Flyfishing without a parachute

We all get stuck in our ways, sometime by choice, sometime without knowing.

When it comes to fishing in the small streams near home, I like dry fly fishing and I tend to use the same old flies and start with the caddis, Wulffs and Stimulators. While these usual suspects generally get the job done, there are the occasions when the fish are not coming to hand, and I start to question if it’s the fly or the fish. As I can’t make fish eat something they don’t want, the only option is to change flies and see if I can change the situation. When I do this, it is often a mayfly pattern that goes on. And when I do use a mayfly, it is invariably a parachute-hackled version.

I try and tie my own flies and the parachute hackle is a constant roll of the dice for me. Not in the tying – I can tie them, and they look (to my eyes anyway) good. The issue I have is whether they will float the right way up most of the time and not fall over; especially on that cast when I’ve finally got the drift right. I’m sure there are people out there who can help me out with this issue, and I’d welcome the advice, but I also may have just found another way.

Nice water, what fly?

I’m a self-taught fly tier and apart from some advice from notable fly tiers, in particular Mick Hall, most of my learning comes from trial and error, and the internet. I watch YouTube a lot. I often search for flyfishing films while I drink coffee on a Saturday morning and I also watch lots of fly-tying videos for tips on all sorts of patterns and for techniques to help my own efforts at the vice. (Given the choice between mowing lawns or flyfishing videos, the grass can grow.)

While enjoying this guilty pleasure and sipping my latte recently, I saw a video on the no hackle mayfly. It seemed straightforward to tie and with a suggestion that it can be an ephemeropteran all-rounder, potentially imitating emerging mayfly, duns and even spent spinners.

Where has this fly been hiding? With some extra reading I discover that Doug Swisher and Carl Richards developed the pattern and they consider it the deadliest imitation of a mayfly dun they have. I’m now looking for a copy of their book, Selective Trout, to learn some more about this.

I delved deeper into the no hackle fly scene and there are some amazing flies out there. The ones with feather wings are astonishing, but way out of my tying league. However, the deer hair-winged flies offered a chance.

I sat at the vice and had a dip at tying some.

I found they were not too difficult to tie, and I tied a couple of sizes in a few different body colours. They certainly looked dun-like in the vice, but the big question was, how would they would go out on the water? Would they sit right, and would the trout respond?

It works!

Out on the creek, the newly-tied size 16 rusty no hackle was cast, and it landed well, floating with wing proudly in the air and looking a lot like a mayfly dun… and then it was gone into a ring of bright water. A small rainbow had taken a shine to it and had grabbed it. In the next hour or so, lots of small rainbows ate the fly as did a couple of better (for the small creek anyway) browns. Lots of fun on the 6-foot 3 weight.

The deer hair floated well, and the fly was durable and quickly refreshed with a few cheekfuls of air if it didn’t float. I liked it, and the ease of tying – compared to the parachute style — was a bonus.

While I’m sure the parachute style would have worked, and so would have the caddis, Wulffs and Stimulators etc., etc., I had a growing confidence and potential love for this style of no hackle fly.

It’s a great time to get out onto those small streams which have dropped enough to fish. The water is cold, the bugs are out, and the trout are looking up.

Warm air, cold, clear water.

My naivety in flies and fly history is evident and this style of fly is not new. No hackle flies have been around for many years. But the sense of discovery and the new interest to tie and try them, and then meeting with some success, made my day. I’m now keen to try them on those dun-feeding trout on the Goulburn.

We all get stuck in our ways, sometimes by choice, sometimes without knowing. In this case, the realisation I was a bit stuck in my ways with certain types of fly, has prompted me to explore more and it has renewed my already more-than-adequate enthusiasm.

I haven’t dismissed the parachute, but have built up the confidence to fish without one.