Patterns which can be called ‘wet flies’ -those which sink rather than float – are divided into three main categories. The true wet fly is usually tied on down-eyed hooks of sizes 8-14. They are intended to suggest something alive and edible, rather than imitate it exactly. They are tied in three styles: with collar hackle, palmered, or with both hackle and wing. Nymphs mimic specific aquatic invertebrates and can be tied either unweighted for fishing just below the surface, or leaded for fishing deep. This second technique works well in early season when the fish are grubbing along the bottom for food.
Lures are much larger patterns – often over 10cm long. Some represent small prey fish, and some trigger instinctive curiosity, hunger or aggression in the trout.
True wet flies resemble
How you fish a wet fly depends on how it has been tied.
Simple, collar hackled patterns, known as spiders, work well on rivers and still waters, especially when the fish are taking small items such as midge pupae or the nymphs of upwinged flies.
The more bushy pahnered flies give their best on larger still waters, especially in breezy, choppy conditions. On days like this, tripping the flies steadily through the wave tops can produce a take very close to the surface.
The winged wet fly can also be used this way – it is known as fishing loch-style – though because the hackle is sparser than a palmered fly, it does fish a little deeper.
Nymphs should be fished slowly with either a steady draw or figure of eight retrieve. The depth is equally important and it’s useful to carry both weighted and unweighted nymphs with you. Even with a floating line, a nymph can be fished as deep as 3-5m using a leader longer than this. This is an ideal depth to find feeding trout throughout the season; you can cover the depth even further by using a heavy nymph on the point of the leader and a lighter one higher up.
Adult invertebrates such as hoglice and shrimps are often imitated and fished deep in the leaded form.
The larval and pupal forms of various aquatic insects such as midges and caddis flies are a prime food source for the trout. The nymphs which imitate them are very effective throughout the season.
With lures, the speed of retrieve is crucial, and varying it often produces a take when nothing else seems to be working. Early in the season, when the water is cold and the fish lethargic, black patterns such as Sweeney Todd, Viva and Black Chenille, tied on size 6-8 long-shank hooks, catch a lot of trout. Fish them slowly along the bottom on a sinking line. During mid-season, when the trout are in chasing mood, colourful lures often work. Movement is important, and marabou in the wing or tail pulsates attractively on the retrieve.
As with all the other branches of angling, you must be prepared to ring the changes if the fish are feeding but you aren’t catching. Try to determine which natural the trout want, and then experiment with variations on the artificial which represents it.