Fly fishing: No luck in feathers to snare out the trout

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RECENTLY, someone asked me how far in advance of publication do I decide what to write about. It varies between several months and a few days.

I decided upon the subject of this month’s column back in July. I discovered that there is a trout fly called the Uist Red Dabbler (URD) so it seemed like a really good idea for me to take some over to North Uist, an island in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.

I would use this tempting looking creation to catch trout with and report my adventures to my dear readers.

The old hands need to excuse me a moment whilst I explain some fishing stuff to the non-anglers. As you can see from Steve’s picture the Dabbler is a fluffy, hairy thing with lots of feathers and flashy bits so it lends itself to fishing near the surface of the water in the ripple, or more likely waves, off North Uist.

I usually tie a slim fly on the very end of my line and then a fuzzy one about five feet away. The slim fly sinks easily due to its profile, whilst the fat one traps air amongst the feathers and fibres, remains near the surface where it flaps about and causes a disturbance when retrieved; in the trade, it’s called dibbling. The fish see the disturbance, assume that it’s caused by food and grab it. It’s a very cunning plan.

So, late one evening in the first week of my stay on the Western Isles, despite the rain, I arrived at the loch side and sat down upon one of my favourite pondering boulders.

The Alexandra - as mentioned in my column in November, 2007 - was my choice for the end fly and of course the URD took up station above it.

I needed to catch an early fish on the Dabbler so that I had the story “in the bag”. I waded along the shore, slowly casting my flies down the wind so that I could make the Dabbler dibble. Six times that evening the line tightened and a handsome brown trout graced my net. Every single one caught on the Alexandra.

A few days later, I tramped across the moor for about half an hour to one of my favourite lochs. The same team of flies remained in place as I began to explore the shallow water amongst the rocks on the downwind shore.

Once again, the Alexandra accounted for about half a dozen trout in fairly quick order. Not a sniff to the URD.

I sat upon a rock, snipped off the Dabbler and replaced it with a Clan Chief (May 2007). Second cast, wallop!

The Clan Chief disappeared amidst a significant swirl. The same thing happened several more times. Off came the Clan Chief, back went the Dabbler and after three more trout on the Alexandra I went home in a dudgeon.

There is a loch, close to Lochmaddy, which is so full of modest little trout that it is virtually impossible not to catch them. Moreover, they are so eager that they will swirl at anything that passes by their noses.

This time, the Dabbler went on the end of the line with a Soldier Palmer (October 2011) bringing up the rear.

The Soldier Palmer worked really well and so desperate measures were needed as I had still caught nothing on the URD, leaving me with no story to tell.

I attached two URD’s to my line and busied myself. Nothing, not a single fish for half an hour. The Dabblers were sent off and substituted with two Clan Chiefs. First cast, two fish at once, one on each fly.

At that point, I gave up so I’m afraid that I cannot write about the Uist Red Dabbler after all.