Flyvolution: The Big Daddy

Flyvolution is the term I use for how a fly pattern changes over time. My flies are constantly changing and improving as I become a better fly tyer, and a better fisherman. All patterns today have their roots in some other pattern that came before and all flies borrow ideas from other patterns. The patterns that I mainly use are my own designs or modifications of other more well know patterns. I like to think they are fairly unique, well at least unique enough to name most of them. My flyvolution story starts with one particular fly that has served me so well over the years, the Big Daddy.

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Over the last 15 years or so I have had only one dry fly in my box. I know I have a few other flies that I tie for fun, but almost all my dry fly fishing has been with one fly, the Big Daddy. I “invented” the Big Daddy while in my first year at Stellenbosch and it proved to be a very effective fish catcher in all the Cape streams that I frequented, namely the Jan Du Toits, Witels, and the Eerste. It out fished all other Dry flies that my mates used on the Cape streams, or at least it caught as many fish. In all my days our fishing I have never felt that anyone had a more effective dry fly than me and so I’ve never bothered to change too much. It was the only dry fly I used in New Zealand and it worked well there too. I have used it with success in other countries such as Scotland, Norway, Kenya, and obviously in Lesotho. I would never claim it’s better than any other dry fly, but it works and it’s pretty enough to catch fisherman too.

The Big Daddy was my go to dry fly up until last year when I attended a fly tying course of Gordon Van der Spuys. I learned a lot of very cool techniques which has taken my tying to another level. I now have a about 4 or 5 dry flies that I often fish, and I reckon that I have genuinely improved my success compared to when I just used my standard old Big Daddy on every single trip. Most of my dries that I now use have kept some of the same important triggers that made the Big Daddy so effective, such as a deerhair body, and a hot spot but they have very different profiles to suggest different insects.

The main use for the Big Daddy is now in my NZ style Dry fly Dropper rig. I tried using some of my other flies such as my Hopper and Para-Daddy, but they tend to land on their sides or upside down when they have a dropper nymph attached to the fly. The good old Big Daddy still has its place in my box with its simple Catskill design as it doesn’t matter which way up it lands, it always looks good.

The Big Daddy is a cross between two of South Africa’s most famous dry flies, the DDD and the RAB. I have tried to combine the best of both into one fly. A long bushy hackle like on a RAB, a chunky deerhair body (though more slender than a DDD), and a hot spot like in a RAB except it’s much brighter. If you were to look at it and describe it you would say it’s a bushy hackled DDD with a hot spot. I tie it mainly in size 10 to 16, with a size 12 being my favourite size.

The DDD was my first dry fly I ever tied when back in junior school and I caught my first fish on a dry fly using a DDD. It has the great attributes of natural buoyancy from the deerhair and a chunky look that just shouts BUG to a hungry trout. I will never forget the day when I caught my first fish on a dry fly. It was in Sehlabathebe National Park when I was in about grade 7 and I hiked down to the lower reaches of the Tsoelikane River where it meanders endlessly across a vast floodplain. I had just read Tom Sutcliffes book, My Way with a Trout, and I was dying to try out my newly tied DDD’s. They were messy contraptions but extremely effective. I must have caught 50 fish that day and lost hundreds! The river was teeming with small fish and it seemed that every cast I had a take. What a day it was for a 12 year old boy, out in the middle of nowhere and catching fish on almost every cast.

Throughout high school is used the DDD almost exclusively until I discovered the RAB. After successfully using the RAB on a few fishing trips I decided the DDD was in need of an overhaul, and so the Big Daddy was born. It originally had wings and knotted legs like a daddy long legs, but that was a mission to tie, so I started simplifying the fly and landed up with what I now use.

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