.......replicating the urban river fly patterns of Gary Hyde. I was very impressed by the effectiveness of Gary's winter grayling patterns in particular, and would like to share a couple with you here. I learned an invaluable lesson recently - one which I've learned a few times before, I admit - and that's not to dismiss something because it doesn't (or you assume it doesn't) work on your usual waters. Not that I would ever have dismissed Gary's patterns, far from it; but they are not the sort of thing I would ever have used under my own steam. The deadliness was there though - demonstrated before my eyes by the repeated interest from quality grayling and small out of season trout. I made a space in my nymph box and set about tying with some of the most gaudy materials I've used in a long time.
The UV Pink Shrimp
You would be hard pressed to find a grayling fisher the length and breadth of this land who doesn't have a few pink shrimp patterns in the box, and I am no different. I have to be honest and say that I've never found them to be any more effective for grayling than some of my other patterns, and they tend to get reserved until there is some colour in the water; then the pink shrimps - and orange ones too - get a run out. A point worth making though, is that the shades of pink I use are fairly subtle and washed out - a development that initially came about from looking into the fly boxes of my more experienced flyfishing peers. That's the way I've always done it - Sow Scud dubbing in shrimp pink has served me well in this respect, as has a 'Tups' dye mix for lambswool, gleaned from a Jeremy Lucas article a few years ago.
You can imagine my surprise then, when I feasted my eyes on Gary's UV job the other day; it almost scorched my retinas! "Wait 'til you see it wet," Gary said, and you know what? He was right - the bloody thing looked like it was going to crawl up my arm.....in an alarming radioactive kind of way. Sure enough, in the turbid water of the town centre river, the UV shrimp proved its worth several times over. Needless to say I have since tied up half a dozen of my own.
Hook: Skalka RD #12
Thread: UTC 70 in shell pink
Rib: 6lb copoly
Back: clear scud back
Dubbing: hot pink UV ice dubbing
San Juan Worm
If the pink shrimp was a familiar pattern to me (albeit in more subdued guise), then the San Juan Worm is something far removed from anything I've ever tied on a leader before. I've been aware of the worm for years now - it is extremely popular across the Atlantic where it is tied on very large hooks using red chenille, and to this day appears to generate a degree of controversy amongst the more conservative US flyfishers. The logic behind its use is completely sound as anyone who has ever fished small redworms for trout in the days following a spate will no doubt be able to testify. Fish eat worms and in that sense, offering a worm imitation could be argued to be no less kosher than the offering the most finely crafted dun pattern in an olive hatch.
Despite this, I admit that trying a San Juan Worm type pattern never really occurred to me; it just slipped under my radar somehow. Not so with Gary, who was quick to slip a couple my way with the instruction "stick one on the point and hang on!" I duly obliged and although the UV shrimp did the most damage on the day, there was no doubting the worm's effectiveness either - particularly where brown trout were concerned. I made a mental note to put a few of these in my box for the coming season, to use whenever there is colour in the water. They are so quick and easy to tie that once I had procured the requisite materials, it took 20 minutes to knock up a dozen.
Hook: Kamasan B170 #12
Thread: UTC70 hot orange
Bead: 3mm red tungsten
Worm: 2" piece of red micro pearl core braid
Although this wasn't a fly we used on the day, it comes from a series of discussions I have had with several northern flyfishers about the visibility of nymph patterns in less than clear water conditions. My usual MO in such scenarios is to default to a nymph with a collar or tag of bright, flashy material, or even a black nymph, the bold outline of which I believe stands out well in mucky water. However, at least three anglers have told me recently they believe a white headed nymph to be very effective in such conditions, presumably for similar reasons of visibility. It's unclear where this mini trend began, but I have a feeling that Ripon-based competition angler Fred Bainbridge might be the originator.
In stocking up on tungsten this week, I added a packet of 2.5mm white beads to my order. Initial trials have been with my melanistic pheasant tail nymph, a fly which I rely upon quite heavily, but which usually sports a copper coloured bead.
Hook: Dohiku 644 #14
Thread: sheer 14/0
Bead: 2.5mm white tungsten
Rib: fine copper
Tails and body: melanistic PT
Thorax: brown Diamond Brite dubbing
So an interesting few hours at the vice, all told. Given that I generally spend the winter stocking up on tried and tested patterns that I've become so familiar with that I can tie with my eyes closed, it was a refreshing change to mess about with some slightly more off-the-wall stuff. The grayling season has only 8 weeks to run here (less across the Pennines), and my thoughts will soon return to trout and the spring LDO and March brown hatches; but in the meantime I will be continuing to fish for the grayling, be it urban or rural incarnations, whenever time and water levels permit.