Fishing Multiple Dry FliesThere was a time when dry fly fishing simply involved tying a single dry fly onto a leader of appropriate diameter, casting either to a rising fish or likely spot with a static fly and waiting for an opportunity in the form of a snout, either brown or rainbow, to poke out of the water to swallow the offering.
I suppose you would have to call this the "purists" method of dry fly fishing, and it is still very effective and rewarding in it's place. However evolution is a wonderful thing, multiple fly techniques and pulling or dibbling teams of dry flies designed for this purpose, have added new dimensions and have probably blurred the lines a bit between dry fly fishing and "flogging'. With Tasmanian fishing rules allowing up to 3 flies on a leader, the trick is knowing how many flies to use and when and how to use them...
In March 1999 English Competition Team Captain John HORSEY hosted several fly fishing clinics at Great Lake. The Hopper, Carrot fly and Bobs bits were three dry flies he introduced to us who were lucky enough to attend the clinic. I mentioned at about dry flies being designed for a purpose, all of these flies are tied with seals fur body for their floatability, and sparse, soft, cheap hackles. They will float at a beautifully sitting low in the water and can be pulled through the surface if fished actively. These flies all catch lots of fish, but they are not the be all and end all, a lot of local patterns can be adapted to this style of tying, softer (and a lot cheaper) hackles and seals fur bodies will float just as well as flies with expensive genetic hackles . They also have the added bonus of being able to be fished actively across the surface of the water, red tags and mayfly duns with seals fur bodies and soft cock hackles are a good example of how these types of flies can be adapted from local patterns.
Keep things relatively straight forward, a basic three fly leader can consist of a 13ft piece of leader material with two droppers tied on. The first 5ft from the point (fly end of the leader), the second a further 5ft forward. This means that you have a point fly, then 5ft to the middle dropper and 5ft to the top dropper (bob fly), then 3ft to the fly line. This is a simple straight forward 3 fly leader. I like to tie this to a 6ft section of a normal tapered leader meaning I end up with a 19ft to 20ft leader.
Droppers are tied on with a surgeons knot, this is a quick and simple knot which involves placing the leader and dropper section of line parallel to each other, forming a loop with both, then threading the tail end of both through the loop together 3 times. Do this so the long section of the dropper points towards the fishy of the leader, then moisten the knot and tighten it. The short tag on the upper end of the knot is then trimmed off and the dropper itself should be about 8 inches long.
Always fish as fine a leader as possible and degrease or sink the leader to prevent it sitting visibly on the surface. There are several products commercially available to help with sinking leaders. If you don't happen to have any of these a small amount of mud rubbed onto the leader will also help serve the same purpose.
Fishing in Tasmania and particularly in the Central Highlands, the wind is a major factor in determining how to fish dry flies. If you are in a boat and are able to have a controlled drift down wind, you can make the most of the breeze , using it to cast a nice straight line which lays out your 3 fly cast superbly. If however you are on the shore of Great Lake with a screaming Northerly pumping into your face as you try to reach the Brownies surfing in the waves crunching gum beetles, disaster looms if you are silly enough to try throwing 3 flies into the face of the wind.
Use the wind where ever possible to your advantage, multiple fly rigs work well down or across the wind, where casting is not hampered. If you have to fish into the wind because that's where the fish are, single fly tactics on a shorter leader come into their own. In the complete absence of wind, again casting a single fly, makes life simpler and does not cause a mass of leader material and flies to suddenly fall in a small area of calm water spooking every trout within a kilometre. Multiple flies can still be fished in these conditions, however feathering the cast by pinching the line with the line hand and stopping it shooting out at the desired distance will help roll out the leader and flies.
Fishing a Team of 3
A team of 3 dry flies can be fished in several ways, each with a specific purpose.
Short line dry fly; On days when fish are likely to take a dry fly, but are not actually rising freely, cast a team of 3 dry flies on a short line methodically working the area of water you are fishing. In shallow water (1 to 6ft) you generally only need to leave the flies on the water for about 5 seconds. Most fish will react fairly quickly in the shallows to a dry fly, and takes should occur in that time frame. On days like this where there is not a hatch under way and fish are not feeding selectively, you can mix colours, shapes and sizes in a team of flies to work out what the trout is likely to take. If takes consistently occur on the same fly you can then tailor your team to a similar pattern all round. This method can be used fishing either static or actively, my rule of thumb is the calmer the water, the less movement that should be imparted into the flies. The reason you don't cast a long line is that you can cover the water more comprehensively with relatively short casts worked in an arc, then recommence covering new ground as you either drift in the boat or walk along the shore. Secondly a fish may rise close to you, and you won't be able to cover it quickly if you have a long line out.. If a hatch is occurring, let's say mayfly duns for example you can tailor your flies to cover the stages of the hatch, e.g. dun, emerger, or even a nymph on the point. Again you can systematically fish blind or cover rising fish.
Short line dibbling; Short lining is one of the deadliest techniques on an overcast windy day on waters like Arthur's Lake & Little Pine Lagoon. It is a simple method of fishing which only requires about 20 - 30 feet of line to be cast, and a simple drawing of the flies across the water with the rod held high to create a "dibble" from the top fly. Using a bushy dry fly on top and one or two sparse dry flies on the rest of the leader, fish are drawn to the surface by the V shaped wake the bushy fly leaves on top of the water. The fish either take the top fly or the sparser trailing flies, all of this is on a short line so you have quite visual fishing and often see the fish chasing the fly with mouth open prior to a take. As the rod is held high a normal strike is not possible so a quick flick of the wrist is all that is needed to set the hook as the fish turns down after grabbing his dinner.
Long Lining; You will never guess what this method entails. When you have a fish rise at distance or you want to cover a particular spot because it looks so fishy, cast a long line to the area and then retrieve the dry flies across the surface. You can fish the dries statically to start with using the 5 seconds or so of static method, and then retrieve them. The retrieve can be a dead slow "figure 8', or a flat out strip depending on the mood of the day, once again I tend to impart less action to the flies on calmer days and more in rougher windier types of weather. As this method can result in takes at distance, be aware not only for visual signs of the flies being eaten but also for tightening of the line in the hand when retrieving. In Feb 2003 I was fishing in Canal Bay on Great Lake with a regular fishing partner, I was watching my flies intently as I slowly retrieved them, when suddenly without any warning the rod was nearly pulled from my hand by a 3.1/4 lb rainbow that ate my middle dropper (#14 orange hopper). I was seriously watching the flies at the time but was suddenly attached to this fish which engulfed the fly without any visible sign of a take.
Static v Moving
As a rule of thumb the wind plays a major part in whether or not to fish dry flies "actively" as opposed to "static'. Overcast windy days in summer lend their selves to moving dry flies. If trout are looking for surface food on these days, dry flies fished at the appropriate speed can be deadly. This speed may be from a dead slow figure of eight to a flat out strip retrieve, experimenting is required to switch on to the appropriate retrieve on a given day. No two days are ever the same and static flies may be the go on one windy day while flat out may be the go the next, on each occasion experiment and work out the most effective way to fish. It is simply heart stopping to see a 3lb brown trout jump out of a wave 3ft away from your flies to connect firmly to your top dropper as it enters the water again.
In the end
Dry fly fishing multiple flies does take a bit of getting used to, some horrendous tangles can occur with 3 flies when the top or middle dropper is taken and a fish is landed, however I'm always happy to untangle a leader if it has caught a fish. The easiest way to untangle a mess like this is to cut off the flies and then untangle the leader from the point end without pulling the tangle too tight
These dry fly methods are really effective and are best suited to fishing open water casting down or across and down the wind. If you are fishing blind remember with three flies you will be covering 3 times the water that you would cover with a single dry fly each time you cast. You have the benefit of offering different patterns or stages of a hatch, as well as being able to cover a large area where a fish has risen near you. Whether you fish one, two or three flies, confidence is always a major key to success, so fish confidently knowing you will catch fish.