Being Better

With the days growing longer and warmer, Peter has more excellent loch-style advice, this time for fishing dry flies.

Rod and line

For dry fly fishing, I like to use a relatively light rod and line – perhaps a 4 weight for Tasmanian conditions. Keep in mind the flies are usually no more than a lightly-dressed size 12, and the casting is always quartering downwind.

It’s not a silly idea to use a rod with a bit of length in it either; say a 9’6” or even a 10’ rod. The slightly longer rod gives a great advantage when you are imparting movement to the flies, particularly late in the retrieve. The lighter line is a help here as we often use it like a spinnaker to skate the flies in various directions.

Think about a longer, lighter rod for loch-style dry fly.

I like bright fly lines. I can see them, and they make me feel happy! Find an orange one.

When it comes to tapers, for this style of fishing, who cares! But there’s nothing wrong with the humble old DT line. I know some won’t suggest this, but I do!

Dry fly leader

The leader is simple yet very important. Whilst ‘it depends’, a 15 foot leader, tied up with 3 sections of 5 feet of 5 pound Maxima, is pretty good. Use a Surgeon’s Knot to tie the sections together and leave a 12 inch tag hanging down toward the point fly (the end fly) at each knot. Basically, you will start with two pieces 6 feet long for the top two sections, then a 5 foot piece for the last section.

Be sure to always degrease your leader. It is important it immediately sinks below the surface film as soon as it lands. A floating leader will result in hundreds of tiny V wakes as soon as you move your flies. Fish don’t like this. A floating leader also results in a wide underwater shadow which can spook fish if they swim under it. The width of the shadow is much, much less if the leader is sunk.

It depends again, but as a generalisation, I like the brown Maxima called Chameleon. It’s strong and bulletproof, albeit a little agricultural under some circumstances. Tough fishing will likely require something more refined.


You can do whatever you like here but I would only ever use sparsely dressed seals fur dry flies. The style of flies I’m thinking of are versatile. Believe it or not, the Ginked-up seals fur (Gink is a brand of floatant) will float like a cork if you cast it properly – more about the right cast shortly. There is no need for much hackle on these flies because it is not the hackle which provides most of the floatation, it’s the seals fur. (Too much hackle can cause leader twist and stop the fly from assuming the best attitude in the surface film.)

The Claret Carrot – one of the classic loch-style dries, especially for duller days.

For the past 20 years, I’ve mostly used size 12 flies but these days, with increased fishing pressure, I find it more and more important to use size 14 and 16 flies. On some waters, the fish are seeing just too many anglers and their flies. They’re onto us for sure! So consider going down a size or two.

I know that as we get older, our eyesight is not what it used to be. Get over it. It is more important to use small flies, even if they are difficult for us to see. Believe me, the fish have no trouble seeing your small offering. Generally, we are loch-style fishing very close to the boat and as long as you are paying at least a little attention, you will notice the rise of a fish in line with your cast – you don’t have to see your flies to understand that you should strike.

A standard set of flies would be Bob’s Bits, Hoppers in general and specifically, a Bibio Hopper (these are English lake hoppers – nothing like grasshoppers), and Carrots.

Dull colours for dull days seem better to me. Typically, mayfly days are dull and overcast in Tasmania. So claret, fiery brown, purple and black are all good colours; so too is a natural possum colour.

Try that dash of flash or fluoro on the flies on dull days.

On these dull days with low light, I do feel it’s a good idea to add a dash of fluoro to your fly dressing. Low light often means high UV light, and fluoro orange heads are a sensational idea on a claret Bobs Bits, for example. On some days I feel that the Mylar ribbing on my Bibio Hoppers gives the twinkle that converts a window-shopping trout to one on the line.

For bright days, I like brighter flies. I can’t believe how often a large, bright orange Carrot with a Mylar tag gets eaten when fished as the middle fly on a 3 fly leader on blue sky days.

Oh, and give’em a break and start tying all your flies on barbless hooks. I don’t believe you lose any more fish than you would with barbed hooks, but in all likelihood, the mortality rate will be lower if you are releasing your fish.

The cast

Short line dry fly loch-style fishing is fun, and most takes are visual and exciting. My idea with the length of the cast is to keep the flies JUST outside the range of the trout’s view of the angler and boat.

Depending upon the height of your boat and whether you are sitting or standing, on calm, sunny days you will need to fish the point fly at maybe 50 feet or more. On a dull, overcast day with a good top on the water, you might fish as close as 30 feet. My best advice would be to not fish any further than is necessary.

There are many good reasons for this. Long casts result in refusals to your fly which you are never aware of. Long casts mean many more missed strikes. And importantly, if you continually fish long, then it’s difficult to quickly and accurately cover a rising fish which is in close. If you fish short, then it’s easy to go long quickly – but not vice versa.

Good loch-style anglers almost never false cast. A simple ‘Pick Up Lay Down’ cast is all that is required for this short line technique. What is so vitally important when using these types of flies, is the line speed on the forward delivery cast. It must be tremendous! The fast acceleration of the flies into the forward cast will leave behind any water the flies were carrying. (It can often be felt on the back of your neck!) The unrolling loop must fully extend ABOVE the water such that the flies land with what I call a ‘gravity drop’. Like thistledown landing.

It’s also important to maintain a high rod tip stop position. If you can get used to holding your rod tip up at a high angle – perhaps above your eye level would be a good starting point – then you will be in a much better position to manipulate the flies, strike into a fish and initiate a good back cast (from a short line position).

Anglers who use low line speed, or develop tailing loops when using more power, cannot fish effectively with these types of flies. They cannot float them. To make it worse, these anglers also don’t have good enough control of the loop and they drive the flies down onto the water’s surface, further waterlogging them.

As the boat progresses down the wind, be sure to be fanning your casts at about 10 foot widths. The aim is to try to cover as wide a path as possible.

With two in the boat, you should be able to cover a stack of water.

Now, having said always fish the flies as close as possible to the boat, I also want you to have enough line in your Stripper Clip to make your longest cast. This extra line, effectively held in reserve, not to be used unless you see a rise further away. Quick and accurate deliveries to trout which have just fed catch many of them. So when you get these opportunities at distance, I don’t want you to be messing about pulling extra line off your reel before you cast. (Be sure to get back to the short, efficient length as soon as the long opportunity passes.)

The retrieve

Once upon a time, if your dry fly was moved while it sat on the surface of a lake, it was thought to be dragging and the fish wouldn’t eat it. How wrong we were!

The types of flies I like to use for this fishing lend themselves well to being pulled. They are surface film flies and if they land with a gravity drop, rather than a splat, and they will float all day. If you twitch them, you should see a little V wake coming from each fly. If you give the flies a long pull, they will likely follow the sunken leader and go subsurface, only to pop back up again the moment you stop the retrieve. They are pretty cool really.

Yes, lake trout do in fact take pulled dry flies.

As a rule, on the bright days I don’t like to move the flies very much – it seems to frighten the fish. Maybe it’s more the leader movement which does the frightening? I’m not sure. On the rougher and darker days however, the trout often respond well to flies moved really vigorously. An extreme case would be a longer cast, immediately followed by a variable speed roly-poly retrieve. In some conditions, there is no such thing as too fast a retrieve for your dry flies! Play around with your retrieves until you find something that works.

On a nice light wind day with moderate sunshine, perhaps start with something like this… Use a high line speed delivery cast which results in a gravity drop landing. Allow perhaps 3 or 4 seconds without moving the flies. This will give you time to spot a fish coming to the flies because it has seen or heard them land. After 26 years of guiding, I still find it remarkable how often trout take our flies in these first few seconds.

After three seconds, twitch the flies maybe an inch or so. To do this, be sure to use the rod tip. As soon as you see the flies wake, immediately drop the rod tip to take the tension from the line and stop the flies. Now figure-8 this slack while you wait another 3 or 4 seconds for a fish to rise to your flies. Repeat this only once more, but this time, move the flies a little harder. We are trying to attract the trout’s attention with the movement. All animals and bugs become more visually obvious if they are moving rather than stationary.

Why it all works

By using our surface film flies (emergers for want of a better description) and by imparting short, sharp movements, I find the takes are generally so much more confident than to a statically-presented, full-hackled dry fly. With the former, strikes are very rarely missed, and the hook set is most often deep in the mouth, which is further evidence of the confidence in the take.

Trout taking dries fished this way are often hooked well inside the mouth.

Now, I guess, about 10 or so seconds after the flies land (three twitches with three or so seconds of wait time between), I recast the flies to a position 10 to 12 feet to the side of the previous landing. Then repeat, repeat, repeat.

When you think about the system used here, it’s no wonder it catches so many fish. Our three flies are tied 5 feet apart. Let’s just suppose that a typical lake trout can see in a 5 foot radius above its head. This means each time your flies land on the water, they are effectively fishing a 20 foot x 10 foot area – and you are adding a new quadrant every 10 seconds.

Overall, if you want to cover and then entice plenty of opportunistic trout, loch-style dry fly – done correctly – is a no-brainer.