The world's best flyfishing site.

Lazy Ways with Wets

Modern wet fly fishing techniques for stillwaters AND the silicone smelt!

I'm one real lazy son-of -a-bitch. You'll have to ask me to do something ten times before I'll tell you to get lost. that's how lazy. I've never held a job for more than six months, and I never work when I'm not broke. to most people I've never been anything but broke - but I figure having about fifty quid takes me out of the broke category. Still, even by reasoning I'm broke most of the time. It doesn't really bother me because I fish, and that's the important part. Anyone can make money, but not everyone can fish, right?

Lost of people rush through life and never see anything. Lots of anglers retrieve too fast. If you move your flies then you should slow up and take things easier. Now fish might not be the brightest of creatures, no matter how much we pretend otherwise, but they know what they want: food, sex and a bit of peace. Bit like us really.

And they also know what to expect and what not to. They are experts on entomology and the one thing they don't expect is food whizzing around their heads. Real food just doesn't do this. Sure it can work, but I wouldn't base a whole approach on the tactic. Trout food is static and anything else is an induced take.

I have a tendency to see these things in simple terms: I imagine sitting down to a meal when all of a sudden the steak hops from the plate and makes a mad dash across the table. Naturally I jump up and chase after it with my fork. Most people fish the moving steak. Not me, I fish the static steak. The problem is that for the fish the steak appears to make a leap for it most times he decides to dine, and eventually he begins to associate this event with trouble. A moving fly to a fish becomes a sure indication of a trap, and not a very cunning one.


Of course most anglers are ready to admit that dries should be fished static for much of the time. Nymphs too. But I am not just talking nymphs and dries, I'm talking the lot; lock, stock and barrel; the whole shaboozle; each and every conceivable type of fly. Even lures which are primarily used for the induced take. Whisky flies left static amongst daphnia. Black lures amongst the caenis. White lures amongst the fry. Frogs between the lily pads. I don't touch them. I don't even pop a popper.

Ok, there's a bit of thinking going on here, it's not just downright idleness on my part. It just all seems to fit. This article is more about fishing wet flies static than anything else. Maybe it's just me, but there was a time when all one had to do to catch fish during the summer was to fish a big #10 well hacked dry. Twelve to fifteen years ago you'd probably be doing something a bit different to everyone else and that's all it took. Then slowly and subtlely things changed, and we got smaller and smaller, until five or six seasons ago I was consistently fishing #20's and for some inexplicable reason #8's. It was about then that I gave it up as a bad job. Just to catch fish on dries you had to be significantly better than everyone else. But, if your dries sank then you got takes, sure you missed them mainly, unless you were more attentive than I was.

And that got me thinking. The problem with nymphs as fishing flies is that they can sink too quickly. Dries on the other hand often fail to sink; it's a design fault. So what is required is a fly which sinks very slowly and hangs a few inches beneath the surface. Enter wet fly. In recent years I have noticed an increased tendency towards missed fish with the dry fly. Artificial flies do not disappear through the surface film into the mouths of fish the way naturals do. After all, we do spend an inordinate amount of time ginking and drying them. This is not to say that dries have no value any more - that would be ridiculous - simply that they are not necessarily my first choice.

In practical terms, I fish wets in exactly the same way as I do dries with the simple obvious exception that they are sunk. I cast them around the side of the boat - like dries. Leave them to swim by themselves for a little bit - like dries. Dibble them one by one - like you know what. I don't look to have heavy wets. I have taken dry fly technology into wet fly design. I dress my wets on lightweight hooks using monofilament for ribs. Ideally I want my flies two or three inches beneath the surface.

Dries which refuse to float

Sometimes they float. When they do this the distinction between what I am doing now and what I used to do becomes unclear. I used to get worked up by dries which refused to float. Then for a while wets which refused to sink really annoyed me. I felt that they were unjustifiably antagonising me for no good reason. They never afflicted my boat-partners to the same extent, even though they often pretended they did. Now, however, my feelings are more relaxed: I just let my flies do what they want; if some of them feel like floating - fine, if some sink - hey, then that's fine too.

Wet or dry

Looking around the stillwater scene nowadays there is nothing apparently different between the dry-fly fisher and the wet-fly man, sure perhaps the fisher of dries is having a bit more fun and perhaps the wets are producing a few more fish, but where rod position, casting and presentation are concerned these anglers appear identical.

I have recently come to the conclusion that drag has been affecting my catch rate on the lakes I fish. I used to aim to perfectly straighten the leader so as to remain in contact with all my flies. This was theoretically sound. But the drop was restricted by the line tightness. Now I actually cast some slack into the leader (wiggle cast, early shoot / parachute cast). It works too, but you've really got to be with it, otherwise you'll miss all your takes.

I mentioned earlier that I like to fish my lures static. In simple fish-imitating terms this is easy to explain; find a shoal of fry, cast your lure amongst them, wait for the fish to chase them all away and only the lure is left. Bingo!

In New Zealand, Lake Taupo offers this sort of approach all the time. Here however, it is not fry we are representing, but smelt. There is a fly over there called the Silicone Smelt. Completely useless when moved, but left to it's own devices it is a real killer.

I have been experimenting with the Silicone Smelt for the last three seasons in the UK and have found the results most encouraging. Now it has become my first line of attack.

Site Bite
Go here for a good starting point on flytying. There are fly patterns in the glossary too. Silicone Patterns Tying Materials

Here is the dressing:

  • Underbody: (optional if you are really idle): bit of what you fancy; Mylar, wrapped tinsel, flat tinsel laid along the shank, or perhaps luminous strips. I use peacock herls, silver mylar and yellow crystal hair.

  • Overbody: Silicone bathroom sealant.

  • Technique: Applying this take some practice. It has been suggested to me that the way to do this is to fold some greaseproof paper, squirt some silicone along the crease, and place it in the spine of a book to give it a fishy shape. I struggled with this until I found out that silicone doesn't stick to fingers dipped in a solution of washing up liquid. Before then, I had ended up looking like I had a really bad cold, after attempting just one fly. Once dry, the shape can be honed with a sharp knife. Alternatively, apply the silicone and shape it with fingers dipped in washing-up liquid and a wet knife. Another tip for experiment is that wire can be used to strengthen the tail.

Static flies may well be deadly, but so too are 'just-become-static' flies. The best way of inducing the take from a fish to a moved fly is not to speed up, but to stop. You can increase the effectiveness of this little manoeuvre by changing direction a little before you stop. However a 'just-become-static' fly is a static fly no matter which way you twist your mind.

This sort of wet-fly fishing demands more concentration than any other form of fly fishing I can think of, basically after an hour you're knackered. Fair do's. So I guess bearing this fact in mind, the method's not really suited to me as I'm pretty much knackered all the time. I look it too. I'm thinking it's about to get back out of work and start bumming around again.

Fishing is so much more fun that way.


Return to whence you came
Return to home page