Friday, January 01, 2016

Top flies of 2015 - the DSS

Customary as it is to look back and review one's fly fishing season, I have been reflecting of late upon what has been a steady but unspectacular 2015. Actually I might be doing a disservice there, because although the sport in terms of fish caught has been a little undewhelming at times, it has been one of the most enjoyable seasons I can remember. Increasingly, as I get older and supposedly wiser, fishing for me is more about the experience - the places, the friends, the knowledge gained and shared - than what was once an almost rabid desire to catch more and bigger fish than before. Those of you who are older than me will no doubt take this opportunity to roll your eyes and mutter about the naivety of youth and so on. Well please welcome me to the fold. I turned 40 last month, thus entering the second half of my lifetime and will no doubt need to purchase a wading stick soon.

I will spare you the navel gazing review of my season and instead pinch an idea. Back in early 2014, Stuart Minnikin ran a series of blog posts on his top performing fly patterns of the previous year (this link will put you in the right ballpark). I greatly enjoyed this at the time - it's always cool to have a look into another angler's flybox and see which patterns they rate, and why. I struggle to find time to maintain this blog these days, but even so I notice that it's a while since I discussed fly patterns in any depth so maybe now would be a good time to borrow Stuart's format and post half a dozen of the past year's favourites.

It didn't take me too long to pick which six, despite the fact that several very productive little numbers have failed to make the cut. I went for the flies which proved to have something a bit extra and as a result spent most time on my cast in 2015; if a handful of equally deadly patterns - such as Craigies Killer, Arthur's Wee Westie, lilac shrimp etc - have been left unmentioned, then it's not because of any failing on their part but just that, like inviting guests to a wedding, I had to draw a line somewhere.

So here goes. What I can tell you about the following series of flies is that in accordance with my own strict set of guidelines, they are all robust, dead quick and easy to tie, and catch fish reliably. In no particular order........


1. DDS

Naming flies is not one of my strong points. I always feel a little awkward about it - as if by naming a fly I am somehow claiming sole ownership when in fact all I have created is a variant of a formula tried and tested many times before. So any names tend to be functional and descriptive, just a means of identifying each pattern for my own benefit. This one is a great example: you'll notice that the genetic makeup of this excellent little dry follows the now ubiquitous 'CDC dun' template, and there can't be many river fishers up and down the country who haven't carried something similar for a least the last ten years. My own version has always used Masterclass dubbing for the body and proved as successful as any other, although I tended to reserve it for fishing in smaller sizes on quiet glides later in the season when dry fly fishing becomes a bit more testing. I have never been a fan of this template for early season fishing though, purely because I find it a bit too much of a faff for fishing brief spring olive hatches in popply water, when after a long winter lay-off I want to concentrate on catching all those rising trout rather than a CDC maintenance regime (if anyone is interested, a discussion is offered in this edition of Eat Sleep Fish).

So this little variant came about as my attempt to address that issue and give a bit more beef to the deadly CDC dun forumla. I added in a tiny pinch of deerhair to the wing and dubbed a body of snowshoe hare - two more materials noted for their buoyancy, and the 'inspiration' behind my utilitarian label (DDS = Deer/Duck/Snowshoe). Granted, there is a compromise in that some delicacy is lost when compared to say a stripped quill body, but as the intention was to use this in more broken water during spring large dark olive, iron blue and olive upright hatches, it didn't unduly concern me that the fly carried a bit more bulk.

In testing, the DDS proved itself many times over in the first half of the 2015 season and pleasingly, the additonal structural support given by the deer hair and snowshoe does indeed extend the period over which the fly can be fished without having to reach for the bottle brush and Frog's Fanny. More time fishing and less time primping - what's not to like!

Hook: any lightweight dry fly hook in 14-16 range. I like Hends BL404
Thread: Griffiths 14/0 sheer
Tail: Coq de Lyon, or any suitable cock fibres
Body: fine underfur from the foot of a snowshoe hare
Wing: a few coastal deer hair tips, plus a single CDC feather tip

It's worth mentioning that the CDC can also be substituted for a few of the coarser 'guard hairs' from the snowshoe foot, which makes for an even easier to maintain fly, if a little more on the bulky side. I suppose I'd have to call that one something like the DSMS (Deer/Snowshoe/More Snowshoe).

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