Waters & words : a celebration of flyfishing

Posts tagged “midge

Hot fishing

winged ant

Sunday dawned hotter than all the rest. Hot and still.  I was up at five in the morning, and set out through the wet grass to look for rising trout, and it was warm then.  The sun was shining at a low angle across the water and my eyes ached as I scanned the water and tried to track my dry fly. A fish swirled here and there. Once or twice within casting distance. I changed dry fly several times: Beetles, para RAB’s, a DDD, and a midge, damsel and Copper John on the dropper.  I held my hand up to screen my eyes. Later I stood behind a small willow, merely for the relief its trunk gave me. I positioned myself directly behind the trunk, in its narrow shade, and then side cast my fly under the willow fronds, merely to escape the piercing rays. It was then that I realized I was grateful for the slender shade of the trunk, and at the same time that it was now hot. It was 6 am.

I walked back to the cottage. As I did, I noticed more swirls, and also the dimples of fleeing minnows, and the formula dawned on me. My fly box with minnows in it was back at the cottage.

Later, after a hearty breakfast, and time with our feet up, my wife and I decided to set up under a willow, with bottles of cold water and our books. I moved the deck chairs, put on sunscreen, took off my boots, and sighed at the prospects of a hot day. The three days prior had been cloudy and windy and stormy and misty: all changing and interesting, and cool. Weather as interesting as a broken landscape, and with patches of great promise between, when the trout would surely come on the rise. Periods of wind change, or calm after a cooling storm, or breezy with scudding clouds and patches of mist. Times that breathed promise and opportunity. But I had yet to hit it right. I had not connected. Sure, I had caught 2 or 3 fish:  one off the front lawn in near darkness on a dry fly. One on a dragonfly nymph just after the storm, that sort of thing. But I had missed fish, had takes, been broken off twice due to poor knots, and not landed more than two in any one day. On the Saturday I put in a solid six hours and all I had to show for it was a missed follow. You know the thing where you pull the fly out of the mouth of a following fish, and watch it turn as it sees you. And you curse your stupidity for hours thereafter.  And that had been it.

Now, as I put the chairs down and resigned myself to a day of waiting out the stifling still weather, I saw one or two last bulges. Last remnants surely, of the morning’s minnow gluttony. My wife was still busy inside, so I found the box with minnow imitations in it, and tied one on. She still wasn’t out of the cottage yet, so I quickly threw all my stuff into the canoe, and leaving my water bottle under the tree, and wearing an old pair of crocs, I pushed off.   Just off the front lawn I dropped an anchor, and started casting a minnow imitation in the direction of one or two more swirls I had seen. The water was a pea soup of food. There were midges, and ants, and corixae and damselfly nymphs. Dragonflies darted over the water, swallows swooped, and the sun beat down mercilessly.

Nature would surely take a break any minute now and sit out the searing heat of day as I was about to do.

Then a fish grabbed the minnow strongly, and set off for open water. I raised the rod tip triumphantly, gathered the loose line, and got my mind in gear to fight a fierce fish, which was pulling line. That’s when my knot gave in.

When I had finished muttering and swearing and analysing the errors of my ways, and tying on a new minnow pattern, I looked up, and saw more fish were moving. I threw the minnow out again. I retrieved in a manner as alluring and enticing as I could conjure in the dead calm sticky conditions. I sucked the minnow back in, just under the surface, there under a burning white sun. More fish were rising now. Porpoising. I had a take on the minnow….just a tug, and then it was gone. I threw it again, but fish were porpoising everywhere now, so after a few casts I changed to a midge. That was when fish started cartwheeling into the sky. I quickly rigged the other rod with a caddis, and threw that out before retrieving the one with the midge on. The next five fish porpoised. I tied a sunk buzzer below the emerger I had on the five weight, and when three casts of the caddis drew no result, I put that back out. Now the fish were swirling. I looked at the water. There were copper beetles. I took the caddis off and threw it into the canoe, and tied on a beetle imitation. The fish were back to cartwheeling. I threw the beetle. A hundred fish swirled. Twenty porpoised. A dozen cartwheeled. I looked into the water beside the boat. Caenis; hoppers; beetles (Black and copper); one or two winged ants, midges. I put on a tiny ant imitation, throwing the buzzer and emerger in the boat.  I cast. The tops of my feet were burning.  I threw off the crocs and dug in my vest for sunscreen, which I rubbed on my feet. I cast the tube aside.  Fish were getting airborne again. My leader was sinking. I pulled it in and coated it in silicone paste, threw the tub in the boat, put the caddis back on and cast. I readied the other rod with a larger ant. The caddis was being ignored by fish that were taking insects either side of my line.  There were a lot more winged ants around now .

winged ant
The winged ant that was driving the trout crazy

The fish were going nuts now.  I pulled in the caddis, and started tying on ants. I needed more tippet. Fish were rising right beside the hull of the boat.I was battling to see the fine nylon, and my hands were shaking. “Andy!   Look behind you”, my wife shouted from the shore. “To hell with behind me” I muttered. The fish had practically been splashing water into the canoe for the last hour. “I Know!” I said politely. “Yes, but that fish is just rolling around on the surface continually” she said. Said she had never seen anything like it. My hands shook. I finally got both ants on, tossed the tippet spools in the hull, and threw the team out. This leader was sinking. I had treated the other one. I pulled it in, and went scrambling through the junk in the boat searching for the silicone paste.  Fish started porpoising again, and my ants went unnoticed.  I rigged the other rod with a big black DDD, and a few minutes later I cast that, and then changed the small ant on the point to a little black emerger. Threw the ant in the boat. Pulled in the DDD . Tossed the ant team. Fish were in the air again. I stood on the sun cream. Sweat ran down my neck. My line wrapped around a discarded croc. I kicked it away and I retrieved and threw again. My feet burned. Fish rose. The sun baked.

And then it happened.

To the tune of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” , sung by a choir of a hundred maidens, and with an orchestra in grandiose accompaniment playing in my mind, a small and gracious rainbow, porpoised over my large ant in slow motion. I raised the rod in celebration, the hook set, and the knot held.  My wife videoed from the shore. I took a photo.

The fish swam off. And the rise was over.

I paddled back, and tipped all the junk out of the boat to sort out later, and crawled gasping to the willow tree, croaking “water!”.  The lake  returned to the lifeless state of the past three days, The sun beat down hard,  and I sat under the tree, took off my sweaty hat and shook my head in disbelief.   

I wonder if this is what Isaak Walton had in mind when he said to “be quiet and go a angling”…


You name it

There are so many flies out there, that everything one invents has invariably been done before.

There was this one inspired by a friend of Fran Better’s Dad….one Eddie Lawrence of the Green Drake Club, who gave it to him, and which he passed on to Fran who refined it and named it as the “Haystack”.  (Info from HERE) . Then it was sort of copied  in Al Caucci’s  Compara Dun, and Bob Wyatt used a similar concept when he did his DHE (Deer Hair Emerger).

IMG_20191126_181623

 

I like and use the DHE. (also called the Berg Emerger as created by Peter Brigg), and since Marc Petitjean’s visits to South Africa in recent years, I have been encouraged to play around with CDC a lot more than I used to. In addition to that, I listened intently the other day when Hans Van Klinken described to us how his Klinkhammer actually floats using the wing, not the hackle, which aids in its low float. A low float is what a DHE does, and it does it with deer hair. CDC would help it to stay there and not sink, right?  And that bum that hangs in the water….why not weigh it down with a disused shuck, using the stillborn/stuck-shuck concept.

Petitjean numbers his flies. Everyone else names them.  (normally after themselves….even I have done that)  There just isn’t enough space for new names. So here is a nameless thing :

CDCdhe (5 of 38)

Features:

  • an oversize wing in both CDC and deer hair, so that it will float and so that you can see it.
  • A scraggly, sparkly, semi submerged thorax with a bit more CDC in there to help it stay up.
  • A butt that sinks, and  represents a midge that just couldn’t wriggle out of its skin.

Here is the tie:

You will need this stuff:

CDCdhe (1 of 38)

Start with that hook, which needs to be this sort of shape, and note  that it has to be barbless…you will see why later:

 

CDCdhe (7 of 38)

Now choose some Klipspringer or similar white deer hair, stack it in a 9mm cartridge (see how that stacker alongside is just too big?) , and tie it in facing forward over the eye of the hook.

CDCdhe (8 of 38)CDCdhe (9 of 38)CDCdhe (10 of 38)

Now get yourself some white CDC, and tie it in behind the deer hair wing.  I do it like this:

 

CDCdhe (11 of 38)CDCdhe (12 of 38)

 

Note that I prefer to use some common foam in place of Marc Petitjeans little table thing. Sorry Marc…I just like the foam better, but hey, the clear clip is the best!

Then I push it down with a needle until I can grab the bunch in my fingers and release it from the clip. I am afraid I don’t own that fancy tool that does this, but a needle works:

CDCdhe (13 of 38)CDCdhe (14 of 38)

OK…now tie it in:

CDCdhe (15 of 38)CDCdhe (16 of 38)

Now strip a peacock herl, and then tie it in here:

CDCdhe (17 of 38)CDCdhe (18 of 38)

Note that I wound the silk right down to the very end of that exposed hook, but only tied in the peacock herl about a third of the way up.  Now wind the herl forward and tie off, so that you have the top two thirds or so of the body wound with a herl, and the lower third as bare silk, like this:

CDCdhe (19 of 38)

Now, whip finish and take the fly out of the J Vice. Now get yourself some hollow tube ….I use larva lace……something just off totally transparent:

 

CDCdhe (21 of 38)

And with a blade, split about half of the piece you have cut, like this:

CDCdhe (22 of 38)CDCdhe (23 of 38)

Remember I said the hook has to be barbless?  Here’s why:

Slide the tubing over the point, in-tact end first (split piece trailing):

CDCdhe (24 of 38)

Before pressing the tube all the way, stop at about the point indicated above, and wet the exposed silk with superglue or UV glue. If you are going to be fishing this pattern with Hans Van Klinken, and assuming you are honest, I recommend you use the UV glue.  This is because when you catch a fish, Hans disallows it in the scoring when caught on the superglue version , based on the fact that to glue flies with superglue, just isn’t cricket (or fly tying).

Anyway, once you have wet that slender portion of silk (no more…use tiny quantities….), slide the tube up to where the wraps of stripped herl start:

CDCdhe (25 of 38)

Now place the hook back in the vice and put a thin layer of UV glue on the stripped herl body to strengthen it and give it translucence:

CDCdhe (26 of 38)

Then start the silk again between the wing and the body, and form a dubbing loop ready for spinning, and once done, get out your CDC tools and put some low quality, sparse, scraggly  CDC into the slot. In this case I am using black.  Then put the clip on it, but in the case of a small fly, like this one (#16), pull the clip back so as to just grab the ends of the fibres , as a means of getting slighty shorter fibres trapped in the clip:

CDCdhe (27 of 38)CDCdhe (28 of 38)

Now, get your dubbing.  I never use dubbing straight from a packet. Its against my laws.  I have to mix.  Here I mix various spikey black dubbings, with some very sparkly ice-dub or similar.

CDCdhe (29 of 38)

Now, pull a very sparse skein of dubbing, like you would do if you were going to place some dubbing in a dubbing loop, but even more sparse than if you were going to do that, and place it atop the protruding ends of CDC in the clip like this:

CDCdhe (30 of 38)

Now get it into your dubbing loop , and spin:

CDCdhe (31 of 38)CDCdhe (32 of 38)

Now wind that brush behind, and later, in front of the wing, and then tie off at the eye:

CDCdhe (33 of 38)

Then form a head, and whip finish etc.  Now swing your J Vice upside down, and carefully trim everything below the shank, like this: 

CDCdhe (35 of 38)CDCdhe (36 of 38)

Notice how I have taken particular care to cut away any dubbing and CDC that pointed rear of the thorax.

This is so that the fly will sit right down in the water, with its front high and its backside low.

Here is the finished product:

CDCdhe (38 of 38)

CDCdhe (3 of 38)

CDCdhe (6 of 38)

If you like it, you are welcome to name it. One day maybe I will attend a fly tying workshop, and you can tell me its new name and show me how to tie it.

PS. Yes, it does catch fish.


The Duckfly Hog Hopper

hog hopper (1 of 1)-2

I discovered this pattern just recently in an excellent video by Davie McPhail.

You tube video by Davie McPhail

I liked it instantly.  It ticks a lot of boxes for me. It is light and springy. It could be one of several things: A cranefly, a small hopper, a half hatched cripple, a hatching midge, and just about anything else your imagination can muster. Exactly what you want in a searching pattern.

The  one in the video is on a #12. That is rather big for me, unless it is the hopper you have chosen from the list above, so I tied my first ones on a #16. To start with I made a beginner’s mistake by trying to put on similar quantities of material to that evident in the video. The result was an overdressed fly:

Hog Hopper (2 of 2)

Notice how it looks bulky, and lacks that sparse, buggy, springy feel that one should be after? 

The smaller one is better off with a single CDC feather , and just a sprinkling of deer hair fibres. I think I could even trim the dressing more than I have done in the picture at the top of this page.  Take a look at McPhail’s one again:

Duckfly Hog Hopper

The colour combinations that you could try are endless. I put a spotter post of yarn on one, and left the wing off another.

hog hopper (5 of 8)hog hopper (7 of 8)

hog hopper (1 of 1)-3

I contemplated converting it to a parachute pattern. But just as you can’t have bacon on everything, I realised I was bastardising the pattern beyond what was reasonable, and I reverted to something closer to the original.

This one is tied on a klinkhamer style hook, and with longer more gangly legs, so that it is somewhat more of a cranefly:

hog hopper (4 of 8)

If you have a look at “Sedgehog” patterns, and the “Duckfly” (an Irish midge pattern), you will see where this pattern came from. To Davie McPhail:  hats off to you! I think you have a winner here.

I read somewhere that creativity is the art of putting existing ideas together, that no one has ever thought to put together before.  This pattern is a truly creative one. I look forward to putting it over some fish.