Paul Procter – Five favourite brown trout flies
Paul Procter nominates his five most indispensable fly patterns for wild brownies, and explains why he simply couldn't live without them.
In addition to being a qualified AAPGAI master fly casting instructor and Orvis consultant, Paul Procter is also an exceptional fly tyer and is regarded by many to be one of the UK's leading wild brown trout fishermen. Based in Cumbria, and with some 35 years fly fishing experience, Paul spends his time fishing, guiding and providing fly casting and fly fishing tuition to all levels and abilities. He also has an in-depth knowledge of trout stream ecology.
The challenge of listing five favourite flies can easily send your grey matter into overdrive. My selection might seem heavily biased towards dry flies, but this is based on success and not current fads. Rightly, many anglers only knot on a dry when faced with dimpling rise forms, yet it's surprising how many fish have an eye on the surface even when they're nymphing. Naturally, a spider warrants mention here and a nymph too, for days when fish refuse to play ball.
Pearly Butt Bloa
No, this isn't some vain attempt to better the original Waterhen Bloa, but merely highlight a variant that, on its day, can be incredibly productive. The idea of a wrap or two of pearly tinsel hopefully provides enough glint to pass as a partially discarded shuck. Either way, there are times when for reasons best known to themselves, fish will single it out.
Many new to fly fishing often question the success of spider dressings as, to the untrained eye, they merely appear as a wayward turn of silk and wispy hackle. “What do they represent?” is a question I am often asked.
I suppose a lot depends on what trout care to see and, naturally, how we're presenting our flies. In a nutshell, though, they easily pass off as ascending nymphs, emergers and/or stillborn duns. It's widely accepted that the Waterhen Bloa is one of the all-time greats when it comes to mimicking all kinds of olives.
Bead-headed Pheasantless Pheasant Tail Nymph
Although this fly has an uncanny resemblance to a the classic Pheasant Tail Nymph – hence the name – the body is tied using hare's fur and Fly-rite dubbing, and the tail is in fact brown organza ribbon. It also has one huge advantage over the traditional pattern – it is nigh on bulletproof! And just like our more time honoured version, this variant works in far flung corners of the globe like New Zealand where it has saved my bacon on many an occasion. In fact, it was Kiwi guide Ian Cole who introduced me to the pattern several years ago.
The tying is pretty straightforward, though many deliberate over which bead colour is best. Where pressured trout are encountered, or if you come across particularly finicky fish, then black beads will appear far less auspicious. In mucky water, however, a wee bit of bling might be called for in the form of a gold bead. However, copper beads make the perfect compromise and are a good all-round colour if ever you're in doubt.
Elk Hair Caddis
Al Troth created the Elk Hair Caddis and since devising this pattern fly tyers the world over have dreamt-up all kinds of variants.
Boasting an underwing of CdC fibres to soften the outline, this interpretation of an Elk Hair is a must in my book. I'm also a big fan of a hackled body that bolsters the fly's buoyancy and, come the gloaming, you'll be confident it floats like a cork.
Although the Elk Hair Caddis is a useful searching pattern at any time, for me those sultry summer evenings are when it comes into its own. Once the blackness sets in, I'm happiest presenting this pattern down and across on a tensioned line. Using upstream mends will not only put the brakes on an accelerating fly, but will also provide you with direct contact with the business end. Takes are felt rather than heard or seen, which, at night, can be hit and miss at best.
The APT (All Purpose Terrestrial) currently ranks as my number one pattern, even when few terrestrials are present. It has charmed trout all over the world and what's more, it seems to sort out those better specimens too.
Depending on hook size, this pattern covers various terrestrials including hawthorn flies, black gnats and ants. You can exercise a bit of license when it comes to the abdomen, with peacock herl and peacock ice-dub making nice alternatives. That said, I'm happiest using three or four fibres of melanisitc cock pheasant centre tail twisted around my tying thread, thus creating a more durable body. This is then wound to form a slightly bulbous shape with the bias towards the hook bend.
Three or so turns of pale dun hackle not only provide required buoyancy, but when clipped underneath suggest those splayed-out wings so evident on many bedraggled terrestrials. A wing of natural CdC helps to keep it afloat and also provides a sighter too, so your fly's whereabouts is more obvious in lively pools. It's also worth knocking up a few using white CdC too, which will help in varying light conditions.
Wyatt's Deer Hair Emerger
Bob Wyatt pulled off a stroke of genius with his Deer Hair Emerger. Like all good patterns, it could hardly be simpler, yet all those important triggers have been taken into consideration. What's more, this is one of those generic patterns that, depending on size, and to a lesser degree colour, will cover several species of up-winged flies. I've also enjoyed success with it during sedge hatches.
Bob advocates using a clump of deer hair that hasn't been stacked which produces an extremely natural outline to the wing. For whatever reason, mine never look quite right when adopting this style, so a tap or two in a hair stacker is just enough to roughly align the tips and tidy them up.
Naturally, when fly are coming off, the DHE is best presented upstream to rising fish, though it's more than a one-trick pony. On days when little stirs, a brace of them can be presented sunk on a slightly tensioned line. Obviously trout and grayling can be suckers for such ploy, but perhaps surprisingly, salmon are no strangers to this tactic either.