It won’t be long until the first meaningful fly hatch of the year for the loughs, the Duckfly, will be starting to appear. From Paddy’s day (17th of March) until the second week of April is the general window for this fly with some waters being earlier than others. As with most springtime flora and fauna the conditions over the preceding winter have a major bearing on when the hatches will appear and such is the case with the Duckfly.
My own personal best day on the Duckfly was the 15th of March and I had the whole of my part of the lake to myself and the water boiling with trout, yet last year it was the 30th of March before they appeared in any numbers, remember the ‘Beast from the East’? Well, it held everything back.
The Duckfly is a buzzer, a member of the chironomid family. He is a decent size, varying between a #12 to #14 so when there are any numbers of them it is worth the trout’s while feeding on them. Their cycle is the same as that of most other buzzers hatching from silty bottoms, rising slowly through the water as pupae, emerging with wings through the surface of the water before heading to land. From thence they will mate and the female adult will return to the water to lay her fertilised eggs. The name ‘Duckfly’ was bestowed on them here in Ireland because once they hatch in big numbers, ducks (notably mallard) take to the water and have a good feed on them.
The go to method during the Duckfly would normally be fishing straight-line buzzers, a team of 3 or 4 on a floating line with a fluorocarbon leader of 16’-20’. Don’t, however, get locked into the notion that it is the only method as both wets and dries will always figure.
Wets come into their own when during a hatch the trout come right up to the surface and target the flies that are emerging. When this happens, emerger patterns fished on a floating line or a 3’ or 6’ slow tip line is a great way of targeting them. I like to fish a three fly cast and prefer to use Fulling Mill Masterclass Copolymer. This is because a slow retrieve is required and with fish being high up in the water table you need your flies to stay in the zone for as long as possible. As fluorocarbon sinks faster it will draw your flies away from the area quicker. You will catch with fluorocarbon but the window of ‘killing’ time is less as the heavier tippet material sinks the flies out of the feeding zone.
Dries can also feature largely during the Duckfly and especially towards the end of the hatch. From once the hatch has been on a couple of weeks the number of adults in and around the shores of the lake and the islands increases steadily and they will at some stage return to the top of the water as egg-laying females. Couple this with the fact that the number of new flies hatching begins to decline then the trout realise that most of the food on the water’s surface has fallen onto it, as opposed to rising up through it, so, therefore, they are actively feeding right on the surface. As the flies will be coming from shores and islands then it pays dividends to concentrate in the lee of these areas and in any slicks form from these areas which will often happen come evening time, pay close attention to them.
I mentioned my best ever day on the Duckfly, it was the 15th of March, on that morning I remember going down to check my boats at about 11 am. While there, I noticed a couple of flies coming in off the lake and then I saw one rise, another rise, another rise and another! That was enough I went back up to the shed tackled up my rod and within 15 minutes I was fishing and within 20 minutes I had covered my first trout and landed him 5 minutes another. It was electric. On that particular day, I was due to meet someone in the village at 1.30 and had to cycle the 4km as I was without a car for that day. Reluctantly I got off the lake at 1.00 and headed off to Cornamona cycling where I finished at 2.30. I hopped on my bike and with Tour de France pace headed for home, cycled straight past my house down to the lake, left the bike in a heap on the shore with the wheel spinning and jumped into the boat. I think the wheel of the bike was still spinning when I caught the first fish I covered. That’s when I told myself to calm down and relax, the fish were going nowhere. I went ashore after that trout, went up to the house had a cuppa and a sandwich (after I stood the bike back up) and walked back down to the boat again to spend the rest of the afternoon afloat. There wasn’t another boat out in Dooras that day and the fish were moving goodo. I landed 17 trout myself that day virtually all of them covered as they were rising and all of them between 1.25lb and 3lb, my best ever day on Corrib.
I look at my diary from that day, I was fishing wets, my cast was, top dropper, Toby Tom emerger, middle, Blae and Black, point Hatching Duckfly, fished on a floating line. Another point of note from the diary was that the following day I went out with my dad and we had 7 trout between us on the same method, a great day. However, on the following day, St Patricks, we had a small club competition and I had a big duck egg, I blanked. While on that day conditions were poor in the afternoon, in the morning when the opportunity was there, I stuck to the wets as it had worked for me previously, however the method had changed to straight-line buzzers. That is one of the reasons I love Corrib, as soon as you think you have her mastered, she will send you a stark reminder!