Salmon flies tied with a cone head really came to prominence last year, when the drought meant that in many cases conventional fly-fishing was a waste of time.
Although any pattern can be tied with a cone head (to make it fish more deeply) and fished in the conventional down-and-across way, last year’s low water meant that those few fish that had managed to run the rivers were concentrated in deep but well-oxygenated water.
John Maitland, writing in the April 2003 issue of Trout and Salmon, revealed the tremendous success he and his fellow rods had enjoyed in low water on the South Esk. On this occasion the flies used were leaded Stonefly nymphs, sufficiently heavy to sink quickly to the level at which the salmon were lying.
The Conehead is really an easier-to-tie version of a leaded nymph, doing away with the business of winding lead wire down the hookshank. The dressing of a Conehead is down to the whim of the tyer, but the pattern featured here, which uses Chinese boar bristles as “feelers”, did great work last year, taking fish in “impossible” conditions.
Half the battle when fishing these flies is knowing where the fish are lying and then “dead drifting” the fly at their level so that the fish either take it or have to move out of its way.
Hook Fine plastic tube Thread Black
Rib Fine oval silver tinsel Body Black
floss Wing Boar bristles Thorax Orange
seal’s fur Hackle Black cock hackle
Head Brass conehead
1. Take two inches of fine plastic tube and melt one end so that it burrs over. Revolving it in the flame from a small blowtorch is the best method.
2. Slip a short length of clear silicone rubber sleeve over the burred end before fixing the tube securely on its mount. Run on black tying thread.
3. Carry the thread down to the silicone rubber sleeve so that it covers threequarters of an inch of the tube. Catch in two inches of fine oval silver tinsel.
4. Take the tying thread half an inch back up the tube and catch in three inches of black floss.
5. Begin winding the floss, in close turns, over the tube. Countertwisting the floss as it is being wound will help it to lie flat.
6. Wind the floss back to its catching-in point to form a double layer. Secure the loose end of the floss then wind on evenly spaced turns of the silver tinsel.
7. Secure the loose end of the tinsel and remove the excess plus that of the floss. Select four boar bristles and catch them in so they are evenly distributed over the top and sides of the tube.
8. Secure the bristles in place with tight turns of thread before removing the waste ends. Take a generous pinch of orange seal’s fur and apply it to the tying thread.
9. Dub the seal’s fur on to the tying thread to form a short, thick rope. Wind on two or three turns of the fur to form a thorax.
10. Catch in a black cock hackle by its base and wind on three turns immediately in front of the orange fur to form a collar.
11. Secure the loose end of the hackle and remove the excess. Build up a tapered section with the thread before adding a drop of Superglue or clear epoxy.
12. Slide the cone head on to the tube, pushing it firmly against the tapered thread section. Trim away the end of the tying thread then trim and melt the front end of the tube so its burrs over the point of the cone.
WHERE, WHEN & HOW TO FISH
W H E R E
On any river where fish may be concentrated in known lies. Last year the Conehead took huge numbers of fish in low water on the Tweed, Tay and tributaries.
W H E N
Normally in the low water of high summer and early autumn, but the technique of fishing this fly is in its infancy, and it may pay to experiment.
H O W
Fish the Conehead Czech-nymph style on a dead drift with the occasional sink-and-draw movement. In near-bank lies you may need only the leader and perhaps a foot of fly-line outside the tip ring.
T Y I N G T I P
When applying the boar bristles, ensure they are evenly distributed around the top and sides of the tube. Separated in this way they will twitch enticingly.