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Foam: The Material For All Seasons.

Foam: The Material For All Seasons.

There is a popular saying in North America, “foam is home”, which is in relation to the foam seams in the rivers, but the same applies to foam flies and boy do they mean it. Whether fishing on still waters or rivers our cousins over the pond are rarely found without some form of foam at the end of the line, either to hook fish or provide bite indication. This has given birth to a number of popular patterns such as Bionic Ants, Hoppers (Grass Hoppers), Stoneflies and Gurglers that account for many fish.
Here in the UK, we tend to focus predominantly on using foam for boobys and FABs on the still waters and detached bodies on the rivers. But there are so many options and untapped possibilities that foam materials can provide over and beyond other floating options.
Firstly, good quality foam doesn’t absorb water, so unlike CDC or yarns it doesn’t need re-treating every couple of casts and doesn’t get written off when covered in fish slime. Secondly, it floats even when submerged, providing you with either a neutrally buoyant or rising action on the retrieve. Thirdly, you can ‘bully’ foam flies a lot more than other materials, skate, twitch, pull, dap and mend lines without sinking the fly allowing you with a multitude of ways to induce a take from otherwise wary fish.
And finally, it’s a material for all seasons, and will catch through the year from the surface of rivers to the deck of large reservoirs. In the cold, hot, windy or flat calm there is always a foam fly that you can get out the box and it will produce the goods. It’s available in a huge range of dark and bright colours and can be cut to any shape ensuring providing huge variety in any conditions through the year. So here are eight of my top foam patterns that will catch from spring to winter.
Detached Body Hawthorn
Hook: Dohiku P Size 14
Thread: UTC 70 Black
Body: Upavon Tapered Bug Body on black Premium HD foam.
Thorax: Black cock hackle.
Wing: TMC Aerowing and Krystal Flash.
Legs: Black knotted Pheasant tail.
I first used this pattern many years ago at Press Manor Fishery in Derbyshire which enjoyed some excellent surface sport and was lined with Hawthorn bushes. A small size 14 foam bodied variant used to be lethal during the hatch and accounted for a lot of fish either static or twitched across the surface. This version imitates the larger female and is extremely buoyant, sitting on rather than in the surface. A fantastic early season dry pattern, it’s been a regular in my river and stillwater boxes ever since.
Mayfly Spinner
Hook: Dohiku P Size 14.
Thread: UTC 70 Brown.
Body: Upavon Tapered Bug Body on tan Premium HD foam with brown marker pen spots.
Thorax: Glow in the dark UV resin.
Wing: Generic cock hackle.
I’m lucky enough to be a member on a very healthy and diverse Wiltshire Avon beat which is host to some incredible Mayfly hatches. But with so many snacks to choose from, it was sometimes frustrating to get the fish to notice my fly over other options. I needed a highly buoyant fly that I could mend the line with, bully across the surface and induce a take. Driven by this requirement I sourced our tan foam blocks and sheets which provide a perfect imitation for Mayfly bodies and has since replaced all other materials in my box. This fly is so robust and can be fished dead drift, twitched and skated without any requirement to be dried or treated.
Magic Wand Emerger
Hook: Flybox Comp Barbless Size 12.
Thread: UTC 70 Black.
Tag: Holographic red tinsel.
Body: Black Vicuna Dubbing.
Rib: UTC Red Wire.
Head: Upavon Bionic HD foam block and drilled with a 3.5mm Gunville Foam Cutter and cut to length
The inspiration for this fly came from the popular American Bionic Ant pattern, a fly tied by using white tipped black foam cylinders. I experimented with gluing our Super Soft sheets to our HD blocks using spray glue and produced these excellent ‘magic wands’ to use for traditional UK emerger and suspender patterns. This approach allows you to match the foam to the body of the fly providing a darker subsurface presentation with a bright sighter or trigger on the tip. I sometimes prefer foam headed emergers, particularly on small still waters where you can twitch them back for that induced take.
Chadwicks Balloon Caddis
Hook: Flybox Comp Barbless Size 12.
Thread: UTC 70 Olive.
Tail: Yellow TMC Aerowing.
Body: Chadwicks 477 yarn or Vicuna Chadwicks Sub.
Rib: Micro copper wire.
Wing: CDC and Deer hair.
As a member of Frank Sawyer’s beat of the River Avon I’ve always tried to fish his transformational patterns such as the PTN and Killer Bug. The latter is tied with Chadwicks 477 yarn which ceased production decades ago and is highly sought after due to its historical and fish catching properties. I have managed to accumulate a few cards over the years, and rather than place it in a display cabinet, I like to tie with it. This pattern was a combination of that rich history and one of the best summer flies on our stretch. The Balloon Caddis is ages old, but the addition of a high visibility thorax and the 477 body has resulted in something quite special.
Indicator Beetle
Hook: Dohiku P Size 12.
Thread: Black UTC 140.
Tag: 5mm Pink Premium HD foam cut with Gunville Foam Cutter.
Body: Upavon Premium HD black foam cut with. 7mm Gunville Foam Cutter.
Legs: Black knotted Pheasant tail.
Thorax: Black Semperfli Straggle String.
The most effective method on the Wiltshire Avon is the Duo or New Zealand style, normally fished with a klinkhammer or caddis pattern and a size 16-20 weighted nymph. Last summer I witnessed fish feeding on flying ants and beetles and eventually identified them as a school of Chub. I later tied this pattern in case the opportunity came again, but with this pattern I could hang a larger nymph beneath it and fish at greater range. Chub on the fly is still on the bucket list, I’m hoping this fly will tick it off.
Daddy Long Legs
Hook: Flybox Comp Barbless Size 12.
Thread: UTC 70 Brown.
Legs: Natural knotted Pheasant tail.
Body: Grey Premium HD foam cut to 2.8mm with Gunville Foam Cutter
Thorax: Cock hackle
Wing: Brown cock hackle and krystal flash.
This is without doubt my favourite and most productive large water and river autumn dry fly and represents the most exciting fishing in the back end of the season. Whether fishing upstream on a river or drifting on reservoirs this pattern fails to disappoint. Orange bodies are synonymous with Draycote Water where you can enjoy some great sport, and even win a few competitions. Don’t just fish it on the surface, give it a pull or fish on a sink tip to get it hovering sub surface where it can also be deadly.
The Low Light Bung
Hook: Dohiku WSL Size 12
Thread: Pink Glo Bright
Tag: 5mm yellow Premium HD foam cylinder
Body: 9mm pink Premium HD foam cylinder
While fishing the bung at an annual winter bank match at Manningford Fishery a few years back I was frustrated that I couldn’t see the indicator at range on a particularly dreary day. So as a solution I adapted a self-tied bung using foam cylinders rather than yarn to ensure that it wasn’t only bright but also sat high in the water to stand out. This pattern does exactly that, and with the option to add some glow in the dark resin you can see this thing from the moon. Try and keep it as short as possible and cut the tags down to avoid it spinning and causing line twist.
Floating Grafham Killer Shrimp
Hook: Dohiku HDN Size 10.
Thread: UTC 70 Fire Orange.
Tail: Generic cock hackle
Body: Grey Premium HD foam cut to 3.5mm with Gunville Foam Cutter
Rib: Micro gold wire
Thorax: Hares Ear
I really enjoy fishing for Grafham shrimp feeders from the bank during the winter, you get some savage takes and great sport. I’ve been playing about with different imitations for some time, but this one inspired by guide Tim Joyce has been a standout favourite. Vary the amount of foam and avoid touching turns to maintain buoyancy to get different sink rates. Neutrally buoyant is the best presentation to imitate the free swimming and stunned shrimp and time spent testing them in a glass of water is seldom wasted. Chuck them out, leave them static and hang on.
Tight Lines,
Originally written for Today's Fly Fisher Magazine
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