The working man’s tool box

The working man’s tool box

Paul Arden | Monday, 2 December 2019

Flies have always fascinated me. Once again through misadventure, I find myself virtually fly-less; a mid-summer tropical storm upturned one of my boats about four months back and, of the many things that disappeared, I lost a critical fly box.

It does have a card inside offering a handsome reward but I suppose that the other things in the fishing box were of greater value to someone and/or they couldn’t read the language - no problem; here in the jungle I use very few patterns anyway and now that we are smack in the middle of the Wet Season, I finally have some time to whip up a few flies.

My philosophy is that “ugly” flies catch fish. I learned this from my Stillwater days; the more chewed up a fly becomes, the more scant the dressing, the more irresistible it becomes! So for coming up on 40 years now I’ve been trying to make my flies look like a dog’s breakfast.

But not only should they look ugly, they have to swim properly, be quick to tie and not fall apart at the first fish. I’m not one of these patient fly tiers who ties pretty flies or even likes to spend one more second at the vice than absolutely necessary - don’t get me wrong; I probably couldn’t tie a good looking fly even if I tried! However if I can get three ugly flies tied up in the time it takes most people to tie one then I’m happy.

Back when I was a teenager and working at Ardleigh Res in the fishing lodge, after the evening’s fishing I would get home and the first thing I would do was replace the lost flies of the day and tie up a few ideas; flies that diverge slightly from what was working that day, and/or possible solutions to a new problem.

The next day, I would then fish these patterns and compare them to the previous days’ results. This way, over a long period of time, you really end up tying what the fish want. In other words, flies are in a constant state of development and it’s really the fish that drive these changes. I’ve always thought that this is one of the most fascinating aspects to fly fishing. In fact sometimes I think all we are doing is developing working fly collections through fishing.

Along these lines and something that I’ve been experimenting with - and want to experiment much more this coming year - is colour and Snakehead. Normally I like dark grizzly green, perhaps with a splash of red. It’s something I have great confidence in and over the years here I know that it just simply works because that’s what the fish eats.

However hot orange has given some dramatic results (off babies, not free-risers, who instead follow and rarely eat, which I also find interesting) - and I now wish to test other colours. I tried deep red long ago but gave up on it quickly after comparing it to green on free-risers and getting poor results.

But as well as colour experiments (you know, sometimes colour really is the answer!) I wish to tie some weedless flies, some divers, some very large flies and lastly a bunch of Gurglers for when Snakehead are super spooky. And then I’ll move on to Gourami, Jungle Perch and finally Mahseer.

Did I mention that it’s raining? It’s been raining non-stop now for two days!

Cheers, Paul

ps here is a dog’s breakfast of a fly box for Stillwater trout fishing. This goes back way into Sexyloops’ past and while they are flies I would have fished 30 years ago they have stood me very well since as well. Enjoy!

Also: the embedded video today has a nice Snakehead but also instructions on tying Vince Margoss’ Loud-Mouth Popper!  What a great fly!!