Rod & reel of­fer

This year has been a bumper one for perch fry. Peter Gather­cole ties one up for the back end fry frenzy

Trout Fisherman (UK) - - Contents -

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“When trout are hit­ting the fry, all man­ner of big flashy lures can work well.”

IF you’re a reser­voir an­gler it’s about now you ask the same ques­tion you asked last year and prob­a­bly the years be­fore that. The ques­tion is: “will this be a good fry year and will the trout feed on them?” We of­ten talk in ex­cited tones about years gone by when fry-feed­ing trout pro­duced spec­tac­u­lar sport. Times when big rain­bows and browns cor­ralled the teem­ing shoals of small fish against har­bour walls and weedbeds, send­ing fry spray­ing in all direc­tions to es­cape their at­tack. Well, those with ex­pe­ri­ence know that all too of­ten this much-an­tic­i­pated phe­nom­e­non sim­ply doesn’t hap­pen. Some­times not at all, other times it starts, car­ries on for a week or two, then fiz­zles out for no ap­par­ent rea­son. But this year could just be a bumper one. While I’m loathe to make a pre­dic­tion, what does bode well is that it seems to have been a very good breed­ing year for perch. The har­bours of many reser­voirs are al­ready packed with small perch around two inches long – the per­fect size for a big, hun­gry trout. The thing about perch is they seem quite prone to dis­ease and as au­tumn turns into win­ter they can die off in large num­bers. As they be­come weak­ened, they make an easy meal for the trout – trig­ger­ing a spell of in­tense fry feed­ing. There are two main ways of tack­ling fry feed­ers. One is the static ap­proach where the fly is cast into ar­eas of fry-feed­ing ac­tiv­ity and sim­ply left for the fish to find. Or, a more mo­bile one where the fly is cast out and re­trieved at vary­ing depths depend­ing on how ac­tive the trout are. Both tac­tics can be very ef­fec­tive. The skill is de­cid­ing which one is best. When trout are hit­ting the fry, all man­ner of big flashy lures can work well. Marabou pat­terns such as the Hu­mun­gus can be quite deadly, as can fry im­i­ta­tions based on rab­bit and mink fur. On our reser­voirs, the main prey species along with the perch are roach, stick­le­backs and oc­ca­sion­ally bream. Each varies in size and colour and to be most ef­fec­tive this needs to be re­flected in the pat­terns we use. For gen­eral fry im­i­ta­tions, plain white, grey or brown fur work par­tic­u­larly well. Black fur can also work well though my two favourites are grey and brown. If perch are pre­dom­i­nantly on the trout’s menu then there’s al­ways the op­tion of us­ing one of the var­i­ous barred zonker rab­bit strips that are avail­able. One other sim­i­lar fur, and one that I’m sur­prised is not used that of­ten, is pine squir­rel. The tan skins are soft and sup­ple and have quite short hair – cer­tainly no longer than that of mink. They are avail­able in a range of colours, the most use­ful for fry im­i­ta­tions be­ing plain brown and dyed olive and ei­ther pre-cut into strips or left in­tact for the tyer to cut as de­sired. In this state the rab­bit strip is ei­ther plain or dyed a va­ri­ety of base colours with a dark bar­ring ap­plied – one that pro­vides a good rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the mark­ings on a real perch. While the Minkie has be­come in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar, a good old-fash­ioned Rab­bit Zonker also works well, es­pe­cially when a large fly is needed. Fix the hook in the vice, then ap­ply close turns of lead wire along the hook shank. Even when it’s wet, a rab­bit strip wing has a parachute ef­fect so to get the fly to sink some ex­tra weight needs to be added. With the lead wire fixed in place us­ing strong white ty­ing thread, take a pinch of pink Lite-Brite and tease out the fi­bres to form a slim bunch. Catch the Lite-Brite in at the bend at its mid­point then fold it over and se­cure it with thread. To com­plete the tail, pinch the fi­bres short us­ing a thumb­nail. You can cut the Lite-Brite to length but pinch­ing it off cre­ates a softer, nat­u­ral look­ing ef­fect. Next take a large pinch of pearl green Lite-Brite. LiteBrite comes in a num­ber of sub­tle pearl ef­fects in­clud­ing plain, pearl blue and pearl green – all of which can best be ob­served as the ma­te­rial is moved back and forth in the light. All work well pro­duc­ing a won­der­ful sparkle but the green ver­sion is par­tic­u­larly suit­able when ty­ing a perch im­i­ta­tion. Of­fer the Lite-Brite up to the thread then twist it to form a thick rope. Twist the front even fur­ther to form a point then wind on two turns at the tail base to lock the Lite-Brite to the hook. Now, as the dub­bing is twisted with­out re­leas­ing it the rope will be­come thin­ner and tighter at which point it is wound along the hook shank in touch­ing turns. The aim is to pro­duce a slim fish shape and ap­ply­ing the dub­bing in this way achieves this as well as al­low­ing it to be teased out later with­out gaps. Once three-quar­ters of the hook shank has been cov­ered, take a length of rab­bit fur cut as a Zonker strip still on the skin. This strip can ei­ther be cut from a patch us­ing a scalpel blade or pur­chased pre-cut. In this case a barred olive strip is be­ing used to sug­gest the nat­u­ral mark­ings of a perch, though other colours both barred and plain may be used. As rab­bit hair is rel­a­tively long it works best when ty­ing large pat­terns – those in ex­cess of two inches long. For smaller flies, mink strip works best or in­deed pine squir­rel but which­ever type of fur strip you are us­ing the same tech­nique ap­plies. Although fur strip can be se­cured in place like other types of hair or marabou, my pre­ferred method is to first catch it in so that it projects over the hook eye. The rea­son is that by fold­ing it back over it­self, a round pro­file like a fish’s head is cre­ated. It might seem a tricky method but af­ter a cou­ple of goes I’m sure you’ll mas­ter it. So take a length of rab­bit zonker strip and catch it in up­side down at the eye. Fix it in place with tight thread turns then cover the end with more dubbed Lite-Brite, tak­ing it right up to the eye. So with the strip fixed in firmly, pull it back over the body then cast off thread with a whip fin­ish be­hind the eye. While this ver­sion of the Zonker is tied with min­i­mal weight it can be made to sink faster by adding heavy dumb­bell eyes. If this is your aim then these can ei­ther be added right at the be­gin­ning when the lead wire was ap­plied or now be­fore the wing is tied in. Reat­tach the thread at the base of the tail then stretch the fur strip over the top of the body. Moisten the fur slightly then di­vide the fi­bres at the point that co­in­cides with the tail base. Mois­t­en­ing the fur helps to ex­pose the bare skin and also keeps the fi­bres out of the way for the next step, which is to se­cure the strip with the thread. Ap­ply four or five turns then cast off the thread with a whip fin­ish be­fore trim­ming off the loose end. While the fur is still moist, run a drop of Su­per­glue into the thread turns then al­low it to harden fully be­fore go­ing on to the next stage. Stroke the hair back into place then draw the loose hairs at the head back away from the eye. Ap­ply a small amount of Su­per­glue or one of the UV cure resins around the top and sides of the hair to hold it place. Next ap­ply a drop of Su­per­glue to ei­ther side of the body and ap­ply an epoxy or a sim­ple de­cal eye to ei­ther side of the head. For this, a thicker gel-type Su­per­glue works best as it holds more se­curely. Do not try and use just UV cure resin as this re­lies on UV light to harden it and the opaque eye pre­vents this hap­pen­ing. Add UV cure resin or clear var­nish over the eyes and al­low to harden fully, the fi­nal step be­ing to tease out the fi­bres of Lite-Brite us­ing a dub­bing brush or a piece of vel­cro to blend the fi­bres into the wind and in­crease the over­all sparkle.

Lite-Brite.

Epoxy eyes.

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