Trout exploit the most vulnerable stage of a fly’s life – and so should you. In part two of his series preparing a fly-box for next season, Alex Jardine ties six proven emergers
In the second part of his series on river flies, Alex Jardine looks at emergers
“When presenting an emerger pattern, it is a good idea to cast further upstream of a trout than you would with a dry-fly”
FOR A TROUT TO TAKE AN ADULT FLY from the surface requires a lot of energy compared to waiting for a nymph to tumble down the current. That’s why they hone in on flies at their weakest moments, when they’re least likely to fly away. The obvious stage is death, when flies return to the river to lay their eggs and become trapped in the surface, but there’s a more noticeable stage – emergence. As a fly ascends through the surface to morph from juvenile nymph into adolescent or adult, there is a moment when it becomes stuck. A fly breaking the surface film is the equivalent of a human pushing through four feet of soil and therefore it is no wonder it becomes exhausted and caught between worlds, and bodies. This is one of the tragedies of nature, but for trout, and anglers, it’s an opportunity to be seized. Unlike standard dry-flies, which are designed to sit on or proud of the surface, an emerger pattern has to match the insect between two worlds. Therefore it must sit with roughly half the body submerged and half above the surface. It is for this reason that there is still debate over whether an emerger is a dry-fly or a nymph. I think it’s more dry-fly than nymph, but I think it deserves to be known as a unique stage. Always carry size and colour variations for emergers; on challenging days having options can make the difference. The hooks used are often the same as those used for dry-flies. Curved hooks are perfect for creating the half in, half out profile. Make sure you know a hook’s properties as it may have been developed for nymphs and be made from heavier wire; in which case, materials should be selected to counter the hook weight. When presenting an emerger pattern, it is a good idea to cast further upstream of a trout than you would with a dry-fly so that the fish does not see it land, for you are representing a fly that is yet to leave the water. This increases the chances of unwanted drag on the fly, so I generally fish longer and lighter leaders that will negate the effect of currents. In the flat tail of a pool, fish have more time to study your imitation and tippet. Make sure you fish as light as possible and never leave home without a pot of fuller’s earth (leader mud) to disguise the tippet. Nothing beats a trout’s nose slowly breaking the surface to snaffle a well-presented emerger.