I have been busy at the fly tying table again. With a bit of time on my hands this week I was able to spend some time immersed in fur and feather. Ever the optimist, I am hoping this year will be kinder to me and days on the water will be more frequent than in 2016. With that in mind I have been examining the fly boxes and filling the obvious gaps. You and I both know that I have too many flies as it is, but I always seem to find an excuse for some new patterns to try out on the unsuspecting fish. Let’s start with a very easy one.

  1. Plover and Peacock

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I have not come across this pattern anywhere else but surely others have tied something very similar. Plover feathers are hard to come by these days as the poor wee birds are now quite scarce. Gone are the days when you came across them frequently on any upland moor. I am down to my last pair of wings now so I am only using the feathers sparingly. The combination of stripped peacock quill body and a couple of turns of one of those marvellously spangled Golden Plover hackles makes for a lovely subdued combination. Keep the dressing light, not more than a couple of turns of hackle. Untried as yet, this is one early in the season for river brownies. It will get a wetting on the Robe in April, swung gently down and across or flicked upstream into the tight wee pockets around the stones and limestone outcrops.

2. Bibio variant

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Yes, I know that the last thing I need is another Bibio pattern. I have pearly ones, copper ones, green ones, ones tied with legs, some with tails and god knows how many other blooming Bibios. Serried ranks of them line my fly boxes and they get frequent use throughout the season. So why add to the confusion by introducing another one? It was the yellow tag that hooked me; in my imagination I could just see that dot of yellow glowing in a peaty loch and turning a trout’s head. This is not my pattern; I spotted it on a Twitter in a post by Connor McLennan. Standard Bibio dressing but with a fl. yellow butt wound at the bend and a browm partridge hackle at the throat. Looks nice, doesn’t it?

3. The Sooty Bumble

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Nothing new here eh? Just your normal Sooty Bumble. Well yes and no! I love using Sooties in the spring, they seem to have the ability to produce fish like magic, in even the most challenging conditions. A size 12 sooty with a red rib is a frequent addition to my cast from March right through until the greendrakes start hatching. The bumble version is a good fly too but I always had reservations about the head hackle and figured it was needing something different. Inspiration came to me at the vice a couple of years ago and I used a ‘Mexican blue’ feather from the rump of a cock pheasant as a head hackle on an otherwise normal tie. The result is a very useful pattern, even if it does not exactly jump out at you in the box. the next time you are on a lough with dark buzzers hatching in a stiff wind give this lad a try.

4. Hairy Mary. Just the mention of this lady’s name evokes memories of tea-coloured rivers, sparkling grilse, damp Irish summers and bent rods. It is with great trepidation that I tinker with this iconic pattern but you see the blue hackle is a bit of a problem for me. I think that blue works well for very fresh fish but they tend to to off it very quickly. I have read this in many books and it does seem to be generally true to me. So what to do with the redoubtable Hairy Mary then?

I decided to replace the blue throat hackle with one of Golden Olive. This is not a colour you see used too often on salmon flies but it looks fabulous in the water, seeming to glow in the peat stained waters of the west. The shade of golden olive I want is a rich, deep olive, not too pale and watery. And I’ve tied it long in fibre so there is plenty of movement. So far this one is untried and may be a complete disaster but I like the look of it and have high hopes. Oh for a wet summer!

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