I believe more firmly than ever that flies need to be sparsely dressed. I have for many years fished sparse nymphs – even before the advent of modern "anorexic" ones. But I believe that my dry flies are about as skinny as any others around, and so I think I had better pass on some hints to budding dry fly lake enthusiasts!

I have three "rules" for my dry fly patterns:
Firstly, seal’s fur is a MUST – I know there are ethical reasons for not using it, but it really is the ultimate material for absorbing the floatant and keeping a bright colour.
Secondly, do not even think about using expensive capes for the hackles! On lakes the emerging fly is generally flat on the surface and tight in the film. If you opt to use Metz quality capes then the chances are that you have a high floating dry fly – not what is required!
Thirdly, I suggest that you keep the amount of dubbed seal’s fur to an absolute minimum. I am more than happy if my tying silk shows through, especially if I have caught a couple of fish on the same fly. I would hazard a guess as to the fact that my flies contain about half as much body material as do most anglers’ dry flies.

I also follow other habits in my tying, but don’t consider them to be "rules". I use one particular hook for 95% of my dries, yet many other anglers find them to be too soft. I have always loved the Kamasan B400 as a dry fly hook. I would be quite happy if that were the only one available; though I daresay that I could find an alternative.

I rarely bother with a rib on my dries – there are three reasons for this; I don’t believe that the time involved in tying the rib is necessary and I am not convinced that the fish see the rib. Most crucially though is the fact that I love my flies to become really tatty as I think they become more "fish-catchy" then.

I am not really a great fan of "hoppers" as a dry fly though my fishing partner John Horsey has for years found the hopper to be a most successful member of his cast! I am just as happy with a simple "Bob’s Bits" fly, mostly in size #14, but also in #12 – especially as my point fly. I occasionally use a #10 but I generally feel it to be too large.

I differ from John in one other significant way as regards dry fly fishing: in a big wave I am as happy with size #14 dries as I am with anything, whereas John likes to put on a "Carrot" fly which is extremely heavily dressed. All I can say is that we both catch a lot of fish with our respective methods and that really is the "nub" of our great sport. Around any lake on a given day, one hundred anglers can all catch a few fish, and only two or three will be following the same method, bait or fly. Individual preferences are very much the thing in fishing, and anything – no matter how petty – that makes you feel confident, should be used by you!

As regards nymphs and their tying, again I like to keep mine skinny! Pheasant tails only need a couple of strands of the fibre. Peacock bodied flies, like the Diawl Bach, I tend to tie with a minimum of herl. I also keep the dressing sparse on hares’ ears and other dubbed bodied flies. Give it a go this season! Cut back on the amount of dressing that you put on your fly – I am certain that you will be pleasantly surprised.

Here in Bristol we had our member's tackle auction this week and a great number of items were put under the hammer. The club will have made a good deal of money out of the evening. If you are in the area on Tuesday 6th March then pop into Somerset Hall in Portishead for the trade auction, there are sure to be a few bargains available.

Tight lines and happy fly tying,

Martin Cottis