In love with the Little Devil

The Diawl Bach - Little Devil - is a very popular still water fly in Wales and in most of Britain

By Martin Joergensen, flies by Paul Slaney

Diawl Bach in real life - The Diawl Bach in it\'s perfect environ: on the lake.
Diawl Bach in real life
Lake brown - Paul Slaney with a beautiful brown trout from the small reservoir.
Lake brown
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 rig - Rigging three flies on a long leader - with an example of a classical team.
The rig
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.

Wind lane - Spot the wind lane! The foam line clearly shows where the water is moving and where the fly should fish. I\'m facing into the wind.
Wind lane
Hail and wind - We had some rough weather in the heights.
Hail and wind
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 rainbow - The first rainbow I landed on the small reservoir. It took a Diawl Bach.
My rainbow
Spill - When the reservoir is full the water spills over through the top of the dam wall.
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.


Kelly\'s kettle - The old Kelly\'s Kettle is boiling water for a cuppa.
Kelly's kettle
Paul\'s rainbow - Paul Slaney with a small rainbow taken from the valley reservoir while the sun was still shining.
Paul's rainbow
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.

Debarbing - If you know you want to release your fish, you might as well press down the barbs.
Diawl Bach factory - Paul Slaney cranking out Diawl Bach\'s in his tying den.
Diawl Bach factory
Diawl Bach - As simple and efficient as they come: the Diawl Bach is hackle fibres, peacock herl and copper rib.
Diawl Bach
Jungle Cock Diawl Bach - The Jungle Cock variation of the Welsh classic Diawl Bach has small JC cheeks.
Jungle Cock Diawl Bach
Flashback Diawl Bach - The Flashback Diawl Bach has a strip of flash down the back.
Flashback Diawl Bach
Red Diawl Bach - The red variatoin of the Diawl Bach has a red head - and optionally a red rib.
Red Diawl Bach
Hare\'s Ear Diawl Bach - This variation is tied with hare\'s ear\'s fur for the body.
Hare's Ear Diawl Bach
Phesant Tail Diawl Bach - As skinny as it comes: the Diawl Bach tied with phesant tail fibres in stead of peacock herl.
Phesant Tail Diawl Bach
Sparkle Diawl Bach - This Diawl Bach has a body made from a thin sparkle chenille.
Sparkle Diawl Bach
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:

HookKamasan B170 (light wire) or B175 (heavy wire) sizes 8 to 14
Threadchesnut brown
Taila few barbs of brown hackle
Ribcopper wire
Body2-3 strands of peacock herl
False hacklea few barbs of brown hackle
HeadTying thread

Tying instructions

  1. Cover the hook shank with tying thread
  2. Tie in the tail
  3. Tie in the rib over the hook bend
  4. Tie in the herl over the hook shank
  5. Wind the tying thread forwards to just behind the hook eye
  6. Follow by the herl in tight turns. Do not twist it.
  7. Tie the herl down and trim it
  8. Follow by the rib in 4-6 open turns
  9. Tie it down and trim it
  10. Tie in the false hackle
  11. Create a small head
  12. Whip finish
  13. Varnish
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.




How to cast and fish - Cast with the wind, let the surface current drive the line, keep contact with the line, point your rod tip along the arc all the time.
How to cast and fish

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 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.

User comments
From: gareth mccarten · taffmcc·at·  Link
Submitted June 18th 2014

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.

GFF staff comment
From: Martin Joergensen · martin·at·  Link
Submitted January 2nd 2012


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.


From: W I J Rees · rees648·at·  Link
Submitted January 2nd 2012

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

GFF staff comment
From: Martin Joergensen · martin·at·  Link
Submitted December 28th 2011


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.


From: W I J Rees · rees648·at·  Link
Submitted December 28th 2011

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

GFF staff comment
From: Martin Joergensen · martin·at·  Link
Submitted December 27th 2011

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.


From: W I J Rees · rees648·at·  Link
Submitted December 27th 2011

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

From: Topfox · topfox2·at·  Link
Submitted June 21st 2011

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

From: Gareth - Full name and email anonymized  Link
Submitted June 12th 2011

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

From: Cheryl O'Neill · goldendust·at·  Link
Submitted October 13th 2009

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.

From: Dave Hockin · davidhockin·at·  Link
Submitted August 26th 2009

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.

From: Jim · james_cullins·at·  Link
Submitted June 20th 2009

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.

From: Jan Johansen · jany·at·  Link
Submitted August 31st 2008

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

From: Anonymous  Link
Submitted June 3rd 2008

"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

From: David Wales · troutboy_52·at·  Link
Submitted April 23rd 2008

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

From: GC  Link
Submitted April 16th 2008

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"?

From: jan johansen · jany·at·  Link
Submitted October 21st 2007

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

From: billy horn  Link
Submitted August 30th 2007

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

From: nathan  Link
Submitted July 30th 2007

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

From: jan johansen · jany·at·  Link
Submitted July 30th 2007

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

From: mick cooke · msaab97·at·  Link
Submitted April 8th 2006

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

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