Paul Caron Stonefly

It’s not often that a fly pattern makes such a huge impression on me – but this unlikely looking bug (at least to European eyes) has done just that. And I apologise to my Canadian and North American friends who will be yawning just about now.

While classed as an important group of patterns in the Maritimes, Im pretty sure that over here in a world of Shrimp Flies and Tubes of all shapes and sizes, this style on it’s unassuming single hook and unconventional looks has gone pretty much unnoticed by many. Though I have heard rumours about this fly scoring on a certain Scottish river.

First designed and introduced by Lee Wulff, this pattern offers a very different silhouette than any other salmon fly and is designed to be swung high in the surface. The original used a melted plastic body that was used to seal in and trap the hackle. The picture below is of an original Lee Wulff Surface Stonefly pattern from the early 80’s and shared courtesy of a friend of mine Per Stadigh. It illustrates just how much the original has changed over the years.

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There are a whole assortment of variations out there, some with flash, some with foam bodies, different coloured hackles etc. The common component between most of them being the method of attachment of the hackle. In most cases this being a bent pin with a retaining bead, though I have seen examples using a heavy Mono or Fluorocarbon post with a melted end to retain the hackle.

Bright Fluro Green body with a black wing seems to be the common theme though there are versions with white over wings etc. Hackles I’ve seen vary from grizzle to badger in all sorts of qualities.

The version I’m going to describe is called the Paul Carron Stonefly and is based on examples I’ve fished with and conversations with David Bishop, President of the Gaspe Fly Company who introduced me to the pattern and manufactures the fly commercially.

Dressing

Hook- Lightweight single hook, here I’ve used a Partridge N.

Body- Fluorescent green floss, built up to a cigar taper and strengthened with a coat of “Hard as Nails” which also tends to deepen and hold the colour.

Wing- The original used dyed black bucktail taken from the centre part of the tail that would be brown on a natural tail. This hair tends to flare less and is more manageable. The wing on the original was mounted to flare flat over the top of the shank rather “than tied in the round” like a standard hair wing. I guess to provide more support on the surface action on the swing. In this case Ive used black squirrel.

Hackle post- The butts of the winging hair are posted. Im sure this is an important variation as its lighter in weight than the pin and bead method. And just as secure it seems.

Hackle- On the examples I’ve seen they have all used Silver or Blond Badger. Personally Im not sure of the importance of this and as you can see I’ve used a Dirty Badger, as it was the only similar hackle I had to hand in the correct quality and size.

As a note on hackle, although I didn’t discuss it, all the examples I saw used excellent quality, stiff and sharp hackles, similar to those you would use on dry flies.

Paul Caron Stonefly (slight variation)

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It’s important to attach this fly in-line with the tippet to keep it tracking in the correct attitude, a double turle knot being perfect for the job. Apart from that, as far as I can see, its fished down and across just like any other wet fly (though Ive heard mention of greasing it and fishing it dry, maybe thats why the hackle quality is there?) Depending on the weight of the current, it seems to either fish just subsurface or is very visible tracking in the surface. Not unlike a hitched tube but less pronounced. More subtle perhaps.

The takes are very visual and heart stopping, explosive in the surface with fish boiling at the fly. On several occasions recently, I’ve experienced a fish coming to this fly repeatedly before finally hitting it hard. Wonderful fun!

When we finally get some water I’m going to give this fly a serious tryout on my local river (the Usk, in South Wales) Im really looking forward to that and I have all sorts of variations floating around in my head that I’m going to try on the Towy for Sea Trout this summer.

Mainly I’m thinking black and silver with a little flash (well I would, wouldn’t I) – Its just got to work!!

Paul Slaney

I should give this up, wrapping bits of fluff on a hook for fun just can’t be normal.

“if I only had one fly” – Steffan Jones

Steffan and I both hail from West Wales. In Steffan’s case he is based in the town of Llandysul, around which flows the wonderful River Teifi. His interests are many and varied and interestingly have evolved from his inability to draw or paint and failure to play a musical instrument. This has led him to Photography and DJ’ing as outlets for his obvious creative streak.

“I can capture something with a lens that I would not be able to with a
canvas and brush – well, I probably could, but it would bear no resemblance
to the subject!”

And his DJ’ing has taken him as far afield as Hong Kong and Argentina.

He fly fishes extensively both locally and various Worldwide destinations for trout, grayling and salmon. However, his first love, like many Welshman is fishing for (sewin) sea run brown trout – particularly at night.

On many winter days you can find him, shotgun in hand, working his Cocker Spaniels. Which provides a fine selection of fly tying materials as well as food for the pot. Which is not a bad thing as nothing goes to waste.

His first introduction to our sport was via a long established youth scheme arranged by the Llandysul Angling Association (www.fishing-in-wales.co.uk) that gives free tuition to kids each year as an introduction to fly fishing and fly tying. Indeed his tutor, a local man called Peter Jones is still giving lessons to this day – some 25 years after the young Steffan passed through his class.

” I owe him a lot and he is also the gent that started me off sea trout fishing many moons ago” says Steffan.

Steffan is unusual in that although highly educated to MSc level, he chose to try his hand at earning a living from fly fishing knowing he had his qualifications to fall back on. And many years later has still no need to blow the dust off his degrees.

He now guides professionally throughout West Wales http://www.anglingworldwide.com and also arranges fishing holidays worldwide for http://www.aardvarkmcleod.com.

“The industry has given me some magical experiences and taken me to locations that I could not dream of affording to travel to, for that I am eternally grateful and long may it continue…”

Steffan has lot of ‘go-to’ patterns, but they tend to have one thing in common; they utilise a minimum amount of ingredients and can be tied quickly. A man after my own heart.

“Fly casting and fly tying to me are both enjoyable aspects of the sport, but
they are very much a means to end and that end being fishing. I’d rather
spend time on the water than at the tying desk, so the flies need to be
quick, but ultimately practical and fit for purpose”

His favourite sea trout fly is a pattern he devised some 15 years or so ago named the Daioni (Dye-ow-nee) It is specifically designed as a dropper pattern and is very effective, especially in the latter half of the season.

“daioni” is a Welsh word that translates to mean ‘to do you good’ or ‘goodness’.

The Daioni

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Hook: Partridge streamer (D4AF) size 6 or 8
Thread: Veevus 8/0 black
Body: medium silver holographic tinsel
Rib: silver wire
Body hackle: white cock hackle, palmered
Wing: black squirrel
Head hackle: Nature’s spirit grizzly collaring hackle in flu.blue

“One of the key aspects of night fishing in my eyes is silhouette and profile. Whereas the majority of patterns give a pretty streamlined presentation, this patterns keeps it ‘bulk’ and, therefore, presents a thicker and stronger silhouette. It is also fantastic fun to fish this on a full floater in the height of the summer, when it fishes just subsurface and the takes can be pretty explosive on it. Anyway, most certainly a pattern that I would never be without.”

I asked Steffan if he had any advise for novice tiers……….

“Thread control! Why do five wraps when two or three will suffice? It is also
a bit like juggling (not that I can juggle, I hasten to add) but you need to
be able to keep two balls in the air before you add the third. Don’t run
before you can walk and really concentrate on the basics. If you can master
some simple flies first (i.e. the analogy of keeping two balls in the air)
then that is key, then move on (add the third ball), develop and master new
patterns and techniques. Do not be afraid of asking for criticism, but then
take it well when it is received – the last thing you want and need is false
praise as you will not advance from that”

Steffan with a near 20b Sea Trout that took a Bunny pattern in Argentina.

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Steffan Jones

Many thanks Steffan, It was a pleasure talking with you.

Paul Slaney

I should give this up, wrapping bits of fluff around a hook for fun just can’t be normal.

“if I only had one fly” – Stuart Foxall

Stuart Foxall, golfer and a retired semi-pro footballer  also describes himself as an over enthusiastic Flyfisherman. He hails from the West Midlands near Stourbridge in the UK.  Patshull Park is his home fishery, where he can be found chasing Trout. And the Salmon and Sea Trout across the borders in Scotland and  into Wales are no strangers to Stuarts creations whenever he can steal the time.

Two or three times a year he gets across to Skeena Spey in British Columbia where he hosts and fishes for the many Sea Run species available there. When he’s not hosting there, well, he’s roughing it at Alaskawest on the Kanektoc River.

Its a tough job…….

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His day job working in sales of industrial protective clothing, gives him less time than he would like to tie his flies – indeed if you fancy some examples, then currently his waiting list is around 4 months. And let me tell you, this fella ties some flies.

Stuart has quite a unique style when it comes to tying. His flies are beautifully tied and balanced. He’s no stranger to contemporary Anadromous patterns combining spey, intruder and modern European ideas into highly mobile and flamboyant creations that are as easy on the eye as they are lethally effective.

You’ll probably agree then –  it’s no surprise that he’s self taught. His only reference being some old Veniards reference cards in the early days. And I suspect very few tiers have influenced his style.

So perhaps you can imagine how disappointed I was when Stuart said he was going to send a Pot Bellied Pig as his choice for this series. Yes, yes, I do know how effective and popular they are – however I expected to see something a little different from the great Foxy!

Anyway, the day come when the envelope landed on the mat. I was simply blown away when I tore it open and shook its contents onto the table. For this was not a pot bellied pig like I’d seen before or even could imagine existed.

Here its is….

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In Stuarts own words….“The first trip that I did for British Columbian steelhead I wanted to use a fly that I had complete trust in. I’d always done very well on more traditional pot bellied pigs for Atlantic salmon so I thought i’d just do a larger version in steelhead colours. The first day I used it I hooked seven fish…..so I was more than pleased (I lost most of those fish btw!!!!!)”

“Since then it’s caught numerous other steelhead, chinook salmon, chum salmon, sea trout, atlantic salmon and other species. So it’s a good all rounder to have in your box.”

The dressing…..

Tube- Blue Glitter tube with black liner
Tag- Mirage tinsel
Flash- Blue krystal flash
Wing- Black bucktail tied long
Mid hackle- Black schlappen
Feelers- Pig bristles tied long on each side of the tube
Rib- Oval silver rib
Body- Steelie blue ice dub
Front flash- Lots of blue,purple and mirage holographic flashabou tied all round
Front hackle- Blue or purple schlappen
Eyes- Jungle cock eyes tied on top
Head- Hot red, pink or orange cone head.

Since I took the photo for this piece, I’ve taken this fly for a swim through the Lucky Pool on the Usk and I can confirm it swims beautifully and just bursts with colour and movement. I’ve got a feeling its going to murder the Sea Trout on the high water this weekend.

Thank you Stu! I just hope I don’t have to wait 4 months till I can get a few more! If you packed in the golf you might just be able to do it.

Paul Slaney

I should give this up, wrapping bits of fluff around a hook for fun just can’t be normal

Feeling Blue

What is it about “blue” and Salmon and Sea Trout flies? Apart from the fact that its simply my favourite colour, some say its the last colour visible on the spectrum as the light fades, others believe the colour has association with oceanic baitfish that these fish feed on whilst at sea? Whatever it is, the plethora of patterns out there with blue as a component is legion.

Some Sewin Lures

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Home dyed blue materials, hair, hackles and feathers generally fall into two camps, at least on this side of the Atlantic as Veniards Dye give the home dyer two traditional and very useful day to day shades – Teal Blue and Kingfisher Blue. The Teal being a paler and more washed out than the deep and vibrant Kingfisher Blue. Indeed, my personal preference falls in the Kingfisher camp every time, the deeper the better. However Teal Blue, has to be used for certain patterns if “political correctness” is required. While we are at it, can anybody tell me exactly what Silver Doctor Blue is?

Editor with a lovely rich Kingfisher Blue hen cape

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Other dye manufacturers, Jacquards for instance, offer an alternative range. In fact last time I looked there were far more shades of blue available from them. But honestly, thats about all I can tell you about Jacquards.

To get the strongest results out of these Veniards Acid Dyes, I find it best to Ignore the instructions and get plenty of powder in the bath. A practical side effect of dyeing “my way” is the resulting inconsistent colours offering you an interesting range of shades to play with.

Of course using pure white hackle as the raw material offers the best results, but putting the blue over grizzle hackle, badger hackle, Guinea Fowl, Teal, Mallard, Squirrel, Fox, etc leads to a nice selection. And if you can find them, dyed over White Eared or Albino Ringneck feathers for beautiful Spey hackles that can rival the natural Cobalt Blue Guinea for depth of colour and length.

Dyed White Eared Pheasant in a modern Waddington pattern

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So now you’ve got your hackles what can you do with them? Well, there is a huge range of patterns out there and many of the most famous use blue as a major component – Elver Fly or Laxa Blue are two. Or, on the other end of the scale, as a tiny touch that contrasts and enhances a base colour like on the Nighthawk or even Kinermony.

Nighthawk

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Where hairwings have had their roots in traditional feather wing patterns, some have been popular for many, many years, Wilkinson, Silver Doctor, Blue Charm are all good examples.

Blue Charm

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Of course there are many natural shades of blue feathers available out there and leaving aside the expensive and rare feathers used in Classic Salmon Flies,  most are even easily obtainable to the average tier.

Kingfisher is an obvious one – though I rarely use it. European Jay for the front hackle on Bumbles, Vulturine Guinea Fowl (both elver feathers and cobalt breast) for the Elver Fly and Peacock Blues for the wonderful Goats Toe-  are all feathers that find their way into my own patterns. With the expensive Vulturine Cobalt one of my all time favorites.

Elver Fly using Vulturine hackles and cobalt breast feathers

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An unnamed pattern using Vulturine Cobalts and Peacock Blues

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Paul Slaney

I should give this up, wrapping bits of fluff on a hook for fun, just can’t be normal!

“If I only had one fly” Denis O’Toole

In 2011 the largest Irish Sea Trout ever caught on a fly was landed on the East Coast of Ireland from an un-named river. The fish weighed over 16lbs and was returned unharmed, minus some scales. Analysis of those scales revealed the fish to be 7 years old and it had spawned 5 times. A local bylaw prevented it being claimed as the official record, a fact that doesn’t seem to worry its captor, Denis O’Toole, at all.

Denis lives close to the River Slaney, a wonderful improving fishery, and when he’s not keeping fit boxing, he fishes there for Salmon and many smaller rivers nearby where he chases Sea Trout. His chosen fly however, was designed for the River Drowes, in the North.

From early experiments in fly tying in the 90’s he has progressed from tying flies using a pair of pliers held between his knees as a vice – to a very skilled and creative tier, comfortable with many styles and techniques. I always look forward to seeing the latest O’Toole creation.

His influences are far and wide but he holds Falkus in highest regard –  “if you can sit down and watch Salmo The Leaper and not want to go fishing, you shouldn’t be holding a fly rod”.

The fly is Denis’ own pattern it works particularly well for salmon when the water is carrying a little colour and although it was conceived with the Drowes river in mind the colour combination works well on the Slaney. I’m sure it would work well just about anywhere……..

The Drowes Dawn Shrimp

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The fly can be tied on either hook or tube as follows:-

Thread – 8/0 Hot Orange
Tag – Medium Silver Oval
Tail – Golden Pheasant wound
Rib – Medium Silver Oval
Rear Body – Silver Holographic Tinsel
Middle Hackle – Yellow Cock
Front Body – Claret Floss
Rib – Medium Silver Oval
Front Hackle – Claret Cock Hackle
Cheeks – Jungle Cock

Like many tiers Im talking to, Denis considers fly tying a major part of his life and if he had any advise for novice tiers it would be this – “Practise and buy the best quality materials you can afford, I know that’s 2 pieces of advice, but if you follow them you wont go far wrong“.

And what about that Sea Trout? Well here it is……….

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Many thanks Denis thats a stunning fish!

Paul Slaney

I should give this up, wrapping bits of fluff around a hook for fun just cant be normal

“If I only had one fly’ – Giovanni De Pace

Giovanni and I first started talking about flats fishing for Bonefish and Tarpon, a subject close to both our hearts. You see, Giovanni ties some of the most beautiful Bonefish flies I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen a few.

I quickly started to realise there is much more to Giovanni’s tying after seeing fantastic creations for Bass, Bluefish, Tuna and Dorado and his local Trout.

From October to April you can find him fishing for Sea Bass near to his home in Ceterverti, a small city close to Rome. Then from April to August for Trout in the Volturno and Sangro rivers. Then in September for Tuna and Dorado. Busy boy!

Giovanni has great admiration for saltwater tiers such as Bob Popovics and Lefty Kreh from the US. Whilst his Trout influence is closer to home, his friend Giuseppe Re.

His favorite fly, The Runner, was devised for fishing the shallow and rocky shoreline found along the coast near his home. It has an excellent baitfish profile and due to its semi buoyant nature he can control the depth he fishes to avoid snagging. The hackles in the body give it a sinuous movement in the water, ideal for hunting Sea Bass.

The Runner

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Hook – Gamakatsu SL size 12

Thread – Mono

Tail – 4-6 flat wing hackles and some strands of Sybai pearl twist hair

Body – Gliss N Glint or Slinky fibres

Eyes – 3D eyes from Sybai

My photographic skills are not really upto capturing the quality of this fly. Sorry Giovanni!

I asked Giovanni where flyfishing features in his life, he answered,  “Good question, Its the 5th love of my life, after my Wife and my 3 daughters”

I’m not sure I believe him because I asked him to send some photos and this is what arrived!!

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Nice work and lovely Bone Giovanni! Many thanks.

Paul Slaney

I should give this up, wrapping bits of fluff around a hook for fun just cant be normal

Tiers block, good mates and the Green Hornet.

I don’t know about you? but I regularly suffer from bouts of tiers block. I’ve come to learn over the years how to recognise the symptoms and they usually start just after I’ve cleaned up my tying area. I did that the other day. Lethal!

I’ve just come to the end of a helluva run, hundreds of salmon flies have been falling off my vise. That’s the easy bit, you know what needs to be done, you have the materials and just get your head down and into it till your done.

Then comes the day when faced with a pristine tying area, nothing in particular to tie on that bare hook in the jaws. Total blank!

Well now, this is how I deal with it. Open a drawer and grab the first material that comes to hand, think of a pattern that uses that material and tie it. I grabbed some Peacock Swords.

I’ve allways had an affinity for peacock swords and mostly managed to get it to do what I want. A good start.

I’d been chatting with a couple of mates Tim (in New Zealand) and Dazzy (somewhere in the Cosmos) about the Alexandra fly pattern that very morning, so I rattled one out. Took a photo and far from being pleased with the result, I started to see the mistakes and lack of proportions that I knew I was tying into the fly as I was wrapping it. Binned!

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Being my own worst critic I resolved to tie another, better version and if it involved a few more steps to make it tougher, then so much the better.

Next, I tried a variant of the Alexandra that included a supporting wing of Turkey. Better, but to my eye it looks a little contrived,  I’ll probably never fish it and I don’t see much point in tying flies that stay dry. Another for the reject jar.

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Anyway, all that messing about with Peacock Swords got me thinking about an upcoming trip to Canada, It occurred to me that green and black are a very common theme in Canadian patterns so I set about trying to come up with a workmanlike pattern that I could use this summer using the Swords. This is what fell off the vise.

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There was something about the colour scheme that grabbed me. You know the feeling I’m sure, the urge to run down the river and give it a swim.

I showed it to a friend in Canada who I know has a soft spot for Green in his flies. Daniel Duval and I have been corresponding for some time and our styles of tying couldn’t be more different. So I decided to try one in his style, longer, slimmer on big single hook. I was trying to achieve a low water spey look.

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Now this one I don’t like at all, not even close. The colours are ok but way too overdressed and it doesn’t flow. But the Schlappen, something I don’t use a lot of, had potential (thanks to Stuart Foxall) and I love Blue Eared Pheasant.

Back to the drawing board and this happened.

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Now this one does it for me, I showed it to my mate Marc Fauvet in France who says it looks like a green hornet so Green Hornet it is.

The Green Hornet

Hook.. partridge heavyweight size 1

Tag.. oval silver

Tail.. chartreuse crystal flash

Body.. glo-brite  number 12 butt, with pearl mirage  andribbed with silver oval

Hackle 1.. chartreuse schlappen

Underwing.. black fox body

Hackle 2. blue eared pheasant

Overwing.. matched peacock sword, finished with JC and a black and chartreuse crystal flash head.

Tiers block has gone as I feel the need for a for a few more Green Hornets and I have a whole swarm of Hornet variations buzzing round my head.

My tying room is back to being comfortably messy.

Thanks, Tim, Dazzy, Daniel, Stuart and Marc.

Paul Slaney

I should give this up, wrapping bits of fluff around a hook for fun just cant be normal