Fly Fishing Devon: Fly Tying for Westcountry Brown Trout and Sea trout

Here is a selection of fly-tying videos for productive flies on local rivers.

As far as possible I have included videos made by the person most often associated with the particular fly or technique.

I have included improvements / variations on the original tying, particularly if made by the original tyer.

Fly Tying for Westcountry rivers with Mike Weaver

Mike Weaver's book 'The Pursuit of Wild Trout' is responsible for introducing many anglers to the joys of fishing for wild brown trout.

This video is typical Mike; fly tying effective patterns without fuss using easily available materials.

A 'must-see' video for fly-tiers tying flies for Westcountry rivers.

Dry flies & emergers

Sparkle Dun

Mike Weaver's book 'The Pursuit of Wild Trout' introduced the Sparkle Dun to UK anglers.

In this video it is tied by Craig Mathews who developed the fly

It incorporates a trailing shuck that imitates the empty nymphal husk hanging from the back of the emerging dun and may be a 'trigger' for initiating a rise.

I tie these with olive, grey, or black dubbed bodies.

Here is the link to a very useful article on tying a Comparadun wing

Selecting the appropriate deer hair for Comparaduns can be tricky. I use Comparadun hair from Orvis.

Improved Sparkle Dun

In this video Craig Mathews shows how to improve the floatability of his Sparkle Dun by extending the shuck to form the wing of the fly.

Floatability is an important feature in a dry fly when repeatedly roll cast under overhanging vegetation.

Deer Hair Spinner

In this video Craig Mathews shows how to manipulate the deer hair wing to represent a spinner

Kelly Galloup's Compara Spinner

Kelly's fly combines elements from Mike's Sparkle Dun, Craig Matthews' Improved Sparkle Dun and his Deer Hair Spinner: Poly Yarn to represent a trailing shuck, and as a winging material to represent the upright wings of a dun as well as the collapsed wings of a spent spinner.

  • I find Poly Yarn (or similar) is easier to work with than Comparadun / Elk hair
  • The spinner wing + comparadun style upright wing combination should make it virtually unsinkable
  • Kelly mentions substituting Poly Yarn for micro fibbet tails - less fiddly, will improve flotation, and represents trailing shuck,
  • In summary, this is a improvement / variation of a Sparkle Dun

The Compara Spinner is - in my opinion - endowed with several 'triggers':

  1. spent wings create star-bursts of light on the water surface which act as the primary approach trigger
  2. Upright wing maintain the approach response
  3. the trailing shuck signals the vulnerabilityof the emerging insect

Kelly Galloup's Hi-Viz Compara Dun

This is my preferred version of the original Sparkle Dun; durable and withstands repeated roll casting without becoming waterlogged.

Kelly Galloup uses Antron (or similar) synthetic fibres to form the wing and tail of this fly. Kelly's technique for cutting this material helps create a thin tapered body from tying thread. Notice his use of (Superfine) dubbing to create a prominent thorax.

This thinly-dressed fly may help overcome the problem of failing to hook a trout that has risen to a fly constructed with relatively stiff winging material such as elk hair.

I like this fly because it is designed to represent two stages : dun and spinner. Antron is used to represent the horizontal spread of the spinners wings. Deer hair is used to represent the upright wing on the dun. I personally wouldn't be to fussed about including coq-de-leon tails; I'm not convinced that they are enough to ensure the fly floats on our rivers. I'd rely more on the deer hair extension beyond the hook bend. Kelly talks a lot, but he does give very useful advice throughout the video.

Deer Hair Emerger

Bob Wyatt's books 'Trout Hunting: The Pursuit of Happiness' and 'What Trout Want: The Educated Trout and Other Myths' urged readers to simplify fly pattern designs.

In this video Bob Wyatt's DHE (Deer Hair Emerger) is tied by Hans Weilenmann

To me the DHE is a simplified version of Hans van Klinken's Klinkhåmer Special

It is important to read Hans van Klinken's article before attempting to tie his fly . He stresses the need to use "the best quality" hackles to ensure his pattern floats correctly. And gives advice on hooks, winging material and tying techniques to ensure success with his fly

Snow Shoe Hare Emerger

In this video Bob Wyatt ties his Snow Shoe Hare Emerger

Bob uses this material in place of CDC because he has found that CDC tends to be "a one fish fly" which is an absolute no-no for guides on local rivers.

This fly exemplifies Wyatt's 'prey image'. The wing and abdomen act as 'triggers' when seen in the trout's window and mirror.

The Usual Dry Fly

Al Daher ties Fran Betters' "The Usual", a dry fly made only from the hair on the foot of a Snowshoe rabbit. Towards the commentary Al describes how the fly can be fished sub-surface to represent an emerging nymph. The original fly was tied with hot orange thread - I tie it this way.

Rusty Dunn has written the  story behind this fly

Black X Caddis

In this video Craig Mathews shows how to tie the Black X Caddis that represents a glossosoma caddis

The rivers running off Dartmoor are home to large numbers of the inconspicuous Glossosoma caddis

This page explores some of the lesser-known species of insects which can be found if you examine the stones in the rivers of Dartmoor and South Devon.: Some lesser-known West Country river flies

Antron Caddis

The Antron Caddis is tied by Craig Coltman who captained the Australian Flyfishing Team in 2012. Craig's marriage of antron and deer hair produces a robust, buoyant and effective fly which is ideally suited for use on Devon rivers

This fly is ideally suited for roll casting because it resists drowning when drawn back to form the 'D' loop prior to the forward cast.

Here a similar fly, the “Retirer” by UK competition angler Davy Parker.

Craig Mathews' X Caddis

This is Kelly Galloup's version of Craig Mathews' X Caddis. Kelly explains his approach to dubbing, as well as his way of cutting the deer hair before tying it in.

The Rackelhanen

In this video Kenneth Boström's Rackelhanen is tied by Luke Bannister

The Rackelhanen is an unusual pattern because the dubbing and wing is made from polypropylene floating yarn

This article by Kenneth Boströmdescibes the history, fishing technique and the original tying description for the Rackelhanen.

Hi Vis Zelon Midge

In this video Craig Mathews shows how to tie the Hi Vis Zelon Midge.

Chironomid midges are an important source of trout food on our rivers.

This article summarizes the results of kick sampling surveys, and lists the most frequently found insects. Natural and Artificial Trout Flies of the River Yealm

Bog Standard Parachute

In this video South African fly fishing guide and instructor Tim Rolston describes " a simple means of tying upwinged mayfly patterns quicky and simply to produce a durable, delicate and imitative mayfly.

The techniques can be adapted to manufacture any number of parachute style patterns."

Here is a useful step-by-step guide to tying the Krystal Flash Midge Emerger

Krystal Flash Midge Emerger

I first came across this use of Krystal Flash in Ed Engle's book 'Tying Small Flies' (Stackpole Books , 2004, p 62-3). Engle advises "dub this fly with an oversize thorax to match the typically darker thorax, wing pads, and head."

I tie this fly with a pronounced thorax of Orvis Superfine dubbing

Wet Flies


Tying a Cruncher with Magnus Angus

The Cruncher is normally regarded as a stillwater pattern. But I have found effective on our rvers.

To my mind it exemplifies the current stage of wet fly 'evolution': the 'flymph' which may represent the transitional hatching stage between nymph (or pupa) and dun or adult insect

Here is an article on the 'Evolution of the Wet Fly' From drowned insect to 'emerger'

Partridge & Orange

Tying the Partridge & Orange Soft Hackle/Wet Fly with Davie McPhail

This simple to tie North Country spider is a 19th century pattern, but still effective today.

Greenwells Glory

Tying the Greenwells Glory (Wet Fly) with Davie McPhail

This old classic pattern has been described as "The UK's version of an Adams" because it can be relied on to catch a trout.

Aidin's favourite fly.

Sea trout flies

Pilk's Bumble - Sea Trout Fly

Arundell Arms fly fishing instructor, David Pilkington, ties one of his classic sea trout patterns for Westcountry rivers: Pilk's Bumble. Shot at The Westcountry Sea Trout Festival 2010.

Pilk's PR (Peal Remover)

Arundell Arms fly fishing instructor, David Pilkington, ties one of his classic sea trout patterns for Westcountry rivers: Pilk's PR (Peal Remover / Peter Ross). Shot at The Westcountry Sea Trout Festival 2010.

Moc's Cert

Moc's Cert is named for Moc Morgan, legendary fly fisher of West Wales The pattern was concocted by his friends from all the best features of successful sewin flies Accordingly, the Moc's Cert has proven to be a most effective pattern

Chris Dore's Glister Nymph

A very simple and quick-to-tie fly that is attractive to sea trout and brown trout.

Chris advises tying it in a variety of sizes with and without a gold or tungsten bead according to the depth of water being fished.

The body is made from Veniard's Rust Orange Glister Sparkle Dubbing

I use the 'dubbing loop' technique to make the body of this fly. This video shows how to make a dubbing loop.

And finally ...

The Snowbee Waldron fly tying vice

I was delighted to receive this vice as a retirement present from colleagues at the University of Plymouth.

Here's review by Bob Wyatt, author of two ground-breaking books: Trout Hunting and What Trout Want: The Educated Trout and Other Myths

This video review includes a description of adjusting the vice to incorporate the tube fly attachment.

Releasing a fly caught in vegetation

After tying your flies you won't want to loose them...

Here is a tip that can be used to retrieve a trout fly caught up in bankside vegetation. The trick is to vigorously wiggle the rod horizontally from side-to-side. This works surprisingly often. It is important NOT to try to pull the fly free - that only embeds the fly further into the obstruction.

Towards the end of this clip, fellow Fly Fishing Devon instructor and guide Geoff Stephens tries to draw me into a theoretical discussion involving 'string theory'.

Some suggested YouTube channels

  1. Tying effective flies quickly with a minimum of fuss: Blue Ribbon Fly Tying channel
  2. Tying perfect flies: Davie McPhail Fly Tying channel
  3. Chattly man but worth paying attention to: Kelly Galloup Fly Tying channel
  4. Hans Weilenmann a quiet man but worth watching: Hans Weilenmann Fly Tying channel
  5. Rick Hafele's Favorite Evening Fly Patterns
  6. Rick Hafele ties the Saddle-case Caddis Pupa   Saddle-case caddis are smaller species of caddis - Glossosoma - that are present in large numbers in some parts of West Country rivers. See here
  7. Rick Hafele opens a Glossosoma Saddle-case to determine the size and colour of the the pupa in this video Caddis Pupa Patterns: What Size & Color?