Fly Tying: Sedge Flies
The sedge-flies, or caddis flies, offer the angler exciting and interesting fishing. Even the biggest trout, fish which have long fallen into the reprehensible habit of eating nothing but small trout and minnows, will rise to a sedge.
The sedge begins life as a larva living on the river-bed in a tube made of silk, to which is attached a variety of materials such as sand, tiny twigs, and gravel. On rivers fished by the writer, trout stuff themselves with sedge-larvae, especially in the spring. Fortunately, the immense number of larvae prevents their extinction from this cause. I calculate that a typical pool on the Teifi may be supporting anything up to 10,000 sedge in their cases.
Although there are 185 sedge-fly species in Britain only a very few are of particular interest to the angler. Fish are usually caught on what might be called ‘generalized sedge-suggesting patterns’. A few species, however, are worth suggesting by more specific dressings.
Broadly speaking, sedges are flies of the summer; the ones most useful to the angler are those which hatch in the evenings. Sedges love humidity; damp warm air is their delight. Dry air whether warm or cold — they dislike. Evenings of very fine misty rain or humid nights with a hint of thunder in the offing are the ones on which to expect heavy sedge hatches.
The angler experienced at fishing the sedge knows what to look for. The swirl of a good fish at dusk on a damp evening as described is a sure sign that sedges are hatching. And that means that one of the best opportunities in fishing is on offer.
The sedges most familiar to the angler are: Grannom, Great Red Sedge, Cinnamon Sedge, Grey Sedge, Brown Silver-horn, and Silver Sedge.
Specific sedge patterns will now be considered. Many of these are of day-flying sedges, for a trout’s power of discrimination of course wanes at the onset of darkness.
Grannom are the earliest of the sedges to appear, usually hatching towards the end of April on a mild wet day. The angler will suddenly observe hundreds of small ash-coloured flies weaving and circling low over the water and banks. Nearly every trout in the river will be busy feeding.
Observation persuades me that fish take the Grannom at the instant of eclosion, ie. as it frees itself from its nymphal shuck and flies off the water.
Here is a traditional pattern for the hatching Grannom:
Body: Mole’s fur dyed a dark green in picric acid
Hackle: Two light brown partridge neck feathers
In practice a simple hackled March Brown often does nearly as well. Fished deep, trout probably mistake it for the ascending pupa. Thus :
Body: Dark rabbit fur ribbed with finest gold wire
Hackle: Brown partridge
Grannom are also known as `Greentails’, since the females develop a bluish-green cluster of eggs. Some anglers like a small amount of bluish floss silk to suggest this feature.
There are several sedges of this name, all of them very common in summer and widely distributed. The most useful of the group for the angler is perhaps the brown variety, for which almost any sort of small brown-hackled fly can be used.
Some species of Grey Sedge are not unlike the Grannom although they appear much later, being flies of June and July. On warm fine evenings trout and sometimes sea-trout can be seen feeding greedily on Grey Sedge, at the margins of the pools, and especially beneath bushes. Various patterns have been suggested, none of which I have found entirely satisfactory. Harris suggests a grey fur body, grizzled dun hackle, and woodcock wing. Thomas Clegg once tied me some with a woodcock wing and a mixed seal’s fur body, which did quite well.
Cinnamon and Great Red Sedges
These are the classic sedges of the chalk-waters. They are also the largest. The Silver March Brown generalized pattern gives fair results as a, but for the dry-fly fisher there is little to beat a well-hackled Red Palmer.
The Silver Sedge, as the name suggests, is a silvery fly with ginger legs. In the summer, on lakes, it can save the angler’s day. Watch for it hatching in the quiet sunlit water around weed-beds.
Here is a useful wet pattern:
Body: Two strands of wool, one plain and one lemon. Lay together and wind down the hook
Wing: Silver-grey mallard
Hackle: Reddish-brown partridge or red cock
On some lakes there is a sedge, related to the Silverhorns, whose mottled wings suggest the mottled plumage of a grouse. A rare example, this, of a fly being named after the fly-dressing material used to simulate it.
Here is a typical dressing :
Body: Maroon silk ribbed with finest gold wire
Wing: A slip of grouse tail fibres, rolled
Hackle: Red cock wound in front of wing