DEER HAIR FRY
AS SUMMER slips into Autumn the small roach and perch, which were spawned earlier in the year, congregate in huge shoals. Weed beds, boat docks and harbour walls are all places where these fry can be found seeking protection from predators such as grebes, terns and of course trout. Both rainbow and brown trout show a distinct liking for a diet of small fish and as the shoals of fry build, many will switch from a diet of daphnia and midge to focus on the protein-rich package that small roach and perch can deliver.
FLOATERS ARE BEST
One of the most effective ways of tackling trout that are targeting small fish is with a floating imitation. While a subsurface pattern such as a Minkie can work extremely well, it is interesting just how deadly a fry imitation that floats can be even when there is little obvious surface activity.
Though we usually perceive trout feeding on fry to be those that crash dramatically through the gathered shoals, many trout, especially the bigger ones, are rather more lazy. Instead of expending lots of energy chasing fast moving fry they prefer to pick off the dead and dying. The key for the angler is that when a small roach or perch is close to death it loses the ability to swim properly and quickly floats to the surface. So no great surprise then that an imitation that floats will fool the larger more wily specimens.
What is a surprise though, is how gently a trout can take even a large fry imitation when it is fished slowly along the surface.
IN DAYS GONE BY...
Back in the days when floating fry patterns first became popular it appeared all that was needed was a Mylar tubing body with a bit of white foam over the back. Now whether trout today have become more sophisticated I don’t know, but if you want to catch big, grown-on fish consistently then you are going to have to use something a bit more like a real fish. Foam is still an option. Indeed there are a number of very good patterns fashioned from ethafoam, these being coloured to match one of the various fry species.
Even though it has a few drawbacks, deer hair is still the most effective material for tying floating fry patterns. The main problem with using hair is that it is quite time consuming to form the profile of a small fish and then give it the correct colour and shading.
Basically you’re spinning buoyant deer hair along the hook, like a giant Muddler, and then trimming it into a fish shape. This problem is outweighed though by the fact that a pattern tied with deer hair can have its buoyancy altered at a pinch. The main thing when it comes to producing a really effective floating fry imitation is that it should sit nice and low in the water, in fact just at the point between floating and sinking.
With foam this balance can be difficult to achieve but with deer hair, which absorbs water, all you need to do is squeeze out a little of the air if your pattern is floating too high.
PERCH AND ROACH
Deer Hair Fry can be tied to imitate a range of fry species though the two most popular are the perch and the roach. The basic technique is the same for both species; the main difference being the colour of the tail used and the fact that when tying the perch version a fringe of hair is left along the back of the pattern to mimic the large dorsal fin. Both versions can be tied either side on, so that they swim normally, or side down so that they imitate a fry that is either dead or in its final death throes.
TOOLS YOU WILL NEED
- Bobbin holder
- Sharp scissors
- Whip finish tool
Hook: Size 1-2/0 Aberdeen
Thread: Strong, white at least 6/0 diameter
Tail: Pink or grey marabou with a few strands of pearl tinsel
Body: White deer hair coloured with permanent marker pens
Eyes: Stick on decals or paint.
1. Fix the hook in the vice and run the thread on at the eye. Carry it down the shank in touching turns to create a solid base for the body.
2. At a position opposite the hook barb, catch in the tail. This comprises a pinch of pink or grey marabou.
3. Now tie in a few strands of pearl tinsel.
4. Remove a bunch of white deer hair from its skin and offer it up to the hook so that it is parallel to the shank. Wind two loose turns of thread over the hair.
5. Begin to pull the thread tight making further turns as you do so. This will cause the hair to flare around the hook forming a ruff.
6. Continue adding further bunches of hair so that the hook shank is covered. After applying each bunch, fix it in place by making tight thread turns in front. Keep applying the hair in similar sized bunches ensuring that each flares evenly around the hook. Once the eye is reached cast off the thread and begin shaping the hair.
7. Using small controlled snips with sharp scissors, trim the hair into a fish shape. If you are tying a perch fry ensure that hair is left to represent the dorsal and pectoral fins.
8. Once you have created the outline of the perch the surfaces can be smoothed away with a scalpel blade. Paint or stick on eyes using clear epoxy, then start colouring the hair to match that of the species. Apply the colour in layers, first olive then grey then brown.
9. Blend the colours together with a piece of absorbent kitchen roll. Once you are happy with the effect add the black bars which are found on the perch’s flanks.