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A few weeks ago, celebrated fishing writer Peter Lapsley came down to the Wandle to interview Will and me for December’s issue of Fly Fishing and Fly Tying magazine.

Besides writing many books, Peter has contributed an article to every single issue of FF&FT… and while the Wandle story has been covered in the magazine at least once before, he reckoned it was about time for an update, two years after the disastrous pollution of September 2007.

We met for coffee, more coffee, and then lunch at Merton Abbey Mills – making sure Peter was well briefed on how the river’s recovering with Riverfly monitoring, Trout in the Classroom, the Wandle Trust‘s monthly community cleanups – and of course handing over soon-not-to-be-so-secret samples from our special Wandle fly-boxes.

Now, that December issue has just started dropping through subscribers’ letterboxes, and it should be available to buy on the newsstands from the end of next week. (Update: Peter’s article is now also available online: click here to read it in full).

Unfortunately, the curse of FF&FT design and proof-reading gremlins struck again, and the fly-tying credits in the article were reversed (so Will gets immortalised in print for my little White Bibio, and I scoop the pool for all his beautiful tyings of, well, almost everything else!)

But here they all are with proper credits, mostly to Will.  And of course they come with our deepest thanks to Peter Lapsley and FF&FT for helping us bring the Wandle’s tradition of fly-tying innovation back to the international limelight again!

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Black Clouser

Hook: wet fly (Kamasan B830) size 4-8
Thread: black
Eyes: red or yellow dumb-bell
Body/ tail: black bucktail
Wing: black bucktail

Will’s comments

The Wandle is a mixed fishery dominated by coarse fish so there are few traditions and, whilst Halford may have learnt the art of fishing a dry fly upstream on the Wandle’s headwaters, we’re open to new ideas.  Rich Baker, original SVP of the Wandle Piscators, caught his best Wandle brownie (3lb 7oz) at the start of the season on one of these clouser minnows. He’s also had some good days with an olive clouser.   I find it works well jigged through the deep holes or fished down and across and it’s brought me my best chub on a fly.

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Waldo’s Minkie

Hook: long shank lure (Kamasan B800) size 6-8
Thread: black
Tail: red wool
Rib: silver wire
Underbody: 15-20 turns of medium lead wire concentrated in the front third of the hook shank
Overbody: pearl fritz chenille
Wing: brown mink
Cheeks: fluorescent orange dyed jungle cock (or orange marabou)

Will’s comments

In the late summer and early autumn we get large shoals of chub fry that last until the first storms wash them into the Thames.  This is a favourite pattern of one of our club members (Waldo Meyer-Wentzel) who used to tie flies professionally in South Africa. It is a good match for the chublet and is hammered by their mums and dads when fished down and across.

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Black Gold-ribbed Hare’s Ear

Hook: wet fly (Kamasan B175) size 10-14
Thread: black
Tail: dyed black cock pheasant tail
Rib: wire
Abdomen: dyed black hare’s ear
Thorax: dyed black hare’s ear and 3mm gold bead
Wing case: dyed black cock pheasant tail

Will’s comments

This pattern was given to me by Adrian Grose-Hodge, another Founder Member of the Wandle Piscators.  It’s by far his most successful fly on the Wandle and it works fished upstream or down. 

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CDC & Elk

Hook: Partridge Captain Hamilton YL2A size 12-14
Thread: brown
Body: grey CDC
Wing: elk hair

Will’s comments

Insect hatches on the Wandle are limited to the black gnat, olive or caddis and it’s been this way since the middle of the 19th century.  This is my favourite dry fly as it will bring the chub and trout up from the bottom, carry a small nymph NZ style or act as proximity marker if I’m using a black gnat.

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JG Emerger (variant)

Hook: Varivas 2200BL size 14-16
Thread: black
Shuck: shrimp H2O polar fibre
Rib: gold wire
Body: olive antron floss
Wing Post: grey dust fibre (Roman Moser)
Hackle: silver badger cock

Will’s comments

A variant on John Goddard‘s superb pattern as I couldn’t source the grey calf tail and shuck material nor did I have the correct hackles to hand. Despite straying from the original pattern it works and it’s been very successful with the dace and rudd on the slower stretches in Ravensbury Park.

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White Bibio

Hook: Partridge Surehold Lightning Dry barbless size 14-16 (dressed relatively short on either)
Thread: black silk
Body: buggy green peacock herl with fluorescent red dubbing target spot, well picked out
Hackle: palmered white Indian cock (softer than genetic hackle)
Rib: fine silver wire

Theo’s comments

Like Will’s little black JG Emerger, this is a midge pattern – but one to choose when the chub and dace want a fly that can be twitched across the surface without sinking.  Far from the Scottish lochans where I fished it first, it’s produced many memorable evenings for me in the lower Wandle’s concrete canyons. Although convention says that fast-rising dace need a hook of size 18 or smaller, I find my hit-rate actually improves by dressing a small fly on a larger hook.

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Carshalton Dun (tied by Roy Christie)

Hook: light wire size 16
Thread: black silk
Body: black silk
Rib: fine silver wire or tinsel
Tail: grizzle cock hackle fibres
Hackle: grizzle cock
Wings: dark starling slips

Theo’s comments

200 years after the Battle of Trafalgar, in October 2005, the Salmon and Trout Association hosted a fundraising dinner for the Wandle at St Paul’s Cathedral. Each guest was presented with a pair of traditional Wandle flies, researched and tied by eminent fly-dresser (and Wands Founder Member) Roy Christie. This is one of them – which still works very well either as black gnat or iron blue dun.

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Carshalton Cocktail (tied by Roy Christie)

Hook: light wire size 14
Thread: black silk
Body: dubbed mixture of hares ear, muskrat and yellow mohair
Tail: grizzle cock hackle fibres
Hackle: light dun
Wings: light starling slips

Theo’s comments

Probably representing a large dark olive, the Carshalton Cocktail is another historic Wandle fly listed in Hofland’s British Anglers’ Manual (1839). Roy Christie based the distinctly swept-back style of this dressing on a single surviving example, dated to 1853, discovered by Flyfishers’ Club archivist John Morgan. 

Note: our monthly winter fly-tying sessions are just about to start again.  If you’d like to learn how to tie any of these patterns, keep an eye on the Diary page and the Members’ Forum!

All flies superbly photographed by Peter Lapsley

One Response to “Wandle fly patterns: an ancient chalkstream tradition re-emerges in the pages of FF&FT”

  1. […] to every single issue of Fly Fishing and Fly Tying magazine since its inception in 1990, including this profile of the Wandle project just over a year ago, whilst remaining unafraid to tackle some of the gnarliest conservation issues […]