A series of articles aimed at helping to simplify the choice of fly patterns and fly tying materials, from top fly tyer Andy Wright, who is a member of the Congleton, Cheshire branch of the Fly Dresser’s Guild ( Andy will give step-by-step, easy to follow, illustrated instructions on how to tie each fly.


The Diawl Bach, or Little Devil (click for bigger picture)

Last months FM Fly Fishing Fish-in has helped to generate considerable interest in fly fishing with a number of FM members taking up this branch of the sport and also having a go tying their own flies.

There is no doubt that there is tremendous satisfaction to be gained from catching fish on an artificial fly that you have created yourself but if you are new to fly tying the range of fly patterns and the materials available can be a little confusing. What I intend to do over the next few months is to simplify things a little by suggesting a few well proven fly patterns that are relatively easy to tie and use a minimal range of materials. Each fly will be presented with step-by-step instructions on how to tie it and a few tips on how to fish it.

During late April and May the stillwater angler will find the fish feeding primarily on midge pupae (or buzzers as they have come to be known) and simple buzzer patterns tied with black, olive, brown or red thread and a silver wire rib will catch their fair share of fish. However, there will be times during May when weather conditions encourage other species of fly (such as olives or sedges) to hatch. Trout are no different to us in that they like some variety in their diet and will quickly switch off the buzzers for something that they find tastier or perhaps more nutritious. So the pattern I have chosen is more of a ‘non-descript’ nymph pattern that is not a close copy of anything in particular but is similar enough to a variety of aquatic creatures to be mistaken for them by the trout. It is readily taken by trout feeding on buzzers, sedge pupae, olive nymphs, shrimps, corixa, hoglice and even pin-fry. It works on rivers for both trout and grayling and I have caught several species of coarse fish on it including roach, rudd, bream and perch.

The pattern in question is the Diawl Bach. It originates, as you might have guessed, from Wales and in the Welsh language its name means ‘little devil’. The pattern (or one the many variants that have evolved) is often the first choice nymph for the stillwater competition angler – proof enough of it’s effectiveness. Although the boat competition anglers will fish it on all densities of line including ultra fast sinkers, it is really a floating line pattern for the bank angler. It can be fished singly or as part of a team and the retrieve should mimic the movement of whatever food items are around. Buzzers are relatively slow moving so the fly should be fished either dead drift on the breeze or with a slow figure of eight retrieve if the fish are feeding on them. Sedge pupae tend to swim rapidly up to the surface so if there are sedges about try fishing it faster with long pulls to make it rise in the water. The olive nymphs tend to swim with a jerky motion so try short pulls with a pause in between whenever pond or lake olives are around.

The basic pattern

Hook:Wet Fly sizes 10 – 14
Thread:Brown 8/0
Tail:Natural Red Game Cock Hackle Fibres
Body:Peacock Herl
Rib:Fine Copper Wire
Throat Hackle:Natural Red Game Cock

To tie the Diawl Bach

1.Fix the hook in the vice and start the thread about 1/16th of an inch behind the eye. Run the thread in touching turns down towards the bend stopping about half way along the shank.

Step 1 (click for bigger picture)

2.Select a bunch of 15 – 20 fibres from a large red game cock hackle and tie them in on top of the shank to form the tail. The length of tail protruding beyond the bend should be about the same length as the body.

Step 2 (click for bigger picture)

3.Take a few turns of thread over the tail fibres towards the bend to secure the tail then catch in a two inch length of fine copper wire. Continue the thread in touching turns to the point where the hook bend starts.

Step 3 (click for bigger picture)

4.Select a single strand of Peacock herl (pick one with plenty of fibres or flue on it as this will help to create a more attractive, mobile body). Tie in the herl by its tip, trim the waste tail fibre butts and run the thread in touching turns back to the starting point.

Step 4 (click for bigger picture)

5.Wind the Peacock herl in touching turns to where the thread is hanging and tie in with a couple of turns of thread. Try to keep the herl edge on to the shank so that the fibres stick out at right angles.

Step 5 (click for bigger picture)

6.Trim the waste end of the herl and rib the body by winding the copper wire in an open spiral (about five turns) towards the hook eye and tie in. Form the throat hackle by taking another bunch of red game cock hackle fibres and tie them in under the shank angled downwards towards the hook point. The fibres should reach slightly beyond the point.

Step 6 (click for bigger picture)

7.Trim the butt ends of the hackle fibres and form a neat head. Whip finish and varnish the head.

The finished Diawl Bach (click for bigger picture)

Variations on a theme

As with all successful fly patterns it isn’t long before fly tyers start to experiment and create variations of the original and the Diawl Bach is no exception. So when you have mastered tying the basic pattern why not try some of the variants below or create your own.

Create your own variety of the Diawl Bach (click for bigger picture)

Clockwise from the top: Standard pattern
Red headed – fluorescent red thread used to form the head
Pearl ribbed – stretched pearl tinsel used for the rib instead of copper wire
Orange hackled – hot orange dyed cock hackle fibres used for tail and throat instead of red game
Microbrite – Veniards microbrite synthetic chenille (rusty brown) used instead of Peacock for the body

I can’t guarantee that you’ll catch on them every time but have a go at tying and fishing with the ‘Little Devil’ (and some of it’s cousins) and let me know how you go on.