Long live wets
TF discusses the current status of traditional wet flies and their modern twists
WET flies have been around for years, even centuries in some cases, and many anglers still delight in celebrating a colourful and skilful part of flyfishing’s history. It’s fair to say that their use today is largely limited to wilder, larger waters in Wales, Ireland, Scotland and the north of England. Modern lures lead the way on small waters although some of the old wets are still mentioned in dispatches – a Black Pennell is still a good buzzer pattern for example and when snails are about, a Black & Peacock Spider is hard to beat. But the mainstream wets, such as Dabblers, are rarely a first choice except on large upland waters. TF’s northern contributor Paul Procter claims that the old wets will always have their place and represent ‘another string to your bow’, especially when targeting wild browns.
How to fish wets
If you’ re new to fishing wets, you’ll come across the term‘ traditional loch-style’ fishing which refers to casting broadside from a drifting boat. But wets can be fished from the bank too. For both bank or boat the principles are the same – a team of f lies designed to work together. Atypical set-up might be a floating line with a 12-foot leader in total. From the fly-line there’ s a three-foot tapered section. This will be knotted to another three-foot section of level leader leading to the first dropper, which–if there’ s a decent wind – should be a bushy pattern like a Bibio, Zulu or Doobry. Then there’s another three feet to the middle dropper, which will be another bushy fly if the wind is strong. But in a moderate blow this middle dropper is usually a slimline pattern such as a Dabbler or Pennell. Finally, there’s another three feet to the point( end) fly which is usually tied on a heavier hook to anchor the cast. This point fly is often as parse Pen nell or in some cases – although not strictly traditional – a Beaded PTN or Beaded Spider. Cast out a short line and work the flies back with two-foot long pulls if there’s a breeze. The bushy flies create a surface wake, which attracts the fish. Trout may take this ‘wake’ or ‘bob’ fly but often take the slimmer middle dropper or point fly. In a calm, use sparse flies fished buzzer-style with a figure-of-eight retrieve. In a very strong wind, increase the speed of the retrieve, and slow it down when calmer.
Many of the new Fritz materials have found their way into traditional wet fly dressings – albeit in a subtle way. They add a new dimension to an old theme so to speak. The result is that these flies will live on for a very long time as new materials merely add to their appeal. Whatever their future holds, remember that the ancient tyers didn’t have the easy access to information that we have today, and instead relied on suggestion and skill to catch fish. A Bibio was tied to represent terrestrial flies and an Inv icta to copy an emerging sedge to a degree. Today we can tie more exact copies with far more materials at our disposal.