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MATCH THE HATCH
John Tyzack England international and AAPGAI-qualified professional fly fishing guide and instructor.
Ha wthorn flies have always been a bit of an enigma to me. For several years after setting out on my fly fishing journey I never even saw one. Looking back, the emergence of this particular species of insect must have always coincided with my absence from the riverbank. As a young teenager living a long way from my nearest trout river, fishing days were few and far between. The period of need the JT Hawthorn.
I’ve had many an exciting d ay with this pattern, but the one that sticks in my mind is last April on the Derbyshire Wye. JP and I were on the upper beats of Cressbrook & Litton Fly Fishers’ water, ostensibly doing some reconnaissance work for our forthcoming Mayfly DVD but surreptitiously carrying a rod. We were weren’t really on the lookout for rising fish, but there are certain types of rise forms that no red-blooded angler can ignore!
I can’t believe just how hard and viciously trout will hit hawthorn flies. After all, as JP has already said, they don’t
A wonderful Wye brownie goes back after falling for a JT Hawthorn.
These rises are full-on surface attacks that send spray showering everywhere and get the angler’s heart racing.
hawthorn fly emergence is short and was easy to miss.
I then progressed to a loosely intermediate awareness of hawthorns. This was when I found that there were occasional late-spring days when the large dark olives were no longer hatching in their previous numbers, and the fish seemed content to take a fairly big black fly. Walk past a hawthorn tree in full flower and you’ll see thousands of them. With the extra-long pair of hind legs hanging down below the abdomen they’re unmistakable. I guess I just never made the connection in the early days between these awkward landlubbers and the big black things the fish would take at around the same time of year.
I now have a definitive imitation, which is my go-to Hawthorn pattern. I don’t have a plan B as I’ve never needed one – if the fish are taking hawthorns then you
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swim well and they should represent an easy meal that fish can merely sip down with a minimum of fuss… but they don’t. These rises are full-on surface attacks that send spray showering everywhere and get the angler’s heart racing. We were approaching a lovely looking pool on a gradual right-hand bend. Both banks were swathed in hawthorn trees in full flower. It was picturepostcard stuff ! The downstream wind ruffled the surface of the river and there were regular, huge, noisy and energetic rises. We decided to set the rod up and try for these fish. My usual 12ft leader was constructed, comprising a 9ft Hardy copolymer tapered leader with a 5X point; this time water knotted to a 3ft tippet of 6X Stroft, which has a 0.12mm diameter. (Remember: think diameters not breaking strains!)
John Pearson took this large River Wye rainbow from a tricky lie after it was spotted making splashy rises to natural hawthorns. I NSTRUCTION
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On went the JT Hawthorn and then we had the usual ‘fight’ as to who had the first cast. Possession is nine-tenths of the law, and since I’d made up the leader and tied on the fly I pulled rank. I consoled JP with the words that I’d probably get one straightaway so he wouldn’t have to wait very long.
I made a series of nice casts from a good position downstream of the rising fish. The fly sat perfectly in the surface film (not on it, remember it’s a drowning terrestrial) and the trout ignored it.
Hawthorn time follows hot on the heels of Lareg Dark Olive time, and I’d spent the past few weeks landing olive patterns gently in front of fish… but olives don’t tend to crash land! My presentation was just too good (yes, this is possible!). Changing the casting plane and stopping the rod later on the forward cast allowed me to make a slight
‘plop’ with the fly as it landed on the water, and this brought i nstant results. A nice plump ½lb rainbow tried its best to shed the hook with a series of runs and leaps that wouldn’t have disgraced a fish twice its s ize. The wild rainbows here are turbocharged.
JP was quickly in on the act with a brownie that had some fantastic markings on the adipose and caudal fins. The action came thick and fast up the pool, and while the fish kept rising we kept catching. It wasn’t rocket science; we just had to get the fly to ‘crash’ a foot or so upstream of a feeding fish and bingo!
Towards the top of the pool, with JP on the rod, we spotted a much better fish still gulping down the hawthorns greedily tight under the far bank, but with that slightly less hurried approach so common among the bigger fish of the river. It was going to need a good cast as the fish had a great lie (another indication of what is likely to be a bigger-thanaverage fish is where it chooses to feed). This one was under the far bank with bushes overhanging, but to make matters worse there was little room for a back cast…
He delivered the perfect cast first time. The trout took and all hell let loose. The fish dived for the roots first of all, but side strain averted that little ploy. Then it went aerial with a series of jumps and splashdowns that all threatened the hook-hold. JP won this little battle after a couple of heart-stopping minutes for him, and he slid the net under a lovely rainbow. We’d had about 40 minutes of nonstop hawthorn action, culminating in a lovely fish, and it was time to continue our search for filming locations up the river.
Meanwhile, get a few of these Hawthorns tied up and have some fun with the St Mark’s Fly…
Hook: Maruto D04, size 14 Thread: SemperFli nano-silk, black Abdomen: Micro chenille, black Thorax: SemperFli UV Straggle String,
black Legs: Two knotted pheasant-tail fibres per leg, dyed black Wing: Polypropylene floating yarn, white Hackle: Black cock
Run the thread on the hook and secure the chenille at the rear. The length should be the same as the hook shank. Trim.
Now secure the UV at the rear and wind on in touching turns. Stop behind the eye and cut the waste.
Tie in the polypropylene yarn to form the wing and trim to size. It should be the same length as the body.
Tie in the hackle by the stem and wind round the shank three times. Secure and tidy with thread wraps. Varnish.
Add the knotted pheasant tail; one set of legs on either side of the hook shank. Remove the waste.