several decent sized fly boxes. That is essentially the nature of the beast, keep fiddling with the formula until you get it right for the way that you fish. To explain what we have found and why we did it would fill a book, I guess to be very simple we have exaggerated the use of the legs, slimmed down the bodies, and made the most of pearly ribs and flouro butts. There are a number of the successful patterns pictured in this article, compare them to what we
were using when I wrote the earlier article about twelve months ago, and you will see what I mean. Those legs just have to be poking down through the surface of the water, they are not nearly as effective if they splay out to the side, and flounder in the skim, rather than through it. After all that, here is the great secret way to use them.
To leave the above flies static on the water is to do them a great injustice. These flies work best when they are constantly on the move, either with a figure eight, or in shortish strips. These flies, when tied with seals fur, and treated sparingly with gink, make a sensational scratch on the water when moved, this action really gets the trout looking up.
During the peak of the season, the ability to get the trout looking at your fly to the exclusion of all other food items is a recipe for success, for when they see your fly, they will eat it 90 times out of 100. And that is a success rate that I can live with.
Time and time again we have found that when our clients move these flies they will out fish static flies by a ratio of five to two. There are a few exceptions, and I will outline them later. There are degrees of movement that the intrepid angler will experiment with, and this is largely determined by the weather conditions at the time; Big wave, big flies, and big strips; calm water, bright sun, small flies, and leave them still. General rules, but they work for us. For everything in the middle, then mix it up till you find the right formula for the day, experimentation is everything.
It really is no surprise that the trout love to eat things that move in the surface, the loch style wet flies that I still love to fish with occasionally are designed to make that surface disturbance, and if you were to look at insects as they struggle in the surface file, they rarely just sit there, beetles skitch their legs about, caddis flutter all over the place, dragonflies bounce their way along the water, not to mention the dying throes of spent mayfly spinners, and emerging duns breaking through the surface film.
There is nothing really new about things moving on the surface. David Scholes mentions the technique in a fashion in his classic work, "Fly fisher In Tasmania'. Rob Sloane in "The Truth About Trout" talks about moving flies in the surface after dark on Bronte Lagoon using the cork fly, and most efficient proponents of the mudeye fly know the value of moving things in the surface. The Americans have been moving big deer hair flies on the surface over there for quite a while; the Kiwis probably do it with cicada flies as well.
The British have long known of the value of moving dry flies, all good Irish anglers can tell you that the dry must be on the move to catch fish. As an aside, Peter Hayes and I had two clients from Ireland last season, who are superb anglers. They knew the value of moving the dry, and caused some real carnage on Little Pine Lagoon when presented with a dull, rainy, dun factory day. If I told you how many fish they caught you wouldn't believe me, suffice to say they caught and released more trout that some people catch in a season - all by moving the fly. Try it and see if it works for you.
I firmly believe that if given a proper go it will increase your catch rates.
Setting It All Up
There are some elements of tackle that will contribute to the success of this technique. Without doubt a ten foot rod will out perform a shorter rod for this boat based method, and will make all the difference to shore based anglers. The extra length give more versatility to the boatie adding extra to the casting, as well as allowing the flies to be manipulated with greater dexterity with the wind. Short line dry fly work should not involve any false casting, just up, down, shoot 15 feet of line. Don't worry about casting too far, you wont be able to see the flies. Keep it close, and keep it controlled. Ten foot rods make this so much easier. Try one and you'll be impressed.
Lines should be weight forward, and in a colour so you can see them. Scientific Anglers produce two very good lines for this fishing, the bright orange Nymph Taper, and the bright green GPX, which is a great casting line. Best of all you can see them easily, I don't think the fish care about the colour of your line, just don't let them have too close a look!
Leaders, are simple, just a straight through 4 or 6 pound line. The answer to a good leader is to balance the lengths between the flies, 4 feet from the line, 5 feet to the next fly, and then the same to the point fly. Just watch the bob fly in the rod tip when you get one on the point fly. The leader recipe is simple, a 14 foot straight piece of 6 pound line, and then tie in a 12 inch section of 4 pound line 4 feet down from the fly line. Then double over the leader from the dropper to the point to find the middle, and tie in another 12 inch section of 4 pound. This gives you an even spacing for the three flies. The reason for the lighter line with the droppers is simple. If the whole shooting match is tied with the same strength, and you snag the top fly, you run the risk of breaking off all three flies. Which as a guide makes me sad! With the lighter material on the droppers, all you lose is one fly, which as a fishing guide, makes me happy!
The flies are becoming available in most good tackle stores, smart angling retailers are getting these patterns either imported directly from the UK, or are getting local tyers to produce the goods. The best way in the long run to ensure a good supply of the flies is to tie your own, they are perhaps the best style of fly to learn with, as they are not fiddly to tie, and if the truth be known, fish better the rougher they are.
For many anglers the moving of dry flies is the exact opposite of what they have been brought up with, the dreaded drag to be avoided at all costs. However, as all our clients have discovered over the last few seasons, if you don't skitch, you don't catch. This is one of those quantum leaps in thinking, once you get past the fact that you are doing the exact opposite of what the "rules" say, the next step in increasing enjoyment and catch rates is but a mere stripped retrieve away.