It’s been something that I have been meaning to put together for a while. The flies I will share are either my own creation or a modification of other well known patterns. None of them are found in any fly shop and most of them wouldn’t find their way into any guides fly box due to many of them being from the department of “fisherman catchers”. Being a “fisherman catcher” doesn’t mean that they don’t catch fish, it just means that they are cosmetically pleasing beyond what the fish would care about. I tie flies for fun, so for me it’s important to fish with something I like to look at and is fun to tie. You may think that for a small stream collection that they are on the large side? That may be, but these have served me extremely well over the years. Seeing as I pretty much only fish streams, these are my only flies I really ever use.
I strive to get as much bugginess and movement into my flies as possible. Most of my flies suggest a meal, rather than being imitative. I am under no illusion that they are any better than any other fly out there. If any fly can be truly called an invention then most of these are my “invention” which is why I like using them. All half decent flies will catch lots of fish if presented well, so you might as well come up with your own “inventions”, just for the hell of it. They are quite an unusual fly selection with a few glaring omissions. The most notable omissions are probably a caddis and an emerger of any sorts. Maybe I could have caught more fish at times but there haven’t been many occasions where I have been skunked by a particular fish. The trout that inhabit the streams where I fish are opportunistic feeders as opposed to selective feeders and that probably goes for most river fish. How many times does it happen that the fishing is dead and after several fly changes we hit success. It happens often. I reckon that most of those occasions, it is merely the fish coming on the bite, rather than your fly change making the difference. I find that a change in retrieve or depth of your fly is more likely to make a difference than a fly change.
The following flies are pretty much all I have used over the last 15 years since i really started developing my own patterns. There are many new flies in my box that I haven’t yet had the chance to use. Over the last year my fishing opportunities have been limited with the drought and a new family and so lots of my newer creations are still awaiting trial. Obviously I have a pile of flies that stay home awaiting their turn or waiting to be cut up so I can re-use the hook. The following patterns are what I reckon is all I need for a day on the stream. There are probably only 6 flies that have caught 95% of my fish over the years and I would never go fishing without them. They will be marked as my essentials. 3 wet flies and 4 dry flies. Then I have thrown in a few other flies that are in my box but that I hardly ever use or haven’t ever used them.
Essential No. 1 : The Basuthu Basher
I have written a whole blog post on this fly. It has been my go to fly for any still water or big pool in a river. It has accounted for almost every single fish of mine of any significant size over the last 15 years. I tie the fly with some weight so it has a relatively fast sink rate. My most common sizes are a #6 to 8. I sometimes use a smaller # 10 for streams but I find that a bigger fly is more effective. I fish it on a floating line using a jerkey and erratic retrieve interspersed with a few long pauses. It’s also effective if you swing it round in the current as you would swing a wet fly. The Basher often induces very aggressive takes so be alert.
Essential No. 2: Basuthu Bugger
Of late I have been using this deadly fly more than the Basuthu Basher. I can’t say why, maybe just for a change of scenery. I tie it on sizes #14 to # 8. The smaller ones I will use nymphing with an indicator, and the bigger ones will be more of a prospecting fly in the bigger pools of a stream. I use a slow jerkey retrieve. I find that the odd sharp jerk as the fly drifts downstream seems to induce more takes than a dead drift.
Essential No. 3: Pheasant and Vole Nymph
Other General Nymphs and Wet Flies
I am a fanatical dry fly fisherman and so nymphs are something I reluctantly resort to if the fish are not obliging. Most of my biggest fish have been taken on a wet fly or nymph of sorts but I don’t fish for numbers, or trophies. I am not a fan of using multiple wet flies. I have fished with friends who have been using 2 or even 3 nymphs while I have just used a single nymph. I have yet to see it improve their strike rate above mine. Apart from being a challenge to cast several wet flies on a light rod, it makes for clumsy presentation compared to a single fly. I used to use a dry/dropper rig as my standard rig, but I now tend to fish either dry or nymph. I don’t often fish rivers that are big enough to justify wading and high sticking so I don’t have any European style nymphs for that technique. I have just never learned those techniques and so in that regard I am a bit old school.
. Essential No. 4: The Big Daddy
This is my old favourite dry fly. The pattern is inspired by the two most iconic dry flies from this country, the RAB and the DID. For a good 10 years this was pretty much the only dry fly I ever used. Either as an indicator fly or alone. I thought that my newer patterns would make this fly redundant, but I soon realised the value of a good buoyant dry fly tied in a Catskill style. It’s main use is as an indicator fly with a small nymph tied to the shank. This small nymph makes the fly land the wrong way up very often, so it’s better to have a fly that’s more or less symmetrical. I don’t like my hopper or spider patterns to sit on their side when using them as an indicator, it happens often enough that I have abandoned the hopper/dropper idea.
Essential No. 5: The Bungezi Beetle
The Bungezi Beetle is a great looking pattern with almost no track record. I came up with the pattern this last summer and due to my lack of time on the water it hasn’t yet been fully tested. I have actually only fished it once. I sight casted to 4 Brown trout and I hooked and landed 3 with one refusal. So its off to a great start but I can’t really say much about it other than its my favourite looking fly in my box. I have fiddled around and tied them in all sorts of shape, size and colour. The ones with a skinnier body can definitely pass as a hopper pattern. So if I’m in doubt as whether to fish a beetle or a hopper, then I will most probably use a skinny Bungezi.
Essential No. 6: Para-Daddy
This has been my go to dry fly over the last season. It is basically a Para-RAB head on my Big Daddy’s body. I have recently started tying them without a tail. The reason being that I think it’s effectiveness is due to it being a great spider imitation and so the thin tail I had on was probably not necessary. I have read lots about Leonard Flemings Wolf Spider and the effect it has on trout. The profile of this fly is very similar and I believe that for the same reason that fish go crazy for a Wolf Spider, they go crazy for my Para-Daddy. So I have taken off the tail to make it a simpler fly and I have added CDC to the hackle now. I have yet to fish my latest version, but I’m sure it will perform. The Para-Daddy is the fly I will put on as a searching dry pattern. It floats beautifully, is highly visible and presents very softly making it great fun to fish.
Essential No. 7: A Hopper
No fly box is complete without a hopper pattern. I had never fished a hopper pattern until last season and it’s definitely something I will always have on my box. A slender Bungezi Beetle will probably do the job, but I have tied loads of these fun hoppers and they did really well last season. They will be the 6th fly in my essential patterns. I tie them in a size 10 to size 14.
An assortment of CDC and parachute dry flies.
These flies are not on my essential list but have lots of them and they may come in handy one day, do there’s no harm throwing a few of them in, particularly the CDC versions. I have been enthralled by the use of CDC but I have yet to actually use it on the river in a big way. I just like tying with the stuff and the look it gives the fly. The reason I don’t use them more often is because they get wet and need TLC on the river. The CDC Parachutes above have the advantage of being able to put floatant on the halo hackle while leaving the rest of the fly alone. This should help it float without having to worry about the CDC getting wet, at least that’s the plan. We will see how they work out this next season.
My decisions on fly choice are fairly simple. I rather look at the colour of the water, weather, the colour of the rocks and surrounding vegetation and then take an educated guess as to what colour fly I should be using. (This usually results in me sticking on the same thing that worked last time) That’s not to say that as I fish, I don’t observe what the fish may be feeding on but I tend to observe far more around me than just the fishing. Growing up I was an avid birds egg collector, and I still take a lot of pleasure in finding birds nests along the river bank. I still find and collect the odd new species of birds egg to this day. So a day on the river is far more than about just catching fish. It’s a day of photography, exercise, birdwatching, and of course trying to spot fish before they see me. After all the above have been ticked off, then the catching of the fish is the cherry on top.
One day when I slow down a bit and stop obsessing about what’s around the next corner, then maybe I will make a point of learning more about these important goggas that make up the diet of a trout. For now time spent grovelling around in the river bed, turning over rocks and netting insects, could be spent on getting up around one more bend in the river.