In an article in the British magazine, Stillwater
Trout Angler, the author wrote a very interesting
piece entitled, "Are You Sending Out The Right Signals?"
The piece primarily emphasized sinking lines and the
various types of retrieves (the British call them "pulls").
It was an excellent article. The only thing in the
article I had problems with, was the author's extensive
use of the three-fly cast. It is my impression that
stillwater fly anglers in the British Isles rarely, if
ever, fishs less than 3 flies at a time.
The inference was made in the article, that it was
the "only" system to use in stillwater. With all due
respect to the Brits, I'm not so sure. If simply
catching lots of fish is the primary reason we fish
the fly, then the 3-fly technique probably does work.
But I feel we sacrifice a lot of the enjoyment of
the sport when we spend the day "flinging" three
flies into the wind.
I was first introduced to the 3-fly-cast about 30
years ago. The anglers who showed me the technique
were very successful with it on the Idaho's South
Fork of the Boise River. Now I will not deny an
angler can catch fish using a 3-fly cast. I've
seen it done. The problem I have with a leader
loaded with more than one fly, is that it detracts
from the enjoyment I find in just presenting my
patterns to fish.
The only way I would consistently use three flies,
would be if it were absolutely, unequivocally,
without any doubt, the only productive technique.
Which it is not. I have a friend who likens
multiple flies as a kin to bait fishing. While
I won't go quite that far...I am leaning in that
The specific patterns used by the British in a
typical three-fly cast will mean very little to
fly fishermen on this side of the big pond.
Some of the names mentioned in the article
were Mallard and Claret, Black Buzzer, Tubing
Buzzer, Diawl Bach and Ombudsman. Certainly not
patterns found in most American fly tying books.
The pattern sequence, however, is something we
can relate to. The top fly in a British three-fly
cast, is usually some type of midge or chironomid
emerger (called buzzers by the Brits). The second
and third flies are often mayfly nymphs or caddis
pupas that may or may not be hatching.
Another factor to consider when choosing three
"compatible" patterns, is the density of the
sinking line being used. When using a floating
line, for instance, the three flies should mimic
aquatic life forms that are commonly found near
the surface; midge, mayfly, and caddisfly emergers.
On deep-sinking lines, on the other hand, the best
results will be obtained using patterns that
represent life forms that are usually found
nearer the bottom; such as leeches, crayfish,
scuds and sculpins. The patterns should be
selected carefully. The various aquatic life
forms move differently in the water. Some swim
fast and erratically, others move slowly. One
should be careful and try not to "mix" the actions.
One would not normally match a rapidly swimming
nymph pattern, for example, with a normally dead
in the water snail fly.
Two patterns that have worked well together, for
this writer, have been a damsel nymph and leech.
Both swim fairly slowly, either just beneath the
surface or near the bottom. Different leech
patterns obviously work well together.
CONCLUSION: While I personally prefer to fish just
one fly at a time in stillwater, I will on occasion
use a dropper with a second compatible pattern.
And...my compliments to the Brits...I will never
use a 3-fly cast in my lake and reservoir fishing.
I do often use two flies in stream fishing; and
once every 10 or 15 years, I might even be persuaded
to tie on a third fly. ~ Marv
Marv Taylor's books, Float-Tubing The West,
The Successful Angler's Journal,
More Fragments of the Puzzle, (Volume I) and More
Fragments of the Puzzle, (Volume II) are all available from
Marv. You can reach Marv by email at
firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: 208-322-5760.