I remember seeing two Men from county Down fishing lough Melvin in the early 1990’s. At that time I always fished, what we in Ireland call Lough Style, these two guys were casting long lines and using a really fast strip retrieve. I was curious as to how they were fishing because they were catching several trout. I soon learned that they were using dabblers which at that time were probably still top secret in competition circles.
As years progressed a whole variation of these flies appeared in all different colours using different materials but the shape remained the same. They became so popular that most big lake fly fishers used them on almost every visit to the lakes in Ireland. This started me wondering what the secret of their success was: They are fished at a fast retrieve? But any fly can be fished at a fast retrieve so it is not just the retrieve. They are fished in several colours? while the colour is significant on certain days due to weather circumstances, cloud or the lack of cloud, wind strength, and definitely location, the colour is not 100% of the success rate.
During a debate about why “fish took some flies which do not represent any type of aquatic food”, a good friend dropped an item on the table and asked us what it was. All in turn we lifted the item and looked at it, each of us came up with an answer after looking and turning the object in our hands. We then asked him what has this to do with the question. He answered, 'a fish has no hands, how does it examine anything it does not recognise'. So curiosity has to come into the equation. The speed of the retrieve means the fish, if curious, has to chase and if it takes the fly into its mouth the fast retrieve will probably cause a hook up - sounds good but what causes the extra curiosity?
I started to think about the food chain and the pecking order among trout. We know there are very few vegetarians among fish species and I can recall fishing in Slovenia and spotting a rainbow trout which I managed to hook. When the rainbow began to struggle, a very large marble trout chased the rainbow up stream and subsequently my leader snapped and I lost the rainbow - not seeing the outcome of the chase. Back where I was staying at the time the hotelier who was a fly dresser and angler of some note informed me that this did happen on occasions. Both fish are in their comfort zone but when the rainbow panicked at the hook, the marble trout’s predatory instincts were kindled.
Reflecting on this I think the retrieve speed of dabblers possibly encourage this instinct in our local trout. Another thought comes into mind now about adding some hint of flash into the dabbler pattern. From another experience which has happened quite often on trips, I have suddenly saw a flash of a fish flank as it turned below the surface. I did not see the fish I just saw the silver or gold glint. Coming back again to the dabbler I now add some sparkle to my dabbler in the belief that if the fish made me aware of its presence then why not replicate it in my flies.
Back again to the trout and the smaller prey fish I am now of the belief that Dabblers are successful for this reason (I have no scientific evidence to support this theory). I have chopped and changed the pattern and now tie and fish my dabblers with the body done with pearl Mylar tinsel. The difference is that I add the colour with a permanent marker pen.
I am attaching a step by step pattern of one of the dabblers I now use, all tied on size 10 or 12 wet fly supreme Partridge hooks.
I just want to add one fact for your consideration; Perch fry have a green body colour with dark vertical stripes and orange tips or fins. These can be represented by dabblers tied with a pearl Mylar body coloured with an olive green permanent marker, body hackle of grizzle died olive mixed with blue dun and palmered and an orange beard hackle at the throat. The shoulder can be bronze mallard died olive or just natural bronze. Sometimes I add two strands of crystal flash to the tail of cock pheasant tail fibres. Perch spawn in Ireland in April/May and are hatched into fry in about two weeks. Trout eat them usually June/July. If you research all the spawning times and colours of prey species as I have noted just above, it is more than possible you can be successful in your fishing.
There are patterns which might cover perch fry trout fry, minnows, gudgeon, roach and any other small prey species it just takes a bit of consideration to the species colour when at the fly tying bench.
I have not covered all fishing situations such as daphnia feeders or may fly feeders because I think there are better options for these.
We need a selection of permanent markers and Partridge size 10 or 12 wet fly supreme hook.
Tail of pheasant cock fibres
Rib of gold wire
Body of orange coloured pearl mylar
Body Hackles of golden olive and yellow palmered
Collar hackle of green olive hen
Cloak of bronze mallard
Thread tied and carried to the bend (as shown)
Tie in cock pheasant tail fibres finish thread two thirds along hook shank. Option of crystal flash fibres in tail.
Tie in copper wire, then Mylar, and then wind Mylar up along the hook shank two thirds of the way (as shown).
Tie in Golden Olive and Yellow hackles and palmer along shank, carefully wind in copper wire.
Tie in a Green Olive hen hackle by tip and double the fibres then wind in two or three turns as a collar hackle.
Ready for Bronze Mallard.
Tie in cloak of bronze mallard and fan 180% around top half of the shank, form noticeable Yellow or Gold head whip finish and varnish.