Tuesday, December 30, 2014

PF 2015

To all my fishing friends and acquaitances: keep your lines wet, flies dry and angling stories plausible for the whole 2015 fishing season!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Redheaded F-fly

A prominent red head on an othervise drab fly has a strange appeal to fish, and thus to the fisherman. I can't tell the exact reason, but I don't need to know it to make use of it in my tying.

This fly I created with autumn stoneflies in mind. On many rivers that I fish a hatch of needle flies appears in early October, overlapping the better known Baetis hatch. The Baetis are reliable fish catchers, and a #18 Olive quill is during the month of October a low risk choice, but sometimes a more substantial imitation of the larger needle flies yields better results.

The tie:
#16 Hanák H130 BL hook
tan elastic tying thread
Gütermann mirage tinsel ribbing
red fox dubbing
2 tips of CDC feather
a prominent head from Danville's 70 dernier red thread

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Mr. Skues rocks!

For a little project of mine I have been re-reading some writings of George Edward Mackenzie Skues. I came across a little gem I simply have to share:

The imitation may be Impressionist, Cubist, Futurist, Post-Impressionist, Pre-Raphaelite, or caricature. The commonest is caricature. It therefore catches the most fish.

The old bloke had a fine grasp not only of visual art, but also of the ways of the fish and fishermen.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Witch

Toil and grow rich,
That is a life on bent knees
Tis better to tie a Grayling Witch
And do as one please...

The Grayling Witch, a variant on the old Red Tag theme. A reliable performer on dry fly situations during the grayling season.

With my humble apologies to William Butler Yeats.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

One Uhorčík to rule them all...

It is difficult to design a fly that would work as a silver bullet - reliably catch fish, each and every time. In fact, the difficulty is one of the main appeals of fly tying. Perfection can (and should!) be sought, but can never be quite reached...

A fly that brought me close on the road to the ultimate killer fly is the Uhorčík. The mix of chartreuse hotspot, highly mobile hair collar and deep diving tungsten bead seems to hit the spot.

The only difference in dressing I have made over the last couple seasons is that I stopped using gold beads, as they seem to be overused and thus loosing their edge.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Revisiting GRHE

Feeling too lazy to create something new, I have been playing with my camera and revisiting old flies. I am a great fan of the gold ribbed hare's ear concept - be it a nymph, a wet or even a dry fly. I have a number of such flies around, and they do make interesting subject for fly photography...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Pink Tag

It is difficult to make a general statement about grayling fly preference. There are dry fly days, deep nymphing days and even an occasional wet fly day. Which is a good thing, for the fickle Fortune in its unpredictability is certain to reward a fisherman who is willing to experiment and not to take anything for granted.

Having said that some fly features have more appeal than others. On most days the grayling prefer small flies over large ones, and a hint of pink is usually appreciated. Combining these two characteristics in a single fly increases its appeal even further.

This little fly has served me well. As a funny side note: I have been told the fly - when viewed sideways with a squint in the eye - resembles a thistle flower. I wonder what my Scottish friends think of that...

The tie:
#18 Hanák H130 BL hook
2mm gold bead (brass in this case)
a tag of 4 strands of Glo Brite floss
gold Gütermann tinsel ribbing
red fox dubbing, lightly teased out with a velcro strip

Sunday, November 9, 2014


The river Vltava has special meaning to me. Long before it enters Prague as a mature river, where I watch it daily, it is a small stream in the border mountains. As it gently meanders on the mountain plains it makes an excellent grayling habitat. It is a long drive, but each year I come over there to fish the wild fish in wild country.

The 20th century has not tread lightly on the area. The river is littered with concrete bunkers, which were built in the 1930's in a vain attempt to make the river a defensive line to stop the imminent German expansion, and after the war they kept operational as a defense against a possible attack by NATO forces. Now abandoned they make for an eery atmosphere...

For most of the latter half of the century the area was off limits, and as a side result the river has been reclamed by nature. The access to the river is bad, and the fishing excellent.

This year I was a little late, as the fishing is usually at its best in the middle of October. But this year was not an usual one, and with warm weather persisting long into Autumn I postponed my visit. I knew that the time of the highest grayling activity on this river comes only after the first frosts, and this year the first frosts were overdue by almost a month. I was not wrong with my diagnosis.

What did surprise me - though it should not really have - was that I discovered that I had two hours less fishing time compared to my regular time in mid October. The weather did feel like mid October, but one hour of fishing was taken from me by the Daylight Savings Time and another by regular passing of the year.

In the end I did manage some quality fish on the dry fly, with my Olive Quill being the best performing. After the hatch dropped off I kept on with nymph, and succeeded in catching my best fish of the day as a total surprise: it took a huge 4,5 mm tungsten beadhead, which I originally intended as a purely sacrifical fly. So much for the old saying that the grayling will accept only tiny offerings...

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


This is an older fly, one that I chose to shoot to test my new macro toy: an old EL Nikkor 50/2.8 enlarger lens. A fascinating piece of Japanese optical engineering, it promises to raise my macro photography to another level. And with the demise of the wet process it came very cheaply - a nice bonus!

I chose the fly for the shot chiefly because it was buggy, and I wanted to see how my new lens would display the hare hairs sticking out. I was pleaseantly surprised, not only with the technical aspects of my picture but with the fly as well.

The tie:
#12 Hanák H260BL wet fly hook
tan elastic tying thread
2.8mm tungsten bead, dull black
red rooster hackle fibers for tail
UNI 1/69" gold mylar tinsel
shaggy fur from hare's back, teased out with a velcro brush

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Orange Hotspot Nymph

This simple tie has performed well with grayling, and in slightly bigger sizes with grayling's cousins the trout. In the Czech competition circles, who appreciate a nice story and a fancy name it has been called the Belgian. I have little idea about its origins, but no doubt about its effectiveness.

For some reason it seems to associate well with the Icelandic 10 aurar coin, a little piece of copper that subtly reminds me of scary tales by H. P. Lovecraft.

The tie:
#18 Hanák 130 BL dry fly hook
2mm copper bead
14/0 grey Sheer tying thread
rooster feather tails
body from peacock wing feather
a prominent collar of brignt orange 6/0 Danville's thread

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Hydropsyche larva

The Hydropsyche, together with its greenish Caddis cousin Rhyacophila and unrelated but similarily shaped Gammarus is one of the most often cited inspirations for the Czech nymph fly style. This is not entirely unreasoneable.

The pic shown above is of a dead specimen - the living critter is too active to stand still while being photographed with my limited equipment - but its pose is not unnatural. You can see where the C shape of the CZN hooks comes from :)

I have come to conlusion that the right way to imitate in fly fishing is not to slavishly copy each body part of an insect in its static form, but to reflect on its main features and design an impressionistic imitation. This is why I decided not to reproduce such things as gills, head and leggs.

Not to mention that I learned the hard way a most profound truth of nymph fishing: you are going to snag; mabye sooner, maybe later, but you are gonna lose that fly. A dispensable fly is a must. This is what I came up with.

The tie:
#8 Skalka Gammarus hook
a layer of flat lead
tan tying thread
rootbeer colored Sybai shellback
0.16 mm spining line as ribbing
beige rabbit dubbing for abdomen
home made mixture of hare and fox squirrel for thorax / legs
a light touch of black marker to finish

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Baetis nymph

Besides nice memories from meeing my Scottish friends I brough some tangible souvenirs from Kamenice - such as this Baetis nymph.

It is obvious this little nymph has fallen on hard times recently, with two of the tails cut in the middle and one of the gills entirely missing.

But despite the obvious defects it it still makes a nice inspiration for my fly dressing hours.

Cheery October

October is supposed to be the prime Grayling time in the Czech lands. Not so this year. The weather is strangely warm - 20°C in mid October is rather unusual for my country - and extremely low water conditions make for a very difficult fishing situation.

By mid October I headed north from Prague to meet with a couple Scottish friends who came all the way from Edinborough to Železný Brod to fish Kamenice and Jizera rivers.

As a Czech patriot I strongly approve of them choosing the two Czech rivers over their Balkan or Scandinavian competition, though as as fisherman I have to admit that they did not pick the best time for a Grayling trip this year; though I doubt this could be divined ahead.

However, despite the challenging environment they succeeded in catching their fare share and teaching me a thing or two on Grayling tactics.

I especially enjoyed finally meeting face to face with Craigh Mcdonald, a heron of a fisherman I have been in contact with over the Internet for several years but who has eluded me all the time.

While the fishing was made somewhat difficult by the environmental conditions it was not impossible, and I did connect with a few decent fish, such as this nice grayling.

Some Baetis olives were hatching, and the fish did respond to my #18 olive quill imitations.

And to mention a pleasant side effect of the unseasoneably warm weather: the Jizera rainbows, who usually start their winter slumber by now, were still active and eager to attack a dry fly with a savage take.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Olive Quill

This is a fly I have written about before and even before that. But even though I made no changes in the dressing over the last few years I found an excuse for a new blog entry: with a "new" photo equipment - a second hand East German bellows from 1970's and 2.8/50 Carl Zeiss Tessar lens from early 1950's - I felt my new photography improved sufficiently to justify revisiting the subject.

The dressing of the fly is the same as I published a couple years back. In fact, as the fly has served me so well I do my best not to alter the dressing: I feel I have reached the point where any improvement would lead to my loss of confidence in the fly. And as the fisherman's confidence is of paramount importance to the success of a fly I do not wish to tinker with serious stuff and I leave it as it is.

The dressing:
#18 Hanák 103BL dry fly hook
14/0 Sheer thread, grey
pardo Coq de León tails
homemade stripped peacock quill body, dyed Olive
2 tips of CDC feathers as a wing
thorax of dubbing of a hare's back

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Hippurus - Old & New

One of the many aspects of fly fishing that make this sport so dear to me is its long and distinguished history.

Thus I have read with great respect the description by Claudius Ælianus of the curious style of fishing used by rural Macedonians in the area between Thessalonica and Berea, written around AD 200 (not so many years after Messrs. Paul and Silas got chased through the same area, as described in another influential book).

The description Ælian gives for the style used is brief, but easily recognizable as a fly fishing:
They wrap the hook in scarlet wool, and to the wool they attach two feathers that grow beneath a cock's wattles and are the colour of wax. Then they throw their snare, and the fish, attracted and maddened by the colour, comes straight at it, thinking from the pretty sight to gain a dainty mouthful; when, however, it opens its jaws, it is caught by the hook, and enjoys a bitter repast, a captive.
This article I quote from a most interesting site by Dr. Andrew Herd, A Fly Fishing History. Both this site and a more elaborate book by Dr. Herd on the subject are well worth a read.

What I found the most interesting is the resemblance between the ancient Hippurus fly and a modern pattern that has no formal name I know of, but which has worked out for me suprisingly well over the last couple grayling seasons.

Some ancient materials are replaced by modern subsititutes - red wool by red tinsel, and rooster hackle tips by CDC feather - and the whole thing is scaled down to size #18; having said this the overall concept of the fly remains the same. And it continues to appeal greatly to the wily fish with speckled skins...

Monday, September 29, 2014

Hare's Ear Emerger

The summer is over, and as the days are getting shorter and weather colder I am finishing preparations for the grayling season.

One of the key steps is to ensure that I am fully stocked on this little fly. I am not sure what exactly makes it succeed, but its appeal to grayling is undeniable. I would feel naked having to face a dry fly situation without an ample supply.

The tie:
#18 Dohiku 301 dry fly hook
grey Sheer 14/0 tying thread
3 strands of orange Krystal flash
body of Hare's Ear dubbing
ribbed with Gütermann sulky tinsel
wing of 3 CDC feather tips
thoras / leggs from hare mixed with squirrel

Monday, September 22, 2014

Výrovka / Eagle Owl fly

September is here, the Czech trout season closed and the Grayling are starting to get serious. It is high time to finish replenishing the fly boxes and get to the river.

The Eagle Owl fly is a staple in my fly box. It might seem small in stature, but it is great in appeal. The body of an owl feather has appeal to both fish and fishermen bordering on magical.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Ohře Caddis

The river Ohře is known in Czech fly fishing circles for two reasons: the massive and reliable caddis hatch and the real opportunity of a sizable fish striking on a dry fly. With these two aspects in mind I created the following imitation.

It is tied on a wet fly hook, providing more leverage than a regular dry fly hook in the unlikely but oh so much desired event that a real lunker would deign to strike. On most of my river fishing I opt for the lighter gauge hooks, forsaking holding power for finesse, but some rivers and some situations reqire the real thing to actualy net the fish.

The tie:
#12SL Dohiku W hook
tan elastic tying thread
homemade Chrartreuse rabbit fur tag
#12 UNI pearl mylar ribbing
hare fur dubbing for body
4 CDC feather tips for wing
hare & squirrel dubbing for thorax

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Rhyacophila larva

On a recent fishing trip I brought a couple of insect life samples to play with. I still need a (rather large) bit of practice to acheive the level of my aquatic macrophotography hero Jan Hamrský but I am starting to like my macro shots. A good first step :)

This is a Rhyacophila caddis fly larva, a subject dear to the heart of a fly fisherman (and to the stomach of a grayling fish). It is rumored these were the original inspiration for Czech and Polish style nymphs.

They have a tendency to form a curved position when disturbed, but rarely assume the C shaped position of a typical gammarus hook. Never the less, on streams where Rhyacophila are abundant a sickly green Czech style nymph will not disappoint.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Emerging Caddis

This is not a grayling fly, but  a wet trout fly. Especially targetted for a river I know that has a good population of sizable brownies. They seem hidden for the whole day, especially in the high summer, but become alive at dusk when the big caddis flies hatch.

With the low light the color of your imitation is becoming less important, and what matters is the general shape and movement of your fly.

Especially effective is the "rising caddis style" - a lightly weighted imitation fished sunk across the stream, with a gentle lift at the end of the drift. That is the moment when a violent strike is supposed to happen :)

The tie:
#10 Kamasan B110 grubber hook, debarbed
a layer of flat lead
yellow 6/0 Danville's tying thread
body from Jamieson's of Shetland wool, color Wren
4 strands of pearl Flashabou
3 CDC feathers for wing
a light touch of Fox Squirrel dubbing mixed with Hare

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Pink bug

The color pink is one of the worst kept secrets of grayling fishing. Used and abused by most every grayling fisherman since time immemorial.

But you would ignore it to your peril - it works. And who knows, you might fool a brown trout or two as well...

The tie:
#8 Kamasan B160 grubber hook (debarbed)
a layer of flat lead wire
Danville's 70 dernier tying thread, purple
Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift wool, color sorbet

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Gammarus - the original and the imitation

The Gammarus is an amphipod close to the heart of most fly fishermen, scorned only by a small - though vocal and influential - group of dry fly purists.

And for a good reason, for it is the pork & beans equivalent of the trout and grayling diet. The Danica or Baetis mayflies are seasonal insects, one week appearing in huge numbers, the next week gone for the year. The humble gammarus stays on the menu all year long.

This little guy is Gammarus roeseli, one of the many species of the genus that inhabits fresh waters of Central Europe. It is interesting to note its main features: curved shape, nondescript grayish color with hues of green and accents of a more bright color + large number of legs.

Given the popularity of gammarus it is not surprising that there are many fly patterns around, plus a number of very life like imitations by fly dressers from the extreme imitation school.

I have found that the most simple imitation often works the best, and with this idea in mind I tied the simple woolen imitation shown above. It is nothing more than a size #8 scud hook, lightly weighted and wrapped in Shetland Spindrift Wool.

The nondescript color and shaggy look with lots of movement make it attractive to Grayling - and the ease with which it is replaced is very welcome to a lazy fly dresser.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Spring is come!

The spring is offically here, which comes as a strange period for a dedicated fly fisherman: it no longer feels right to target grayling, who probably would still take a fly but should be definitely getting ready for something very important (wink wink). On the other hand the trout season does not open for some two weeks or so.

I resolved the dilemma by going outside and unleashing my inner photo-maniac.

The resulting photos are a cliché of sort, but the buzz of honey bees among blooming plum trees was a music to my ears after the winter (mild as it was).

Thursday, March 6, 2014


Not one of those fancy flies a fly dresser would use to show off his supposed tying skills, but a genuine Grayling magnet. One of the best performing winter flies, best fished on the dropper with a heavier beadhead on the point to drag the team down to the "killing zone".

The tie:
an old #10 pupa hook I had lying around, some Japanese make I suppose
red Danville's 70 den tying thread
red Flexi Floss
a layer of thin Sally Hansen's

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Opening the 2014 Fishing Season

This year's mild winter - it almost seemed as if we had no winter at all - allowed me to start the season early. The Czech trout waters are officialy closed til mid April, so I headed to the river Úpa, which does not have trout fishing status but never the less supports a healthy population of grayling and some brown trout.

Despite the warming air temperature the water was still very cold and gin clear. There were fish present, but their activity was low and they definitely were not feeding. Imitative flies were soundly refused; this included my olive Czech style nymphs that brought me great success on the very same spots in November.

The only pattern that seemed to connect with the fish was a brightly red bloodworm. I sincerely doubt the fish were selective to bloodworms to the extent they would refuse a Ryacophila larvae (many of which were crawling below stones and in the river weeds). It was rather the bright red color that served as attractor and induced the sluggish fish to take.

Whatever the reason - this grayling was my first fish of 2014 season. And by the look of him it was not a bad start :)

Friday, February 28, 2014

A wet redhead

The combination of hare (or hare-like) dubbing, gold tinsel and a prominent red head has served me well. It makes a first class emerger style dry fly, but the pattern translates nicely onto a wet fly hook too.

In fact the wet redhead fly has turned out to be my number one grayling wet fly, saving my day on those rare ocasions when grayling focus on feeding in medium depth. Not exactly hugging the bottom, as is their usual habit, but not freely rising either.

The tie:
#12 Hanák H260 BL short shank hook
beige elastic tying thread
brown rooster hackle tail
red fox dubbing
UNI gold tinsel ribbing
one turn of quail feather
head of Danville's 70 dernier red thread

Kite's Immortal Imperial

It is a frequent feature of common hacks to start by quoting something like "already the ancient Romans well understood ..." followed by whatever nonsense they feel compelled to propagate.

Now in fly fishing, as usual, a different apprach is required. First of all, an ancient Roman actually did describe the origins of our sport - as all who read Claudius Ælianuses opus magnus Περὶ Ζῴων Ἰδιότητος in the original Greek well know. The second reason is that the ancient Romans well understood the importance of the colour Purple well before the time of colonel Oliver Kite.

The tie:
#16 Dohiku dry fly hook
14/0 Sheer thread, grey
Coq de León tails
Heron herl body
CDC wing
Danville's 6/0 purple thread head

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Olive Quill Emerger

The "shaving brush" style emergers are gaining in popularity - and for a good reason, too. These flies work!
This pattern seems to have originated on several occasions, as it has been reported a novel invention from North American rivers, English lakes and Polish tailwaters. I am certain it scores well on all of the above locations.

The only problem I have with the pattern is that at it tends to work too well - the olive quill body wears out after three of four trout. Grayling are not a problem, with their soft mouth.

The tie:
#18 Dohiku 301 dry fly hook
14/0 Sheer thread, greyish
Peacock quill, dyed olive
2-3 tips of a CDC feather
a light touch of natural muskrat dubbing

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Utah Killer Bug

This fly is a variation on classic pattern by Frank Sawyer, infamous for its use of impossible to obtain Chadwicks 477 wool.

I first discovered it when browsing some US Tenkara pages and fell in love with it at the first sight. I suppose this is how Michael Corleone felt when meeting Apollonia Vitelli in the olive orchards; the Thunderbolt...

The fly is tied with Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift wool, which looks nice when dry but obtains a wonderful pinkish hue when wet, at the same time showing signs of translucency. To accentuate the pink color a tag of bright pink material is added; the US guys I copied the fly from used pink wire, but having tried one I felt I like the #4 hot pink Glo brite better.

The tie:
#10 Kamasan B110 hook, debarbed
a few turns of flat lead
elastic tan thread
tag of pink Glo Brite
body of oyster wool

Monday, February 3, 2014

Dennis the Menace Variations

Dennis the Menace is one of my two favorite buzzer patterns (the other is black & pearl). It has served me well over the years, especially on recently stocked fish. Apart from its appeal to the fish I appreciate that it consists only of 2 materials - red tinsel and black UNI floss, the butt end serving as ribbing.

I was wondering whether the concept of this very effective stillwater fly could translate to a river pattern. And so I tied a variation, using a red beadhead and barbless hook.

The tie:
#12 Hanák 260 BL heavy wire short shank hook
black UNI tying thread
a pinch of rooster hackle fibres dyed black (not too well dyed)
red Gütermann tinsel for ribbing
black rabbit dubbing for body
black Mohair dubbing for collar, teased out with velcro brush