With the annual mayfly hatch imminent, it’s time to get ready for action with some suitable patterns. Dominic Garnett presents a step by step tying guide to his own super-durable mayfly for the thick of the action this month, followed by some handy fly fishing tips.
“The term ‘hatch’ can be quite inadequate to describe the mayfly season on rivers and stillwaters. ‘Massacre’ would often come closer, in what can be one of the most exciting, if short-lived, times of the season for any fly angler.
Granted, it’s true that trout can be a little fussy when the hatch is not in full swing, or at the back end when they are well-gorged. But for those days when the takes are thick and fast, I’ve often found that the top priority was not so much presenting a carbon copy of ephemera danica, as having a fly durable enough to withstand multiple casts, takes, and drownings.
Hence our fly this month is the Brawler, a detached bodied dry fly with a quality you wouldn’t normally associate with mayflies (longevity!). This is a buoyant, durable design that just keeps coming back for more! After all, there’s nothing more frustrating than having to stop fishing mid-hatch and keep changing your fly because it’s a beaten up wreck.
I used to make my own durable detached bodies with old sections of snipped fly line to tie this pattern. But ready made versions such as Turrall Mayfly Bodies offer more buoyancy and less fiddle these days. Made of silicone, these are not only very durable, but trap a little pocket of air to stop the fly from sinking, even after a clobbering.
How to tie a detached body mayfly pattern
Step 1: Take a grub hook and run some thread just behind the eye till it holds. This style of hook makes the detached body sit beautifully, while the wide gape also helps convert more rises to hooked fish.
Step 2: Once you’ve covered just under half the hook shank, double back and catch in your body. Use one light turn first (as shown), before adding more pressure with the next wraps to hold it in place.
Step 3: Once you’re happy with the positioning, add more wraps to bind securely. If you’re not quite satisfied it’s straight, you can always unwrap a few turns and try again.
Step 4: Now add some cream dubbing to the tying thread and create a little upper body, using this to cover the thread wraps.
Step 5: Now take a pinch of deer hair (about 1/3 of a pencil’s width is about right, with a length of material about 1.5 times as long as the hook). This material may not be as pretty as a lacy pair of wings, but is tough and very buoyant.
Now pinch this in place & tie in as a wing, ensuring you leave room for the head:
Step 6: Now cover the deer hair stubs and tie in your hackle feather:
Step 7: Wind 4-5 turns of hackle, before securing with thread and trimming off as shown:
Step 8: Sweep the hackle back with your fingers, like this, to keep the eye free, while adding another few turns of thread:
Mayfly fishing tips
-Don’t feel the need to go too light with leader strengths. These are large flies that can spin and kink light line easily, while you have every chance of a bigger fish taking too! 5lbs is a sensible starting point for tippets.
-For an even more resolutely buoyant fly, try applying some floatant the day before you go fishing, besides on the bank. This can help avoid having to switch flies should the action be hectic and your artificial get drowned.
-With the big natural flies and full-blooded rises on offer, this is one of those times in the trout fishing season when you can actually strike too quickly. Hold your nerve and allow an extra split second for fish to engulf your artificial.
-Hatch times can vary, but tend to kick in properly only in the latter part of the morning, from 10:30 towards noon. 4pm to tea time can be the best time of all however, so have your excuses ready with the other half!
-For fussier trout and variable conditions, it pays to have a selection of different mayfly variants in the box. Mayfly emerger patterns are especially useful and often overlooked. If you don’t tie your own, Turrall produce a fantastic variety of mayflies to set you in good stead, including classics such as the French Partridge, Yellow Drake and Spent Gnat. Find these at all good fly fishing shops or order online from any of our recommended retailers.
-Last but not least, don’t assume that it’s just the rivers that come alive at this time of year! Small, stream-fed fisheries can also produce the goods. In our neck of the woods, for example, Devon’s Bellbrook Valley Fishery has an especially heavy hatch on it’s largest specimen pool.
Wherever you find yourself casting these next few weeks, make sure you get out and enjoy it because these are truly special times each year.”