As the weather gets bitingly cold, and the landscape loses the soft warm comforts of summer, one’s demeanour as a fisherman probably changes.
By that I am suggesting that when you are out there in a cold wind, with waves coming in at you across a large stretch of cold water bounded by drab dry grass, and no sign of anything moving, you are less likely to fish a #18 emerger. Well I certainly am less likely to do so! Less likely that is, than when it is spring, and a soft breeze brushes a water surface occasionally disturbed by large Trout whose noses appear amongst tiny hatching waifs, and then turn slowly away in a beguiling languid swirl. In those conditions, there are few of us whose thoughts wouldn’t turn to light tippets, low stalking profiles, and miniscule flies meant to deceive.
A #2, and a #30 hook: the extremes of fly size!
But come winter, with dust and wind, and big jackets, and you will find me out on the boat or tube, with a sinking line, and some heavy artillery. It just seems more fitting to the circumstances. The Trout are dark, and the cocks have those hooked jaws that make them look angry, and it seems befitting that we supply them something to be angry at. Something to hit…not to sip!
And because fly-fishing has so much to do with confidence, if it is a “big nasty” that makes you feel confident of a solid take at any moment, then in one sense, that is what you should fish. Because to fish with confidence is to fish with anticipation. And fishing in anticipation of an imminent take, is to fish carefully and well. When you are fishing carefully, you fish better, and you are inclined to hook more fish.
Well, that’s how I justify my sometimes illogical desire to tie something on that looks halfway between a big chicken and a racing car. An invariably large thing with eyes, rubber legs, weight or flash. Or maybe all four.
eyes, legs and weight: The FMD is tied in sizes up to #2
Tying these things is fun too. I sit there late at night, wrapped in several layers, lashing large things to hooks with sturdy 3/0 thread, and feeling aggressive about doing battle with monstrous Trout on the week-end. In one sense I would feel robbed by mild conditions. I picture myself out there in a biting wind, crashing waves, and deep dark lakes that conceal things that could quite easily have a go at your leg as it dangles below the float tube. Small ducks beware. I remove the hook from the vice and put a bigger one in the jaws.
Way back in the eighties, PD and I were inspired by the patterns of a British reservoir fisherman, who tied what I can only describe as “lures”. ( a quote found on a chat forum has relevance: He created a “fly” called the Waggy and took the browns of Grafham and Rutland apart) We made sure we had one or two of these ghastly things in the fly-box for desperate times. I had tied a thing I referred to as a “Waggy”, and given it to him. It took an entire packet of black marabou, and I am ashamed to admit that under all that fluff it had not one, but two hooks. Tied in tandem they were. You needed a barge pole to throw the thing. Anyway: PD and I, and another friend had been fishing a small dam on the farm, day in and day out, without success. On one particular morning the gloves came off and PD lashed the Waggy onto the business end, and smacked himself a Trout. The poor bastard didn’t have a chance, with that much temptation knocking around in there.
Neither did the poor Trout.
a box of “Big Nasties”
Then there was a visiting fly-tier, who had a streamer pattern of sorts with all kinds of garish flash in it, that he wanted to show us at the local club. I remember that his dear wife accompanied him to his tying demonstration that evening. As he packed more and more tinsel onto the hook, one wide eyed observer asked where he got all this tin! He replied that it came from the cork wrapping of a rare vintage of red wine from a particular estate, which, if you had contacts you might just be able to acquire, but not without parting with a hefty sum of money. His dear wife cleared her throat politely, and corrected him, by telling us all that in fact it was cut from the packet of a common brand of powdered milk!
Nowadays we hardly have to slice our milk packets, or seek out special wine: The fly shops are packed with tinsels and mylars and great big googly eyes, that can set your imagination on fire. What a delight! Now when we feel a bout of aggression coming on, we can construct something truly frightening. Just this evening I tied strands of coloured flash within a marabou tail (just so that as it waves in the current, the marabou will part to reveal some enticing decoration). Then in front of that I wound bits of dead rabbit, and for good measure I put large rubber legs with holographic tinsel flashes embedded in them. I finished off with a great big shiny head of UV glue. That ought to do it. (I wonder if I will be able to throw the thing.)
Dead Rabbit, rubber legs , and shiny head!
My friend Kevin always used to dangle one finger in the water, and if the feeling was adequately numbing, he would issue a decree that it was time to switch to a large “Mickey Finn”. Remember those? We certainly did catch some fish on them!
ice cold water
Barry Kent was out here from the USA recently. Barry is a master tier. He invented a clever pattern. In fact it was not so much a pattern as a technique. He would wrap a sparse stiff cock hackle at the front end of a fly, and then wind marabou in front of that. The effect was that, when retrieved firmly and decisively, the sodden marabou would flatten the stiff cock hackle fibres, and collapse , trailing backwards of the hook eye. But as soon as you stopped retrieving, the hackle would come up, lifting the marabou back into a fuller shape. So you had this pulsing mass of a fly, that an angry fish could not resist. Barry called it the “MF” . It was tied large, and with some flash in there somewhere. In print the “MF” stood for “My Favourite”. Off the record those letters stood for something else entirely !
an “MF” of sorts
In just a few short months it will be spring again, and all this will be behind me. I will have a two weight fly-rod in my hand, and I will be on some pretty stream somewhere chasing little Browns with tiny flies. But for now, I am enjoying the contrast, and with a bit of luck I will get to enjoy a big angry winter Trout too.