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Floating flies page 2


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We have seen many attempts at an imitation of this succulent insect which bore not the slightest resemblance to the natural fly or to one another. We have a very fine pattern of this fly which has done, great work on many waters and at widely separated periods of the season; but we have likewise proved that a simple Black Spider is the superior of most of the numerous variations. The trout take this spider well when the Iron-Blue is up, and so it seems reasonable to conclude that they take it in mistake for that fly.

Neither pattern should be omitted from the fly-box. as when the natural fly is on the water something closely resembling it is indispensable; the winged variety will be preferable on the streams, the hackled pattern on the pools. The latter is also a useful lure to throw at a venture before or after the rise. Even in midsummer, whenever the weather is cold or boisterous, and again in September, when there is a hatch of Ephetneridae so similar to Iron-Blues as to be indistinguishable from them, we do well with both these flies.

One of the best known dry-flies is the Red Quill, which was in all likelihood intended originally to represent the female Olive imago, but. the heavy, opaque wings of the artificial* its customary dress, are not at all comparable with the marvellously delicate wings of the living insect. Consequently we have had the wings removed altogether, and now we have a fly which is certain to deceive many fine trout during the earliest part of a fine summer evening.

We have now arrived at the period of calm, bright days and warm, still evenings, when the water is generally at its lowest level and the trout at the height of their wariness. Spinners or imagines are usually alone in evidence, and it behoves the angler to use none but his most delicate lures.

Winged flies may now be discontinued altogether or limited to rough streams and to occasional days of northerly or easterly winds and low temperature, when slight hatches of duns already mentioned may occur; and in their stead under more probable conditions the dainty hackled flies will keep the angler happy. Of these we give the place of honour to the Blue Hen Spider. It is an intensely fascinating fly to look at; the trout as well as the angler find it so. Its constriction is of the simplest, but its seductive powers are of the greatest. Natural hackles of the correct shade are somewhat difficult to obtain, but a dyed feather will serve equally well, though on that point it would be very difficult to convince a Tweed fisher.

This fly resembles a number of small spinners which are on the river in June and July, and it is also a particularly good copy of the female imago of the Pale Watery Dun. the appearance of which on loch and reservoir formerly indicated to many anglers that all expectation of sport had departed. With this beautiful pattern in his possession no one under such circumstances need give way to despair; but instead a great feeling of hopefulness should steal over him, because there is then presented the possibility of an hour of intensely interesting sport among eager cruising trout, and a probability of great reward to silent, careful manipulation of delicate tackle.

It is almost impossible for anyone to have a stock of flies sufficient to enable him invariably to deal successfully with rising trout; but, as we have already pointed out, a fly which will assuredly bring a few fish to the creel, no matter what unfamiliar species of dun or spinner arrives, may be made in a minute or two from a hackle and an inch or two of silk, carefully chosen to suggest the general characteristics of the type occasioning the rise.

Once during a yellow spate on Clyde we were aroused from weary inaction by the startling announcement that the trout of Newton Flat were rising madly. The fly that was producing this phenomenon was a large dun and, curiously enough, there were in the box three specimens with snipe wings, badger hackle, and light quill body which were almost a faultless imitation. During the few minutes the rise lasted, we killed two tine trout. We did not lay in a stock of these Gray Quills, as the tackle-dealer called them, and we have not seen again a hatch of these light duns, though ten years have passed since that unusual experience of fishing dry-fly during a flood.

Having now given a list of upright-winged flies quite sufficient for all but exceptional occasions on ail the Scottish rivers we have visited, we proceed to the discussion of other orders, the members of which, however, are so numerically strong that it is possible to deal only with the most important.

We consider the best of these is the Sand-fly of Clyde, or, as it is better known in other districts, the Gravel-bed, and there are good reasons for thus conferring distinction upon it.

Making its first appearance during hot weather towards the middle of May, it is likely to be found on the water for a period of three months whenever the temperature is sufficiently high to tempt it forth, for it is essentially a fine-weather insect, revelling in warm breezes and brilliant sunshine.

On hot, thundery days we have seen the gravel absolutely covered with them, but again, under conditions to all appearance identical, we have failed to observe a single specimen, so that it is impossible to predict when setting out for the river that the Sand fly will be in evidence. Nevertheless, the angler must be prepared for its advent by having in his possession a plentiful supply of good imitations, for the trout are very fond of it and lie close to the gravel on the windward bank of the pool waiting for a shower to be wafted to them.

When fishing for trout feeding on sand-flies a very little carelessness will result in an empty basket. The fish will naturally be where the flies are, and that as a rule is in shallow water near the edge of the gravel. The. angler should therefore select only such reaches as have stretches of sand and gravel along the bank from which the winds blowing.

If he chooses the easy cast down-wind, he will find that an unseen approach is impossible to accomplish, and that the sole result of his efforts will be a series of furrows caused by the hasty flight of trout from the shallows to the depths of the pool. Consequently the cast will generally have to be made from the water beneath the opposite bank, and therefore also more or less against the wind; but if these points are attended to excellent sport can be enjoyed with the artificial sand-fly.

We find that Webster's dressing - viz. black silk body, black hackle, and wings from the hen- pheasant tail, is quite satisfactory, but we do not approve of the split wing he advocates. A few fibres of feather tied in, without division of any kind, so as to lie low along the hook, give a much superior wing for a floating pattern. The hackle should be of black cock, stiff and long, for the natural fly floats high in the water.

We have proved that a Black Spider is not altogether ignored when sand-flies are on the water, and on one occasion in July, when we learned for the first time that a strong hatch of these welcome insects could occur in that month, we killed seventeen splendid trout with a Blae and Black, the nearest approach to the fly in demand that the box could then furnish.

We are of opinion that trout do not obtain a clear view of the wings of a floating fly, and these experiences just noted, as well as many others of a similar nature, strengthen the belief that the body and hackle are the points which should receive most attention from the fly-dresser.

The Blae and Black, or the Black Midge as we now prefer to call it, since the name suggests at once the insect it is intended to represent, is as tine a pattern as one could float in July and August over a feeding trout. Not only so, but the Clyde gray ling seems to prefer it beyond all flies, real and unreal, and great is the execution we have done with it.

Of the smaller diptera, so exceedingly minute in some cases that all attempts at imitation seem fore doomed to failure, trout appear to be particularly fond. Webster's Black Mote and Halford's Black Gnat we have invariably found quite ineffective when trout, are feeding on the tiny flies of the dark body and white wing. That may be due to persistent bad luck, but we have deceived or at least attracted many a good fish indulging in a display of this annoying habit, as it is frequently considered, and that:, too, by using a very simple fly, the simplest of all, namely, a Badger Hackle.

This feather has a black centre and white tips, and two or three turns of it on a bare hook of small size are all that is required to suggest to a trout the natural insect. A short body of black silk (not that it is necessary) may be added to allay the qualms of the angler and so induce him to give it a trial.

This pattern will give a good account of itself when the little watery duns are out on quiet evenings on loch and reservoir. Many an angler has given up m despair and disgust on seeing his efforts entirely ignored by " smutting " trout, but defeat is by no means a foregone conclusion; in fact, it may readily be converted into victory if the Badger Hackle is bid quietly on the smooth water and floated over the rise.

The Trichoptera or sedge-flies are a numerous family, forming a plentiful supply of obviously agreeable food for the trout, and therefore they deserve more attention from the angler than they usually receive. They are well known to the night- fisher, most of whose death-dealing deceptions are intended to represent these insects of the wonderful life-history, and while it is true that many of them love the night and are therefore of little interest to the dry-fly man who finds himself under no necessity to fish in darkness, some rejoice in the brightness of daylight, and others again are most active n the gloaming hour.

These caddis-flies float much lower in the water than do the Ephemeridae, and therefore the artificials should be provided with short, soft, hen-hackles. Unlike some other flies, they are, seldom, if ever, at peace on the water; apparently they do not enjoy being borne quietly onwards by the current, but skate about the surface until, sooner or later, a trout rises to terminate the voyage.

The Corncrake, the Cinnamon, and the Black Sedges are all patterns likely to prove useful from time to time. On Loch Dochart the Black Sedge is plentiful; but there we never happened to see the trout taking them; on the other hand we found the trout of the River Cairn, a. tributary of the Nith, very keen on them in the month of August, the rise being most pronounced and general. As we had nothing better at the moment, we offered them a Black Spider, and it was well received. There seems to be no limit to the usefulness of that pattern, but a superior imitation is easily made.

The light Corncrake and the Cinnamon Sedge are both very good. The former has brought us a few fish on sunny afternoons under the most difficult conditions, while the latter is a splendid fly for a late evening of summer. We have fished the Cinnamon on the Clyde in the gloaming and under moonlight (a delightful experience!), and with it have taken some grand fish, not many, only a brace or at most two at an expedition, but almost invariably superb specimens; also with it we Hooked what would probably have proved our record trout had misfortune in the form of sunken wire not intervened.

The Grannom is an indispensable pattern on many rivers, and like all sedge-flies should be dressed with low-lying wings; it is not a member of the Ephemerida; as the majority of fly-dressers seem to imagine. Due in May about the same time as the Gravel-bed, it sometimes occurs in such prodigious numbers that the angler finds it hopeless to enter into competition against so many. Though year after year we have been on the river at a time when this phenomenon might have been displayed, we have never been privileged to witness it. Such accidents will happen to anyone who is not so fortunate as to reside on the banks of a river; but should we ever encounter the hordes of the Greentail we shall proceed up or down stream away from the vicinity of trees to places where only stragglers are likely to penetrate.

There still remain the Perlidae or stone-flies. With the exception of the Stone-fly itself, Perla maxima, which few would trouble to imitate when the natural flies ate so easily available as a bait, the members of this order are not worthy of more than passing notice. We have seen Yellow Sally, Needle-Brown, etc., many and many a time, but only on one occasion did they excite the trout to activity. That was on the Endrick in early October, when the Browns were so numerous as to annoy the angler by their selection of a resting-place. The trout were taking them down quietly and steadily, and had we not been provided only with rod and tackle suitable for bigger game, we should have been pleased to try the effect of a hackled pattern. Anglers who fish the Endrick frequently would probably find a copy of this fly a valuable addition to their stock.

The Green Drake or May-fly of the English angler, which would be accorded first place in many lists, is not included among our indispensable dry-flies for the very sufficient reason that its occurrence in Scotland is confined to a few waters. No one can fail to recognise at first glance the large, handsome fly which arouses so much enthusiasm across the Border, but we have never heard of any district on this side where the fly, natural or artificial, is seriously used.

Our list may be considered somewhat meagre, but in actual practice it will generally prove extensive enough, as it provides for all but unexpected events.

Dressings of the patterns


No. I. GREEXWELL Quill.
Body: Dark quill.
Hackle: Red with black centre, often termed "cochybondu hackle."
Tail: Dark olive.
Wings: Hen blackbird, upright.
Season: Reliable all through the season.

No. 2. Dark Olive Dun.
Body: Dark olive quill.
Hackle: Cock's hackle, dyed dark olive.
Tail: Dark olive.
Wings: Blackbird, Upright.
Season: April.

No. 3. Medium Olive Dun.
Body: Medium olive quill.
Hackle: Cock's hackle, dyed medium olive.
Tail: Medium olive.
Wings: Snipe, upright.
Season: May, and occasionally thereafter.

No. 4. Tale Olive Dun.
Body: Light olive quill.
Hackle: Cock's hackle, dyed light olive.
Tail: Light olive.
Wings: Starling, upright.
Season: June and July.

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