Dry fly fishing has always been regarded as the supreme art in fly fishing circles. This is particularly so on rivers and chalkstreams where matching the hatch is only the beginning of the problem and where presentation has to be considered as well. But dry flies also play an important part in reservoir and lake fishing where trout are attracted by insects on the surface.

Favourite season

Of all the periods during the season when trout rise to a dry fly, the favourite is the time that the mayfly hatch. The huge flies energe from the water in such large numbers that the trout literally gorge themselves to capacity, and the better fish rise freely. On these occasions almost any artificial pattern representing a mayfly will take fish.

Early in the season the hawthorn fly hatches in large numbers and very good catches can be made with the aid of a Black Gnat. Again this mostly applies to running waters, but vast numbers of hawthorn flies were noticed at one huge Midlands reservoir. Although the fish were not rising to them at that time, they will probably do so in the future.

In late summer, one of the most popular flies that hatches on every water is the sedge. These medium sized flies start to hatch in July and August and are present throughout the day, and in vast numbers at nightfall. If weather conditions are good and flies are hatching, a pattern representing a sedge can be very effective, for the ‘spent’ sedge falling back upon the water is the fly most likely to attract the attention of the trout. But they are by no means the only ones. Throughout the year there are hatches of buzzers, the dreaded caenis, which is too small to be imitated, and a number of Ephemerids such as the olives. These insects all hatch from the water and return there to lay their eggs, and this is when the trout will rise.

Patterns of dry fly

In almost all instances where trout feed on landborne insects, the rule is not to move the fly. It is not possible to simulate the vibrating motion of their legs and in any case they are soon dead or exhausted and then lay still. An imitation is far more likely to succeed if it is cast out and then left. Regarding the patterns of dry fly that are needed, every angler should include in his collection the following: Tupp’s Indispensable, Mayfly, Sedge, Black Gnat, Grey Duster, Iron Blue, Daddy Long Legs, Sherry Spinner, Pond Olive, Lunn’s Particular, Flying Ant, Drone Fly, Greenwell’s Glory, Royal Coachman, Wickham’s Fancy, Silver Sedge, Kite’s Imperial, Grey Wulff, Grey Duster, Lake Olive and perhaps appropriately Last Hope, which was originated by John Goodard to represent the Pale Watery dun or similar, light coloured river insects.

These are only a few of the many hundreds of dry flies available. The tremendous growth of fly fishing, and the advent of the relatively cheap package holidays abroad, has led to English fly fishing enthusiasts travelling all over the world, notably the United States. Canada, Alaska and even New Zealand. This has resulted in many flies with origins far from our waters.

Unless treated with a floatant, dry flies will quickly become waterlogged and need frequent changing. This is especially true of the wool bodied types. But the invention of Permaflotc by Dick Walker and Arnold Neaye means that you can fish the same fly all day without a change, unless, of course, a fish has taken it, when it will need a change. One word of warning—it’s best to treat the flies and leave them to dry thoroughly before use if you want the best results from them.