It's Daddy Time

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Daddies are on the water now, so if you're new to flyfishing read our tips below...

ALTHOUGH the main fall of daddies occurs in autumn, they actually appear throughout summer and can be seen blown across water right up into December on occasions. There’s also the idea that, if presented with a large Daddy, few trout would fail to show some kind of interest whatever the time of year – it’s a tasty morsel after all.

So, Daddy Longlegs are a worthy dry fly and reader Daniel Harrington wants to learn how to fish them, hopefully catching his first dry fly trout in the process.

We team him up with Farlows’ very own Allan Shephard who knows exactly when the daddies appear at his local Farmoor Reservoir in Oxfordshire.

The right conditions
As we enter the car park, we spot Allan walking the grass areas to see if the daddy longlegs are about. There’s been a bit of rain so the ground is moist, and it’s not too cold which encourages the insects to emerge. There’s a strong wind and decent cloud cover so prospects look good.

“You need a good breeze to blow these large, gangly insects out from the banks and onto the water,” says Allan. “It shouldn’t take too long for the fish to notice.”

Sure enough the unmistakable insects are around and in terrific numbers. Trout should feed at the surface today.

Allan’s “secret weapon” when daddies are about.

Allan’s “secret weapon” when daddies are about.

Where to start – top of wind
There’s a good ‘chop’ on the lake but Allan motors across the reservoir to the calmer water at the top of the wind. With the breeze blowing from this shore it’s a safe bet that the daddies will hit the water here first. Allan sets up two rods for himself and one rod for Daniel. To cover his own options Allan has a dry fly set-up and one rod for nymphs while Daniel has a floating line, a 10-foot leader and a single fly – a Muddler Daddy.

Looking for splashy rises
We drift drogue-free in the calmer water watching for rising fish. Three fish swirl and splash in the one o’clock position to our boat. The aggressive takes indicate that they’re chasing their food, in this case daddies blown across the surface at some speed. Occasionally, I see a natural daddy sat calmly on the water and fish drown them first to make easier pickings.

As we leave the calm water and the ripple starts, we get action.

Daniel is encouraged to retrieve the deer hair Muddler Daddy so that it creates a ‘V’ shaped wake. A fish locks on and a bulge of water follows the fly. This is exciting stuff. Daniel reacts too quickly and pulls the fly out of the water.

Ways to entice a following fish
A continuous figure-of-eight retrieve will certainly get fish to follow, but what do you do if they’re not actually taking the fly? Allan tells Dan to stop the retrieve occasionally, then restart it again and at the end of the retrieve he should let the fly dibble on the surface before recasting.

When a continuous retrieve is paused, the following fish gets to examine it (hopefully with its mouth). But once the fly starts moving again the trout has to make a decision because the meal is getting away.

So by mixing up the retrieve you’re actually helping to entice a take. On some days though a continuous retrieve is all it takes.

Allan (left) holds Daniel’s first fish on a Daddy.

Allan (left) holds Daniel’s first fish on a Daddy.

Rough downwind water
The further downwind we drift the more choppy the water becomes and we set up a drogue to slow down our movement. But it’s noticeable that we’re getting fewer rises, so we motor right back up to the calm sheltered water.

It’s here that Daniel gets a solid take. The following fish bulges water and Daniel pauses the retrieve only for the fish to take on the restart. Perfect. Now he has to take up slack line and keep tight on the trout which leaps free of the water several times. It runs left, right and directly under the boat. The Muddled Daddy has scored and so has our novice. It’s always satisfying when the pupil takes the first fish of the day.

The Muddled Daddy created a wake when moved.

The Muddled Daddy created a wake when moved.

Two Daddy set-up
Now Allan refines his approach by setting up two Daddy patterns, which increases his chance of success. But crucially he sets up with smaller flies.

“If trout follow your flies without taking confidently it’s possible that your patterns are too large,” says Allan. “Smaller flies are often all it takes to get fish to actually take.” And so it is.
Allan catches three fish on the bounce.
Natural daddies are being blown across the water wherever we look and they’re dancing around inside the boat too. We definitely picked the right day.

“...Daniel gets a solid take. The following fish bulged water and Daniel paused the retrieve only for the fish to take on the restart. Perfect.”
Dan’s simple Daddy set-up

Dan’s simple Daddy set-up