Natural Flies for Fly Fishing: Miscellaneous Insects
The artificial Hawthorn is a mystery fly. The natural has a short season. It is easily mistaken, however, for such species as Black Gnat and Heather Fly, which may explain why the artificial Hawthorn kills fish throughout the summer.
There are several tyings for the Hawthorn. The following is probably as good as any:
Body: Black floss silk dressed slim
Hackle: Black hen
As athe above pattern can be usefully modified by adding a few turns of white cock hackle at the throat, thus making the fly a `bi-visible’.
The Alder (or Orl Fly) is another mystery fly. It makes its appearance in early summer and looks rather like a medium-sized sedge. It hatches on land but crawls about on vegetation near the water.
Do fish feed on the natural Alder? There seems to be real doubt, for there have been frequent reports of Alders falling into the water and failing to stir the interest of fish. The artificial, however, does catch fish — perhaps due to its sedge-like appearance.
A simple pattern is :
Body: Peacock herl dyed claret
Hackle: Black hen — two turns
The Coch-y-bondhu is said to be the red and black beetle familiar on Welsh mountainsides in early summer. Breezes often carry the flying beetles over the water in great numbers. The traditional artificial is deservedly famous, for it is probably the best beetle-impression ever devised, and trout are very fond of beetles.
Body: Peacock herl dressed oval in a plane parallel to the hook-bend
Hackle: Hen coch-y-bondhu (black centre, red tip)
Tail: Bend of hook wound with flat gold tinsel
Hook: 10s, 12s and 14s
A Coch-y-bondhu with a body ribbed with flat gold makes a good fly for sea-trout and a splendid top-dropper for summer lake fishing.
One Welsh expert prefers long-fibred cock coch-y-bondhu hackles instead of the above.
A variation of Coch-y-bondhu, known as Cochyn, is popular on the Usk. The following is a great dressing:
Body: Green peacock herl
Hackle: Dark RIR hen, long in the fibre
Hook: 6s and 8s
This fly has been given a lot of attention over the years, probably too much. It is a small blackish fly with pale wings, rather like a dimunitive house-fly. A small Hawthorn makes a satisfactory artificial.
There are at least as many species of lake flies as there are flies of the river. While some flies frequent both still and running water this is certainly not always the case, as C. F. Walker has shown. Opinions are still divided on whether to simulate actual lake species or to use traditional patterns which were adopted, presumably, merely because they caught fish. The choice is open. Nevertheless it is useful to have a working knowledge of lake insects, since at times fish most certainly do feed on one specific species.
Pond Olives are day-flies. They are found throughout the season in nearly all clean, still water. The fly is about 8 mm (5/16 in) long, and has a dark olive body and bluish wings, although some specimens have reddish or orange bodies. The spinner stage has an orange body and colourless wings.
A good pattern on warm dull days is the Orange Partridge.
In the late evening a spinner pattern may be fished dry. The following tie is useful:
Body: Hot orange floss silk ribbed with fine gold wire
Hackle: Honey cock
This has a shorter season than the Pond Olive, with which it is often confused. The best dry imitation is a Red Spinner dressed to rather a large hook. There are several wet dressings to simulate the dun, but I find that a Rough Olive pattern does as well as anything.
There are many other species of lake day-flies but the above two are the most generally useful to the angler.
On many sheets of still water, especially lowland reservoirs, a familiar feature of the fly-life are the long-legged midges of the genus Chironomus. These bizarre-looking creatures — like flies on stilts — sit around the margins of Blagdon Chew Valley, and other reservoirs in vast numbers. They have no dun stage. At Blagdon they are known as ‘Buzzers’ or ‘Racehorses’.
Fish feed freely on the pupal stage. The chironomid pupae hang from the water-surface before hatching and the big trout cruise around sucking them in. I have seen Chew Lake boil with big trout feeding in this way.
A lot of ingenuity has gone into devising patterns to simulate Biwer pupae, but there are so many different species and they have such different colouration that it is almost anyone’s guess what the fish are taking. The angler who carries red- and green-bodied pupae will probably do as well as those who try to simulate each variety.
Here is an effective simple pattern:
Body: Red (or green) floss silk wound from round the bend of the hook to the shoulder
Thorax: Two turns of peacock hen
Legs: A single turn of soft black hen
Pheasant Tail Nymph
This simplest ofwas invented along with several others by Frank Sawyer. It resembles the larvae of many ephemerids and is extremely easy to tie. It consists of copper fuse wire and the long reddish fibres from a cock pheasant tail feather wound together round the shank of a size 14-10 hook. Tips of the feathers are left protruding above the bend to resemble the tail. The pheasant tail is bunched up then tied down with wire at the front end to represent wing cases. No hackle or legs are necessary. Lead foil can be added under the dressing to make the nymph sink.
These insects — the Lesser Water Boatmen — are oval, bug-like creatures with a pair of legs like paddles, which swim below the surface. They should not be confused with Water-skaters, which live on the surface.
Some anglers report success with yellow seal’s fur bodies ribbed with broad silver to simulate the air-bubbles that cling to this insect’s body.
These are the main groups of natural lake flies of interest to anglers. There is of course some overlapping between lake and river fauna. The Coch-y-bondhu for example is as likely to fall into a stream as into a lake; so too with the Alder.
Although the study of lake flies is very interesting it should be made clear that most anglers catch most of their fish on artificials and lures which bear little relationship to real insects. However, more will be said about this in the section on TROUT fishing.