On the international scene
there has been a lot of work done in this area. In recent years more and
more of the great fly tyers from the United Kingdom and Europe have been
developing some highly successful emergers. Some of these patterns are
so good that we really should be taking direction from their work.
Personally I feel that this topic is too big for just one article and there
will be a follow up article on some new Australian contributions at a later
One of the leaders in the development of emergers is Roy Christie, an Irishman now living in England. You can check out some of his work on these two websites:
www.danica.com/Flytier/rchristie/rchristie.htm & www.sexyloops.com/articles/troutflydesign2.shtml
Apart from being a regular at most of the European and British Fly Fairs, Roy has also shown his tying skills in America. Roy, along with myself, is also a member of the Fly Tyers Hall of Fame based in Italy.
From around 1960s Roy, even as a lad, has been working on his emergers and as with all good things they have improved with age. Long term observation of the natural insect actually emerging, coupled with the skill to put together what he was seeing with fur and feather, has led to some very interesting and different patterns.
The two key factors in Roy’s Reversed Emergers is that he ties his flies back to front and he is an avid believer that the tippet section close to the eye of the hook should be just under the surface film.
The shot of Roy’s Mayfly Emerger has been taken looking from underneath and it emphasises a number of very important features. Firstly the way the fly sits in the surface film and the angle at which it sits. Second is the scattered hackle fibres; that leaves a footprint of an insect struggling to escape from its shuck and thirdly, the touches of orange, so important in representing blood, adds to the illusion of a struggling mayfly emerging into a dun. The late Gary LaFontaine was also a great believer in featuring a little orange to suggest blood in his emergers. A good example of this is his famous Halo Emerger.
In preparing this article I
spoke via email to Roy a number of times. On the topic of a sinking tippet,
back eddies and fussy fish, Roy states:
The most important lesson I learned from those fish was that they did not like to eat anything which was attached to floating nylon, where that nylon was creating surface distortion. Fishing the slacks and back eddies in the lowest of flows, I noted that the trout in this wee burn would refuse a fly while the tippet was floating. They would inspect the fly and turn away time and again, then when the tippet had sunk for about four to six inches from the fly, they would come over and take the same fly they had previously refused.
The reversed parachute emerger is designed to balance on its hackle, hanging from the surface film. The primary purpose of this design is to sink the tippet on an imitative emergent fly and offer the fish a clean image of the vulnerable prey, that image untainted by the effects of visual distortion.
On the construction of his emergers he writes:
I build this fly using 4lb. monofilament as the rib and for the parachute loop (post). The fly is built with the tails, if any, out over the hook eye, the abdomen taking up the length of the shank and the thorax occupying the bend of the hook. A wing is optional. This construction ensures that the parachute hackle, which sits on top of the thorax, holds the fly in position so that it hangs in that most vulnerable ‘through the film’ position.
After ribbing the fly with the 4lb nylon a loop is created with the same piece of nylon to sit above the thoracic area, the tag or free end of this loop sits out over the end of the thorax. The hackle is tied in and the thorax is dubbed and the fly tied off normally at the start of the thorax.
When wrapping the hackle around the parachute loop, I take two turns around the loop, one through the loop, two around, one to lock, continuing until I have enough hackle to support the fly. This ensures that when the hackle stem is broken by sharp little teeth, the hackle cannot escape. To complete the parachute hackle, the hackle point is taken twice through the loop; pull the free end of the nylon to close the loop, trapping the hackle and cut off excess hackle and nylon. This makes the fly very durable and can help to avoid changing flies in the middle of the hatch.
Over the last decade or so
much has been written about the importance of emergers and believe it, a lot
more will be written, especially when future development and the importance
of this facet of fly fishing is more clearly understood.
To many of us, particularly here in Australia, emergers are all about lake fishing and why not? With so many great daytime hatches on our Tasmanian and mainland lakes it is a very important aspect of our fly fishery. However this is only half the story, because our rivers actually hold so many more opportunities than is generally appreciated.
Granted, Caddis emergers such as the Sparkle Pupa from the vice of the late Gary LaFontaine and the Klinkhamer from Hans Van Klinken are common additions to most fly boxes today but it is not Caddis that are under the microscope here, it is our Mayfly species.
As most of you are aware we have around eighty-five mayflies that are fully described, with many more waiting to go into the official registrar. Worldwide there are over 2500 species.
We rarely see Baetids (little blue duns) on our lakes, we never see the Kossie Dun or our Devonshire duns, yet they are so numerous along most streams and rivers and like most of the Tasmanian duns, they also emerge through the surface film.
The design of this fly is best suited to a long shank Grub/Caddis hook like a Partridge Klinkhamer or the Mustad C49s. Roy treats the hackle and wing with watershed or permaflote and leaves it to dry overnight. For tails and wings he likes to use bronze wood duck fibres. He also states that it is the design of the fly rather than the pattern here that is important and we should look at the colours of our nymphs and use those dressings as a guide in designing our patterns. He also suggests we carry a big net.