STANTON HECTOR’S TOP SIX FLY PATTERNS FOR STREAMS
Text Stanton Hector
Pictures Stanton Hector and Tom Sutcliffe
(Stanton Hector is one of the brightest and most progressive young fly fishers in the Western Cape. He has put a lot of original thinking into fly pattern development and into leader and tippet design. He is currently completing a PhD at Stellenbosh University. I have had the pleasure of fishing a lot with him these past few years where he has shared in my enjoyment of spotting trout and honing skills at getting it right. Tom Sutcliffe)
Presented here are six of my favourite flies of all time. Not only are they fish takers, but have proven to be my go-to flies season after season on the most demanding of small streams known and unknown. In addition, they have also provided me with countless hours of fly tying pleasure. Something magical happened when tying these patterns; in time, step-by-step they revealed their secrets. Each pattern in this collection has something very fundamental in common and that is the element of simplicity. However, don’t be fooled by their simplisity. It is herein that their efficacy lies. If I had to choose six flies for the rest of my life for fishing normal days, this will be it. Here goes, in no particular order:
The Mountain Midge was an idea that was sparked into being while fishing the Elandspad during late season. However, it only came to fruition a few weeks after first spotting Tom’s single feather CDC midge. As it stands Tom’s CDC midge was the inspiration for the Mountain midge. In his CDC midge a few elements caught my eye. I am a huge proponent of CDC and have been advocating its use for some time. But I was once again reminded of how invaluable and versatile CDC can be as a fly tying material and wanted to incorporate it into a Midge pattern. The second element I really liked was the orange poly yarn post. I had never used the stuff, always being too apprehensive that a fly’s fish fooling ability would be diminished by using it. Nonetheless, I did manage to overcome my reluctance and tried it on the Mountain midge. On the first occasion fishing the fly I was totally blown away by the response it generated and it has been a regular feature in my fly box ever since.
Al Troth’s Elk Hair Caddis – Sparse
The Elk Hair Caddis is a timeless pattern that fly fishers over the world will enjoy for as long as a trout rise to a dry fly. When I first started experimenting with dry fly fishing I was initially very slow to give the pattern some attention as it never stood out amongst other flies in my box. It simply faded into the background amongst the rows of RAB’s and Parachute Adams. Gradually, it did grow on me as time progressed and I fished it with more confidence, but it was not until I started tying it that I could really appreciate its genius. Today have so much confidence in this fly now that I have found myself tying it onto the end of my tippet on more than one occasion without realizing it. As a standard I tie a variation of the original with sparse grizzly hackle instead of brown. I do them is sizes 16 and 18.
Man, I love these flies. They are so sublimely simple it’s ridiculous, bordering on genius. There is not a fishing trip that goes by that I don’t deliberately look for these small black caddis flies that scurry about on stream rocks as only caddis flies can do. When seeing them it’s as if that fly fisher voice in your head says “You’d be better of fishing a black para-caddis!” The original was developed by Tim Rolston and he ties them with goose biot wings. I have however modified to my own liking to have raffia wings and more recently have been incorporating orange sparkle yarn as a spotter. As a standard I carry two versions in my box, one version with an orange post and the other white. Sizes 16 down to 20 is good to carry.
Quill body or just thread body para-mayfly patterns:
If ever I have a fly for difficult trout this is it, simple but deadly! They are so effective it landed me the most difficult and biggest fish on the Witte a few weeks back. There’s not much I can say about them as its reputation speaks for itself. The construction is simplicity itself. My versions always have the next few elements two or three micro fibbets for tails, a white post from closed-cell foam or yarn and a two turns of a single feather for a nice sparse halo hackle. I carry them small from size 18 to 22. I have them in a range of colours, but black is my favourite.
This fly really brought the concept of terrestrial fishing home to me. Hoppers alongside beetles, especially in summer are an invaluable food source for starving Western Cape trout. Ed’s Hopper capitalizes more than any other pattern capitalizes on this. I think a trout will rarely pass up on something as substantial as hopper. Ed’s Hopper’s have all the right visual triggers that scream movement, no wonder during a spell when most anglers were complaining that the Holsloot held no fish, we were caning them on Ed’s Hoppers. Sizes 14 and 16 are adequate to carry and smaller hoppers are hardly necessary.
Of all the dry flies I carry it can only be balanced by the presence of the real nymph and that is the Zak. The Zak incorporates so many triggers in one of fly is hard to ignore its buggy appeal. In its own right is a legendary creation that’ll go down in the annals as one the greatest patterns in South African fly fishing history. It is worthy of being in every fly box of every South African fly fisherman and I’m no different. I fish nymphs from time to time when days are tough or when a trout clearly will not rise to a dry. It is on these days that I call upon Zak to save the day. I generally carry a few Zaks in sizes 16 and 18.
In addition, if I could add two more flies to my list it would be the RAB and the Para-Ant pattern. RAB’s are prolific fish raisers and undoubtedly the most effective dry fly for Western Cape streams, ever. Its fish taking ability is legendary as CPS catch records will attest. The reason I did not include it in my own list is purely that a whole host of other anglers would have it on theirs. Ant patterns on the other hand almost never feature on lists of this nature. They are severely underrated and for the life of me I don’t know why! Walking next to any stream ants can be seen going about doing their daily business. It just makes logical sense that some of them will eventually end up in the stream and on a trout’s menu. It is a known fact that any angler does not want to be caught dead on stream without an ant pattern when flying ants start falling. Ants can be substantial meals as I have seen some really big ants on some seriously small streams.