Snake Flies – The development and success…
Fulling Mill Ambassador Rob Edmunds has been at the forefront of fly development and angling methods for quite some time, throughout the winter he likes to tinker with already successful patterns, such as the Snake flies, to make them better and more effective.
Snake flies are not new by any means, they have taken the still-water fly-fishing scene by storm over the last 2 or 3 years – just as I imagined they would. Exposure via the internet, magazines, and competitions means that patterns and methods do not stay secret as they once did. Information and new ideas become available and mainstream almost immediately. So much so the snake is now considered the “Go To” pattern for the majority of lure anglers, because if you can’t get a response with this pattern then the chances are you won’t get a response on any lure or there are simply no fish in the area.
Anglers now appreciate that highly mobile patterns often induce lethargic fish into a response even if they are not feeding naturally. In the past, I and a small group of friends have had extraordinary success with fur based patterns with over 10 doubles and over 60 fish over 5lb at the last count. The movement from the furs individual hairs at low speeds is unbeatable; patterns literally come alive and pulsate in the water with your slightest touch which is essential both early and late season when fishing in low water temperatures.
Snake fly development
Over the course of the last 3 or 4 seasons, it’s quickly become apparent that “1 size of snake does not fit all”. My initial snakes were large, often heavily weighted with bead chain eyes to create a classic “duck & dive” movement. As soon as they became wet they became very difficult to cast even on stiff rods rated AFTM 7 and above. Unless you were a very competent caster with a heavy set up then the pattern had its limitations. My angling friends often complained that they struggled when casting snakes but still recognised the effectiveness of the pattern and didn’t want to miss out on the action – I understood their needs and demands and it was a relatively simple fix.
All I had to do was devise a range of Snakes for different anglers needs. I decided to tie up all my future patterns in 2 distinct sizes and in both weighted and unweighted versions. The smaller unweighted snakes instantly make casting much easier even on #6 and #7 weight rods although I still advise you fish any snake pattern on a relatively short leader of 9 – 12ft on 8lb+ fluorocarbon and as a single fly.
Results were very good, the smaller unweighted snake flies produced distinctly more fish when the fishing got more challenging, especially when used at slow speeds (figure of 8 retrieves) Our testing over the winter months produced some nice fish up to 8lb from Rutland, Grafham and Pitsford reservoirs, and demand for the new smaller snakes was now exceeding my originals. They were much more “user-friendly” for the majority of anglers. Being smaller you also do not get as many missed takes as often experienced with the larger patterns and so the range continued to grow. It was almost a case of natural evolution that we now have 2 sizes of snake in weighted, unweighted and booby versions to suit all anglers and conditions.
Personally, I’m particularly fond of the small unweighted Green & White version… it’s a classic “cat’s whisker” colour combination that always seems to provoke a response. Being smaller it’s distinctly much easier to cast allowing me to use the pattern on a #6 weight rod which is thoroughly more enjoyable and sporting – As such, I thought it only right that the patterns become available commercially so all anglers can benefit.
2018 so far…
I’ve just started my 2018 season on the Anglian water reservoirs and have already caught and returned 2 browns from the bank that would both easily weigh over 5lb – both fish on my favourite Mini White & Green Snake fished with a medium paced figure of 8 retrieve on a Di-3. Early season fishing is all about doing the simple things well, with the majority of the fish close to the bank usually just 10 – 20 yards out. I usually fish a single fly at this time of year, it gives me better presentation and makes any fish compete for a single food source, the result is a more positive take.
The fish will be lethargic, especially as we are about to be plunged into another period of prolonged cold weather and not wanting to waste energy. The continued changes in atmospheric pressure will in many cases knock them off the feed yet the snake still produces the goods when all other patterns fail. With these new smaller patterns I’ve found that a slow or medium paced figure of 8 with a long pull halfway through the retrieve will get you instant results if fish are in the area – at “Fry Feeding” time a fast Roly Poly retrieve is hard to beat with a larger weighted snake.
Early season fish finder
Early season I know that the fish will not be on the fin looking for food; instead, they will be holding in one place usually by a feature or drop off. Meaning that you must go to them… it takes just 30 casts or so and if I get no response, I move on, covering as much water as possible in an attempt to find the fish; obviously once I get a take, follow or a fish I will continue but once I experience a 30 minute period of inactivity I move on – at times this may seem like the wrong decision but experience has taught me that it is consistently the most rewarding approach.
Work the depths
Always, always work the depths. I tend to start with a count of 10 seconds before I begin my retrieve, if I catch weed I reduce my count by 5 seconds until my retrieve is weed free… if I don’t catch weed I count longer say 20 seconds until I eventually hit the bottom. I then concentrate my efforts in the bottom third of the water column.
Make your fly work for you…
Lastly, I feel that it’s important to give the snake flies as much movement as possible, so I use the “Rapala Knot” as it allows free movement of the pattern on a loop and can help inducing takes on those difficult days.
Farmoor World Bank Championship 2018
This weekend saw the World Bank Championship held on Farmoor 2 reservoir in Oxford, over the last couple of years I’ve done extremely well with snake patterns and again this would be the perfect test arena for the new Mini Snake patterns and Masterclass Fluorocarbon. As always the event was attended by some of the best competition anglers on the circuit with both England world team members and a multitude of international anglers. The competition would be tough and the fish would undoubtedly receive a lot of angling pressure meaning this would be a true test of angling skill.
Day 1 (Saturday 24th March) was the “Individual” event and despite low temperatures and medium winds the venue fished exceptionally well. Andrew Scott was a clear and well-deserved winner with 24 fish just ahead of my FNF Nymphomaniac teammate and last years individual winner Matthew Griffiths with 20. I managed 14 fish to finish a credible 9th.
Day 2 (Sunday 25th March ) was the “Pairs” event. Matthew and I formed a team and confidence was high, we had refined our tactics a little, and had a clear game plan. With lower temperatures in the morning keeping the fish deeper and more lethargic, we decided to fish Airflo Di-8 Booby Basher lines with a 15ft leader of 8lb Fulling Mill Masterclass Flurocarbon with and a 5cm Mini Black & Green Snake. The plan was to get distance and depth with the Di-8 line. We could then fish our fly back deep and slow picking fish up as our fly neared the concrete ledge some 20ft out. By fishing a smaller single snake pattern we hoped we would create competition for the food source (fly) which would result in more positive takes and hopefully less lost fish.
Then in the afternoon when temperatures had risen and the fish became more active and willing to chase a fly we switched to a Di-5 40+ line with Mini White & Green Snake flies again on a 15ft leader but with a fast retrieve aimed at targeting those fish mid-water. It worked and I was rewarded with 29 fish for the day including a 5 lb Brown, with Matthew taking 24 with our combined bag 53 fish in total. As usual, the results were tense but thankfully we had just done enough to take the title from our other FNF Nymphomaniac teammate Gareth Jones and Keith Tanner who took second place with 48 fish.
Again all the top 10 competitors fished snake flies in various patterns, and I feel by having different sized snakes in our box it allowed us to adapt and refine our tactics in order to keep catching.
Tips for fishing Snake Flies
- DON’T strike at every little tap during the retrieve it could be the low stretch line going over a stone or through weed; wait until everything locks up solid before striking.
- Fish will become accustomed to the same flies being retrieved in the same way at the same angle and will just follow or tap, even the hang won’t be productive, when this happens it’s best to revert to a single fly, create competition for the food source for me that is always a single small snake if you get a pluck or tap halfway through the retrieve speeding up the fly usually produces an instant response.
- In conjunction with point 2, change fly often… The fish will become accustom to the same colour patterns – a switch between black/olive/yellow every 30 casts in the same area usually results in more takes.
- Shorter leaders than summer (5 – 12ft depending on fly pattern and line) with a stiff fluorocarbon leader will ensure the turnover of large bulky flies.
- The “Rapala” knot gives more movement and is a great option when fishing a single lure. Especially boobies…