The Mountain Dam Midge is not so much a pattern but a process I developed in conjunction with Alan Hobson whose pioneering work on Somerset East’s municipal dam will, I believe, substantially increase catch rates in future for those who fish dams for trout and yellowfish.
This is my go-to Stillwater fly and as we approach winter, I thought I would share it with the fly fishing community. I call it the Red Eyed Roach. It’s a cross between a papa roach and a red eyed damsel and to say the least it’s awesome. You can fish it as a nymph on a size 8 dry or in a stream on a size 12 dry, it is just so versatile.
I can hardly claim this pattern as my own. Like most flies really, this is an amalgamation and, to my mind at least, somewhat of a simplification, of a bunch of similar inventions you’ve likely already seen. The fly has a lot less to do with being a “Damsel”, that is, a damselfly nymph (which it only loosely resembles anyway), and more with being a very versatile, unweighted nymph/streamer pattern, or just “damn useful”.
During the final stage of the Mayfly’s lifecycle, the spinners possess a quality of beauty and delicacy. Their up-and-down mating dances vary in tempo, stream location, species and water type. But, when the party is over, the spent flies alight, falling like tiny snowflakes to the water, dying, wings spread wide.
The trout look up.
It’s not the first time a leach pattern has been tied, that’s for sure! I have tried many, but for us, none have been as deadly as this. It is a large source of protein and we certainly never fished them enough.Read more>>
The Crafty Roach came about out of necessity rather than by design. On a trip to Highland Lodge in the Eastern Cape, I ran out of Olive Rabbit fur strips to make some Pappa Roaches. I found some olive Craft fur in my travel kit and started playing around with the early version of the crafty Roach. On its first trip out the next day my client John and I were well rewarded with some great fishing and took fifteen rainbows between 4 and 6 pounds in a morning session. The pattern has been changed and modified slightly from the original to the pattern I am presenting to you in this piece. This final version has taken a number of great rainbows and a few browns over the last few years. I fish the Roach primarily in Olive and black but you can play around with other colours.
I’ve always considered parachute patterns to be great. From a design perspective they’re absolutely brilliant. They float well, they present well, they don’t twist fine tippets, they hook fish well due to a totally exposed hook gape and they don’t need too much maintenance in the fishing situation. They’re probably as user friendly as a fishing fly gets!
The only area where I think they lack in is the mobility department. Genetic hackle is quiet stiff. Great if you’re fishing in faster water where fish don’t have lengthy periods of time to eyeball the fly out, but sometimes these stiffer flies will get rejected, particularly in slower lower water.
In these situations cdc is the answer.
Most people will attribute its effectiveness to its fantastic floatation and movement properties, combined with how nicely and softly it presents. It does all of that yes, but that, to my mind, is not where the real magic with this stuff lies.
One of the things about the dynamic of CDC fibres interacting with the water’s surface and in the film, is the way that light plays on the mix of the fibres, tiny hairs and air bubbles , which creates an optical, visual footprint that looks near identical to that that forms around real insects trapped in the film.
The end result is that the fish sees something that’s already imprinted on its brain, a food trigger that screams something alive and trapped in the film. CDC does this better than any other material I know of. I’m not surprised that is as effective at fooling fish as it is!
The only major issue with cdc is that it is cumbersome to maintain in the fishing situation requiring lots of love and care to keep afloat after multiple fish. Not a problem if the fishing is slow but if it’s fireworks one doesn’t exactly want to be wasting time padding flies down with toilet paper and powder after every fish. You want to be fishing!
To this end I started playing around with the idea of combining genetic hackle and cdc, The idea being that the hackle and cdc give you the best qualities of both materials all in one fly. That’s basically how “The best of Both” was born.
The fly proved to be a cracker too. On its first outing to Lesotho it caught fish with the regularity of a metronome. Conditions had not been ideal with lower and slower flows. The fish were holed up in pools for the most part and were extremely cagey.
I remember sitting next to a big pool late one afternoon. The odd mayfly had started coming off. The fishing had been tough with plenty of fish visibly rejecting our flies. Tim Rolston had caught the odd fish but considering the pool was packed with fish it wasn’t great.
I rummaged through my box and found something that matched the mayflies that were coming off. I tied on a “Best of Both’ and cast it out. Seven casts later I had seven fish.
The day before I’d fish with him and had a terrible day. He’d caught plenty of fish whilst I had battled. “I know I’m kak”, I’d said to Tim. “You’re not kak”, came the reply, “just inefficient”.
Rolston by now was probably wondering what the hell was going on. He gently walked over. I just smiled.
“What are you using?” he asked.
“A Fly that is very efficient”, I replied. We both laughed.
I handed him one and after that Tim and I couldn’t go wrong. I think we caught something like 3 dozen fish in the space of an hour. We walked back to the bakkie in the dark. It felt good.
Since then the Best of Both has become a permanent feature in my fly box and has continued to work as hard as it did in Lesotho.
Hook : Grip 11001 # 14 Dry Fly
Thread: 14/0 Brown
Body: Chocolate Brown Ring Neck Pheasant
Hackle: Brown (I’m using a Metz Cape)
Ribbing: 0.1 mm Copper Wires
Wing: Natural Deer Hair / Natural elk
This is a basic zonker streamer that I tied to catch some of our larger freshwater predatory fish. The colour combo is based on other effective streamers, especially tigerfish streamers, used across Africa. I’ve only been fishing it for a few months and it has already proven to be quite effective for catching spotted and smallmouth bass, yellowfish and tigerfish.
The RAB and depending in the company present, is either referred to as the Red Arsed Bastard or otherwise the Rough and Buoyant. It is arguably South Africa’s most iconic dry fly, having been tried and tested over time and remains as popular today, as it was when it was first tied by its creator, Tony Biggs. The RAB is a distinctive impressionistic pattern with unique tying procedure that in Tony’s own words, “seldom are any two flies tied alike in appearance, even when identical materials are used”. He always preferred to use natural materials like silk, feathers and hair.
The fly shown in the steps is my variant and while I prefer to use a mix of materials from the original tying, I have changed the tying procedure to simplify it.
Hook: #10 Gamakatsu S10 (Essential as it is so sharp)
Thread: 14/0 Black
Weight: 0.010 lead wire (or less wraps of a thicker lead)
Tail: Half Yellow filoplume and half Orange filoplume (the fluffy feathers at the base of a saddle hackle)
Flash: Red fluoro fiber
Base: Green wool, split into 4
Body: Light Olive/Coffee Variegated chenille (The other mixes work well too)
Hackle: Grizzly hackle (softer the better, with a gradual taper) Fibers NOT more than 1mm longer then the gape of the hook
Ribbing: Medium Copper wire
This pattern has been taken from The Flytyers Companion by Mike Davies.
TYING THE DDD
A useful dry fly for lake and river fishing, a good DDD needs some care and attention to tie properly. It also needs practice and it’s not easy to just sit down and tie your first DDD just right. I’ve been doing them for years and if I’ve been away from my tying desk for a couple of weeks the first few I tie always end up looking like fresh windscreen kills.
What you will need to tie this fly
You want a standard wet fly hook in size 8 to 12 (1X long shank preferably) for lakes and down to size 14 for streams. Because I often fish DDDs in lakes with seriously large trout in them, I tie the odd large patterns, say size 8 (occasionally size 6), on extra-heavy wire, wet fly hooks.
Kevlar thread in pale tan, yellow or olive is helpful for the strength it brings, but you can get by with 6/0 UNI-Thread. Use a patch of coarse deer hair, or Klipspringer. It’s interesting to compare the differences in Klipspringer pelts and I always try to use one with stronger markings, particularly for the tail. Klipspringer hair dyed yellow is very attractive and I tie most of my DDDs with dyed yellow hair.
Different klipspringer pelts
Dyed yellow klipspringer pelt
I sometimes add piece of pearl Krystal Flash (or equivalent) tied at right angles to the hook shank just ahead of the trimmed body and behind the hackle.
If you decide to use cock hackle at the collar then choose a wide hackle and tie it in fairly dense. I used to mix grizzly and brown, but of late I stick to hair collar hackles.
I think that the evolution of this fly is interesting in itself; whilst fishing for three spot pompano (wave trevally or wave garrick) off the coast of the Transkei I commented on the number of plough shells surfing up the beach with the tide. I had never heard of anyone copying them or even using them as bait, but as I said to my fishing companion at the time, “with this many about, something must eat them”.Read more>>
Hook: #8 Hanak BL400 Jig
Thread: 6/0 Brown
Eyes: SM/M bead chain
Tail: Pine squirrel – Sculpin Olive
Flash: Chartreuse fluoro fiber
Base: Green wool
Body: Olive brown seal fur
Body wrap: French Tinsel SM
Stomach: Sheep wool / White Antron
The reasons for the use of the Hanak jig hook
1) Long and barbless
3) Swims upside down with bead chain eyes and therefore hooks less weed and rock!
Start by building a base for the eyes but ensure that you only cover the first 10% of the hook.
Tie in the eyes onto the bend of the jig. Use head cement to ensure they are secure. Once completed whip finish it off and cut the thread.
Cut off a length of squirrel, double the length of the shank, ensuring you only cut the skin and not the fur.
With the fur pointing backward pierce it- skin first. Ensure you pierce it in the centre to avoid it tearing. Pull the strip forward to move it out the way. Wetting it helps split it and makes it easier to work with.
Attach the thread to the back end of the shank.
Bring the zonker strip backward and tie it in. Then tie in the fluoro fiber on either side of the tail
Tie in the French Tinsel
Tie in the wool and build up a body.
Dub the body and tie in the tinsel with even segmentation
Flip the fly over for the next step…
Form a loop of antron which will be tied between the dubbing and the zonker strip.
Tie in just behind the eyes and apply head cement.
Using hackle pliers, grab hold of the zonker strip and pull it firmly over the Antron loop and tie in behind the eyes
Cut off the tag under the eyes and prepare to dub over the exposed cotton to finish off the head.
And there we have it, the completed Salmo Taddy in swimming position.
In the 1880's the Cahill was created by a New York railroad worker called Daniel Cahill.
This is a saltwater pattern for blacktail/dassie by Gary Grobler of the Port Elizabeth Fly Tyers Guild.
Winter is finally here in the KZN Midlands and with that means crystal clean, cold water, with limited insect life. That been said you will still find midge hatches. Best match the hatch then!
The above naturals are endemic to our South African inland rivers. More especially to the faster shallow rock-strewn waters. In their larval stage, caddis are a juicy ‘one-stop shop’ for trout, yellowfish and any other larger freshwater species inhabiting these types of stream and/or river. In the Western Cape micro-environment, case-building caddis larvae predominate. In fishing terms, what that means is the caddis there build their own ‘duvets’ with bits of sand, gravel or vegetation and they can wander around albeit somewhat hampered by the weight of their ‘shell’.Read more>>
When I’m not fishing mainly Natal Fly Fishers Club waters, I spend the rest of my fishing time on one of South Africa’s finest stillwaters, Highmoor. At just over 2000m above sea level, it is wetland fed and about as pure as one could imagine. The water remains cool and crystal clear throughout the year, supporting enormous populations of tadpoles, caddis, mayfly and midge.Read more>>
A brownie caught on the fly in the Mooi, Lower Riverside.
This is a very simple fly! It was borne out of a desire to get a small dark nymph down deep in fast river water. The nymphs that we traditionally fished always had tails with a few too many fibres in them, and bodies and thoraxes with air trapping dubbing. In an attempt to remove trapped air, get a slim profile, add a lot of weight, and keep some movement to the fly, Andrew Fowler arrived at the following adaptations to his usual river nymphs to create the Troglodyte:
Hobson’s Original Tadpole is an imitation of the tadpole stage of the life cycle of the Platana, Xenopus Laevis, commonly known as the African Clawed frog, which occurs prolifically throughout our water systems in Southern Africa.
The Platana is one of the greatest food sources in our still waters, because of their ability to adapt to localized conditions. Their instinctive urge for survival means they are very adept at breeding at every opportunity, usually after heavy rains, be it winter or summer. Each female can lay up to one thousand eggs at a time and can repeat this every month. Thus they become an all year- round food source available in huge numbers. Metamorphosis from a tadpole into an adult frog takes 49 – 64 days. As the tadpole develops it is a good idea to match the size of the tadpole in the water, thus we tie it up in three different sizes. These flies produce big fish, hence we now tie the fly on the extremely strong Daiichi or Gamakatsu Octopus Carp hooks with a wide gape.
This fly is one of my Go-To flies for late winter/early spring. I fish it in tandem as my point fly, with a red-headed Diawl Bach. I generally use a floating line with a 12 – 15 foot leader, stripped moderately fast.