Large flies bring more joy than fish

The mucky mayfly, dressed by Stephen Cheetham.
The mucky mayfly, dressed by Stephen Cheetham.
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I’M NOT about to claim that this month’s fly is all my idea because it’s not, but it did do a good job for me during the Yorkshire mayfly season.

Last February, Mike Smith introduced me to a fly called the Dirty Duster; itself an American adaptation of a fly called the Grey Duster, which originated in the UK and has been around since Adam was a lad. Actually, it may well have received its first published appearance in Lancashire, but we must not be prejudiced.

I’m going to be a bit technical for a minute or two, but I’ll try to be gentle. The Dirty Duster is tied on a curved hook in such a way that the body hangs below the surface of the river. Thus, it imitates a fly that is in the process of transforming from nymph to adult; in angling parlance, it is an emerger.

I would urge any anglers who might be reading this to try this pattern, I’m sure that Steve will tie you some.

Just a word of warning though, don’t use them on the Haddon Estate water in Derbyshire, you’ll have Warren, the keeper, after you; emergers are not allowed here.

I used the Dirty Duster early in the season and enjoyed a good deal of success with it, then the mayfly arrived. Interesting things, mayfly, we have spoken of them many times over the years. They are the biggest of our up-wing flies and usually provoke rather more excitement among fishers than fish. I recently fished one of the beautiful rivers of the Peak District. It seems that a mayfly had been spotted the previous day and consequently the river bank was lined with anglers.

This year, the mayfly arrived in great profusion on my local rivers. Over several days, there was a constant trickle of these spectacular ephemerons drifting along on the breeze. Many of them, especially the ones in the process of emerging, were waylaid by the trout.

I saw one enthusiastic little chap leap a foot out of the water in order to ensnare a passing mayfly; he wasn’t a lot bigger than his prey.

Most of the traditional mayfly patterns have big floppy wings, just like the real thing. This can cause the angler a real problem because trying to cast one of these concoctions is a bit like trying to chuck a kite against a stiff breeze - they spin, twist the leader into an indescribable knot and provoke very bad language. The answer, by the way, is a short thick leader; the fish don’t give a jot.

After a day of catching fine trout on a thing called a shadow mayfly, suffering the occasional tangled leader and offering the odd word of wisdom, I began to think. No, don’t be alarmed, I’m not going to make a habit of thinking; it makes my head ache. My thoughts drifted to the Dirty Duster. It struck me that if I tied it on a big hook and made the body a bit thicker, ribbed in black, that it might bear a very close resemblance to an emerging mayfly. Most importantly, it was too wind resistant.

A few days later, I was back on the river accompanied by a delightful young lady called Olwyn who was keen to try her hand at fly fishing.

During the afternoon, we noticed that fish were beginning to do battle with mayfly. I tied one of my creations on Olwyn’s leader and she propelled it towards a trout that was very busy beneath the branches of a bush.

The fly had floated less than a foot when it was engulfed with huge enthusiasm. So, the Mucky Mayfly was born.