Russ Symons, a great fan of fly-tying shortcuts, uses a foam cylinder and readytied pheasant tail fibre legs to create a dry Daddy pattern
Over the years I have tied Daddies with all sorts of materials for the tails, but at the Fly Fair some years ago, Nigel at Lakeland Fly Tying showed me some foam cylinders and a light bulb went off in my head: Daddy and Mayfly tails I thought, and that was it.
Making these foam tails is quick, it’s easy, it makes the fly virtually unsinkable and, what’s more, a fly tied using these foam tails will catch fish when all around you are looking on in amazement. As we go into the daddy longlegs season on stillwaters, it is sometimes easy to forget that there are a lot of stillwater anglers out there to whom fishing a dry fly is still an art form, when it really need not be.
There are those who weave a tale of magic and mystery around the use of dry flies. In truth, if you view the Daddy as a lure that floats and resembles the natural insect, then I have little doubt that you will catch fish on a dry Daddy, because in truth it is easy.
They used to call the mayfly hatch ‘duffer’s fortnight’. Well I truly believe that when the daddies are out in force, it makes the fishing of a Mayfly seem difficult.
There, I have said it! A good fly, a little patience and a reasonable presentation is all you need. Use a single fly on the point of a 12 to 15-foot leader, degreased for the last foot to 18 inches, so that the bit of line leading to the fly is sunk beneath the surface.
Cast so that the leader lands as straight as you can get it. Distance is not that important. When a fish engulfs the fly, resist the urge to strike immediately. In the old days when I was but a lad… the sage advice was to mutter ‘God save the Queen’ before lifting into the fish, but I expect the phrase is somewhat different today!
Top tying tips
Tying this Daddy is involved but not that difficult. It is simply a question of getting all the bits onto the hook in the right order. Then fasten them with a pinhead amount of cement on the point of your dubbing needle so that the cement soaks into the thread and fixes everything in place.
Over the years I have tried all sorts of ways to get the foam tail to sit right and after much trial and error I now tie the foam into place, then cut the foam cylinder in a long diagonal cut with a sharp pair of scissors to get the length and shape that I want.
You can pattern mark the tail with a fine marker if you feel the need, but I choose to leave it plain…it works. Buy the 1/16th-inch foam cylinders for the tail. If big flies are what you want buy the 3/32th-inch cylinders. The method is the same.
If you have the patience of a saint, tie your own legs. If like me your eyes are not as good as they once were, buy some ready-tied, natural colour legs (try Veniard). It makes life so much easier!
Take your time and position the legs exactly how you want them with soft turns of thread, then with half a pinhead of cement precisely placed, fasten them in place. Same with the wings. Carefully strip the wing feathers until they are the length that you want them to be.
Put the coloured faces together, tie down and snip away the stalks. Tie the stalks down before extending the wings out to the side. Then with figure-of-eight turns of thread and half a pinhead of cement, fasten them into place.
When you wrap the saddle hackle up the body of the fly, move the legs and wings out of the way with your dubbing needle, so that they are not trapped by the hackle as it is wound up the shank of the hook. They will spring back into place when you’ve finished.