Wednesday, 31 October 2012 05:03


Text and pictures by Tim Rolston

(Tim is a highly-respected professional guide on Western Cape fly streams, author, instructor and columnist and rates among the best stream anglers in South Africa. He is a thinking fly fisher and an accomplished fly tyer. He has produced outstanding videos on fly tying and is currently working on a “Guide Flies” eBook. The details of the tying of many of these patterns will be included in that book. He hopes to have it published before the end of the year. Have a look at his website, The Fishing Gene, at http://paracaddis.wordpress.com/)


I am essentially a ‘presentationist’ and believe that even with the right pattern quality presentation is essential to success. Thus many of the flies I use are “built” with the idea of presentation in mind. The brassie, presents neatly on light gear, won’t break a fine tippet on casting and lands without too much of a disturbing “plop”. The Spider affords, even beginners, gentle presentation and near automatic slack in the leader, aiding drag free drift. The parachute or comparadun styles both allow fishing of dry flies on ultrafine tippet without spinning it up. Virtually every one of the six patterns here can be changed in colour combination and size to better copy specific bugs. The Spun Duns can be chopped up on the water to provide, spinner, emerger and even floating nymph patterns with a few snips of the scissors. The idea is gain durability, presentation and flexibility whilst retaining the option of close copy “match the hatch” fishing when necessary, all within a minimal number of flies.

Goose Biot Micro Caddis

PictureQ 1 

After over 30 years of fly fishing I think that this is one of only two flies that I can genuinely claim to have “invented”. Dangerous ground as there is little new in fly tying and no doubt someone has come up with the pattern previously somewhere. The pattern has evolved over time and is one custom designed to copy prolific hatches of these skinny little bugs on the Cape Streams. It has proven to be highly effective, both when the caddis are in evidence and remarkably even when they are not. The fish seem to know about the caddis flies and accept them willingly when they appear on the menu, either in profusion or as a fortunate happenstance.

Hook: #18 or #20  Barbless Short shank dry fly hook
Thread: 70 denier black UTC, or Gordon Griffith’s micro thread
Post: White poly-yarn.
Body: Tying thread only, dressed “short”.
Hackle: Black or dark dun cock hackle
Wing: Black, dark brown or tan goose biots.
Wing post and whip finish as per BSP


Picture W1 

The only other fly that is entirely my own design and I am pretty sure unique. Using poly-yarn as a wing and dubbing to form the body the key issue in the pattern is the clear separation of the two segments of the body, highlighting the “waist” between gaster and head, which is one reason it doesn’t sport hackle fibre legs or similar. This seems to be a primary trigger to fish (reference the McMurray ant)  and the ant is my number one hatch breaker when I can’t copy what the fish are eating. Fish love ants and will deviate from an established diet to intercept one. This fly has produced more large trout on the streams for me than any other, despite its diminutive size and simplicity of design. It is also remarkably visible for a tiny fly.

Hook: #18 or #20 Barbless Short shank dry fly hook
Thread: 70 denier black UTC, or Gordon Griffith’s micro thread
Body: Black superfine dubbing in two distinct “balls”
Hackle: None.
Wing: Poly-yarn tied in “Comparadun” style on the gaster segment of the pattern.

Parachute Spider


A variation of the RAB and parachute RAB, but many of my versions don’t have “red arses”. A large pattern which by virtue of the parachute style can still be cast without spinning up the fine tippet I prefer to use. Providing delicate presentation and a generalist imitation of a variety of bugs, both terrestrial and aquatic, I think that the fly is particularly effective for the novice angler who battles to get drag free drifts. The fly presents itself, with slack in the tippet and therefore better drifts which in the end translate into more takes. The parachute style provides for more secure hook-ups that the standard RAB in my opinion but as with all larger flies there comes a time as the waters drop and the fish wise up where they will start to refuse it or “come short”. Then it is time to switch to smaller flies.

Hook: #12 or #14  Barbless Short shank dry fly hook
Thread: 70 denier red UTC or fly master.
Post: Light Gray poly-yarn
Body: Pheasant tail
Ribbing: Copper wire, red wire or mylar
Tails: Coq de Leon
Thorax: Dark brown or black superfine dubbing.
Hackle: Black, brown or dark dun cock hackle
Halo Hackle: Coq de Leon (Dark Pardo)
Wing post and whip finish as per “BSP”

BSP: Bog Standard Parachute

Picture E1 

Not so much a pattern as a style, a simple parachute pattern that can be tied in any size and any colour combination to imitate virtually any of the relatively skinny mayflies that hatch on the Cape Streams. Deliberately designed to avoid the obese and overdressed aspect common in many commercial patterns, most Cape Stream mayflies are inordinately delicate and slim insects and I feel that delicacy is a key ingredient in a successful pattern, particularly as the season progresses and the fish “wise up”. In addition, the manner of tying the pattern, (see reference link to “Who Packed Your Parachute”) makes this style of tying markedly more durable than standard ties and an absolute winner.

Hook: #12 to #20  Barbless Short shank dry fly hook
Thread: 140 or 70  denier (depending on hook size) UTC or Danvilles, any colour.
Post: Gray, light gray, yellow or black poly-yarn. (White seems to increase refusals as do fluoro’ colours)
Body: Tying thread only
Thorax: (Optional) Superfine dry fly dubbing.
Head: Thread or dubbing
Hackle: Cock Hackle (preferably saddles) of size and colour to suit.

Additional durability is a key ingredient of this pattern and all my parachute flies. The methods of tying are detailed in both my free eBook publication “Who Packed Your Parachute” available from Smashwords on the link https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/17437 at no charge.

Additional information on fly tying other patterns can be found on my video linke eBook “Essential Fly Tying Technique” and downloadable from the link https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/142880 for $12.99 or available on disc from Netbooks at http://www.netbooks.com


Picture R1 

A giant among stream subsurface patterns despite its simplicity and diminutive size, it is the perfect light tackle nymph. Sinks like the proverbial brick, is quick and simple to manufacture and is equally useful for both prospecting and sight fishing. Perhaps sight fishing with a brassie to visible fish, without the aid of an indicator is the only fishing that I find as exciting as dry fly. The only hope of detecting the take, watching for the subtle adjustment of the fish’s position as it eats the fly. I tie the pattern in two versions, Baetis Mayfly (with tails and on a straight shank hook) and midge/caddis pattern (curved or straight hook and no tails). My only addition to the already well known pattern is the burning of the top of the peacock herl thorax to improve the “look” of the fly.

Hook: #18 and #20  Heavy wire, short shank nymph hook
Thread: 70 denier tan UTC or fly master.
Body: Copper wire, (I prefer the wire that comes as part of a “Picture hanging pack” from the local supermarket or hardware store)
Tails: Coq de Leon (mayfly version only)
Thorax: One or two strands of peacock herl, dorsal surface “burned off” with a lighter.

Split Tail Spun Dun

Picture T1 

A pattern first introduced to me by Eddie Gerber, although modified to a point, a stunningly effective mayfly imitation which obviates the need for expensive or sometimes tricky to obtain genetic hackle. The split tails are manufactured from the “micro-fibbets” that can be cut from newly available nylon paint brushes. Although again tied in a variety of guises generally the body is simply thread. The 140 Denier thread not only forms a neat abdomen but equally is strong enough to torque down the deer hair collar/hackle.

Hook: #12 to #14 Barbless Short shank dry fly hook (Grip
Thread: 140 denier UTC or Danville’s, any colour.
Wing: Half- Spun coastal deer hair collar.
Body: Tying thread only.
Head: Thread only.
Tails: Split micro-fibbets or nylon paint brush bristles. 


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