Dry Flies & Nymphs For Early-Season Success


Written by: Isobella Ash

BT Sport Presenter and England Rivers International Angler, Andy Ford talks dry flies and nymphs best for early-season success & the materials you’ll need.

When you’re planning your approach for the new season, what do you tie? Those boxes that were used and abused back in October have probably got more gaps in them than flies….so what are you filling them with as you look forward to what’s coming next?  

If you’re like me, you spend hours thinking about how you’re going to approach those early-season fishing trips. Will you approach with dry flies, even though the Spring winds can chill you to the very core? Or will you need more tungsten than a lord of Nordic thunder to get your flies down in a flooded river?  

The fishing gods clearly have a sense of humour, don’t they? You can guarantee the week before the season starts, weather and water conditions are the stuff of dreams. Light winds, gentle sunshine on your face; olives and March Browns popping. You can feel it warming your bones. Then, when you can fish again at last, it rains, and the temperature goes through the floor. 

With all the challenges of the past 12 months adding to the conundrums we often face as anglers, our opportunities to get out and enjoy a fishing adventure can be limited. So when the chance comes, be ready to take it. I have an old cliché in mind. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail!.  

All we can do is make sure we’re equipped, hope for the best, and fill those empty spaces with fly patterns to give us the very best chance of catching those hungry early season trout.  

So – to help you get into the right frame of mind, whatever the weather gods bring, I’ve put together a small selection of early season fly patterns. There are two dry flies: the grannom sedge and the march brown dry fly, and two tried and tested nymphs: the chewing gum caddis and the march brown nymphs. There are links to nymph and fly tying videos to show you how to perfect them all as well as a list of the materials you need! 

I hope they give you success, and when the chill winds blow, you can still approach the water with a degree of confidence.  

Dry Flies

1. The Grannom Sedge:

This is a brilliant pattern fished in the early season, and it can hold its own in broken water like shallow riffles or the tails of weir pools. The green egg sack tied in at the end of the hook shank acts as a target point, and I’m sure it encourages wary fish to rise. Tie this in size 12 or 14 on a dry fly hook. 

Materials:

  • Hook: Hanak 130 BL Size 12 or 14 
  • Tying Thread: Semperfli Nanosilk in Olive or brown 
  • Egg Sack: Green Textreme Fluoro Fibre 
  • Rib: Glo-Brite Number 12  
  • Dubbing: Dark Brown Hare’s Ear Blend 
  • Hackle: Tip of a Partridge neck feather tied in soft-hackle style.  

https://youtu.be/RKgRzls0Bmw

 2. The March Brown Dry Fly:

This is another early-season favourite – and can bring fish up in those chilly days when you wonder if anything is going to come up for a dry at all! It’s great fished as either a 12 or 14, depending on the size of the insects hatching on tour local river. Trim out the under hackle to make it sit more upright in the film – or leave them long and fish it like a crippled insect trapped in the surface layers. 

Materials

  • Hook: Hanak 130 BL Size 12 or 14 
  • Tying Thread: 8.0 Uni Thread in dark brown 
  • Tail: 3 x pheasant tail fibres 
  • Rib: Cream thread (8.0 Wisp used here) 
  • Wing: 3 x Natural Grey CDC feathers 
  • Hackle: Red or brown cock hackle 
  • Dubbing head: Fox squirrel 

https://youtu.be/Uu4JfHHFBsw

Nymphs:

1. The Chewing Gum Caddis:

If ever there was a fly designed to help catch big fish, this is it.  

Fished on a Euronymph set-up, either as the point fly in a team or as a single fly, this pattern is proven to catch both big trout and specimen grayling. The addition of the coloured tail section really adds an edge too. Try casting it 10’ upstream of a big fish in shallow, clear water, jig it back…and then hold on tight!! 

Materials

  • Hook: Hanak 450 BL Size 12 
  • Beads: 3.5mm Hanak Competition Slotted Bead (Black) and 2mm plain countersunk bead ted in behind it.  
  • Tying Thread: Semperfli Nanosilk in Olive or brown 
  • Tail: Green rubber hook-point protector, or a tag of green Glo Brite 12 
  • Reverse Hackle: Partridge neck feather 
  • Body: FNF Chewing Gum Caddis (Dark Brown)

2. The March Brown Nymph:

This is the perfect big, buggy fly to tempt an early season trout or a big grayling to feed.  Great in ‘big’ water, it will work brilliantly as a point fly on a Euronymph set-up, or as a single fly fished upstream in clear, shallow water. 

Materials

  • Hook: Hanak 450 BL Size 12 
  • Beads: 3.5mm Hanak Competition Slotted Bead (Copper) 
  • Tying Thread: Semperfli Nanosilk in Olive or brown 
  • Tail: 3 x Phesant tail fibres 
  • Rib: Copper wire 
  • Dubbing: Dark brown hare’s ear blend 
  • Hackle: Partridge neck feather tied as a soft hackle

I hope these fly tying videos and tips bring you some good early-season fishing trips. Good luck!

 By Andy Ford 

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