Thursday, 29 September 2011

Stimulating a touch of the Irish!

Did Randall Kaufmann ever imagine his stonefly imitation would be revised by Irish lough fishers? I suspect not. Yet this is the case. His dry stimulator pattern has evoked a range of Irish wet fly variants, collectively labelled, 'Irish Stimulators', funny enough! The original orange body has been replaced with some quiensessiential Irish colours, fiery brown and sooty olive, for example. Moreover, to provide the wet-fly touch, the cock hackles have been replaced with cock saddles or even hen. These variants are used on loughs as part of a three fly wet fly cast. Yet, to my thinking, this seems a bob fly supremo. The deer hair wing and the thoraxed hackle provide more boyancy than maybe your average Irish wet fly.
            As far I know, Mr Frankie McPhillips  - the Fermanagh based professional fly tyer - introduced Irish colours to the original. So I thought I would do some research to construct a list of established patterns for your eyes. 

Green Irish Stimulator (Frankie McPhillips)
Hook: Diachi
Tail: Red squirrel or bucktail
Body: Green olive Frankie McPhillips Dubbing (no 6), or similar
Rib: Gold oval
Body hackle: Green olive cock saddle
Wing: Deer Hair
Thorax: orange seals fur
Head Hackle: Grizzle dyed orange

Note: Frank McPhillips states that there are no hard and fast rules with the tail. You could use floss, wool, bucktail or artic fox hair as alternatives. 

Fiery Brown Irish Stimulator (Frankie McPhillips)
Hook: Diachi
Tail: Pheasant tail fibres
Body: Fiery Brown seals fur
Body hackle: Fiery brown cock saddle
 Wing: Deer Hair
Thorax: Orange seals
Head hackle: Grizzle dyed orange

Black Irish Stimulator (Frankie McPhillips)
Hook:Kamasan B170 size 10
Tail: Black squirrel hair or deer hair
Body: Black seals fur
Rib: Oval silver
Body hackle: Black cock saddle
Wing: Black deer hair
Thorax: Orange
Head: Grizzle cock saddle

This is considered effective for Sea-Trout. Try a blue hackle through the thorax area for another variant.

Peter Stimulator
Hook: Kamasan B170 size 10
Butt: red seals fur
Body: green seals fur
Rib: oval gold
Body hackle: red game cock saddle
Wing: Deer Hair
Thorax: Red seals fur
Head hackle: red game cock

A minor variation of that brilliant great Irish sedge pattern - 'The Green Peter'.

Golden Stimulator
Hook:  Kamasan B170

Tail: Golden pheasant tail dyed orange (or dyed squirrel)
Body: Golden olive seals fur
Rib: fine oval gold
Body hackle: golden olive cock
Wing: Golden Brown deer hair (or natural)
Thorax: Orange seals fur
Front hackle: Grizzle dyed golden brown (or orange dyed grizzle)

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Dyeing notes: Cree capes dyed olive and yellow

A good friend very kindly sent me a batch of capes yesterday - many were cree cock capes. Needless to say, I thought it was Christmas come early. I was over the moon! As most know, this is not a good time for buying capes. This hair extension fad in the US appears to have seriously depleted stocks, particulary saddles. I suspect many tyers have spent many frustrating hours on the web searching for available supplies. I have. Anyway, delighted at my good fortune, I set out to dye some of them dark olive, green olive and yellow.  Here are the results:

Cree dyed dark olive

Cree dyed Yellow

Cree dyed green olive

For each colour, one litre of water brought to near boil (in a saucepan) and reduced to simmer. 1/4 t-spn of Veniards dye with vinegar and left in around ten minutes. Stiring all the time. Prior to the dye bath, I degreased the capes in a basin of water with a small amount (t-spn) of Veniards venepol for several hours. Then rinsed out before placing in the dye bath. Many advise to wash the feathers overnight. It is probably wise, if you can wait. Anyway, I am pleased with the final outcomes. These will tie various Irish wets during the Winter tying period.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Emerger buzzers... tying frenzy!

Before I beging this post, I would like to offer my sincere and probably overdue thanks for your readership to date and general support to the blog. I am touched by people all over the world checking the site and for all the kind comments provided. Thank you for making this an enjoyable new experience. I hope you continue to gain something from the blog.

My recent time on the bench has involved emerger buzzers (midges)-  a must for any summer evening on the lakes when fish become precocuppied with adults or emerging midges. I had great sport recently (as photo) with CDC type patterns which incited me to fill the box with them.  That said, they were very enjoyable to tie, working with CDC and mixing new shades for the body and thorax. I came across the excellent Dave McPhail tying a CDC emerger pattern where he mixed some pearl UV dubbing with orange seals fur for the thorax which simply looked deadly. So that was further inspiration.

 A CDC Bubble style buzzer worked very well that evening fishing fished on the point of a three fly 18ft cast. Yet I did pick up some further fish on a emerging hare's ear on the top dropper. I think the CDC emerger on the point keeps the droppers just right in the surface film.

 As for the killing pattern, the pattern below:

BBE Emerger (Black Bubble Emerger)

Hook: Kamasan B100
Shuck: A few strands of Z-lon or Antron looped
Body: Black silk, 
Thorax: a small amount of black seals fur mixed with pearl UV on shuck side of wing. Then deep red seals fur mixed with UV dubbing - that resides under the wing
Wing: Two CDC tied bubble style and allowed small section of the wing to sit beyond eye. 

For additional tyings, I spent some time finger-mixing some dubbing mixtures for the body and thorax, mostly seals fur and hare-ear. This is so enjoyable. I could spend hours mixing dubbings for developing new shades, never really knowing the outcome and often becoming amazed at my efforts - for good and bad. Indeed, by mixing you can gain some very subtle rich and complex shades. I don't think I always appreciated, until recently, the complexity of nature's colours and insects colouring. For many years of my fly tying I always just used single colours of dubbing. Yet, I do have a competing thought that precise imitation of form, including precise colours are not always necessary. Maybe so. I do recall, however, coming across an argument tendered by an excellent UK fly tier - Scratch - a contributor to the UK fly fishing forum which has stayed with me. He argued that you should tie flies that really please your eyes, which appeal to your own visual senses and intution. Such perceptions sustain great confidence when on the water.  I could not agree more.   


Here are a few more patterns that I tied and plan to try. 

CDC and Lace Emerger 
Hook: Timeco 212Y
Body: Black silk ribbed with fine green D-Rib lace 
Thorax: green and black seals fur mixed dubbed hook point side of the wing
Wing:  Two CDC  feathers tied upwing 

CDC Puff Buzzer Emerger
Hook: Fly to the left -Klinghammer Emerger, Fly to the right, Tiemco 206BL
Shuck: White Antron or Z-lon looped
Body: Seals fur 
Rib:Clear wrap (sparton)
Thorax:  red, orange seals fur mixed along with a pinch of pearl UV dubbing
Wing; White CDC  feathers

Black Buzzer Shuttlecock emerger
Hook: Kamazan B160
Body: Black seals fur
Rib: Clear wrap (Sparton)
Thorax: Orange mixed with pearl UV
Breathers: Two CDC feathers

Shuttlecock Emerger (with mirage shuck)
Hook: Kamasan B100 (flies 1 and 2) Tiemco2499SP-BL
Shuck: 2-3 strands of Mirage Krystalflash
Body: seals fur mixture
Thorax: orange and read seals fur mixed with a pinch of UV dubbing
Beathers/wing - 2 CDC feathers.

And so, that was the latest prolific session at the bench. Thank you for reading this post.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Fishing in Donegal, Ireland

My absence from blogging can be explained by a family holiday to County Dongeal, Ireland. After a few days visting family, we arrived in Dunfaeghy on Sunday afternoon. We simply marveled at the beautiful lanscape on our doorstep and quickly realised we made the right choice for our annual family holiday.

Even if the fishing is poor, sights such as this would be enough.

New Lake was the first setting on the fishing part of the holiday. I have fished here before. This is an interesting and quite beautiful lake to fish - it was formed in the 1920s as a result of an atlantic storm. Donegal has a deeply indented coastline which has formed a number of natural loughs. On the lake that day, there was a good wave, ideal for the wets. However, I spent a lot of time rowing the boat. Indeed, I found it very difficult to move across the lake on the oars. I was taking a long time to move up the lake and drifting back in no time. Talk about hard work!   I was taught a real lesson that day - get a engine and an anchor!  I gave up and returned home thinking about the fish I could have enticed on a golden olive bumble. Indeed, the experience made me recall a recent letter in the 'Trout and Salmon' proposing an option to relieve the fishing pressure in the West of Ireland  - bann outboard motors. I am pretty sure it would have an impact for the better!

We were staying not too far from the Rosses Fishery (130 loughs). This famous Salmon and Sea trout fishery is spread over five river systems. As the town of Dungloe is at the centre of the fishery, we visted Bonar's tackle shop in the town to see what was happening with the fishing, or in other words, if fish were up. So with the word that some sea trout were, I eagerly set out on Dunglow Lough (1 mile east of Dungloe) with the prospect of catching sea trout. I have fished this once lough before - landing a 1 1/2 stocked fish on a dry daddy. Interestingly, I was informed how the fishing club no longer stock the lough to avoid interfering with the sea-trout stocks.

It is a lovely lough and a joy to fish despite the labour with the oars on the boat. Yet, the sea trout were staying elusive that day. My saving grace was a handful of brownies taking kindly to my Blue Zulu when worked on the bob. As way say in Ireland, good craic!

We returned to the 'New Lake' for some evening fishing. It was a calm and warm night. As sedges and midges are out in good numbers we got excited and expected a fantastic rise. The Gillie (AKA, my Brother) searching for rising fish.

We both set up with the dries and with the fourth cast a lovely small fish took my small dry sedge on the point. I have to say, this is one of the nicest looking brownies I have ever caught. I was well pleased! Yet, a significant rise never materalised.

Despite the absence of rising fish we fished near dusk - just enoying the lake on a beauitful August night. For myself, I was delighted with my stunning small brownie. Indeed, I looked at this photo multiple times - amazed at the sheer beauty of the trout. 

That was near the end of the holiday to Donegal. Despite the very few fish we had a great time fishing on beautfiful loughs surrounded by gorgeous scenery. We also got to the beach - taking my baby boy to the beach for the first time and dipped his toes into the Atlantic. Funny enough, he didn't seemed bothered! 

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Currently Reading: 'Fly Tying with Harold Howarth' by Donald Townsend

I am a avid reader of fly fishing books. Their collection and reading is one of the many aspects that I love about this great sport. Indeed, I thought I maybe make a regular feature of the blog and share with you what I am currently reading and my thoughts on the book. I think we all know we are forunate to have a historical and contemporary rich body of work to experience. You could spend a small fortunate very quickly on Amazon, for example, amassing a tidy collection or spend your days hunting down the classics in second hand bookstores.

The first book is Fly Tying with Harold Howarth by Donald Townsend (1980) Published by A & C Black.  Before I begin,  as with nearly everything in this blog, these are only my impressions, opinions and insights. I first came across Harold Howorth's name in Malcom Greenhalgh's and Jason Smalley's 'Trout Flies' where he was attributed as the inventor of a number of spider patterns, and more significantly, where he was accredited to pioneer a style of soft hackle in the 1940s and 1950s along with Frederick Mold. This style was inclusion of a thorax to mostly standard patterns of usually peacock herl before the hackle to enhance the insect profile of the fly and its movement in the water. I was eager to learn a little more about Howorth and his fly dressings.

Townsend provides a brief introduction to Howorth before describing his fly dressings for 30 trout and salmon flies. Harold Howorth was born in a small Lancashire town, Haslingden in 1898.

In this short book of 96 pages the author illustrates Howorth's flies, why they were invented and his experience with them in practice.

Many of the flies presented are standard or established flies - the waterhen bloa, the greenwell and the black gnat, for example. Yet, for many of the established patterns, Howorth modified the pattern in terms of design and materials. For example in his Waterhen Bloa, Howorth dressed a slim section of yellow silk as one part of the body followed with mole fur built up for the second part. Townsend writes "This is then followed by a rather sparse hackle. This causes the hackle to stand more erect and allow better  movement when the fly is finished" (p,69). 

In terms of another established pattern in the North Country grouping - the Snipe and Purple, Howorth replaced the soft snipe hackle with durable lesser coverts of a duck wing. Again he added a few turns of peacock herl behind the hackle to give better fibre movement. This is known as the Henthorn Purple. So this style of a herl thorax before a sparse hackle on spider dressings is a trademark of Howorth's tyings. And from reading Roger Rogg's 'Handbook of North Country Flies' we realise this addition of a short thorax before the hackle constitutes one dressing style for North Country soft hackles.

So the book contains some really interesting dressings - some modified versisions of the established and some new. Additionally, there is some useful advice. For example, the tying of a collar hackle after the wing enables the fly to fish well, prevents twisting in the water. Yet, this is not the conventional recipe book or instructional book you commonly see nowadays. Luckily, I never held this expectation. This is a short personal book of one man's experiences with flies he was using, modifying and creating over his extensive fishing life. More than this, I suspect this book is an important slice of the rich history surrounding North Country wet fly fishing. Indeed, for me, it tells something about soft hackles and North Country flies -  their development and limits of use. The inclusion of a thorax to provide extra movement to the hackle reconciles with the argument that some standard soft hackles are not as effective in fast water, especially when fished downstream.  Maybe more surely, the book is a reminder of how some tradtional patterns were modified by creative anglers, and yet preserved by others. Indeed, I suspect there have been many Howorth types in Yorkshire, Lancashire and the Borders that took certain classic soft hackle dressings and modified them to suit their own intution, rivers and insect hatches. Maybe this is nothing new?  So for myself, who aspiring to learn more about North Country flies and fishing, the book was valuable, a nice addition to the collection.


Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Yellow Spiders

I apologise for not posting lately. With work and family commitments I found it very difficult having time for fly tying and blogging. I am trying my best to finish stuff at work before I head off on holiday in Ireland with the family at the end of the month. I am so looking forward to take my baby boy home to see his grandparents and uncles and for some fishing. I manage some time for the bench today - yellow spiders were on my mine. On the last few occasions on the river I noticed a few Yellow May Duns (Heptogenia sulphurea)  and anticpate to see the Yellow Sally (Isoperia grammatica) stonefly in the forthcoming period. So I thought it would be useful to have a few yellow spiders in the box:

Yellow-Legged Bloa
Hook: Partridge, 'TWH, The Wet' Size 14
Body: Primrose gossamar
Thorax: Light olive/yellow fur (optional). I have used light yellow hare's ear.
Hackle: Light Yellow or Ginger Hen. I have used light yellow.

I believe this is a pattern which can be used to imitate the nymph or emergers of the Yellow May duns or the Yellow Sally.

Yellow Sally (wet)
Hook: Partridge, 'TWH, The Wet' Size 14
Body: Light yellow fur. I have used pale watery yellow polyrite dubbing
Hackle: Golden Plover

I bought this Whiting brahma cape dyed pale yellow several months ago which nested in drawer forgotton about.  I think it is a lovely looking cape, striking, has that dyed partridge/game look. My personal niggle is the number of small feathers on the cape. It has not too many hackles for tying size 14 or below. That aside, it will still come in very handy for palmered wets, bumbles and the sort. Anyway, there were enough hackles for a few size 14 flies and therefore tied some yellow-olive spiders for the river to give an idea what the hackle looks like: 

Hare's Ear Spider Variant
Hook: Kamasan B160, Size 14
Body: Olive Hare's Ear plus
Rib: Gold Wire
HackleL Pale Yellow Brahma 

 Yellow Patridge Spider
Hook: Timeco TMC531, Size 14
Tag: Gold tinsel
Body: Yellow silk
Rib: Green thread
Hackle: Pale Yellow Brahma Hen

This is based on an old Irish variant of a Partridge and Yellow.

Brahma Fluff Emerger  
Hook: Tiemco

Body: yellow gossamar
Wing: Tied buble style

This is made from the flue on the base/bottom of the hackle. I am not sure about the floatability but should have plenty of movement.

 Edward's Yellow Spider
Hook: Partridge L3A, Size 12
Body: Yellow sulphur superfine dubbing wound tigthly
Hackle: Primrose or pale yellow hen hackle


This appears to me to be similar to a Pritt dressing for a Yellow Sally. Mr Oliver Edwards features the above in one of his DVDs (Wet Fly Fishing) - he uses this to great effect at this time of the year when Yellow May Duns are on the water and I suspects uses it for Yellow Sallys. He usually fishes this as a team of three, on the top dropper, to ensure it fishes on or the near the water surface as possible.  He ties this on size 12, with his beloved Partridge L3A. I have a 100 size 12 L3A, by mistake. I ordered 100 size 14 and received 12s instead. In terms of the hackle of the fly, I needed to dye a cape for this and again fortunate enough to have a spare white hen cape. I dyed this with veniards yellow dye, a 1/4 teaspoon but kept the cape in the dye bath for a period of say five minutes or so. The result is a very pale yellow/primrose cape.

It was interesting to hear Edwards state how fish take Yellow May Duns, refuting some past authors' speculations or even inisting they may not be interested in them. I have personally never imitated the Yellow May Duns before - as never came across them on my home rivers back in Ireland.  I have used the yellow sally to good effect and of the opinion trout fed on them. On several occasions in June, I failed to notice too many on the water. He makes the point that such a sparse hatch appears to incite the fish to take when they come across an artifical on the water.  We may have passed the time for Yellow May Duns. The above patterns should of use for Sallys and olives. One final thing. On the DVD he commented on 'three greatest books', mentioning the Practical Angler by WC Stewart, Edmonds and Lee, but the third, he failed to say? Maybe he did and I did not pick it up! I would love to know what this third greatest book was and if he was referring to three greatest books on fishing or simply books on north country fishing/wet fly fishing. Anybody know? Thanks for reading this post!

Monday, 27 June 2011

Dyeing feathers for claret

On my return last night from the river I took the odd decision of dyeing a batch of feathers and some fur. Obvioulsy waited until the wife had retired for the night and the kitchen was my own to mess with. I had taken stock of several colours of Veniards dye last week and was eager to put this to work. I started with dark claret. I dyed a batch of french partridge, white rabbit skin, turkey boits, widgeon. grey partridge and a cock cape. I remembered how the best results with claret can be gained from working from a base colour of brown, red game or ginger cape. So I dyed a natural dark red cock cape using a 1/4 tablespoon of dark claret dye. The results were very good, for me anywhow.  I am not an overly experienced dyer of materials so I was quite pleased. A black claret is how I would describe the result.  This is what I wanted - mostly for tying wet flies such as bumbles and dabblers. You can see from the far photo below the difference between the white rabbit skin dyed claret and the red cape over-dyed with claret. I further dyed a batch of widgeon feathers (on the left of the second photo) that turned out not as expected - on the light purple side. The french patridge turned out well as usual. As above, the boit feathers will make some nice claret spinners. I have not yet decided to take E.J Malone's (Irish trout Flies) advice of using rain water for the dying bath, but I am thinking about it!  Anybody used rain water for the dying bath?

Fishing on the River Ribble

I fished the Ribble at Settle for a few hours yesterday afternoon. I knew it would be make more sense if I waited until the evening time. Yet, due to other committments, this was not possible. The river level was high. Indeed, it was gorgeous wet fly water and therefore thrilling to work the pools  as the spiders dead drifted down and across. No fish were rising. The rainfall over the last few days topped the river to a height to the point it was slightly black in colour. They say trout have suicidal tendencies under such conditions. Well not so that day, they were perfectly happy - content to look and ignore my flies. Not all together true. A few small fish were caught on the partridge and yellow, along with several missed takes. Nevertheless, it was an enoyable few hours on the river bank. 

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Fishing notes: on the Ribble, Yorkshire.

I spent the afternoon on the River Ribble, Settle - Yorkshire. Arrived around 11.30am. Very good conditions. Disappointed to find the river still on the low side. Yet, despite the water level, there was a palpable freshness and vitaility about the river. There were no fish rising, nor any hatch of any significance. A few sedges about. I set up with a team of small spiders, starting off with a black spider on the point, patridge and yellow (variant) on the middle and a patridge and orange on the top. I considered placing a black and silver spider or a black pennel on the point - to possibly connect with some sea trout that were supposed to be in the river but I decided otherwise.

On the third cast, I took a thump and landed the first brownie of the day on the black spider. This followed with five more fish around the 7-8inches mark, two being caught on the partridge and yellow and the rest on the black spider. No monsters - but still great fun!

Around 4.00pm just before heading off, I took off the black spider and replaced it with a Grouse and Green spider. With this spider, I was thinking along the lines of sedge nymphs. Several more small fish followed on the Grouse and Green. I then connected into a very decent fish only to come off. All together, an enjoyable day with the wets. Yet, the day was made truely special when my 4 1/2 month year old baby boy gave me (with the obvious assistance of his Mother) his first Father's day card and present (priceless!)

Saturday, 18 June 2011


On a friend's request, I have been tying some brassies in recent days with a green tag. It is one of those patterns if somebody asked you for a dozen, you would reply, 'are you sure now, is that all? It is of course, a simple wee pattern with the reputtation of being a deadly fish catcher as well -  the fly tyer's dream really! This green tag brassie has been successful for my friend when fished  as part of a team of nymphs from the boat. I'll send these off tomorrow. I must admit - I have never fished much with a brassie or caught anything with it. Yes, US readers, you read corectly! But I'll keep a few aside to have in the box and see if can I break my 'brassie duck' someday. Anyway, I could not resist tying some variants. As evident in some cases, I treat the term 'variant' very liberally. Indeed, I have maybe went 'off steer' slightly, ah well!

Brassie (Original)
Hook: Kamasan B420
Body: copper wire
Thorax: Muskrat fur

According to Dave Hughes in 'Trout Flies - The Tier's reference' (1996), the brassie was orginally tied to imitate small caddis larvae that live in fast water. Yet, it is also now used for a range of imitations - midge larvae and pupae, and even mayfly and stonefly nymphs. It was devised by Ken Chandler and Tug Davenport on Colorado's South Platte River in the 1960s. It has been suggested that the original brassie had  short piece of black heat shrinked plastic tube for the thorax and black tying thread as the body. As a footnote point, you will commonly see brassies tied with a peacock herl thorax, or with a bead-head.   

Brassie (Variant)
Kamasan B170
Body: copper wire
Rib: Black silk
Thorax: Fine black fur


  Green Tag Brassie
Hook: Kamasan B175
Tag: flou green tying silk
body: cooper wire
Thorax: Hare's ear mixed with red fox squirrel

Hairy Fat Brassie
Hook: Kamasan B420
Body: Cooper wire
First thorax: Short length of red squireel underfur
Hackle/wing: Deer hair on a dubbing wire (wound with several turns towards the body and then pushed up).
Thorax: Red squireel underfur dubbed into a tight ball

Dark Brassie
Hook: Kamasan B100
Body: Black and Cooper Wire wound together
Thorax: Squirrel underfur mixed with small amount of cooper litebrite

Rick Murphy - also of the South Platte River came up with the idea of using two colours to give a segemented body in his two wire brassie (Greenhalgh and Smalley, 2009). This creates some lovely effects and colours. Similar to above, here are a few buzzer patterns using two colours of wire for the body:

Dark Green buzzer
Hook: Kamasan B110
Tail: White organza
Body: green and black wire wounded together
Thorax: Black lite brtite mixed with muskrat
Breathers: White organza

Light Green Buzzer
Hook: Kamasan B110

Body: Green and White wire winded together

Thorax: Orange glo-brite floss followed by muskrat fur mixed with pesudo peacock herl
Breathers: CDC white strands

 JC Brassie buzzer (black)
Hook: Kamasan B100
Tag: flou green
Body: black wire wound loosly over the body
Cheeks: Jungle cock feathers tied on each side
Thorax: black SLF mixed with squirrel

Brassed off-soft hackle
Hook: Kamason B110
Body: orange and black wire
Thorax: grey seals fur
Hackle: Black hen