Published May 19. 2004 - 11 years ago

Little Devil

An article on the Welsh classic The Diawl Bach and on the intriguing and intimidating concept of fishing a team of three flies on a very long leader. GFF partner Martin Joergensen has been to Wales and this is the first article from that trip.

Martin Joergensen

A Buzzer is basically an imitation of the pupa of a midge or chironomid - in other words a non-biting "mosquito" in the state between a larva and the adult, flying insect.
Most people will already know midges in two forms: the red blood worm found in many lake sediments, which are the midge larvae, and the big swarms of "dancing" midges, which are the insects mating in mid-air in large numbers.
The midges are interesting to imitate for several reasons:

  • They are very abundant, particularly in stillwaters with hundreds of species present in both Europe and the US
  • They hatch almost year round
  • They are high on the menu for stillwater trout

Bacause of this, buzzers are particularly interesting when fishing stillwaters, and most of the fishing methods developed for these patterns are specifically aimed at lake and pond fishing.

The sparsest of patterns

One thing that characterizes the buzzer patterns is their sparseness.
The skinny patterns are motivated by several factors. The animals that they imitate are small and slender, and there is often a wish for a fly that moves and sinks freely in the water. Lack of body volume is one way of obtaining this.
This incarnation of the buzzer is a fairly simple version using easily available materials. This pattern also avoids using epoxy or other resins, which is common in many modern buzzer patterns. I found that this buzzer was a good entry point to the world of buzzers - one of the reasons for the name Beginner's Buzzer.
The pattern is very generic, and has not been developed by me. My inspiration stems from flies tied by my good friend the Welsh fly tyer and angler Paul Slaney, but I'm almost positive that he wouldn't want to take credit for the fly either.

Larger than life

Even though midges may be likened to mosquitoes in many ways, their pupae are significantly larger than mosquito pupae. The average length is 8-15mm (1/4-1/2 inch) and the buzzers are therefore tied in rather large sizes. The typical fly size will be 12-14, but larger flies in the 10-8 range are seen too.
But it is not only the imitative powers of the fly that has brought about its succes. The fact that some anglers use a plain red, undressed hook and an imitation can underline that fact. No, the concept of buzzers is just as much the way of fishing them as it is the character of the patterns themselves.

Martin Joergensen

Dead drift

The primary way of fishing buzzers is by dead drifting. Since we are fishing in still water there is little water movement to help the fly. If the fly is retrieved, it is often done slowly, mainly with a figure-of-eight-retrieve.
Many buzzer fishing methods will hang the fly just below the surface, and movements in the line will make it rise slightly towards the surface as if the pupa was about to ascend and hatch. Flies are also fished sinking as shown below.
Since the flies in the Beginner's Buzzer style will commonly be fished on a floating line, the wind will have a significant influence on the movement of the fly. The wind is actually used very deliberately in some buzzer fishing methods as described in this article about the Diawl Bach and fishing flies in teams..

Many methods

British stillwater fishing has long traditions, and over the years a wealth of methods have been developed. A common way of fishing buzzers is in a team of two, three or even four flies. The mainstay buzzer setup these days is a team of three buzzers with varying characteristics, particularly regarding sink rate:

  • a top fly or top dropper - a light buzzer, typically a fluffy one or one tied on a light hook
  • a dropper - a buzzer such as the Beginner's Buzzer
  • a point fly - typically a heavy buzzer, epoxied to sink fast or tied on a heavy hook
  • Roughly said you want to fish varying depths. The point fly acts as an anchor pulling and holding the rig down. The other flies will fish above that.

    Another well known way of rigging a team is a washline, where the point fly floats and the two droppers fish. The dropper can both be buzzers or a buzzer and a nymph.

    In Wales it's called a bung, but a strike indicator is probably easier to understand for the rest of us. Fish the buzzer like you would any nymph under an indicator or a large dry fly. The method is very good in calm conditions. Experiment with depths until you start getting strikes.

    The last method is rather special utilizing a greased leader. Grease up a very long, level leader - about 25 feet or 6 metres. Tie on a heavy buzzer and cast it out as best you can. Keep your eyes glued to the small dimple that forms where the leader is drawn through the surface as the fly sinks. Strike the instant you see it dip.

    More on how to tie the leaders and how to fish a multi fly rigs like this in the article about the Diawl Bach.
    The reason for the name of this fly is not as much that it aims at beginning stillwater angler or fly tyer, as it is based on the fact that I am still a novice on these patterns and the fishing methods.

    Can you say sparse?

    During a stay with Paul in his house in Wales we started extrapolating the idea of sparsely dressed buzzers, and honestly did go crazy a wee bit. After having tied a bunch of average buzzers along the lines shown in the pattern description below, we started tying thinner and thinner flies, in the end winding up with something very close to a bare hook. It might seem like useless experimenting, but these flies could easily find their day in a buzzer fisherman's life.

    Martin Joergensen
    Beginner's Buzzer
    Pattern type: 
    Curved nymph hook, size 8-12. Vary the wire thickness to vary fly weight.
    Black 8/0
    Orange elastic "floss"
    Rear body
    Tying thread
    Peacock herl
    Phesant tail fibres
    Wing buds
    Orange elastic "floss"
    Tying thread
    Attach the thread one eye width behind the hook eye
    Tie in ribbing at this point
    Cover the hook shank and ribbing with tying thread down to a point over the barb
    Return the thread in tight turns to form a body
    Wind the stretched ribbing in open turns to the tie-in point
    Tie it down and cut off excess
    Tie in phesant tail fibres pointing to the rear of the hook
    Tie in sides, also pointing to the rear of the hook
    Tie in herl and wind forwards in 3-5 tight turns
    Tie down and trim
    Pull the wingcase material over the herl and tie down
    Pull each side up along the herl and tie down
    Trim off all butts
    Form a small head
    Whip finish
    Martin Joergensen

    Tying steps

    Martin Joergensen
    Martin Joergensen


    g,day,i take you take comments in Australian,well I used the said fly with good fish taken up to two and half kilo,s in our impoundments,when asked what fly I was using ? I said a welsh fly,the diawl bach,he gave very odd looks,untill I showed the fly,very impressed the way it took fish,also I use the fly the rivers here,up and across with great results.just agood fly.

    Martin Joergensen's picture


    Good piece of detective work! It certainly was a nice and scenic place, and I'm sure you will get it to yourself, because as I remember it, it was quite remote and it wasn't exactly littered with signposts revealing its existence.

    Hope you will has as nice a time there as I had.


    Hi Martin. Just to let you know that I have located the reservoir that you were fishing on, It took some considerable time to find it with google as I did not know it existed. I can appreciate that access would be difficult as it seems to be in a remote location. One of those hidden Gems. Regards JR

    Martin Joergensen's picture


    I have no clue... I was driven around by my local friend, Paul. I'll drop him a note and ask where we were. He may or may not want to share with the world. I'll see what I can do.


    Hi Martin, Thanks for replying to me,I take it that the waters are in Wales can you narrow it down to North ,Mid or South Wales. Regards JR

    Martin Joergensen's picture

    W I J Rees,

    I honestly have no clue to where it was in detail or what its name was. I was driven there by small mountain gravel roads, over private land, through gates and whatnot, and my impression was that it was a small, private water, rarely fished by outsiders.


    please can you let me know the location of this reservoir? I have tried to google its location.

    I usually blank when fly fishing but used the diawl bach a caught 6lb 13oz rainbow!

    This is the best description of buzzer (midge) fishing I have seen. The long leader method is deadly with other midge imitations as well

    I'm located in Northern California and have a 7 year old son that I take to the local reservoir for Blue Gills. The Diawl Bach is simply the best fly for these little fish. Drop it in the water lift out a fish. I blew away a nearby family when I offered to have their 2 kids catch fish in under 5 minutes. They took turns and each caught 2 fish.
    I was Mom's hero and the Dad's nightmare.
    I had lost this page's bookmark - I was so happy to find it again last light - just a killer pattern.

    I've caught 61 Rainbows on my local reservoir using holo Diawl Bachs, very slow or no retrieve in wind lanes.
    Sometimes using a Booby on the top dropper as a reverse 'washing line'. The booby attracts the fish and they take the Diawl Bachs.

    well done. I plan to tie a few of the different versions to try in Texas on bass and blue gill.
    We don't have the trout so much here. The water gets too warm and the ox level drops in the summer months.

    These flies are one of the deadliest you can use i love fishing Diawl Bachs, you always feel confident using these patterns

    "Diawl Bach" is Welsh for little devil and pronounced as letter 'D' combined with 'OWL' and Bach as in the name of the famous composer.
    Great Web site

    Lets have more pages like this and trout fishing will bring in more anglers.

    Thanks very much for this informative and well-written article. I'm going to try the Diawl Bach and the methods presented (here) is some Saskatchewan (Canada) lakes and reservoirs for rainbow, lake whitefish and goldeye. Does anybody know the proper English pronounciation of "Diawl Bach"?

    I Have started fishing the diawl bach alot lot more now than i have ever done before getting some fantastic results. You really have to keep at it , gaining confidence more each time you use it learning what presentation the fly fishies best, a superb fly with endless patterns , and so easy to tie

    great page got the fish of a life time to the net at sharpley and lost it

    thankyou for the info and on a deadly fly to say the beast a i mean least

    Fantastic page, loved the instructions enjoyed the article very much indeed

    great web page , learnt a lot from it just started tying flies again after 25yrs really enjoyed the instructions,

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