The trailing black hind legs make the hawthorn one of the most easily identifiable of the many insects of interest to the angler.
Usually making its appearance on or about April 25, it is also known as the St Mark’s Fly. The hatches are short-lived affairs lasting no more than a couple of weeks at most. A creature of the land, it hatches in large numbers and gathers in swarms over the hedges and meadows and, if blessed with a breeze that blows them over the water, the angler will find the river alive with rising trout.
As a flyer, the gangly-legged hawthorn is only marginally better than the crane fly and once over the river its fate is sealed.
Although so readily recognised by the shiny trailing legs, an artificial dressed without them will rarely be refused especially if the trout have been feeding on them for some time. As long as the imitation is black and roughly matches that of the natural insect, it will be taken.
When mating the insects embrace in the air and often fall on the water still locked in a deadly embrace where they are snapped up by the trout. In a really heavy fall, the trout will often select these unfortunate couples allowing the single flies to pass by unmolested.
Although the artificial is invariably fished as a dry-fly, a slimly-dressed version will often take fish outside the period of the main fall if it is allowed drift along just beneath the surface.
Hook Size 10-12 Thread Black Body
Black seal’s fur Rib Black Flexifloss
Legs Knotted black pheasant tail fibres
Wing White Antron with a few strands of
Pearl Twinkle or similar
Hackle Black cock
1. Catch in the tying thread followed by a length of black Flexifloss.
2. Bind down the Flexifloss, stopping at a point just around the bend. Wax the thread and dub on the black seal’s fur to form a slender body.
3. Start to form the body with the dubbed thread.
4. Stopping well short of the hook eye, remove any excess dubbing. Keeping the Flexifloss under steady tension start to rib the body.
5. Even the tips of two dyed pheasant tail fibres and form a knot to represent the knees.
6. Repeat and tie in each knotted fibre, one on each side of the thorax.
7. Trim away the butt ends and offer up the Antron wing. The bigger the fly, the wider the wing should be.
8. Holding the Antron in place on top of the body, secure it in with several tight turns of thread.
9. Remove the surplus wing and catch in a prepared black cock hackle.
10. Dub on a little more black seal’s fur and form the thorax.
11. Wind the hackle through the thorax in open turns.
12. Trim away the unwanted hackle and form a small head. Whip finish and trim away all the fibres from beneath the hook to complete the fly.
WHERE, WHEN & HOW TO FISH
W H E R E
The falls of the large, hairy bodied and long-legged insect provide an early-season treat for both trout and grayling. The most consistent falls will be found wherever the river flows through meadows bounded by old hedgerows.
W H E N
The first falls of the big black terrestrial, an insect that has fascinated fly-dressers for centuries, can be expected during the last week of April and will last no more than three weeks at the most
H O W
Fish the artificial singly on a tapered leader and a 4 lb tippet. If the trout begin to nudge rather than take the high floating dryfly, either trim all the cock hackle fibres from beneath the body or fish it untreated so that it sits in or just below the surface.
T Y I N G T I P
Extend the longevity of the fly by tying the knots in paired rather than single pheasant tail fibres.