This fly was devised by Donald McClarn of Co Down, allegedly by accident when he was tying a Gosling. It is quite possible to see this influence, but the result is far more versatile than the Mayfly pattern that spawned it.
The Dabbler is now tied in a wide range of colours both — body and hackles — and the only constant is the wing of bronze mallard, which is tied low to cloak the body. This wing gives the fly a very dense profile and is achieved by rolling a wide slip of bronze mallard and fixing it on top of the hook so that some of the fibres spill over the sides.
Some variants, not tied by the originator, use the bronze mallard more as a hackle or have it tied in as two distinct bunches above and below the body. While these alternative tyings catch fish they are not, strictly speaking, true Dabblers.
Though the original was tied with a golden-olive seal’s fur body, the Dabbler is now regularly tied in claret, black and olive or with a body of gold, silver or pearl tinsel. Fluorescent materials have also been introduced, mainly as a “hot spot” at the head or tail.
Hook Size 8-12 heavyweight wet-fly
Thread Brown Tail Cock pheasant tail
fibres Rib Oval gold tinsel Body
Golden-olive seal’s fur or substitute
Wing Bronze mallard Hackle Brown cock
1. Having fixed the hook in the vice run the tying thread on at the eye, winding it down the shank to the bend. There, catch in six or eight fibres of cock pheasant tail.
2. Take three inches of medium oval gold tinsel and catch in it, with tying thread, at the base of the tail.
3. Carry the tying thread, in close turns, over the waste ends of the tinsel and pheasant tail fibres. Trim away any material that is close to the eye.
4. Take a good pinch of golden-olive seal’s fur and apply it evenly to the tying thread. If necessary, coat the thread with a little wax first.
5. Dub the fur on to the thread to form a thick, quite rough, rope. Starting at the base of the tail, wind the dubbed fur along the hook in close turns.
6. Carry the fur towards the eye to form a thick, almost ragged, body with plenty of fibres sticking out. Stop far enough back from the eye to leave space for the hackles and wing.
7. Take a long-fibres brown cock hackle and remove the soft fibres from the base, Catch the hackle in immediately in front of the body by the bare section of stem.
8. Take hold of the hackle tip with hackle pliers and wind it over the body in open, evenly spaced turns.
9. Once the hackle has reached the base of the tail, take hold of the gold tinsel and wind it up through the hackle. Wiggling the tinsel as it is wound will prevent it trapping the hackle fibres.
10. Once the tinsel has reached the eye, secure the loose end with thread. Remove the excess hackle tip plus the tinsel and hackle stem.
11. Take a second brown hackle slightly longer in fibre than the first. Catch it in just behind the eye and wind on three full turns to form a collar
12. Remove a wide strip of bronze mallard from the feather. This should be at least three times the width of the intended wing.
13. Ensuring the tips are level, roll the slip of feather to form the wing before catching it in on top of the hook with tying thread. Position the wing so that it sits low over the body.
14. Fix the wing in place with tight turns of thread, working the fibres around the sides so that they envelope the body. Trim away the waste ends of the feather before building a neat head.
WHERE, WHEN & HOW TO FISH
W H E R E
A wonderful fly for any large natural lake, especially where brown trout are the quarry. The Dabbler has a reputation for tempting large fish from the great loughs of Ireland.
W H E N
Works throughout the season. Like many big wet-flies it is most effective when conditions are overcast and there is a good rolling wave.
H O W
Can be fished in a variety of ways and on floating or intermediate lines. The standard technique is to fish the Dabbler as part of a team, stripping it back fast and lifting the rod so it dibbles enticingly in the wave. Works either on the point or the top dropper.
T Y I N G T I P
When tying the wing of the Dabbler, don’t skimp on the amount of bronze mallard. Use a slip at least three times wider than the finished wing will be and ensure that, when in position, the wing envelopes the top and sides of the body.