Foam Post Emerger
Peter Gathercole ties a fly to target trout feeding around the weedbeds
AS water levels recede on our reservoirs, large beds of marginal weed become exposed. These dense beds provide trout with a rich larder of goodies from corixids and snails to hoglice, shrimps and small fish. Trout will cruise the margins and channels between the weed picking off these small food items. When fishing from the bank they provide access to big, grown- on fish drawn in to the abundance of food, fifish which for much of the summer have kept out of range. Don’t expect a large bag of fish – instead this is all about targeting individual fish in a method of flyfishing closer to hunting than merely casting out and waiting for a trout to find the fly. However, what makes the margins around weedbeds such great places to find rising fish is also what makes them problematic. And that problem is the weed itself.
Try a single dry fly
Though a nymph will work it’s a great place for a dry fly, not least because a floating fly is less likely to catch in weed. Accurate casting is required, which is easier to achieve when using a single fly and don’t be afraid of getting your fly right up against the weed edge – this is often where the trout are. Using a single fly has a second, more important part to play. When a fish is hooked you’ll often pick up some trailing weed on the line or leader. This is bad enough but if you’ve one or more trailing flies it’s certain they’ll catch into the weed at which point the leader will break. Interestingly, most hooked fish don’t bury straight into the weed; instead they usually bolt into deeper water. But it’s when it comes to landing them that disaster can strike. So even before you’ve hooked a fish, try to find a large enough gap into which it can be steered for netting.
If the trout are eating small fish, species such as sticklebacks and roach fry, a small Floating Fry imitation can be absolutely deadly. Two of the best are a small Popper Minkie and a Mylar Fry. If the fish are taking smaller fare then standard dry flies such as Bob’s Bits or a Shipman’s Buzzer also work extremely well. However, for this style of fishing, I prefer an emerger-style pattern – one where the body of the fly hangs below the water’s surface supported by a buoyant wing or hackle. There’s a range of materials that can be used from CdC to poly-yarn and foam. Foam is good because, being naturally buoyant, it doesn’t get swamped and sink. In the calm conditions the fly often needs to be left in one spot for much longer than would be the case when fishing open water.
Trout in shallow water spook easily and lifting off to recast or dry a sunk fly can mean you have to look for another target. They also regularly change direction so you can never rely on where the trout is likely to rise next. You can either find this frustrating or simply accept it as part of the thrill. To be honest, it’s actually a bit of both.
The Sugar Cube style
The foundation of the style of pattern I prefer is the Sugar Cube, so named because a small block of white foam was used at the head to keep the fly floating. The foam has a two-fold purpose. The first is simply to keep the fly floating, while the second, and no less important function, is to allow the fly to be twitched through the water’s surface without it sinking. Trout are visually oriented and any small movement can attract their attention. When trout are cruising very close to the surface their window of vision is quite small so anything that makes your floating fly more obvious is worth employing. Different coloured foam can be used. Originally foam sheet or block was used but now we have a wide range of foam dowels or cords available designed for tying Boobies. They come in a variety of useful colours, but even if you only have white or perhaps yellow Booby cord it can easily be coloured with a few dabs of olive or brown permanent marker pen to make it look a bit more natural. When using foam, it’s important to get the right balance between the amount of foam and the rest of the fly. Although the materials have an influence it’s the weight of the hook that’s the main thing to consider. As when tying any type of dry fly for use on stillwater the maxim is always use the heaviest weight of hook you can get away with. Big, powerful trout will test any fine-wire hook beyond its limits. Mostly the problem occurs if the fish rips off yards of line and backing as it heads out into deeper water. A combination of the line’s weight plus any weed that it might have picked up will often cause the bend of a fine-wire hook to open up enough to part company with the fish. When using foam on relatively small patterns such as the Sugar Cube it’s a good idea to tie one example then judge the amount of foam you need to keep the hook you are using afloat. You can do this by popping it into a glass of water – remember though to give it a minute or so to let the body materials get a thorough soaking. The reason for being so precise is that you don’t want the fly to be bulky which can be a problem when using foam. The intention is for this fly, unlike a Popper Hopper for instance, to sit just under the surface, not on it. Natural dubbing materials work well on a pattern of this type as they quickly absorb water helping the body cut quickly through the water’s surface. A small amount of sparkle may also be included – a few turns of pearl tinsel as a tag work well, as does having a small amount of iridescent fibres such as Glister or Lite-Brite blended into the dubbing. Although there’s no supporting hackle, a few strands of CdC, wisps to be more precise, break up the fly’s outline giving the impression of legs or just something going on.
Tying the Foam Post Emerger
Fix a size 14 medium or heavyweight wet fly hook in the vice and run the thread on at the eye. The first step is to add the foam and a solid thread-base is needed to hold it in place. Various types of foam dowel may be used including 3.2mm foam cylinders in tan. I’ve often used yellow 3.5mm Booby foam but white or black is fine – all are cheap and easily obtainable. Catch in the foam so at least 6mm of it projects over the eye. Here it’s worth a quick note on the tying thread. Don’t go too fine. Use a standard 8/0 type so as not to cut the thread. Apply firm locking turns of thread over the foam then add a few turns around the hook shank just behind the eye. Next, trim the waste end of the foam to a steep taper. Run the thread loosely over the foam stub and down the shank to the bend. Catch in a length of medium-width pearl Mylar tinsel and wind it on to form a short tag. In front of the tag, catch in a length of fine gold wire then dub on a pinch of some natural fur. Wind the dubbed fur along the shank right up to the stub of foam forming a tapered body. The body is then ribbed with evenly-spaced turns of the gold wire. The hackle, if you can call it that, is simply a few strands of grey CdC torn from the plume and caught in above and below the body. The final stage is then to cast off the thread with a whip finish before colouring the foam post with an olive marker pen.
“In calm conditions the fly often needs to be left in one spot for much longer...”