Dry flies, how big should I use them to induce a take?
When it comes to fishing a particular method I opt for what I think is appropriate at the time I am standing in the river. That having been said, if you held my arm behind my back and told me to choose, it would have to be to fish a dry fly to rising fish. See how I fish big dry flies below…
There is something that brings out the hunter in me when I come across a pool and see a trout rising steadily. I’ll watch, decide what stage of the hatch the fish is on and select the fly I think might be the right one for the job. Then, I have to make sure I use my skill with a fly rod to cover the fish with minimal false casting, get the right drift and then set on it when it takes.
After fishing for so long, I still get extremely excited at moments like these.
This is of course, is a perfect scenario and not one we might face every day but what if you are like me and on some days say “to hell with it, I’m going to fish just dry flies” even if the fish are not rising. A prospect I’ll often face on my home river, the Taw, especially during early season.
It is times like these that I won’t be looking closely for insect activity to try and match but will instead try and provoke a response from a fish by fishing a fly that I think will be worth its while to come and investigate.
Rather than fishing my normal size 16, 18 and 20 flies I’ll up the size to 14 or even 12 and fish a pattern that has trigger points that will, if I’m lucky, bring a fish to the surface.
Over the last 15 years or so I have been influenced by the fishing I have done in America and the use of attractor dries something I feel we don’t use as much on our rivers here. One that I have had good success with is the Parachute Royal Coachman. It has trigger points galore from the red silk body to the golden pheasant tippets and the buggy looking peacock herl.
I’ll start searching the water making casts into likely looking spots letting the fly drift naturally and then on the next drift I will impart some movement into the fly for a tantalizing “eat me” struggling insect look.
When I add this movement I prefer to do so with my line hand rather than twitching the rod to give life to the fly as the takes from a fish can often be explosive and want to be ready to set on it when it does.
Another advantage of this fly is that it makes a great indicator if you decide to use it as part of a duo set up too.
This is usually one of the first flies I’ll use but I also like the Stimulator too. It can also be a great mayfly substitute if you find yourself on the river when a hatch takes you by surprise. The yellow bodied version is perfect along with the orange.
The Humpy is another of the great dry flies to “bring em” especially in bright colours -yellow and red.
When I’m fishing dry flies like this, I’ll work the water relatively quickly preferring to cover water looking for a keen fish. I thought I should also mention that fishing this way that the takes don’t tend to be sips but aggressive almost territorial slashes at the fly.
Territory may be part of the reason but I also wonder if I am targeting non-rising fish that might not be very high in the water column but see the fly and have to firstly travel farther to reach it and secondly, it gathers momentum in doing so. This may account for the ferocity of the take and sometimes why some fish don’t stick too as it is traveling at speed.
Either way, I find this can be a fun and productive way of catching fish on dry flies when the textbook says you shouldn’t.
Attractor dry flies
Pete Tyjas is a fly fishing guide based in Devon
He also produces the online ezine