Rods and other essential dry fly gear

Most important; leave your ugly old 9' reservoir/lake/sea-trout rod at home.

I use two rods, one is 6' 6" the other is 5' 2". Even a half pound brownie on these rods is brilliant sport. I made them myself and at little cost. The smallest (which is actually constructed out of one and a half sections of a larger rod, chopped down) casts a number 2 DT. F, whilst the larger throws a number 3 DT. F.

I do like green floating lines yet white ones are okay too and angling results seem to be similar. Leaders are important and my usual one is about six feet in length, tapering from 8lb mono to about 3lb (double strength) at the tip. If the river is big or sea trout are about I may go up to 4lb double strength. When the going is tough in high summer with tiny water flows then out comes the 1.5lb double strength line, yet one must be very careful in striking fish with such fine leaders. Fine leaders are also essential when presenting small dressing of say below size 18. Alternatively, stronger tips are needed to properly present larger dressings on bigger hooks.

Dry Fly Patterns.

My flies are of course mainly dressed to match the fly hatches on the Northern spate rivers yet there is no reason why they shouldn't work well on any other water where similar species of natural insects are to be found. Within this unique site I will tell you what is the hard-won truth, which I have gleaned from first hand river-side experience, not accepted 'hearsay' from others.

My flies range from size 24 to about 14. I rarely fish any larger than this. 

The following are highly effective and well proven patterns on all the rough streams that I have personally fished (over 20 years) in Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria.  



 Hook: 14-18 light wire.

 Thread: Olive waxed.

 Tail: blue dun cock.

 Body: Grey-blue mole, rabbit or hare, dubbed.

Wing: Waterhen or coot split and advanced.

 Rib: Optional – pale yellow tying thread.

 Hackle: Natural pale red or light ginger cock.


 This is a handy dressing to start the day with, especially if one is not yet quite sure about just what fly the fish are taking. It is always useful and catches fish on most occasions.




 Hook: 16-24 light wire.

 Thread: fine white.

 Tail: cream dun.

 Body: Pale grey rabbit fur, dubbed.

 Wing: None.

 Rib: None.

 Hackle: Palest ginger or cream cock


The fussy grayling shoals have gone off duns and spinners and will only nose terrestrials so get this tied on (best in small sizes) and watch the explosive action start. Best fished on light line and remember to not strike too hard.




 HOOK: 14-18, fine wire.

 THREAD:  Fine grey waxed.

 TAIL: Fancy ginger/white cock.

 BODY: Purple SLF (dubbed) or purple body silk.

 RIB: Black thread.

 WING: Stub of dark Grouse wing rolled & tied upright.

 HACKLE: Ginger cock with a hint of white.


  The Purple Dun can be tied in smaller sizes (16-20) to imitate iron blues. However, a darker hackle may be better for this purpose.




 THREAD:  Olive waxed.

 HOOK:   14-18 Fine wire.

 TAIL:   Dark olive cock.

 BODY:  Stripped peacock quill from 'eye' dyed olive.

 WING:  Waterhen or Coot wing quill.

 HACKLE:  Long olive cock (of a softer texture than original pattern.)


 This fly is brilliant in hatches of the:  LDO, Olive Upright, Large Spurwing and BWO. It’s at its 'deadliest' from late March to June. It also catches sand martins, but that's another story!





 THREAD: Fine black.

 HOOK:  14-18 Fine wire.

 BODY:  Orange floss.

 THORAX:  Peacock herl.

 RIB:  Peacock herl.

 HACKLE:  Long black cock.


 This is useful as a 'fancy' for grayling and especially when plenty of terrestrial insects hit the stream in high summer.




  THREAD:  Yellow or brown waxed.

 HOOK:  12-16 Fine wire.

 TAG (optional): Gold Lurex.

 BODY:  Yellow Floss or SLF dubbing.

 WING:  Hen pheasant (dressed flat over body).

 HACKLE:  Furnace or brown, long in fibre.


This is a handy fly to have on during late hot summer evenings when Sedges abound. It is usually taken with force so be warned!




 HOOK:  18-14, Fine Wire.

 SILK:  Orange or Red, waxed.

 TAIL:  Blue Dun Cock.

 BODY:  Grey Goose Herl.

 RIB:  Fine Gold Wire.

 WING:  Red Grouse Primary Slips tied split and advanced.

 HACKLE:  Natural Red or Dark Ginger Cock Hackle.


 The beautiful Greta runs into the River Lune in Lancashire and this excellent fly has taken lots of nice trout for me therein.




 HOOK:  18-14, Fine Wire.

 SILK:  Grey waxed.

 TAIL:  Natural Red Cock.

 BODY:  Pale Dubbed Hare's Ear (well picked out around the thorax.)

 RIB:  Fine Gold Wire.

 WING:  Coot or Moorhen Primary (rolled and tied upright.)

 HACKLE:  Fancy, Ginger and White barred Cock Hackle.


 As the name suggests, this olive imitation has proven itself at Thornton Force near Ingleton in Yorkshire on numerous occasions. I can hear the awesome crashing current of the waterfall, sound of rising summer sky larks and the crash of lusty hooked trout as I recall this particular pattern.




 HOOK:  20-14 Fine wire.

 THREAD:  Fine black.

 TAIL:  Red wool.

 RIB: Fine black thread.

 BODY:  Dubbed black wool or peacock herl.

 HACKLE:  Palmered cream or white cock hackle (applied full length of body.)


The Grayling Witch is an old fancy pattern that will also take trout and sea trout when conditions are right.  Although it is a fancy pattern I believe that it actually imitates many leaf hoppers and other colourful terrestrials which fall into the water.  It is especially effective after windy conditions and when the leaves are starting to blow onto the water. This is also very good for fat trout/grayling that lie in quite backwaters, close to the bank, during a big flood. I love this fly in the autumn as it typifies everything this is right about grayling fishing when Jack Frost bites hard!




 HOOK:  Size 18-14 fine wire.

 THREAD:  Fine grey or olive.

 WING: Coot or Waterhen tied split, (to lie over the bend of the hook.)

 HACKLE:  Fancy ginger and white barred cock, (tied in front of the wing at tail end.)

 BODY:  Several strands of ash brown/mousy hair (off a girl – in my case my teenage daughter) which are then varnished for strength.


 The Retro Dun can be effective at any time of year and will take fish during most olive hatches when dressed in various sizes.  A size 16 is possibly the most useful pattern as this is about the right proportion for imitating the BWO, LDO and other more commonly encountered river olives.


Dressing your own flies.


I have never bought a dressing in my life and would rather cast in worms or bread than visit a shop and purchase a sack full of the terrible feathered offerings on sale. Most are absolute monstrosities that would scare rather than attract wild fish. Tying one's own flies is part of the 'Cult' of the Dry fly angler and gives us the chance to actually imitate the insects that we see with our own eyes on our own stretch of water. This is what our sport is supposed to be about!

 How can commercial dressings, which are possibly produced as far away as Hong Kong or Taiwan, ever hope to match the hatch on a rough, northern spate stream? Forget those angling aberrations and create your own special patterns that are based on personal experience and solid reality or at least get someone who knows the game well to tie them for you.

Many of my patterns are what might be called General Imitators, tied in various sizes from number 24 up to 14 or possibly 12.  These come into play when one is not quite sure about what the fish are actually taking. However, I do also use set imitations that actually look just like the real thing.  Naturally, these are to be used when one has discovered just what the fish are feeding on.  Call me old fashioned but I always prefer up-eyed hooks, however straight eyes are okay too so long as they are of a nice fine wire.  I would also advocate barbless hooks, which hold well, are easy to extract and are better for the fish.

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