Tag Archives: Fly fishing

Abaco – Round Two in the Bahamas!


Those of you who may have read my previous posts about JLM Specials and Bonefish already know about RH (of Rolling Harbour fame) and his wonderfully generous spirit. He kindly field tested my original pattern with fantastically conclusive results in 2014! The beauty of designing fly patterns is that one can tweak every variable based on feedback received… The basic pattern still holds however the revised editions are a far cry from their predecessors:

The original JLM Specials

The original JLM Specials

This afternoon I completed a set of adapted flies based on RH’s generous report from last time. White and pink, with small flashes of red or orange are my main ingredients and for the streamers, I used varying proportions of elk hair and/or Arctic fox fibres.

"Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement" - Helen Keller (photo - metiefly)

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement” – Helen Keller (photo – metiefly)

Thanks in advance to RH and his March 2015 test team!

Thanks in advance to RH and his March 2015 test team!

I’ll keep you posted of the Outcome in due course. As always – thank you for reading and I look forward to your return.

tiddler treasures in the thames


This weekend I was privileged to be able to fish both days during the switch of tides. The water was clearer than I have ever seen it and although there are always man made items in the river, the amount of plastic has vastly reduced compared to the levels I became accustomed to seeing in 2013.

Massive thanks to everyone who makes real effort to reduce litter and pollution in this city. The water clarity is the best I've seen it and the prolific abundance of fish is evidence of a recovering river.

Massive thanks to everyone who makes real effort to reduce litter and pollution in this city. Water clarity is the best I’ve seen it and the prolific abundance of fish is evidence of a recovering river.

I worked my way through my favourite spots, eagerly anticipating a bite, scanning for evidence of fish as always. Cormorants, herons and grebes are abundant – sure signs of viable fish populations. It was not long before I saw shoals of baitfish and I did my best to put together a pattern that worked. Low tide is an exciting time, below and above the surface. Fast currents pull food to waiting fish, slow waters gather nutrients and provide comfortable resting places for predators and prey alike.

On both days the magic happened during a little time window coinciding with the onset of the incoming tide. The best way to describe it is when the current gently grinds to a halt, then s.l.o.w.l.y. changes direction. All of a sudden the river begins to boil softly with the constant rising of myriads of baitfish. There is little chance of predicting exactly where they rise – all around me in every direction: spates of little fish leaping clear of the surface or delicately sipping morsels from the film.

My humble Mrs Simpson chugged along, faithfully tracing staccato arcs through the water – how long before a giant slab of silver would latch on in the frenzied hope of yet another mouthful? Action came in tiny yet explosive packages – brave perch knocked my fly doggedly, regardless of their diminutive stature. First one took me by surprise and I did not have the heart to set the hook – it bounced free with an unplanned tailwalk into a splash landing. I chuckled at my heightened senses, the pounding in my heart inversely proportional to the size of the prize. The next attacker was larger and less fortunate as a result – even tiddler perch have cavernous mouths – and I was delighted to get this unusual picture for my catch catalogue:

The joy of fishing in the Thames is not knowing what may latch on - every cast could produce one of many different species. This time it was a feisty perch - Perca fluviatilis falling prey to the seductive powers of a Mrs Simpson pattern tied from woodcock feathers.

The joy of fishing in the Thames is not knowing what may latch on – every cast could produce one of many different species. This time it was a feisty perch – Perca fluviatilis falling prey to the seductive powers of my Mrs Simpson pattern tied from woodcock feathers.

Back into the Thames on the rising tide... The water was the cleanest I've seen it since I started fishing there in March last year. Big thanks to everyone who makes real effort to reduce litter and pollution in this city.

Back into the Thames on the rising tide… The water was the cleanest I’ve seen it since I started fishing there in March last year.

Not long after the fun began, it suddenly turned quiet. A westerly wind came up and I had to return to the safety of higher ground, driven by the rising tide. After having blanked on every previous visit since August last year, I was overjoyed to have caught and released a new species on a metiefly pattern, irrespective of its tiny size.

Day two was even more fun for me as I anticipated the prospects of success, armed with my recently acquired knowledge. I had visions of a shoal of sea trout cutting through pods of baitfish, chasing them down in the shallows, herding them against the surface and gorging on my meticulously presented fly. I toyed with the option of a smaller fly to specifically target the baitfish, then quickly rejected it, steadfast in my resolve to catch a sea trout. After all, the little fish last night had no trouble gulping my Mrs Simpson:

This fly proved itself with tiny perch... would it step up to the challenge of a wily Sea Trout?

This fly proved itself with tiny perch… would it step up to the challenge of a wily Sea Trout?

I chose to fish upstream into pockets of rolling currents, challenged by the need to strip my fly quicker than the current to give it some action – after a few casts, I was shocked to have a savage take, only to discover this – for a few milliseconds I was besides myself thinking it was a young trout or a salmon par, then to discover it was a dace, known to ichthyologists as Leuciscus leuciscus. Another new species – Mrs Simpson was on a roll!

Leuciscus leuciscus - dace... These can grow to a decent size. I look forward to finding out more about them in due course.

Leuciscus leuciscus – dace… These can grow to a decent size. I look forward to finding out more about them in due course.

Like clockwork, the tides switched and the boiling began, this time I cast in the region of the biggest swirls, retrieving rapidly in the hope of attracting attention to my fly. No bites. As soon as I slowed down my retrieve to a steady figure of eight – wham! Another stunning photo opportunity:

Day two, number two - I was amazed at how hard he struck and with the bend he managed to put in my rod! Notice how clear the water is, despite a downpour earlier in the day.

Day two, number two – I was amazed at how hard he struck and with the bend he managed to put in my rod! Notice how clear the water is, despite a downpour earlier in the day.

My next perch was the brightest of the bunch, helped by a perfect splash of sunshine exactly on time for the picture:

Perfect poser! I love these colourful little fish... So do cormorants and grebes!

Perfect poser! I love these colourful little fish… So do cormorants and grebes!

I was in the zone, having worked out how to catch them, each one seemed slightly larger than the one before…

See what I mean about cavernous mouths?

See what I mean about cavernous mouths?

Finally, just when I had waded back towards my homeward shoreline, I had the biggest take of them all:

Day two, perch number four!

Day two, perch number four!

What wonderful additions to my Thames catch catalogue after two highly enjoyable afternoons. I am thrilled to have discovered what lies underneath the surface during “happy hour” – one thing I know for sure: some of those baitfish were leaping because they were chasing down food; most of them were leaping for their lives, desperately escaping much bigger mouths under the surface. It will not be long before my next sojourn…

Thank you for reading – I look forward to seeing you back here again soon!

drakensberg delights


Recently I received a request for advice on fly selection for the Drakensberg. The question evokes memories of brown trout from pristine waters, day after day walking through stunning surroundings, breathing perhaps the cleanest air that has ever filled my lungs. Rather than attempting further description, I encourage readers to click on Peter Brigg’s masterful blog http://callofthestream.wordpress.com to see his amazing pictures of Drakensberg paradise.

Back then I found success with tiny Coch-y-Bonddu style wet hackle flies: no tail or a short tail of hen hackle fibres, a double strand of peacock herl wrapped to make the body and a soft hen hackle in olive or black. I was not sophisticated in my technique at first however my enthusiasm knew no bounds and I caught a lot of fish. I learned quickly that the trout were wild and hungry: if I could present my fly without being seen myself, they would devour it.

Big brother, little brother... Metiefly damsel nymphs destined for the magical mountains of South Africa.

Big brother, little brother… Metiefly damsel nymphs destined for the magical mountains of South Africa.

Last night at the vice, I created two versions of a fly I just know would have worked perfectly in my endeavours almost 20 years ago. The larger versions are weighted for deeper pools and fast runs, the little ones are designed specifically for crystal waters and smaller tributaries… Tiny feeder streams became my personal favourites – several times I pitched my fly where no other human had been in the lifetime of the fish I was after… My ultimate reward on the final evening, in the last vestiges of sunlight I landed two 1 kg brown trout on consecutive casts. Time stood still in that moment as I thanked the Universe for such a rare and Sacred Gift!

Close up - well defined segments and strong materials ensure guaranteed performance for many fish (photo - metiefly)

Close up – well defined segments and strong materials ensure guaranteed performance for many fish (photo – metiefly)

Tying these gems is easy and the result is pleasing to my eyes – most importantly I know this pattern works wonders and will withstand multiple attacks from feisty predators. I’ll add in a couple of small Walker’s Killers and two Emerald Spiders in case of muddy water…

Only time will tell whether this mix of flies will work in the beautiful waters of Drakensberg streams - I'll let you know the outcome in due course. Tight lines to their recipient!

Only time will tell whether this mix of flies will work in the beautiful waters of Drakensberg streams – I’ll let you know the outcome in due course. Tight lines to their recipient!

Thank you for reading – please return soon!

99 blogposts – not out!


For my 99th blog entry I feel honoured to share this video.

It is not my work.

It definitely echoes my sentiments – great work by its creators.

Enjoy it and thanks again for visiting my site

I look forward to your return!

Mitchi mayflies!


My Darling photographed this mayfly last weekend whilst we walked along the River Thames. It’s delicate wings were no match against blustery winds and at the risk of anthropomorphism, the little treasure was grateful for the chance to rest and strike a pose…

Mayflies are a dream come true for trout and fishermen alike!

Mayflies are a dream come true for trout and fishermen alike! Photo – worklondonstyle

This picture provides a sense of overall proportions:

I have a brilliant solution to sourcing the fine tailpieces... Will reveal all in due course...

I have a brilliant solution to sourcing the fine tailpieces… Will reveal all in due course… Photo – worklondonstyle

Earlier during the same walk, I had read an interesting article in one of the monthly fly fishing magazines about tabby cat fur being a purrfect (sorry!) source of dubbing material written by a highly successful young member of the English fly fishing team. Having already featured our very own Mitchi’s discarded whiskers on miniature dry flies, the next logical step was to harvest her loose fur from our couch.

Today I put all the pieces of the puzzle together to produce the following:

Cat fur dubbing provides a slim body profile and a pair of miniature hen hackles form excellent wings. What will the trout make of the end result?

Cat fur dubbing provides a slim body profile and a pair of miniature hen hackles form excellent wings. What will the trout make of the end result? Photo – metiefly

view from the top... Photo - metiefly

view from the top… Photo – metiefly

The original...

The original… Photo – worklondonstyle

The copy... metiefly Mitchi mayfly using locally sourced materials :-)

The copy… metiefly Mitchi mayfly using locally sourced materials 🙂 photo – metiefly

Mitchi is anticipating the finest cuts of the proceeds in due course…

purrfect collaboration... Thanks to Mitchi for sustainable use of materials at its best!

purrfect collaboration… Thanks to Mitchi for sustainable use of materials at its best! Photo – metiefly

Thank you for reading – please return soon!

JLM Special makeover – back to Abaco?


Constructive feedback is a wonderful inspirer. Esteemed fellow blogger and author of a stunning Bird book, RH (of rollingharbour.com) painstakingly limited his catch rate on my behalf during his last sojourn in the Abaco Marls. Persisting long after his wiser companions abandoned the JLM Special in favour of their tried and tested stalwarts, RH very kindly gathered all the empirical evidence he needed to tell me the following:

These flies don’t work in Abaco! Not even by accident! (These are my own words – RH is far more generous and polite :-))

RH went on to provide constructive insights to help me refine my approach:

“Basically, much too dark for the waters of Abaco, too bushy, no streamer tail, no sparkle.”

My first creative reaction is to take care of the colour tones…

Prototype1 - this albino variant is made by combining arctic fox tail with ginger (yes ginger!) elk hair and white embroidery thread. To give it some colour and fine movement, I used blonde hare fur tips. For the telson, a sliver of red wool . Photo - metiefly

Prototype1 – this albino variant is made by combining arctic fox tail with ginger (yes ginger!) elk hair and white embroidery thread. To give it some colour and fine movement, I used blonde hare fur tips. For the telson, a sliver of red wool . Photo – metiefly

The streamer tail and addressing the bushy profile is a matter of correcting proportions:

Longer and fewer arctic fox fibres , a whiff of red in the main body - each iteration is a little step closer to the end goal!

Longer and fewer arctic fox fibres , a whiff of red in the main body – each iteration is a little step closer to the end goal! Photo – metiefly

I have no idea what the final design will look like – in the meantime, I thoroughly enjoyed myself in the ongoing pursuit of what Abaco’s bonefish consider a tasty morsel.

Ready for postage... Thanks again to RH for his great attitude and collaboration...

Ready for postage… Much appreciation to RH for his patience, great attitude and collaborative spirit. Photo – metiefly

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

lessons from history – Walker’s Killer pattern


I understand I’m getting older when what was once considered current affairs is now taught in the form of history lessons!

I met my first Onchorhynchus mykiss on Mare Dam in the Rhodes Nyanga National Park. In the words of my beloved Granddad, I stood “knee high to a grasshopper” at the time. Magical fly fishing holidays now flit amongst my neurons in the form of spectacular memories and deep seated core knowledge… No box is a fly box if it does not contain Walker’s Killers. Some of the finest fishermen in the land would carry only this pattern, save for a dry fly or two in case of an evening rise. They had good reason too!

Attributed to Mr. Lionel Walker, the Walker’s Killer consists of a tail of black dyed squirrel tail fibres, a red chenille body and several paired sets of double sided wings. Literature mentions up to eighteen striped partridge feathers per fly tied opposite so as to present a slim, almost flat profile. This allows for streamlined casting and straight swimming once submerged.

Trout guzzle this fly when conditions are perfect, when conditions are awful, and wherever conditions may fall in the whole spectrum inbetween!

In London most of the people I have spoken to about this pattern are unaware of it. Time for one of the most wonderful blasts from the past:

There was a time when this fly needed no introduction!

There was a time when this fly needed no introduction!

Beautiful construction - if one parts the wings a body of scarlet chenille is revealed.

Beautiful construction – if one parts the wings a body of scarlet chenille is revealed.

The slim profile allows it to cut through the air during casts and to swim straight as an arrow underwater.

The slim profile allows it to cut through the air during casts and to swim straight as an arrow underwater.

Please drop me a comment if this fly stirs up great memories, or even if it piques your anger - the pattern was so successful that some traditionalists even considered it to be cheating!

Please drop me a comment if this fly stirs up great memories, or even if it piques your anger – the pattern was so successful that some traditionalists even considered it to be cheating!

This fly happens to be my only one, still treasured after I discovered the hook had snapped off during one of my early adventures many decades ago. I strive to learn how to tie such neat and robust flies… This one is my motivator because it still looks good after more than thirty years!

I look forward to teaching myself to tie this pattern… Thank you for reading as always.