Double Up - The good 'ol Kiwi combo
It had been a while since our last fish, although it’s memory was still fresh in our minds. A beautifully marked brown touching 4 pounds in the net had engulfed my friends’ emerger without hesitation, the strike true and the battle inevitable.
Now, two pools upstream Jeff was working along the base of a riffle when we both saw the dispersing rings of a good rise, midway up the next pool.
As I rejoined Jeff on his bank, we both crept along the river, eyes intent on being the first to sight the rising brown.
His neb broke the surface again, this rise more gentle than his previous.
Again a confident rise, a beetle or maybe a caddis on this mid November afternoon, some morsel the trout didn’t wish to escape.
My companion moved into position, and on my instruction had a sparsely tied para - dun attached to his 6x deceiver, an ever faithful on this productive mayfly stream.
The first drift was good, but with no interest from the fish.
While Jeff changed flies, the cunning brown again lifted, exploding the surface with this rise.
A beetle was selected, as a few naturals had been observed over the course of the afternoon.
This cast looked perfect, curling around upon completion and presenting the imitation with a slight ‘plop’, two metres above our target.
The fish glided towards the fly, but turned away with barely six inches to go.
A follow up cast with the same pattern again drew some interest from the fish, but with the same outcome. Fish on this heavily pressured stream are forever a challenge, so a change in tactic was called for.
Moving carefully to where my companion was positioned, I attached a short length of tippet to the bend of his dry, and to this affixed a small pheasant tail variant.
Firing this combo up into the foam Jeff readied himself as the fish again lifted towards the beetle.
Again the brown stopped short, but when the beetle paused in its drift moments later, Jeff lifted into a hefty fish, the trailing pheasant tail embedded firmly in it’s bottom jaw.
Using two flies is nothing new to New Zealand fly fishing circles.
The good old ‘Kiwi combo’ of a Royal Wulff and Hare and Copper has been used for many years in the backcountry, and variations are often employed on many of our lowland streams. Its provides a failproof indicator on wary trout, and depending on the pattern selected can be as bouyant and flambouyant or as subtle as the situation calls for.
It is also a favourite of many guides, whose clients fail to see the take of a solo nymph and enjoy having a visual aid so as to involve their sport in the strike.
But this is not the only reason the experienced prefer this method…
I have used a dry fly / nymph combo with success on many of our south island rivers, from heavy water on the Mararoa, to the gentler flows of the most idyllic spring creeks. By adapting your set up to the conditions presented most trout-faring waters can be successfully fished with this duo.
A small parachute or hi viz cdc pattern suspending a small PT would be the go for this Mataura riffle
For instance, in non hatch situations on the Mataura, a small beadhead beneath a Parachute will pull fish from within the riffles, whereas on heavier water such as found in the Mararoa, I would use a large humphy with a size 10 Ugly suspended below. On more ‘ponded’ streams or in the backwaters, a size 16 Adams used in conjunction with a bloodworm of similar size would be a logical choice. By matching both the size and pattern of the flies to the water encountered the possibilities are endless, and success is immanent.
This is also an effective method to employ when covering unfamiliar water, when no obvious feeding activity is taking place, and / or you encounter difficulty in locating the trout.
As demonstrated in the opening anctedote, this set up can prevail when trout are showing interest in your surface offering, but are not committed to the rise. In effect, the dry acts as an attractor, bringing the fish up for inspection and then the trailing nymph seals the deal.
This insight also comes in handy when trout are lying deep in the pools, often too deep for an effective nymph presentation. By tying on a large attractor, a Stimulator or large Wulff for example, the trout will often lift out of curiosity, coming within range of your suspended nymph.
Of course, non rising fish will often succumb to the dry, a regular occurrence on the faster waters of the Waiau, or Southern Lakes tributaries, where there are always a few ‘bows ready and willing to lift for a suitable morsel.
As well as the attractor qualities, the dry fly also aids in a drag free drift for the nymph, reducing the direct pull from the flyline, which would otherwise result in a restricted and unnatural subsurface presentation.
For this reason alone I would use an indicator of sorts for the majority of my nymph fishing, be it a small dry fly, a piece of yarn, putty or one of those horrible adhesive foam jobs.
A size 14 blowfly was the indicator which done the job on this avidly nymphing backcountry hog
I prefer to use a dry fly indicator for two reasons.
The first is that I have had too many trout rise to my yarn over the seasons past, and if a dry had of been employed, then some darn good trout would have come to the net.
Secondly, a subtle, more natural pattern can be used when needed, resulting in less trout spooked by a florescent piece of foam drifting past their heads.
The only restriction I find with a dry fly indicator is the distance between the dry and nymph, which can be comfortably cast. I find anything over a metre can become unwieldy for most people in the face of a Nor Wester. In these situations, or when a deeper drift is required, I would then use a natural coloured piece of poly yarn or putty, as small as I could comfortably see upon the water, to make for least wind resistence.
So what flies do I prefer in a dry / nymph combo?
Buoyancy is often a prerequisite, so Humphy’s, Royal Wulffs, Elk Hair Caddis etc come to mind as well as larger terrestrial patterns often of foam construction. The Royal Wulff has traditionally been the mainstay of indicator flies, it’s buoyant nature and high visibility calf tail wings, sealing its place in many a flybox. However, along with popularity comes familiarity and rumor has it that trout on some of the more heavily fished waters may actually spook when presented with a Wulff. Personally I believe this has more to do with the presentation rather than the fly itself.
With the modern popularity of home tiers incorporating foam into their flies, heavier nymphs can now be used to explore the depths, and the angler will spend less time (and dry-shake) keeping the traditional patterns upon the surface.
On gentler waters where the trout are wary and one may not get away with a larger pattern, I find parachute flies to preform perfectly.
Their perpendicular hackle sets the barbs flat across the surface, creating the perfect platform from which to suspend a nymph. Where traditionally hackled patterns may become waterlogged and sink, parachute flies remain buoyant, and are a perfect choice for riffly water.
Last season, to aid visibility of my fly, I had some para -duns tied up using hi - viz posts, and have since tested them upon the heavily pressured browns of the Upper Mataura with pleasing results. The orange and chartreuse coloured posts do not, I have found put off the trout in any way, and are highly visible in low light conditions. Those employing a black post stand out like the dogs bollocks in glary evening conditions upon the Mataura.
I prefer to tie the dropper direct to the bend of my dry fly, and have found very little evidence in my experience that this affects hook-ups on the dry in any way.
A friend of mine however, will swear ‘black and blue’ that the dropper must be connected to the eye of the dry, and anything else is inviting trouble. There are forever multiple schools of thought on any aspect of fly-fishing, and only experimentation will decide to which you belong.
A large foam terrestrial would be my choice for suspending a heavy nymph in this rough, headwater run.
Fishing a dry fly / nymph combo can open up new opportunities on days when things seem flat. So next time you find yourself prospecting new water or feel you’re hitting only a small proportion of the trout in a river, give the ‘Old Kiwi Combo’ a try - you too might soon become a convert.
Copyright 2010 Chris Dore.