Teaching an old dog, new tricks…
I have been utterly, comprehensively and unequivocally… corrupted.
To be fair, I was easy prey. If you fish around young people enough, sooner or later, some of their natural exuberance and total lack of fear or prejudice, will, I assure you, rub off.
So, with the season “waxing” into the start of the peaks of imitative fly fishing is there any reason to actually embrace the world of colour, prejudice, attraction and fly fishing perceived “bad manners”. Hell, yes.
Blobs. A fly (SIC) that only a few years ago I saw as an invention of the devil: I now absorb into my reservoir arsenal, not furtively, but with almost a demonic eagerness.
Why? Why this wholesale change away from the sports niceties and the accepted “gentlemanly conduct’ flies? Away from patterns that we all love to fish; we all hope will work: buggy ones. Let me explain.
Frankly, I like to catch fish. Now right there is an admission. I often gain an impression, that some of my generation would rather artistically blank, than sink to the depths of depravity and use something as garish or uncouth as a Blob or snake. (Yup: I can see some of you shudder from here)
Let’s look at facts; reservoir trout – especially rainbows – are not refined. They are not decent nor are they upright, piscine citizens, who play by the rules. Rules that you and I would like them to abide by. They are, for the most part, stocked. Our trout seldom even survive long enough to differentiate buzzer from a Blob. Damsel from Daphnia, sedge from FAB. So why then, do we get so emotional about fly design. Why?
Of course, there are times when subtlety rules. You will know the occasions, as well as I. Those golden moments of trout nailing buzzers and we reap that harvest with similar designs. And my goodness my son, Alex and I have had some of that recently… the best buzzer fishing I think I can recall in many a year. And that includes forays to the west country heaven, Blagdon – trout stuffed to the gunwales with huge Olive and black midge pupa. That undulating, nose-and-tail rise form, sipping shucks bodies and bounty in and around the surface gulping down a Bits or Big Red. Yup: we know all that stuff. We love it… wrap it all in cotton wool and bring the occasions out in memories and on special occasions.
Consider Blagdon early season.
The fish are still probably undecided on a specific diet and open to all suggestions. Yup: they maybe nailing race-horse sized midges, but they are not going to turn down a juicy worm or swarm of Daphnia, either. It’s a Smorgasbord of opportunity. And therein lies the problem, how do you signify your cunningly deadly presence in their fish-food world with thousands of others vying for the culinary attention: you knock them off balance.
Entering this equation is the weather. That glorious unknown factor of British angling. However, given the near continuous Northeasterly airstream that has produced bright clear days, drying grounds and precious little rain… and germane to our fly rod efforts – cold nights. Water temperatures are staying chilly. This seems to do two things. one: sharpen the fishes appetite (no: I don’t know why either!) Two: Make trout very susceptible to bright colours (Again: no idea why.)
so what to do?
You spring a trap sandwich….With….
Wait for it: Blobs. There can be no better way, than appealing to this catholic dining approach or indeed, highlighting food-esqe patterns… and springing that “trap” whilst also being a sign post to other, subtle patterns strung out in the leader then using a Blob as an attractor. A trick I learned from those Reservoir Maestros Rob Barden and Carl Malpas. It works.
The thing is you simply must start thinking in terms of distancing your patterns. If I have altered one thing this season it is just this area… are reaped a goodish harvest thus far because of it 22 feet has given way to 26 and it does make a difference. Truly. Yup: hideous to cast. Yup: you will get tangles… but it is all worth it. Promise.
So, with that in mind, I tend to have a Biscuit Blob or FAB on the point, and something like a Tequila version on the top dropper and some general nymphs between – the Pseudo Diawl being perfect: maybe a Cruncher or Skinny Cormorant in addition. And don’t think that you have to use blobs, Fabs and Boobies on the classic, size 10 hooks: try the smaller versions that Fulling Mill do so well.
But of course flies, whilst crucial, are not the entire story. There is also the small matter of how and where they are fished in the water column. In this Months Fly Fishing and Fly Tying I have, in my “sketchbook” depicted how a system similar fishes and how it might appear in the water column. Contiguous to the fly pattern – and all about them – is the vital element where and how there are actually fishing. Having a notional idea of what depth and almost living the cast through its search pattern through the water column, is at the centre of what we do. Early season I tend to favour a Di5 Sweep – another influence of the England young guns. Heck! I even know the difference (and relevance) between a Di5 or Di3 sweep now… previously uncharted waters!
Using the Di5 – even when drifting on stern breeze blows you the advantage of “sweeping” your patterns through various layers and explore all manner of water column options. It is a very hard thing to fish a sunk line – unless you come to terms with it, make peace with your prejudices and see it in your own terms. I tend just try visualise the flies sweeping, holding, hovering and just fluttering at different depths – depending on my retrieve and whether I am “hanging” of not. At no point do I not lose the idea that I can see those patterns in my minds eye – subsurface. Switch off mentally, and all is lost – especially trout opportunities. I think, for this reason, it is why I love the low stretch lines so much. having little stretch allows you to “sense” the water fold around the line, feel heavy or light depending on the distance you have fished and retrieved cast. If you give yourself to the retrieve, you can almost live ever minuscule movement. It is like painting with a brush, feeling the textures of a surface under the sweep of the bristles as the paint flows. Lovely.
Consider my local club water – a converted gravel working and a simply magnificent trout fishery. The midge hatches are nothing short of amazing. The rises the stuff of dreams…but the trout do tend to stay at a distance. Sufficiently so, that I have resorted to making and tailoring my own shooting head system just for this water – I know… the stuff of the obsessive madman… I rest my case.
But It has worked, with a need to pitch a line, consistently, at distances of thirty to forty yards And achieve turn-over requires thought, dynamic and a little of Va-va-voom. A ‘head does that.
Something else “odd” has happened. Now I have tried all the usual suspects – Diawls, Crunchers, Shuttlecock designs, Hoppers, straight midges, curved midges…you name it. Alex (Son!) the same thing. Nothing… well not much. Then one evening I thought: “what the hell”.
Alex must have thought much the same, as he popped on his tippet a bushy Kate McClaren – and it worked… and I, sinfully, put on a Dennis-the-Menace FAB… Nope: I will never get through those pearly gates, now.
Oh Lord ! how it worked… Indeed how they DO work: static, twitched or figure-of-eighted in front of a moving fish. Amazing. Just stupendous.
Would I have tried this madness before being enmeshed with the England Youth Team? Not a chance.
I remember one of the old school competitive fishers complaining that all we seem to be doing with the younger international fishers, is creating “yobs with Blobs”
Indeed…I seem to be one of those Yobs. Corrupted. Unbowed.