Peter Gather coleties one of the most reliable and popular Daddy patterns
Late summer through into autumn is the time of the daddy longlegs. In this cooler, wetter period large numbers of this big terrestrial insect emerge from grassland, where their larvae live, and take to the air.
The trout are quick to take advantage of the windfall and daddy-time can provide some tremendous late season sport. The daddy long legs goes by the alternative name of crane fly. Either way, the main recognition points are its long slim body, its single pair of wings and six long trailing legs from which the insect gets its common name.
Daddy imitations may be tied in various forms from standard dry flies, to those designed to be fished as wet flies. For patterns tied as wet flies the body is applied along the length of either a longshank hook or a large wet fly pattern.
Materials vary from floss and dubbing such as hare’s fur to occasionally something much brighter and less imitative. One very successful Daddy pattern actually uses flat silver tinsel for the body along with a tag of bright red floss.
The Silver Daddy has proved to be a great pattern for trout, sea-trout and salmon on natural lakes but is also very effective on larger man made waters.
Another type, which works well on big natural lakes, is a heavily-hackled Dapping Daddy. Dapping is a technique almost invariably employed from a drifting boat and works best when there is a good breeze.
The reason is that, rather than casting the fly with a normal fly-line, it’s connected to a length of nylon leader, which in turn is attached to a length of light floss that catches the breeze. The only real difference between a Daddy pattern for dapping and any other is the amount of hackling.
As it’s the breeze that affects the movement of the fly, that fly needs to have plenty of air resistance. This is achieved by using a dense collar hackle, created by applying numerous close turns of a long-fibred cock hackle. Although one hackle can work, more often, it’s two or three that are used to get the full effect.
“One very successful Daddy actually uses flat silver tinsel for the body along with a tag of bright red floss. It’s a great pattern for trout and salmon.”
While similar materials may be used to tie either wet or dry Daddies, for the latter, I prefer to use a detached body rather than one wound along the hook shank.
The reason is that, because a detached body is formed separate from the hook, it allows a relatively small hook to be used in comparison to the body size. The advantage of a smaller hook is that it is lighter, which is a consideration when tying a floating fly, and provides a better hook-hold.
Naturally buoyant materials such as deer hair and foam are the most commonly used for tying detached bodies but others can be almost as effective. Furled poly yarn is one. This is where the yarn is twisted repeatedly until it begins to roll over itself to create a doubled strand.
The advantage is that it is light, robust and very flexible. Thefurled yarn is also easy to treat with a floatant, which ensures that the fly floats nicely but still sits nice and low on the water’s surface. The whole point is that the artificial fly’s body should be both light and flexible so that it feels soft and natural to the fish.
If you can bear to do it just take a real daddy long legs and squeeze it between your fingers. Though it won’t do the insect any good it provides a good lesson as to how soft a real daddy is which is what the fish feels. While deer hair and furled yarn work perfectly well it’s difficult to ignore foam when tying a dry Daddy Longlegs.
After all, microcellular foam is very easy to use being tough and very buoyant so much so that no other materials are required to keep it afloat even a hackle is superfluous and only really necessary to soften the fly’s profile.
Foam sheet may be cut into strips then either folded and bound with evenly-spaced thread turns to create a similar effect to a detached mayfly body or simply used as a single strip trimmed or melted to a point at the rear end to give it a slight, more natural looking taper.While the former looks the most professional it takes longer and also produces a stiffer body. Another option is to use a slim foam dowel or cylinders.
When I first started tying foam Daddies it was impossible to get slim foam cord of the right colour. I got the idea from the foam damselfly and ant bodies I’d obtain during trips to the US. I could find the type of foam in blue, black, yellow and orange but not light brown.
I’d assumed that someone somewhere would have made the same thing but in a colour more akin to that of a crane fly. Try as I might I simply came up blank. I couldn’t even find very slim white foam dowel, which I could colour with a waterproof marker pen.
So I had to use 3mm sheet foam cut into thin strips with a scalpel. It worked, so much so that I forgot about the better-looking alternative. Obviously trout can’t tell whether a fly’s body is nice and smooth or has edges to it or if they can they don’t care. The dilemma is no more because slim foam dowel is available in light brown and in three diameters, perfect for tying Daddies.
I’ve tried all manner of products for tying the legs but I keep coming back to good old knotted pheasant tail.While it’s not as resilient as brown nylon mono, which I once thought was the better alternative, the fibres from a cock pheasant tail have a natural taper to them.
The tails are also cheap and easy to find. The knotting process, used to create the joints in each leg, isn’t so easy. In the case of a daddy leg there are two evenly spaced knots, which should be positioned at the same points on each of the six legs. It’s not that difficult a process but even when you’re good at it, it’s not exciting.
For this reason I’d never blame anyone for buying pre knotted fibres, available either in packets or still attached to the tail’s centre stem, which makes the legs easier to work with.