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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 intimidated 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 devilish one, actually: The Diawl Bach. More on the fly in a minute.
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 rainbows 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 the fly line. On that you tie a 6-7 foot/2 meters 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 meters 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.
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, anchor, 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:
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 pheasant tail fibers 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 meters deep
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 meters altogether
Dropper sits 6-8 feet/2 meters from the point fly
Top fly sits 6-8 feet/2 meters from that
You need 6-8 inches/15-20 centimeters 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 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.