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The Flat Daddy – Andy Taylor Guest Blog

The Flat Daddy – Andy Taylor Guest Blog

Who's Your Daddy?

As Autumn floats in so to does the last opportunity to fish on the surface as fly anglers across the UK search their boxes for the Daddy Long Legs or the Crane Fly as it's more widely known. Upavon’s UK based consultant Andy Taylor shares his Flat Daddy fly, a must have pattern for the next few weeks.

Autumn is seen by many fly anglers as the final season to match the hatch as nature’s larder re-opens. This brings a range of food items for the trout and some superb fishing for the angler after the summer doldrums. There is no doubt that the dog days of summer seem to be getting longer, which is a worry for our sport in the UK, so when the autumnal action kicks in we need to get out on the water and support our superb stillwater fisheries.

Once the water temperatures drop and the oxygen levels increase trout in stillwater’s will start to search for food. This years coarse fish fry, snails, shrimp and hoglouse will form part of the trout’s diet as they search weedbeds, overhanging bankside vegetation and any other structure. Terrestrials too will also be on the menu with beetles and other land borne insects catching the Trout’s eye, with the Daddy Long Legs being one species which the trout and fly angler look forward to.

Daddy Designs

There are many daddy patterns out there now and these variants are used on stillwaters all year round. But it’s Autumn that many anglers search their boxes for a large gangly dry daddy pattern to fish on the surface waiting for that splashy rise.  The range of daddy patterns out there is huge, all usually incorporate knotted Pheasant tail fibres to match the natural long legs, most are tied with some form of foam/detached body and some have beautiful wings to create a pattern that sits high in the water. There are also many wet fly style patterns, these tend not to have any foam, and of course there are a range of beaded and vibrator type daddies to fish a little deeper. However for me, it’s the Flat Daddy, which I reach for first. This is a daddy variant I designed many years ago after a day at Elinor Trout Fishery in Northampton. There were huge numbers of daddies in the rushes around the lake. As you walked through these rushes the daddies lifted and were soon scrambling for their lives on the surface of the water. The Trout on the upwind bank couldn’t help themselves and as soon as the natural hit the surface they took them. The dry fishing on this bank was superb; as soon as my dry hit the surface it was gone! I decided to try the downwind bank to see if the fishing was just as good. Here the rise forms were different- not the splashy quick rises like on the opposite bank, here the fish were sipping, slowly moving through the ripple. The standard foam daddy didn’t work here, the fish just boiled round it. The usual degreasing of the leader, going down a hook size, fishing finer just didn’t work.

Whilst stood in the water in the margins I noticed a dead daddy that had made it across the lake. Most of the fly was in and below the surface film, and it was these drowned daddies, which the fish were targeting. I fished wet daddies for the rest of the afternoon, which brought some success but I had to fish them quick to keep them near the surface where the fish were feeding and this is where the Flat Daddy was created that evening at home. Since this day I’ve found the Flat Daddy to be a hugely successful pattern, mainly in the autumn, but also at other times of the year. It’s a fly that works well on the small waters and big reservoirs either fished static, stroked back through the wave or just a steady figure-of-eight retrieve. The key with this pattern is that it sits flat in the surface, the ideal place for the Trout to easily suck beneath the surface. It’s also easier and quicker to tie than most dry daddies, which is another bonus!

Buggy Appearance

Some may argue as to how close a copy of a daddy it is, its generic buggy appearance probably is one of the reasons why fish take the fly so well. I like to use the long, spikey guard hairs from Hare or Rabbit skins for the body along with Seal’s fur for some of the variants. I use six knotted pheasant tail legs tied underneath along with usually three turns of cock hackle. The foam back ensures that most of the “life” to the fly is underneath. I have found the Upavon Premium HD Foam to be the best as it gives more buoyancy than other foam (important as I like to tie this fly on a heavier wet fly hook), it can be stretched to give a thinner back and clips tighter and neater when stretched before cutting, reducing too much bulk at the head.

I have found a fine pearl or irese rib to be best, other ribs don’t seem to be as effective. Using a red thread works on most of the patterns, with the rear end of the foam in most of the patterns tied in either red or orange. Semperfli’s red and orange are good threads or 6/0 Uni.  A biggish head also works so don’t be too worried when tying if you end up with a large thread head. I think it acts as a target point for the fish. I like a size 10 or 12 wet fly hook for this pattern. Fine-wire hooks haven’t worked for me having experienced many straighten out on powerful, end of season, fish. A good solid wet fly/nymph hook is my favourite as it’s strong and reliable and it helps sit the daddy flat in the surface. A down eyed hook works best as it holds the leader sub surface allowing you to fish it wet if need. You wont go far wrong with the barbless Dohiku Wet SL in a 12 or 10.

On the Water

Generally I will fish two of these patterns on a 14ft leader spaced 7ft apart. I will usually fish 6 or 7lb b/s tippet,  fluorocarbon for when there is a good ripple so I can also fish them back in the wave or co-polymer when it is flat calm or there is a gentle ripple. In these conditions I like to keep my casting to a minimum to avoid spooking fish and fish them static. However, if you want to stroke or figure-of-eight the flies back then cast a little further covering all the water and angles in front of you. I will also use the fly on the point of a washing line cast with two Cormorants or Diawl Bachs on the dropper with the added benefit of them sinking the line. The fly is also fine fished on its own and when fishing dry I will treat the fur body with Hunt’s Original Up High. The different colour foam backs aid sighting, it’s surprising how far away you can see the yellow foam backed daddy! Takes will come when fished as a dry, retrieved or fished static. It has accounted for good bags of fish for me and others so why not give it a try this Autumn!

Natural Flat Daddy

Hook:  Dohiku Wet Barbless, size 12

Thread: Semperfli Fl. red thread

Foam Back: 2mm Upavon Premium HD foam, tan

Rib: Fine pearl or irese

Body: Natural Rabbit or Hare

Legs: Six knotted pheasant tail fibres

Hackle: Light cock game hackle

This is by far the best of the Flat Daddies especially on the big waters. This fly is rarely off my leader in the autumn. I usually fish it on the point of a two fly cast with an orange Flat Daddy on the dropper or on a three fly cast with a small Blob or FAB on the top dropper. 

Black Flat Daddy

Hook: Dohiku Wet Barbless, size 12

Thread: Semperfli Fl. red or black thread

Foam Back: 2mm Upavon Premium HD foam, black

Rib: Fine pearl or irese

Body: Black Seal’s fur

Legs: Six knotted pheasant tail fibres, red

Hackle: Dark cock game hackle

This fly works well on the smallwaters. I’ve also had good success with this at Brenig and for wild brownies. This is a fly, which has worked well earlier in the season on the small waters I fish.

Yellow/Orange Flat Daddy

Hook: Dohiku Wet Barbless, size 12

Thread: Semperfli Fl. orange thread

Foam Back: 2mm Upavon Premium HD foam, orange/yellow

Rib: Fine pearl or irese

Body: Natural Rabbit or Hare

Legs: Six knotted pheasant tail fibres

Hackle: Light cock game hackle

Two variants to try, which have worked well for me as top dropper flies on a two fly daddy cast.

For more information on how to tie the Flat Daddy, please watch the tutorial from Upavon Consultant Tim Joyce at this YouTube link.

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Mike Warburton - October 23, 2023

I can confirm all your observations Andy. The Flat Daddy works consistently well at Coldingham Loch and the two winning colours seem to be Tan and or Black.
Superb fly all year round. 👍

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