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COME FLY WITH US!

An Introduction to River Flies, Fly Tying & Fly Fishing Written by Douglas C. Hall Illustrations by Eddie Sherratt and Kevin Clark

‘Come Fly with Us’ began as a conversation between Douglas C. Hall, Eddie Sherratt, Neil Mclarnon and Patrick O’Growney. Douglas, Eddie and Neil share a passion for local angling and, in particular, on the River Almond. They wanted to find new ways of promoting angling on the river, so they have developed a series of angling workshops in fly tying and fishing. This booklet will be used to inform those fly tying and fishing sessions at Almondell Country Park and on the River Almond in August 2011. It is also the intention for it to be used an educational tool so that people can get out and explore their local angling opportunities wherever they live.
‘Come Fly with Us’ is available as a download from www.artlinkedinburgh.co.uk or www.wlaa.uinfix.co.uk/ or by mail out from: Artlink Edinburgh and the Lothians, 13a Spittal Street, Edinburgh, EH3 9DY This publication would not have been possible without the enthusiasm and knowledge of Douglas C. Hall from West Lothian Angling Association, Eddie Sherratt and Neil Mclarnon. Thanks also to Kirsty Morrison and all the staff at Almondell and Calderwood Country Park and to Kevin Clark, Eddie and Douglas who provided the illustrations for this booklet.

CONTENTS
SECTION 1 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 SECTION 2 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 SECTION 3 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 RIVER FLIES May Flies Caddis Flies Stone Flies Midge Flies What Else Do Trout Feed On ? FLY TYING Tools & Materials Basic Techniques Flies & Patterns Tying Your First Fly FLY FISHING Fly Fishing Equipment Tackling Up Basic Casting Techniques Fly Fishing Methods 6 9 10 12 12

16 18 20 24

28 29 30 32

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SECTION 1: River Flies
There are four main aquatic insects that are an important part of the trout’s diet. These are Mayflies, Caddis Flies, Stone Flies & Midges. These aquatic insects come in many shape and colour variations, and they also have distinct life cycles, which makes them interesting to study. As a fly angler it’s important to be able to identify these aquatic insects and how to imitate them using artificial flies. In Section 1, we will learn more about the life cycles of these aquatic insects and their importance to the food chain and to the health of the river. We will also discuss other aquatic insects and fishes that are part of the trout’s diet.

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1.1 Mayflies Mayflies are amongst the most important river flies when fly fishing, as they account for a huge portion of the trout’s diet and trout will feed on them at all stages of there life cycle from nymph to adult. Mayflies start life as an egg and hatch into nymphs where they live on the river bed and go through several moults before ascending to the surface as adult duns. The adult dun will then shed its skin to become an adult spinner, ready for mating. After mating the female spinners fall onto the surface or crawls beneath the surface to lay its eggs and then dies restarting the next generation of Mayflies. There are too many species of Mayflies to go into detail but they all share the same characteristics and life cycle.

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Lifecycle of a Mayfly

NYMPH

EGGS

DUN (SUB-IMAGO)

A D U LT

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Lifecycle of a Caddis Fly

A D U LT

EGGS

P U PA CASE

LARVA

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1.2 Caddis Flies Caddis flies are split into two main groups, Cased Caddis and Caseless Caddis (free living) and while they share similar characteristics they live quite distinct lives. Cased Caddis hatch from eggs and build a protective shelter from debris found on the riverbed, some are very smooth and mainly built from sandy materials and others can be quite rough in appearance. The Cased Caddis Larva’s case is open at one end, allowing it to poke its head and legs out and crawl around on the riverbed. The fully grown Caddis Larva attaches its case to a rock and seals the open end where inside it becomes a Pupa. When the Pupal stage is complete the Caddis Fly breaks open the case and ascends to the surface to hatch into an adult. Adult Caddis fly look similar to small moths. Caseless Caddis have similar life cycles to Cased Caddis, but they do not build cases until the Pupa stage in their lifecycle, where they follow the same progression to adult Caddis. Both Cased and Caseless Caddis moult four times during the Larva stage of their cycle. The adult Cased Caddis lay their eggs on the surface of the water, whereas the adult Caseless Caddis crawl under the surface of the water to lay their eggs.

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1.3 Stonefly Stoneflies are commonly found in most freestone rivers throughout the UK and are an important part of the trout’s diet. Stoneflies differ from both Mayflies & Caddis flies in that they do not metamorphose. Stoneflies hatch from eggs into nymphs where they live on the riverbed and mature over a period between three months and three years. They then crawl out of the river and shed their husk to become winged adults. Adult Stoneflies live between a few days and a few weeks, during which time they will mate and the females lay their eggs by flying above the water surface or dipping into it.

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Lifecycle of a Stone Fly

EGGS

NYMPH

A D U LT

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1.4 Midge (Chironomid) Chironomid Midges (non-biting midges) are the most common and diverse aquatic insects in the world, they can live in almost any water type from sewage stanks to pristine rivers and lochs, hatching from eggs into larvae which burrow into the silty bottom of the river where they mature into Pupa. The Pupa ascend to the surface where they struggle to break through and emerge into adults. Adult Midges swarm while mating and lay their eggs on the water surface. 1.5 What Else Do Trout Feed On ? As well as flies trout also feed on Shrimps, Snails & other Fishes.While generally not as abundant as flies, these other food items can be important to the Fly Angler. Freshwater Shrimp can be found in good numbers in both rivers and lochs. Minnows, Sticklebacks, Bullheads & Stoneloach are all fairly common freshwater fish in the UK, and it can be worth having some general imitations of these food items. In some waters, where there isn’t an abundance of flies or fishes for trout to feed on, Snails can become a good supply of food for trout. Terrestrial insects can also become an important part of the Trout’s diet, on windy days land based flies will often be blown onto the water surface and become trapped in the surface film making them easy targets for trout. Daddy Longlegs, Hawthorn Flies, Dung Flies, Moths, Ants & Beatles are all taken by trout when the chance presents itself, however these flies and insects are of less importance in general.

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Lifecycle of a Midge

A D U LT MALE A D U LT FEMALE

EGGS P U PA

LARVA

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SECTION 2: Fly Tying
Not all Fly Anglers tie flies, however it can become a hobby in itself and is considered by some an important part of Fly Fishing. An understanding of the aquatic insects in your local water and the ability to imitate them at the tying bench can be an invaluable skill. Fly Tying is a relatively inexpensive way to fill your fly box as the materials and tools needed are cheap to buy and many flies can be tied using only a few materials.

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2.1 Tools The basic tools required to start fly tying are:: Vice Bobbin Holder Dubbing Needle Hackle Pliers Whip Finish Tool

DUBBING NEEDLE

WHIP FINISH TOOL

HACKLE PLIERS

VICE

BOBBIN HOLDER

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Materials Basic fly tying materials are: Hook Thread Natural Fur Natural Feathers Wire

HOOK

N AT U R A L FUR

F E AT H E R

THREAD COPPER WIRE

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2.2 Basic Techniques CATCHING ON: This is the first step in tying any fly and is used to attach the tying thread to the hook. Catching On is also used to add additional materials such as feather and wires to the fly.

CAT C H I N G O N

DUBBING: Many flies have “Dubbed” bodies and use natural or synthetic materials to create the correct shape and colour of the fly. Dubbing is applied to the thread by winding the fur in one direction round the thread between thumb and index finger before being wound round the hook. DUBBING

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HACKLING: Both wet and dry flies use natural feather hackles to create body and wings. Hackles are attached to the hook using “Catching On” and are then wound round the hook using hackle pliers to create the desired effect.

HACKLING

TYING OFF: To finish a fly you must tie off. There are a few ways to do this, but the most common way is by using a whip fishing tool. The whip finish tool is used to tie a knot allowing the thread to be cut away and stay secure without the fly falling apart.

TYING OFF

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2.3 Flies & Patterns Flies are generally tied to represent the natural flies at different stages of their life cycle. Nymphs, Pupa, Larvae & Adults are all important to represent in your fly box. There are thousands of fly patterns available in shops but the truth is you really only need a few variations of the food items available to the fish you are trying to catch. Nymph The most famous of all nymph flies is Frank Sawyer’s Pheasant Tail Nymph. It’s a simple pattern to tie and is a fantastic general imitation of many Mayfly nymphs. The original PTN uses only copper wire and pheasant centre tail fibres. There are many variations of the original fly and it can be used as a template for most nymph patterns you will need to catch trout. The main advantage to the PTN is that it has the correct profile of a natural nymph and can be tied in many colours and sizes.

P H E A S A N T TA I L NYMPH

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Soft Hackle Wets Commonly called “Spiders” soft hackle wet flies are not designed to imitate spiders at all. They were developed to imitate flies that are emerging or have been drowned. Soft hackle wets can be tied using only two materials and many are. The two main materials are thread and hackle. This can be added to with sparse dubbing and/or a rib of wire or thread.

SOFT HACKLE WETS

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Surface flies Dry flies are used to represent the adult stage of natural flies and should sit on or in the surface film. Common features of dry flies are stiff tail fibres, dubbed bodies & stiff hackle fibres for the wing. Modern dry flies tend to be tied with a parachute style hackle which allows the fly to have a lower profile on the water while traditional dry flies have collar wound hackles which offer less support and in general a poorer presentation. PA R A C H U T E D R Y F LY

COLLAR WOUND D R Y F LY

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Streamers Streamer flies can be used to imitate small fishes such as minnows and sticklebacks and are generally tied using mobile materials such as marabou to give action to the fly.

STREAMER LURE

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2.4 Tying Your First Fly Most of the trout’s diet is made up of sub surface aquatic insects such as Mayfly nymphs, and for this reason we will be tying a Pheasant Tail Nymph. This fly is without doubt the best general pattern any fly angler can have in his fly box and will allow us to go through the basic steps of tying flies.

STEP 1 Wind the wire onto the hook at the bend.

STEP 2 Wind the wire onto the hook shank towards the eye, and stop a few turns short of the eye.

STEP 3 Build a pronounced thorax area with the wire.

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STEP 4 Wind the wire evenly back towards the hook, bend and break off the waste tag.

STEP 6 Twist the herl and the wire together to form a rope and wind all the way up to the eye. Separate the herl and the wire, allowing the herl to flare.

STEP 5 Catch in the pheasant tail herls with two turns of the wire to secure. If the tails are too long, drag the fibres through to shorten.

STEP 7 Take the wire back behind the pronounced hump and bring back the herl, trapping it down with the wire. Bring the wire to the hook eye once again, followed by the herl, this time catch down the herl with 6 turns of the wire to finish the fly. Trim any waster herls and apply head cement at the eye.

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SECTION 3: Fly Fishing
Now that we have learned about the aquatic insects trout feed on and how to imitate them using artificial flies, we must now move on to how we present these artificial flies to the trout in order to complete the picture and catch one. Whether you want to catch trout for the table or purely for sport there are some basic skills and equipment required so we will cover this first.

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3.1 Essential fly fishing equipment Fly Rod: A good all-round fly rod for river fishing should be between 8’ & 9’ in length with a through action and line rating of between AFTM 4 & 6. Fly Reel: The main function of the reel is to house the fly line and can also be used when fighting fish as a means of control. Fly Line: Unlike other types of fishing casting a fly requires a heavy line. Fishing flies are basically weightless and it would be impossible to cast using a simple nylon line. Leader/Tippet: Used to make the connection between the heavy fly line and the fly. Nylon monofilament comes in many sizes and can be combined to create a tapered leader set up to assist in turning over the fly. Flies: Trout flies come in a variety of styles and most are tied to imitate natural insects. Most flies are tied using natural furs and feathers or synthetic materials.

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Optional fly fishing equipment The list of fly fishing equipment is vast. Important, but not essential, items would be waders, fly/life vest, landing net, snips, floatant & sinkant. 3.2 Tackling Up Setting up your equipment correctly is very important, failure to do so could result in poor performance or even breakage. Your fly rod sections should be joined from tip to butt with the line guides correctly aligned. Your reel should be fitted securely to the fly rod positioned in the reel seat and tightened to avoid movement during use. Your fly line should be fed through the line guides one by one by looping the fly line so that if it should slip it will not fall all the way through the guides. You must make sure not to miss any guides or create a wrap around. Leader should be securely attached to the fly line using either a loop or a blood knot depending on your line setup. Flies should be tied to the leader/tippet using a blood knot or improved clinch knot depending on your preference. When fishing streamer patterns ot may be beneficial to use a loop allowing the fly to move freely. A demonstration of how to set up your equipment correctly will be given on the riverbank.

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3.3 Fly Casting There are two main casting techniques commonly used in river fly fishing for trout, these are the overhead cast and the roll cast. Overhead casting: The overhead cast is performed by drawing the fly line off the water by raising the rod to a position of 2 O’clock, this should be a smooth continues action. The fly line should then extend fully behind the angler before bringing the rod forward to the 10 o’clock position. This action is then repeated, the repetition is known as false casting, where the angler keeps the fly line arialised until the final forward cast. On the final forward cast the rod should come to a stop parallel with the water’s surface and the line should shoot straight.

LOOP

LOOP

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Roll casting The roll cast is performed by drawing the rod to the 2 o’clock position slowly leaving the line on the water. The line should draw back towards the angler to form a D shape behind the angler. Once the D has formed the angler pushes the rod forward in a smooth progressive motion which rolls the fly line out across the water. When casting the anglers wrist should remain locked in position and the temptation to use the wrist as part of the casting action should be avoided as this will result in a poor casting technique. Casting should remain calm and smooth, a fast or snappy casting action will result in a poor cast, casting should be methodical. A demonstration of how to perform the overhead & roll casting techniques correctly will be given on the riverbank.

LOOP

CASTING

LOOP

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3.4 Fly Fishing Methods Upstream Nymph: This is one of the most effective methods for catching trout on the fly. The angler generally approaches the run from downstream. This has several advantages. The trout is less likely to see the angler and, if wading, the faster water in the run tends to muffle the sound of the angler’s footsteps. The angler casts his line upstream of his position and as the flies drift back downstream towards the angler he should gather slack line, while raising the rod tip slowly to compensate. Should the tip of the fly line pause or move unnaturally to the current, the angler should lift the rod tip and expect a fish to be on the other end. Sometimes the flies will catch on rocks or weed but the beginner should strike at any changes in the line’s drift. It can take a lot of experience to tell the difference between a real take and a false take. Upstream nymphing can be a very exiting and productive way to catch fish; it is very visual, busy and enjoyable. Dry Fly: Dry fly fishing is the most visual of fly fishing methods and at times the most taxing. The angler can either wait for a feeding fish to show and target that fish or he can search the likely lies where trout may be found. Dry flies should be cast predominantly upstream and allowed to drift drag free on the surface. Only when a dry fly is correctly presented will a trout take. On days when trout are focused on one type of fly dry fly fishing can become more difficult and this is where “matching the hatch” comes into play. As a fly angler it’s important to observe the trout’s behaviour and to try to see what type of fly it may be feeding on so you can present a good imitation. Wet fly: There are a number of ways wet flies are fished but for the beginner fishing soft hackle wets either upstream or downstream is a good starting point.

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It’s important in wet fly fishing as it is in both dry fly and nymphing to avoid drag. This means that the flies should follow the river’s current speed as natural insects do. Fishing wets upstream is much the same as nymphing, however it is often poorly practised. To fish wets downstream the angler should cast across and down the river then draw the line upstream either during the cast or once the line has landed on the surface. Then and only then can the flies drift drag free. As the flies drift downstream the fly rod should be held high and follow the flies as they drift. The drift ends when the fly line tightens below the angler, the rod tip should not be lowered to extend the drift. Streamer fishing: Fishing lures and streamers is not widely practised and there are some who frown upon it, but this can be one of the most enjoyable methods of fly fishing and should not be ignored. After rain on spate rivers streamer fishing can produce fantastic results and often bigger than average trout. Streamers should be cast across stream and allowed to rest for a few seconds after casting. Then the angler should retrieve the fly in short pulls. This will induce action to the fly and give it a fish like movement through the water. Streamer fishing is the easiest technique to master and is a good way to get a feeling for fly fishing.

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Further Information Artlink Artlink West Lothian was set up in 1993 and since then has been providing quality arts based activity to individuals who suffer mental illness. Our work stems from the belief that participation in the arts plays an important role in achieving social change and personal goals. www.artlinkedinburgh.co.uk West Lothian Angling Association West Lothian Angling Association was established in 2011 to provide, promote and protect angling opportunities within the West Lothian area. www.wlaa.uinfix.co.uk Almondell and Calderwood Country Park Almondell and Calderwood Country Park is situated along the River Almond between Livingston, East Calder and Broxburn. It provides fantastic woodland walks, fishing and picnic areas. www.beecraigs.com/docs/Almondell&Calderwood Country Park.pdf

COME FLY WITH US!

13a Spittal Street Edinburgh EH3 9DY Tel: 0131 229 3555 Website: www.artlinkedinburgh.co.uk Registered charity number: SC006845