For a fly to be effective, very often less is more. What I mean by that is, some of the most effective flies are the easiest to tie and require the least amount of material. The Dirty Stick Caddis is a good example of such a fly.
In 1999, I was captaining the Australian team competing in the Commonwealth Fly Fishing Championships in England. Two venues were Rutland Water and Grafham Water, among England’s most famous boat-based fisheries. As is often the case when fishing new waters, you are exposed to new techniques and flies. On this occasion, Englishman Ian Bare kindly gave the team a day’s tuition on English boat fishing techniques. I learned an enormous amount that day. (Ian later went on to win the individual gold medal in the World Fly Fishing Championships held in Scotland 2009.)
One of the techniques Ian introduced us to was fishing the washing line. This involves using a floating line, then three flies on the leader, with a buoyant Booby or FAB on the point, then either buzzers or small nymphs on the droppers. The technique allows the angler to keep their wet flies high in the water when targeting midge feeders.
My favourite wet to use with this technique is the Diawl Bach – Welsh for ‘Little Devil’. Like many successful flies, it comes in several variations, and can be tied with different-coloured ribs and heads. My favourite version, described below, is a size 14 with a red holographic rib.
The Diawl Bach is an extremely versatile fly. It can also be fished in a team of nymphs, as a point fly on a Loch-style leader, or suspended under an indicator or dry fly. And it is very simple and easy to tie.
Hook – Size 12 or 14 wet fly hook.
Thread – Black 8/0
Tail – Brown cock hackle
Body – Peacock herl
Rib – Medium red holographic tinsel
Throat hackle – Brown cock hackle
1. Tie in a small bunch of cock hackle for the tail – approximately 10 fibres, half the length of the hook shank.
2. Tie in the holographic tinsel.
3. Tie in 3 strands of peacock herl and twist together with your tying thread. This is important to strengthen and protect the peacock herl, which is quite fragile.
4. Wind the tinsel in the opposite direction back through the herl body to the eye of the hook.
5. Tie in a small clump of cock hackle under the fly as a throat hackle. This should be approximately one third of the length of the fly.
6. Whip finish and finish the head with head cement, trying to keep you heads as small and neat as possible.
There is a reason for the Diawl Bach’s longevity as a popular stillwater pattern. If you are serious about your lake fishing, you should definitely add this fly to your selection.