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Avon Special
By Roy Christie, Harrow, UK

This was it. I was made up. I had just managed to arrange my first day on the crystal waters of the Upper Avon in Wiltshire. Having spent some years fishing lakes I was graduating to the hallowed waters popularised by Sawyer and Kite. I had my dry flies to hand, they had been ready for ages. There were patterns to cover everything known to float on, walk on and drop onto water. This was of course dry fly water until the sixteenth of June, dry and upstream nymph thereafter.

So it was, in 1983, that I parked up near Old Sarum a few miles upstream from Salisbury and took my Sharpe's 88 #5/6 past the hut and signed in. I took a token for the beat where the sluice empties the river into a great hatch pool with swirling back eddies, monster deeps, massive weed growth and a great river passing under the leafy canopy. There was a gentle upsteam wind and light cloud in a pale blue sky. It looked perfect on the map on the keepers board.

Johno the water keeper was a friendly and informative chap, dressed in a large hat, shirt, boots, waistcoat, flannels and chaps. One could tell he was a man who knew the countryside and particularly his stretches of water. He reckoned the pool contained some very good fish and they should be moving to surface fly throughout the day. I was recommended to try Black Midge #18; Adams #16, Wickhams Fancy; and to keep an eye open for any small caddis. I thanked this kind, wildly-bewhiskered gentleman for his advice and made my way along the river.

Keeping low on the journey upstream for about half a mile, in order not to disturb any of the beats for later, I noted lots of insect life, all manner of small bugs in the grass. Sedges were flitting and fluttering and lots of small mayfly duns were floating downstream against the light warm wind. Occasionally there would be a tell-tale ring where some unseen predator had just taken a morsel from the surface.

Arriving at the pool, which was a touch cooler than the preceeding half mile, I surveyed it's complex flows. It was everything I could hope for - fast water; back eddies, long glides, broken water and broken light as the sun filtered through the trees. And the fish were on the fin, feeding on something unidentifiable in the surface film. Idyllic.

I was ready to disturb this idyll by stealth and cunning. Prior to my lake fishing in Southern England, I had grown up by a trout strean, where I had had outstanding success with the dry fly and upstream nymph on the moorlands. Now I was about to address the fish of the Avon.

Putting a tiny Tups Indispensible on a 3lb tippet, I set it to drift over an area where an impressive ring had disturbed the glide not long back. As the size 16 prize floated down there was a sip under the fly; but the Tups carried on downriver - rejected - not good enough. Changing to a #18 Adams, I checked that the landing net was free and ready. I put the Adams on a Shepherd's Crook cast, so the fly preceeded the leader and she drifted down towards the feeding monster. Again a tiny sip; again the fly floated on down. A second cast had the same response. The third received no attention! I seemed to be having a problem with this fish.

Replacing the fly with a size 18 Black Gnat should sort him out. I reeled in and rested him for a few minutes while I changed the fly. The cuckoo was singing, the butterflies were doing what they best do under the canopy of the trees. It was still a beautiful day.

I put the Black Gnat on the tippet; floating line and leader with degreased point and checked for knots. All was perfect. My pal the brownie, now rising regularly, had restarted feeding.

I mentally prepared the cast. It was a long way, maybe eighteen yards across the slack water to get the fly on the faster glide with a little compensation for the back eddy. I dropped a couple of yards extra and the gnat fell fine. I removed a yard of slack line and the fly glided just right, right over the head of a fifteen inch brown trout who came up, inspected the delicate offering and turned down to his lair in distain. Obviously I had encountered an educated fish. I had heard about these. I moved upstream a few yards to survey the rest of the pool.

Everything I could have wished for was in that pool. It was a perfect holding area for brown trout, grayling, chub in the back eddies; even occasionally an Avon salmon, huge and formidable.

Some trout were moving up ahead so I thought to cut to the chase. There were four or five of them feeding hard in the main stream. I presented my gnat. There was a boil under the fly but no connection. This process was repeated until the fish stopped feeding.

Now I could see why fishing the nymph was so popular. What I needed was a nymph, just in - not on the surface, as that was what the trout were locked on to.

Nothing else would suffice.

I decided on my return home, fishless, of course, to design a fly which - whilst within the dry fly rule - would represent the mayfly at the point of emergence from its shuck at the surface of the water.

The next week, 'dry flies' at the ready - the Avon Special Emergers in their prized position, representing the hatching mayfly - I set off toward Old Sarum once again.

The hatch pool was occupied. I took the one below, also a lovely beat. Fish were rising, refusing the dry flies again. I put on the new emerger in a medium olive #16 and drifted it down the glide. In twenty minutes I caught two lovely brown trout and three beautiful grayling. The fish were returned to show disdain another day.

The Avon Special will fish upside down in the surface film with the wing sticking upward from the bend of the hook, for purposes of aerodynamics and visibility.

Materials: Avon Special

    Hook: Longshank up-eyed grub/scud hook.

    Thread: Uni yellow 8/0.

    Hackle: High quality indian cree, dyed gold, as a general pattern. Any good hackle of your choice will do. Tie to match the hatch.

    Rib: Fine copper wire or mono tippet.

    Tails: Hare's mask fibres, or hackle fibres.

    Abdomen: Medium olive dubbing mix, to match the hatch.

    Thorax: Orange/olive dubbing mix, to match the hatch.

Tying Instructions: Avon Special

1. Place hook securely in vise, as shown, and run the thread to halfway round the bend.

2. Tie in a woodduck or mallard body feather as a wing as shown. Wing height should be about one and a half times the hook gape.

3. Tie in a rooster hackle to match the hatch. The hackle barbs should be about one and a quarter times hook gape. A good quality Indian hackle performs well. Cree is great, dyed gold.

4. Run the thread back to the hook eye, tying in the ribbing wire.

5. Tie in the hare's ear fibres for nymph tails.

6. Apply dubbing mixture for the abdomen to the thread.

7. Wind dubbing mixture onto the abdomen and secure with a two turn whip.

8. Rib body with wire, secure; cut off excess.

9. Wind hackle into hook bend, as shown.

10. Wind thread up thorax area and one third way through the hackle.

11. Now nip out the hackle tip and pull the hackle up over the wing. Wind the thread back over the hackle roots (funneldun style).

12. Dub thorax mixture onto thread.

13. Wind the dubbing as a thorax, secure with a four turn whip finish.

14. Apply another tiny pinch of dubbing to the thread.

15. Use it to whip finish over the previous knot and hide it.

16. Pull the whip finish into place.

19. Completed fly.

20. Pick out some fibres from the thorax area for nymph legs.

21. Completed fly, again.

Fishing Tips:

This fly is special for me because it proved to be the perfect resolution to a problem encountered with fussy and selective trout. It is especially great as it was my first introduction to the beautiful grayling. Also the fly can be modified to imitate midges and is particularly useful in flat calm conditions. It even evolved into a reversed parachute fly but then that is another story. ~ Roy Christie

About Roy:

Roy Born 1953 near the Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland; started fishing when I was four or five, flyfishing a few years later, tying flies since I was about ten years old, bred bantams ducks and pheasants for their feathers. Self taught tyer, learned from Hanna, Skues, Stewart and Pritt. There were fairies at the bottom of the garden and a trout stream at the end of the first field.

When the stream was dredged in the late 1960's I rebuilt it as a self cleaning entity producing a good head of brown trout.

Founder member of the Wandle Wands, the self-appointed group for restoration of the River Wandle, a tributary of the Thames in London UK, once a designated sewer, now producing wild fish in excess of ten pounds.

My river flies are mainly nymphs from Skues; my Avon Special emerger, developed for English chalkstreams 1981; my Reversed Parachute and Cranky Cripple emergers, similarly designed for those canny southern browns; my EasyPeasyUSD for presenting an effective light pattern to fish feeding on the adult insects and the Flat Spent Spinner, for the tail end of the hatch.

Favourite flies include the hare's ear & copper wire nymph; CDC & Elk, Skues' Little Red Sedge and various homespun caddis patterns for pupa and adults.

Ambitions to ensure my grandchildren have a beautiful planet to live on and to live forever by an ever changing stream full of trout grayling and salmon.

Other minor obsessions - Citroen DS and Sharpes Canes. ~ Roy


For more great flies, check out: Beginning Fly Tying, Intermediate Fly Tying and Advanced Fly Tying.


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