Published May 19. 2004

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.

I have learned something new. I often learn something new, but this time it was really new. I have learned a bit more about how to do British stillwater fishing, dead drifting a team of flies in a lake.
I have read about this in British magazines many, many times over the years, but have always been somewhat intmidated by concepts such as teams, point flies, droppers, buzzers, boobies and suspenders.
I wouldn't say that I'm anywhere near mastering this, but my tutor - Welsh Paul Slaney - has done his best to enlighten me on the subject, and taken me fishing to show me the method in real life.
During this fishing I fell in love... with a fly... a devlish one, actually: The Diawl Bach. More on the fly in a minute.

The rig

We were fishing a small lake - a reservoir behind a dam as they are found many places in Britain.
This particular reservoir is stocked with rainows as many are, but also contains a very healthy population of beautiful wild brown trout.
I started out with an intermediate line and a streamer while Paul fished a team of buzzers on a floater. He had a take within minutes, and landed a beautiful brown trout. After the fish had been released he showed me how to rig a team. Here's what he told me to tie on my fly line:
10 feet/3 metres of 8 lbs leader looped directly to fly line. On that you tie a 6-7 foot/2 metres piece of 6 lbs mono with a surgeon's loop. You leave the downwards tag of the main leader to use for the first dropper and trim off the upwards tag. If you were to use three flies you would extend the rig with one more 6-7 foot/2 metres piece of thinner mono and leave the second tag for the second dropper.

The fly that goes in the to end of the whole rig is the point fly. The others are droppers, the one nearest to the fly line being the top dropper.

Two flies

On the dropper of my rig Paul tied an Bibio size 10 and as the point fly a Red Diawl Bach size 10. We were fishing windy conditions so we didn't want a third fly, which would increase the risk of tangles. The idea of our simple rig was to use the bottom fly to anchor the leader in the water and have the second fly fish under the surface - where the middle fly in a team of three would usually be. Omitting the top fly would make it a lot easier to cast the rig in the strong wind, but the top dropper could either have been another buzzer or a bushy wet fly.

We didn't need to worry much about tapers and such as we could expect the wind to straighten out the whole leader setup.
And quite right. Apart from having to cast with very open arcs and watching out for the hills behind me, I had no problems fishing the fairly long leader with two potentially troublesome flies on it.

My first (and only)

Paul had another fish within ten minutes - a small rainbow - which he landed and released quickly. I had one much like it just after, but it managed to escape after one jump before I could land it. Luckily I had another take a few minutes later, and this time the fish stuck, Shortly after Paul was able net my first stillwater rainbow caught on a Diawl Bach.
After that all activity stopped. The wind brought hale and rain, and conditions got increasingly worse. The ole' Kelly Kettle was lit and we had a cuppa coffee and a cuppa noodles, gave it another hour, but finally gave in and headed back. 

Scores of Diawls

But even with only one fish and a very short first intermezzo with the Diawl Bach I loved it.
After having returned, we sat down and Paul whipped out a bunch of variations over this classical Welsh pattern.
The Diawl Bach imitates an emerging, hatching buzzer - a mosquito - but can also be taken for a host of other nymphs.
The Diawl Bach is typically the point fly (on the tip, mostly fishing deepest), but teams of two or even three Diawl Bachs are not uncommon: one larger and heavier at the point, and smaller and lighter towards the top.

The variations of the teams can be endless, each fly serving its purpose: floater, anhcor, sinker and - not least - fisher. It is common that one fly only is supposed to fish, while the others are in charge of keeping it at its ideal depth and speed.

These are Paul's Diawl Bach favorites:

Diawl Bach original

Pattern type: 
The Little Welsh Devil.
Kamasan B170 (light wire) or B175 (heavy wire) sizes 8 to 14
chesnut brown
a few barbs of brown hackle
copper wire
2-3 strands of peacock herl
False hackle
a few barbs of brown hackle
Tying thread
Very easy
Cover the hook shank with tying thread
Tie in the tail
Tie in the rib over the hook bend
Tie in the herl over the hook shank
Wind the tying thread forwards to just behind the hook eye
Follow by the herl in tight turns. Do not twist it.
Tie the herl down and trim it
Follow by the rib in 4-6 open turns
Tie it down and trim it
Tie in the false hackle
Create a small head
Whip finish

The skinnier the fly is tied the better - almost. No twisting of the herl and only 2-3 herls for a size 10 or 8 fly. Add weight to the fly by choosing a heavier hook - not by adding lead or tungsten. The thin body is a key to a fly that looks right and sinks fast.

JC Diawl Bach

As the original but with jungle cock cheeks. A bit more visible and maybe also a bit more imitative as the JC can represent wing buds.

Flashback Diawl Bach

As the original but with a strip of flash straw along the back under the rib. Flash can be good for murky water.

Red Diawl Bach

As the original but with red head (change the tying thread). You can add further color with a red ribbing. A really good looking fly. Red adds contrast and visibility.

Hare's Ear Diawl Bach

A the original but with hare's ear dubbing in stead of herl for the body. The fuzzy, natural variation.

Phesant Tail Diawl Bach

A the original but with phesant tail fibres in stead of herl for the body. As skinny as they come!

Sparkle Diawl Bach

A the original but with (very) thin sparkle chenille in stead of herl for the body. For added visibility.   

Fishing a team in the wind

Ideal conditions are:
Water 8-10 feet/2-3 metres deep
Silty bottom
A point
Wind left-to-right for a right hand caster
Fish cruising upwind

Your setup is:
Use a floating line.
Leader is 18-22 feet/6-7 metres altogether.
Dropper sits 6-8 feet/2 metres from the point fly.
Top fly sits 6-8 feet/2 metres from that.
You need 6-8 inches/15-20 centimetres of mono pointing downwards for attaching the droppers.
Sink the droppers with fuller's earth and washing up liquid if they will not go down.
All flies don't have to be nymphs. You can do it with dry flies or use a bushy wet fly for the top dropper.

You may want to look at the drawing above again to fully understand the setup.

The method is:
You cast across, downwind at approximately 45 degrees
Strip a couple of times to stretch the rig
Keep things taught with a slow figure of eight retrieve
Point your rod so that it continues the curve of the line
Keep the rod tip down and close to the surface
If the wind is hard, mend upwind occasionally to reduce the line belly

Takes often occur when the line speeds up as it hits the wind lane and the flies rise a bit. You can repeat this action by mending upwind.

You will appreciate a long handled landing net to land the fish - especially from a boat. When the top dropper is in the top eye you need to be able to reach the point fly with the net.



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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