Thames adventures and aquatic beetles in Africa


I spent several hours on the Thames over the last two days reconnecting my casts in pursuit of a sea trout, or any species willing to hunt my offerings. The wind has been perfect, allowing me to cast upstream and work my fly through riffles and runs at low tide. No bites so far and plenty of time to ponder – what a tremendous way to iron out all the wrinkles that work and commuting create.

I longed to tie a credible Walker’s Killer since my very first attempt at dressing a hook, back in 1984 when I first met my trout hunting friend Gareth. From an early age he tied flies for his family’s annual pilgrimage to the mountains of Nyanga – perfecting many techniques, trusting his instincts and improvising with locally sourced materials and colour combinations. Hooks were hard to come by in tiny sizes and I would often tie a fly, examine it for a while, then I would cut off the thread, feathers and wool to start again!

Last night I rekindled my enthusiasm for this pattern using woodcock feathers and squirrel tail… My technique needs further refining however I am confident that with continued practice and the right feathers (partridge feathers are best) I will master it at last!

Herewith my first prototypes for the time being:

This magic pattern mimics water beetles, dragon fly larvae or small fish. Have a go at tying your own and let me know when you succeed!

This magic pattern mimics water beetles, dragon fly larvae or small fish. Have a go at tying your own and let me know when you succeed!

The more I practise, the easier it gets - I discovered that a similar pattern, the Mrs Simpson is used specifically for sea trout in New Zealand, fished at night... Will mine work in the Thames this season?

The more I practise, the easier it gets – I discovered that a similar pattern, the Mrs Simpson is used specifically for sea trout in New Zealand, fished at night… Will my equivalents work in the Thames this season?

I use liquid fusion superglue to cement their heads... Make sure they dry sufficiently before you handle them or store them to prevent them from sticking to each other.

I use liquid fusion superglue to cement their heads… Remember to ensure they dry sufficiently before handling them or storing them to prevent them from sticking to each other.

woodcock feathers produce a different effect - I look forward to using partridge feathers to recreate the original in due course...

woodcock feathers produce a different effect – I look forward to using partridge feathers to recreate the original in due course…

Water beetles are ubiquitous in the lakes and rivers that I visited as a boy – perhaps this is why the Walker’s Killer is such a hit there:

Photo - Art.com

Photo – Art.com. Cybister tripunctatus is a predatory water beetle that hunts Odonata larvae… In Southern Africa There are over 200 species of water beetles in the Family Dytiscidae alone.

Thank you for visiting – I look forward to your return!

9 responses to “Thames adventures and aquatic beetles in Africa

  1. That’s a water beetle?! Ack! Looks just like the giant roaches from where I used to live. Thanks for sharing the pic, so I’ll be on the lookout for these – and run away!

  2. Very Nice! Is that crimson flash made from thread?
    Fat, black and flat dragonfly larvae are abundant in my home stretch of the Delaware River, and one of my favorites for taking smallmouth. The “flat” shape has always been the tricky part but looking at your set here gives me the idea to try to tie this pattern with wings flat across the top of the hook. It’ll probably flutter and spin terribly on retrieval, but a lazy tumble along the bottom might be too good to pass up.

  3. Hi Wayne – see if you can get a picture of one of the flat dragonfly larvae and I’ll see if I can work out which approach would best replicate them – could be that deer hair may work too. Best regards – Mark

  4. Hi Wayne – traditionally the red flash is chenille however red wool is often used too. There are variants tied with yellow instead – traditionally red fished at night, yellow fished during daylight. Have fun tying some up!

  5. where do u get the feathers from

    • Hi Sam – these come from the Orvis store on Regent Street. The pheasant feathers come from Farlows on Pall Mall. Most of the time I collect feathers when I am walking outdoors – those mallard feathers that you collected are amongst my favourites. I also love finding the green feathers from the ring necked parakeets because they are such a vibrant colour and the birds are so much fun!

      • sorry i haven’t been replying i was on a school trip but I’m interested as too where you find the ring necked parakeet feathers as much as i see den i never find their feathers 😦

  6. Hi Sam – no pressure to reply promptly, we all have hectic schedules and it’s great that you had an opportunity to go on your school trip. For the ring necked parakeet feathers… Hunt around under the trees where they nest (usually in holes and hollows) and also where they like to hang out in the taller trees. Very often a feather will dislodge they preen themselves, or when they are scrapping for territory and/or status. If you find one, return to the same spot from time to time and usually there will be more. Good luck!

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