Nick Thomas on his winter fly box
Sometime around the time of the first frosts of the year the bracken jungle along the river dies back and allows access to the good gravel runs that have been inaccessible through the summer. That’s the when I put away my shorter rods and break out the 11ft 3wt. It’s time for fishing a heavy nymph along the bottom after the big grayling.
With the trout season finished, my fly box tends to come all over a bit Barbara Cartland. The number of brown and olive nymphs gradually reduces as they get replaced with shades of pink from subtle to fluorescent. At the start of a session my standard point fly is a Hare & Pink with a 4mm tungsten bead and a dropper nymph that varies according to mood; either mine or the fish’s.
Sometimes I’ll put a natural coloured nymph on the dropper; either some form of guilt at fishing two non-natural looking patterns, or just hedging my bets. On other days, particularly if there’s a tinge of colour in the water, I’ll go straight to a pink on pink combination. The Pinklet is a prime candidate for the dropper position in these circumstances. I developed the pattern last year and it’s had some very thorough testing; I do seem to have had a lot of pink days recently.
Naming a new fly can be a troublesome thing. You don’t want to cause confusion by duplicating an existing name. A memorable name is desirable. It’s always a good thing when a fly works well for anglers that they can tell others without resorting to “well it’s something I saw on the internet, the name escapes me though, but I think it’s got some squirrel in it…”
I was going to call this one the Piglet, because it’s pink and chubby and well, looks like a piglet. A quick peruse of Google, always a good thing to do when naming a fly, revealed a salmon fly tied by the eminent Mr McPhail. Not Piglet then. Some head scratching later I settled on Pinklet; encapsulating the essence of something being pink and small, and a new word to boot. Job done. Feeling moderately pleased with myself, I checked Google again.
Bugger. Apparently pinklet does exist as a noun in the English lexicon, albeit as urban slang for a pink sausage-like thing. OK, but there isn’t a fly by that name, so Pinklet is what it’s going to be. Look, I know that you’re going to have to go and Google ‘Pinklet’, so get it done now before reading on.
The key thing about the Pinklet is that it’s designed to combine two materials to yield something which is more than the sum of the parts. The same principle works for other colours should you want to make an olive or yellow or brown nymph. Let me explain.
Small invertebrates, i.e. nymphs and pupa of aquatic insects, are transparent or translucent to a greater or lesser degree. It’s a matter of scale. Big things like us tend not to be transparent. We are simply too thick for light to shine through, apart for some bits of us which are fairly thin, like skin; which is why you can see red if you put your hand over a bright light. Nymphs and grubs are small; small enough for light to penetrate, bounce around the internal structure and come out again.
Flies tied with natural materials hint at transparency and translucence by using herl or dubbing to give an illusion of life and layers within a body. They achieve this by softening the edges, mixing in different colours and generally trying to modify the way light interacts with something wrapped around a bit of pointy steel. Basically, by making the body thicker than the hook while incorporating pockets of air space between the dubbing or feather fibres light can make its way through. It’s an illusion, but it works.
The Pinklet takes a different approach using a base colour and texture to shine through a transparent overlying layer. The overlapping layers of pale pink organza fibres represent the underlying muscle and other organs of an insect pupa. The transparent body wraps render the shape of the outer skin while allowing the internal structure to show through. Each segment of the transparent body acts as a tiny lens, magnifying the underlying structure and highlighting the different colours produced by light bouncing around inside.
The effect may not be obvious to the naked eye when you pick it out of the fly box on a cold autumn or winter morning. But the fish can see it.
Hook Hanak H333BL or any curved grub hook size 10-14
Thread UTC 70 fluorescent pink
Rib 3-4lb nylon monofilament
Back Hends Spectra Flash pink
Body Hends Body Glass clear
Underbody Pink organza ribbon
We had a massive flood on the Taff recently and while the river didn’t stay up for very long, an awful lot of stuff got shifted downstream. It was spooky to wade under overhanging trees and look up at weed and leaves caught in the branches 12 feet or more overhead. When the river had dropped to a fishable level it was still carrying a bit of colour, so I had a Pinklet as my dropper fly for several days in a row. The river fished really well despite a lot of changes in the river bed. I assume that the grayling were making the most of new sources of food being washed out of the disturbed gravel.
Being an urban river for much of its length the Taff gets more than its fair share of man-made junk. Traffic cones, plastic barriers and men-working signs seem to be more common than usual this year. Perhaps they simply get tired of sitting on bridges for weeks on end when no actual work is being done and decide to end it all.
You catch some interesting things bouncing a heavy nymph over the gravel. Last time out my indicator stopped mid drift and I lifted into a heavy jagging resistance with all the signals of a heavy grayling. I applied side strain and reeled in to get the fish out of the strong current before it could twist off the hook. It took a while to dawn on my chilled brain that despite all the vibrations coming up the line, this was not a fish. I moved upstream a little and pulled more firmly. It was a long woollen sock, hooked firmly in the toe and in perfect condition.
I haven’t caught a bra recently, though I’ve had several in the past. My PB is a 38DD; it was hooked in June, fresh-run, fought strongly and the label was still readable as I unhooked it. I don’t choose to speculate too closely on how it got to be in the river. Something to do with the long hot summer evenings no doubt.
For a step by step guide to tying the Pinklet plus some autumn grayling fishing watch the video below. If you are wading this winter, if you’ve got one, do keep your pinklet warm.