Online Fly Fishing Magazine

Draycote Dries

England International and Tuition and Guiding Manager at Draycote Water Tom Bird shares his flies and tactics for the warm weather surface feeders at Draycote Water.

As a guide, coach and competition angler, I am often asked why I fish the dry fly during the warm weather. The reasons are numerous and obviously include the satisfaction of casting to a rising fish and seeing it “head & tail” over the fly! Generally though, as water temperatures increase, an abundance of aquatic fly life, including buzzers, caenis, damsels and sedges are prompted to hatch. Trout will rise in the water column to feed on these food items together with other terrestrial insects such as daddy long legs from the crane fly family and beetles. Even when not actively feeding, fish that are roving in the upper layers will often be sufficiently intrigued by a wellpresented offering, seemingly trapped in the surface film, to rise and take the fly.

Even in flat calms big resident fish can be tempted.
Even in flat calms big resident fish can be tempted.

The Right Conditions

The weather conditions during the summer months can play a huge part not only with the success of dries but also the approach with regards to the areas, time of day, leader make up and fly selection. It is usual that most actual feeding will occur early in the morning and later towards evening when light levels diminish and temperatures drop. That’s not to say fish can’t be tempted to rise during hot summer daytimes but ideally a calm day is best. Otherwise a combination of ripple and sun will kill any hopes of dry fly sport.

Trout can often be seen on a hot calm day taking surface flies just as you head out in the boats in the mornings.

Flat Calms

Trout can often be seen on a hot calm day taking surface flies just as you head out in the boats in the mornings. This is when my eyes become one of my biggest assets in the lookout for fish that are moving consistently in the surface, not simply coming up once from the depths. I’ll often motor around quietly in search of such fish before deciding where I’ll make a start.

It’s likely they will either be taking spent adult buzzers or sedges that have dropped onto the water after surviving the night. There may possibly be early hatching buzzers too. In such calm conditions a quiet, stealthy approach is absolutely key. It is always best to spot your target fish and wait for it to come within a casting range of about 15-20 yards. Overcasting through rocking the boat can easily spook what is a wary quarry into never coming within a comfortable casting range. A single fly fished on a tapered leader is advantageous with thin co-polymer being a good choice. My normal leader set-up in this scenario is a 9-12ft knotless leader tapering to 6lbs with 4ft of 5lbs tippet to the fly.

Fish will be cruising around sipping flies carefully so it pays to cast within the general area of activity and wait for fish to locate your offering. Repeated blind casts on flat calms will invariably put fish down. My personal choice for co-polymer is Rio Powerflex Plus, a highly refined co-polymer which is exceptionally thin for the breaking strains available. A key point to remember in flat calms is that the surface tension will be high. This traps the leader preventing it from sinking. It is therefore crucial that it is thoroughly degreased with a high quality sinkant thus enhancing its ability to cut through. My personal preference is “Hunt’s Original Dive Deep” primarily because it contains tungsten. Fly choice for early morning raids is often a CDC Shuttlecock. These can be left in the surface for a long time when fished on co-polymer and imitate hatching buzzers well.

Overcast days are ideal for fishing the dries, but flat calms and sun shouldn’t always be ruled out for catching off the top.
Overcast days are ideal for fishing the dries, but flat calms and sun shouldn’t always be ruled out for catching off the top.

Tom’s Dries For Draycote

Hook: Kamsan B405, size10
Thread: Red UTC 70
Post/Tail: Tiemco Aero Dry
Rib: Silver wire
Body: Red seal’s fur
Hackle: Red game cock

Hook: Kamasan B170, size 12
Thread: Black UTC 70
Body: Hare’s ear
Rib: Mirage Opel, small
Thorax: Hare’s ear guard hair
Plume: Six CDC feathers

Hook: Kamsan B405, size 14
Thread: Wine UTC
Wing/Tail: Tiemco Aero Dry, single stand split down
Rib: Gold wire
Body: Rob Denson blood claret seal’s fur
Hackle: Furnace hen

Hook: Kamsan B405, size14
Thread: Black UTC 70
Wing/Tail: Tiemco Aero Dry, single stand split down
Rib: Silver wire
Body: Rob Denson jet black seal’s fur
Hackle: Black hen

Dries In The Wave

Summer can also throw up occasional near perfect dry fly conditions, with warm temperatures and overcast or broken skies. Wind speed doesn’t prevent fish taking a dry fly – even in a rough wave they will often continue feeding at the surface. In fact, after a period of warm calm weather a good blow will see fish populations right up in the surface in what becomes freshly oxygenated water.

In terms of fish location in stronger blows, upwind can often be a good place to look at the start of the day. This is because food gets blown onto the water in the lighter ripple. However, as the day progresses the fish will tend to follow the food out over the open water. In these conditions my approach will alter to that of flat calms. The first thing that changes is my casting style. I will now cast very frequently, perhaps every 15-20 seconds, with exploratory short casts in a fan motion around the boat. Normally only about two rod lengths of line are cast to avoid lining and spooking unseen fish and to enhance my own view of the fly. Casting short in such circumstances covers the water most effectively, seeking out surface feeding fish which most often rise to surface food within a few seconds of it landing on the water or hatching. Close quarter frequent casting from a drifting boat also allows you to effectively cover more water than a long cast left for longer periods…

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Fact File

Draycote Water

Tom is the Guiding & Tuition Manager for Fishery Management (UK) Ltd who manage Draycote, Eyebrook, Foremark & Thornton. To speak to Tom regarding guided sessions on any of these waters call him at Draycote on 01788 812018 or email

Tel: 01788 812 018
Postcode: CV23 8AB

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