The Evolution of new Still Water fly patterns – Rob Edmunds

New stillwater fly patterns

There is very little truly revolutionary in Still Water Fly Fishing yet every generation seems to provide at least one new idea or at the very least a distinct improvement on a current thinking. To me, this is not a case of stealing someone’s original idea but refining and developing it for a specific purpose. If things didn’t progress and we didn’t accept change then we would all still be using landlines rather than mobile phones…

The Foam Arsed Blob or FAB as it is better known is a pattern that I once rarely used.  For years I wasn’t totally convinced as to the benefits of the pattern over a small booby in everyday fishing. The only time I would actually use the pattern was when a fishery or competition specifically banned boobies but still allowed buoyant flies on sinking lines. For me, it was simply a way to abide by the fishery or competition rules yet still present a buoyant fly on a sinking line. I appreciate many will think that morally I’m acting incorrectly – I accept your view, but simply justify my actions as a way of pioneering new methods and pushing the sport further forward, after all, I’m at a fishery or in a match to catch fish, not cast flies into the water!

My main reasoning for usually favouring the booby was that I have always liked the increased disturbance caused by the foam eyes when moved. this disturbance is felt by fish down their lateral line and attracts them to your fly. In addition, a booby doesn’t sit “tail up” as does a FAB which can lead to inefficient hookups especially when fished ultra slowly or static. The only positive for me was Fabs don’t spin and twist up the leader like a booby so became used more frequently as my dropper patterns.

Contrary to popular belief the Fab was originally know simply as the “foam tail” and was incorporated into a number of patterns (sparklers and cormorants) by my Nymphomaniac teammate Gareth Jones way back in the mid 1980’s and like many serious competition anglers he kept the pattern a closely guarded secret, not wanting it to go mainstream as he feared it would dilute its effectiveness on the competition circuit.

It was inevitable that other thinking anglers would develop similar patterns and in the mid 1990’s a fly called the “reverse booby” and was being used with great success on the southern still waters. The Bewl trout loved a booby on a floating line, and it was a method that always seemed to gain the trout’s interest.  But due to the size of the booby eyes fish would often struggle to get a large booby in their mouth as it was too bulky – obviously smaller boobies were used by anglers but these didn’t float or provide enough disturbance.  Anglers eventually designed a pattern that incorporated a thin foam cylinder at the back of the fly in order to give the pattern enough buoyancy to remain in the surface layers but a much slimmer profile so the fish would swallow it more readily, as with most successful patterns it was kept relatively quiet for a number of years and again only used by a select few on the match circuit.

The pattern became popular when David Murray gave Scottish anglers Campbell Morgan and Jim Crawford a few examples of the reverse booby,  after a competition on Llyn Brenig in Wales, they took them back to Scotland and used them with great success on waters such as the Lake of Menteith. Again the idea naturally developed and was incorporated into the matchmans favourite fly “the blob” and so a blob with a foam tail became known as the Foam Arsed Blob or FAB. The pattern slowly began to gain popularity – and by around 2004 the Fab as it had now become known could be found in the majority of most top competition anglers fly boxes.

Over that last 5 years I’ve been experimenting a great deal with buoyant and neutral density patterns, I’m convinced the size and buoyancy of a pattern and how it acts underwater has a massive effect on the number of takes an angler gets.

I accept that when fish are first stocked they love movement and will chase almost any fly even dries and nymphs.  However, it’s when the fish wise up due to angling pressure that most anglers struggle. Large bulky flies are just followed and takes become sporadic and often hesitant.

Think logically for a moment – naturally, almost everything the fish will feed on doesn’t drop through the water column like a brick (like most patterns do – especially the weighted ones) it’s totally unnatural. Most foods, daphnia, terrestrials, buzzers hang in the water almost suspended slowly rising and falling on the currents.

It’s for this reason that “neutral density” and micro flies are now a major part of the competition anglers armory.  On hard fished waters and in major competitions the best tactic recently has been to simply fish small patterns that literally hang in the water, small micro boobies and Fabs have been essential if you want to succeed.

If you come from a course fishing background you will notice how effective any free-lined bait is compared to one fished on a float or ledger… a fly on your leader is really no different – you need to eliminate drag and un-natural movement when the fish become wised up or pressured.

I’ve been playing about with Fab’s and Boobies for around 2 years now – basically trying different idea’s and patterns to try and make marked improvements on the originals as the general idea of both patterns is faultless. My research although crude has involved the filling of a bath up with water, dropping patterns in tied to a range of fluorocarbons and causing underwater currents with my hands or the taps to see exactly how the fly behaves.

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My goal was to produce a very small buoyant booby/blob pattern that remained slim in the water when retrieved but also one that exploded and really bulked out when fished static. Despite using a wide range of materials that even involved coating the fritz in dry fly floatants etc… I’ve concluded that the simplest ideas are often the best. I simply crossed a Fab and a small-eyed booby – just as I once combined a cruncher and a diawl bach to arrive at the “Nemo” The foam tail runs the length of the hook to give as much buoyancy to the pattern as possible yet remains slim (a size 12 or 14 Fulling Mill Competition Heavyweight hook is used) – the small booby eyes cause disturbance and movement to the pattern when retrieved, yet remain small enough not to cause any hooking problems. The other big advantage I have discovered through use is that the pattern rises and holds horizontally in the water, allowing for better hookups, The foam tail even stabilises the pattern to a certain extent when retrieved meaning the fly doesn’t spin up as much as a standard booby… this is a pattern that definitely catches fish a lot of fish although it’s not one for the purist.

I personally think that when the trout are just holding at a specific depth in the water, cruising slowly and not really in a feeding mood they suck in any food which tends to be smaller items, rather like a carp or tench sucks in silt to filter it for food etc… the bigger flies don’t act or behave like a natural food item when caught by underwater currents – in that I mean they don’t get moved much by the displacement of water and don’t get sucked in to the fishes mouth quickly and easily. The smaller more buoyant flies move a lot more when sucked in, just like natural food does the end result is the fly is often deep in the back of the throat and the fish easily hooked. Obviously, the pattern is far from ideal for catch and release waters/competitions.

Hook: Fulling Mill Competition Heavyweight Size 12 or 14
Fritz: FNF Jelly Fritz 15mm –  3 – 4 turns total
Tail: 3mm booby cord (tied the length of the hook)
Eyes: 4mm booby cord

When tying this pattern I feel that I must point out that it’s essential to use the correct materials, FNF Fritz is an absolute must, because it creates a really slim profile in the water when the fly is moved, yet bulks out when there is a pause in the retrieve or fished static. The thin profile means that the small hook (again absolutely essential) will actually set and hook the fish on the take. The fritz is extremely limp and pulsates in the water providing movement with even the slowest of figure of eights.

Older style fritz is simply too bulky and stiff, it doesn’t offer any movement at slow speeds and masks the hook point and gape… pressured fish take tentatively and this combination of factors means that you do not set the hook and lose the majority of fish while playing them.

On hard fished waters the pattern is deadly – it recently proved its worth in the Sportfish International Team Final on Chew and Blagdon where on the second day it accounted for 5 of my 7 fish allowing me to be the top rod on the day.

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