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Ronan's report

Tuesday July 4rd, 2006

Theories about fly-fishing are like assholes - everybody has one.
Let's face it, the sport is far from being a science and most would be happy for it to stay that way, myself included. After over 2000 years of fly fishing history "What are you tying on?" must still be the most commonly asked question between friends as they tackle up to hit the water. And that familiar shout from across the river, "Whadja gettim on?" must run a close second. My fishing trips are no different.

Sooner or later most fly anglers gravitate towards fairly conventional schools of thinking around trout behavior, and inevitably, fly selection. You can usually tell what school they signed up to by looking in their fly box. Examining an anglers fly box is a little like getting a PI to rummage through their garbage. It reveals a lot. A lot about where they fish, how they think and the methods they find most successful. And it's a fair bet that the flys you'll see (in the fly box, not the garbage) will either tend towards generalist patterns or specific imitations. I'm a generalist. If you looked in my fly box, two guys should come to mind, not Halford and Skues, (although they're in there as well) but Wulff and LaFontaine.
There's been a huge amount written by and about these two guys, and quite rightly so. If you're not familiar with who they were and the contributions they made to fly fishing, you owe it to yourself to find out. A few lines on a front page won't come close to doing them justice.

Back to my fly box.
The first fly you'd probably recognise would be the Royal Wulff. Lee didn't invent it in the true sense of the word, but took an already good fly; the Royal coachman, and made it more robust, more visible and made it float better. Many imitative anglers wouldn't be seen dead with any of the Wulff family of flys on their person. It offends their sensibilities, the Royal Wulff being the most offensive.
Many believe that a Royal Wulff is the fly you reach for because you have no idea what you're doing. I believe that's just poncy elitist garbage and clearly demonstrates ignorance when it comes to good design - the Royal Wulff is a well thought out, cleverly designed fly.

Metaphorically speaking, everybody needs a Wulff and if not specifically a Wulff, then an imitation that exhibits a number of very specific criteria.The design list for your Wulff should include the following features:

  • Be robust and durable
  • Float well
  • Have good visibility
  • Present a strong silhouette
  • Present multiple triggers (characteristics known to have appeal to trout)
  • Imitate a broad range of insect types
  • Be inexpensive and relatively easy to produce

There's actually any number of flys that exhibit these characteristics, but three immediately spring to mind. The Royal Wulff, Bobs DHS and Paul's Royal fuckup have much in common and are essentially variations on a set of features that are proven to be valuable.

...And they're probably all quite mortified by my comparison, particularly the late Mr Wulff.
Next week, - why you should take Gary La Fontaine fishing with you.


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