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Float Tube Fishing in Ireland

Having a really great time fishing from the world's best floating fishing platform

Fly Fishing for Big Brown Trout in Large Loughs from Float Tubes .....

Fly Patterns with Proven Track Records for Catching Exceptionally Big Brown Trout

Several flies shown here look similar in a general way, with a common underlying theme. These flies are consistent catchers of large brown trout (over 8 lbs) worldwide, and with a few exceptions, imitate fish, fry, and crustaceans.

Bear in mind that your local prey colour and location must be represented for best results.

The big trout recipe is relatively big - usually a minnow or other fish, a leech, a shrimp or crayfish.  That's big relative to a midge. Remember a large trout eats fish up to 1/3rd it's length, so a 25" trout has no problem dealing with an 8" fish, but today  it may be mopping up a shoal of 1" perch fry instead. So blindly using large flies may be counterproductive. It's the size of the trout's food choice today  that matters.

Smaller imitations of flies and nymphs are not to be ignored. Where the big trout are under about 11lbs a heavy hatch of big fly like sedges, mayfly, will get big browns feeding on them, and when they are, that is the food item to copy and present.

Brown trout become piscivorous at about 4 lbs and meat dinners is the way to place your bets. It seems to me that over 5lbs the small fly is losing it's pulling power even on fly rich loughs like Sheelin.
On these very fertile loughs, experienced old hands get fish from 5lbs to 9lbs occasionally by stalking with floating flies. So it can definitely be done when they are feeding on top. Those trout get big by feeding down below however in fertile lakes with vast numbers of small crustaceans like shrimp and hoglouse, and large mayfly and sedge nymphs are key items in such lakes.

But trollers regularly catch big browns. So big trout flies should be the equivalent of trolling spoons and rapalas, sunk below the surface, moving erratially, inches in length.
You have to look to what is the most significant food item at the moment in numbers and size, and figure out what the big browns will do about it

By day:
Colour and translucence are important, optical active fibres like soft hackles, mink, marabou add visual liveliness. The mobility in the soft materials looks lively enough to entice a fish which may be much more wary than the average smaller trout.

By day an eye or centre of mass flash from the chest area of a prey fish all are important and help a predator to "lock on".  Also the different species of prey fish have identification features that predators zone in on.

Many minnows have a characteristic stripe along their side. Sticklebacks have red colour patches during mating and spawning.
Young perch have orange fins, and bars on their sides that a grizzle hackle imitates well.

In daytime the bigger trout move out of the shallows towards deeper water or into good cover like waves, weeds, suspended algae, or overhanging timber. So usually a sinking line gets the fly closer to them in daylight and increases the chance of an attack.

Switch to a sinking line after daybreak unless there is a very good reason to do otherwise, like for example a big mayfly hatch.

At night:
A bivisible with light and dark contrasts, a good silhouette, more firm hackles to disturb the water and make vibration signals of location.  Del Canty's No-Body muddler was designed to be a night fly. The Bunny Leech is another pattern with silhouette.

At night it is important to get the fly high in the water so they can see it against the sky, so make sure to have a floating line set up within 1 hour after sunset. Dark colours show well against the sky.

Add in certain recognition features that resemble the main forage types in your particular water and you have a fly specifically tailored to the large browns in your local water. Examples are striped side (minnow), red fins (roach/perch), red belly (male stickleback), and eye, flash at centre of mass (target of attack) chest area, and so on.

Twilight poses it's own problems.
Things to consider:
How impressionistic should it be? How detailed should it be? How mobile should it's parts be? A too easily seen fly might be ineffective. Should it have a bulky front area to create a sonic pulse a predator can feel from 30 feet away?
How see-through a fly will disappear and not get noticed?
A fluorescent spot or some flashabou is good at this time. Crystal chenille or a prominent rib are good.

The stiff hackles of a night fly disturb the water and send signals that predators can detect and home in on. 
A white wing or yellow area show up very bright at this time of grey light.
A surface wake making fly like a bob fly is capable of grabbing attention from distances and has "pulling power".

Increasing the size obviously adds visibility too.

The trout will often pick out a slightly larger fly from many similar natural food items that are otherwise similar and therefore anonymous.

But it is not good to go too large relative to the local food however in case the illusion is broken.

Atlantic salmon angler  Reg Righyni proposed the idea of what we see looking at a field of sheep on green grass. They look white. But against a snowy field they look gray, though their colour has not changed. And against dark vegetation, they apparently assume extra brightness. All because the background changes. Righyni wanted his flies to be seen but not seen so easily that they lost their impressionistic lifelike glow. So he used translucent see through light colour patterns on bright days. But in clear light against a neutral cloudy background these flies looked somehow wrong, much too bright. So he brought out dark solid patterns in evenings, and he used other more medium clarity/solidity patterns reserved for the average day.
His intention was that the salmon  see the same thing, and he had to change his flies to achieve this. He was measuring "impact" and considered a small solid fly as having the same impact as a larger hard to see translucent fly. Now if a 20 pounder could be hooked on a size 12 black fly, AND on a size 6 light grey fly, then he wanted to be using the  bigger hook that would increase chances of landing the fish, and he chose flies accoringly.
I think Righyni was onto something important, and I consider this principle when choosing flies to tie on while salmon fishing.
When fishing for other species like trout I don't want to make the fly either too obvious, or too hard to see.

I tell you this: I have found that a fly which would otherwise be too large for the day, can still catch if it incorporates mobile materials that move. The Irish shrimp fly is proof. A #8 shrimp catches in conditions that require #10 traditional flies. Tails that flow, hackles, marabou, these are things that really matter a lot. The epoxy buzzer guys are following the wrong trail, though they obviously  catch, look at the hook sizes they prefer. Impressionistic patterns allow bigger hooks to be effective.

Drawing all the factors together:
The factors by which the trout recognises food are :

outline shape,
: of the fly
speed: movement speed through water,
internal life: movement of component parts of the fly,
characteristics: movement pattern. Is it
jerky, smooth, sinuous?
visibility: opaqueness - translucence
visibility: colour
, and contrast between bright or dark,
feel: sound or "feel" caused by the sonic-pressure wave of the pattern passing through the water as detected by the trout's lateral line sensory system.
smell: don't get chemicals
on your fly or line. Like fruit juice, insect repellent (off your hands) or gasoline off your hands( filling the vehicle on the way fishing ). Fish will stop taking and will often follow and turn away instead. I carry unscented soap, and wash my hands before tackling up.

Enough factors must be in sync with the food that is usually eaten in this local area in order to make our particular offering acceptable. But we can alter a few features, enhancing them, like a cartoon, so that our food item gets noticed, and picked out.

But remember: colour fades as depth increases and light gets dim. So daytime fishing near or on the surface requires more care in  colour choice. BUT deeper in the water, or in darker conditions like morning/evening, movement, size, outline increase in their relative importance.

What I'm saying here is that fishing at night on the surface is in many ways comparable with fishing during day in the deeps. Size and colour matter less, other factors matter more.

Tie big flies that lift out "dry" because they are easier to cast
I had an interesting conversation with Del Canty during summer 2008 on the subject of extra large flies for big fish and casting them.

Del fished extra large size flies for trophy fish for many years and had figured it all out already. He put me wise to waterproofing the fly.  I am not talking about using dry fly floatant. We were talking about  flies designed for underwater presentation, streamers, fish imitations, leeches and so on.
This refers to making your large flies in such a way that they readily shuck off  the water on liftoff into a cast. The idea is that you are not chucking a heavy wet lure at the end of a length of line.

Ideally after the cast, when they land on the water they should cut down into it readily, not sit on top of the surface like a big ball of fluff.

The appearance of a fly is important for sure. But the design that produces that outward appearance is also very important.
If two fly dressings look identical and one is more waterproof than the other, then that one is superior. A big fly that sheds water, and penetrates well even when dry is a well designed fly. It goes into and out of the water in a superior way every cast.

Think about it, a fly that sinks well when it's supposed to, will require less lead under the fly dressing. It will then cast better than another heavily leaded fly. The leader and knots will be subject to reduced wear and tear during casting, and as a result they will be stronger when a big fish does eventually get hooked. Nothing should be left to luck.

So long as you tie your own flies, you should design the larger size flies to release extra water quickly and therefore be cast at a lighter "dry payload" weight. You will feel fresher at the end of the day as a result. Your catch rate should also be raised too.

Body material choice affects hookup ratio
Give due consideration to the fact that the body materials used in a particular fly pattern can have an effect when striking into takes.
After the predator seizes a fish, it is pinned between the tongue and the roof of the mouth with great force. As in pike fishing the initial strike often will not move the bait, or the hooks at all, and therefore the hooks do not penetrate into the mouth parts. Line pressure must be maintained at strong pull, until the fish gets alarmed, at that point it will open it's mouth to spit out the offending item, and next after that it will headshake and then run for cover or deeps. When it opens it's mouth the grip is relaxed, ONLY IF THE PRESSURE FROM THE ROD IS STILL ON will the hooks then move. When the hooks move that is when they penetrate the side of the mouth. THAT IS WHEN THE PREDATOR GETS HOOKED AND NOT BEFORE. SO IT'S IMPERATIVE TO HOLD TIGHT AFTER STRIKING, UNTIL HOOKUP.

For this reason it is important that the fly is not constructed of materials that easily tangle in teeth, thus locking the fly in place, as this will prevent the hooks moving when pressure is applied. Think carefully whether you need a body at all, or can the flowing shroud of materials, wing and tail do the job with better hooking power.
Another technique, well known by pike anglers, is either to strike again at intervals. The best way in my opinion is to strike and maintain severe pressure until you are happy the fish is properly hooked. I tried both techniques, and now this is how I do it.

Each predator species takes a small fish in a certain way. The perch for example has little teeth in the front of it's mouth, so it chases and snaps at the tail of the smaller fish, then when the prey has been disabled sufficiently, the perch usually takes it engulfing it from behind .

A pike is different, it also follows at first, but when it attacks it goes out to one side, overtakes until level, then it makes a circular turn away from the angler grabbing it's prey crosswise across the middle as it goes.  This is also the way  brown, trout, ferox trout and salmon take medium sized prey. They are similar to each other in the sense that they have teeth to grab a fish crosswise, and backwards facing tongue teeth to hold it firmly. But when attacking significantly larger prey these predators, especially trout sometimes use the perch's method of attacking it first.

When taking slower small prey they engulf from behind or whatever direction they approach from. Small and slow and unlikely to escape is taken in the same calm way as rising to a fly or insect.

Trout can swim up and overtake a larger fish and sideswipe it with a headshake making a concussion shock wave that injures and disables. Deadbait and spoon trollers experience this often. Feeling many taps along the line may be an indication that it is appropriate to use a smaller size lure. However if the size is critical and takes stop, go back to the larger lure and use a stop-start retrieve (sink-draw). This induces a confident take while the bait is stopped apparently as a result of injury from a head butt by the trout.

Trout learn how to deal with shoal fish as a group. They learn how to lash violently with their tail making a shockwave that stuns small fish. This method is a favourite when hunting a shoal of fry. They deal with the shoal using shockwaves. One moment the shoal of small fry is there, then they are panicking trying to get away. Suddenly a dark fry-free corridor opens up, parting the fleeing shoal where the trout is powering in underneath it, lashing a spade-like tail from side to side as it does so. A few seconds later dozens of little white bodies float up to the surface right above where the dark corridor was. The trout comes back sipping them down the injured individually taking them almost like spent gnat.

All these factors influence where your hooks should be located in a long lure. A hook should be in the tail of a long lure.  A lure with flowing hackles or long streamer or marabou fibres benefits from the stinger tandem hook, as these long slim lures provoke the tail crippling take more often.
A shorter lure requires the hook to be at centre of mass, behind the head - the chest area. It's no harm to have a visual guide showing this area. The eye is a target, the red spawning male stickleback flash is also located in this place. A bit of extra flash here helps. Not all over ... just in this part of the lure in particular. Streamer type long lures can get a nip at the tail, but confident takes will still hit the centre of mass, the chest area, and this is an argument in favour of tandem hooks for long flies. I am in favour of tandem hooked lures if the hook size goes over long shank 6s.

If you want to stop-start the retrieve while being followed by a predator, and I do this a lot, some marabou included in the pattern can still move and vibrate, imitating gill and fin movement, and maintaining the illusion of life even though water speed is zero.

There is another type of take. This is the crunch take. If the prey attacked is something that can bite back, or put up a fight, the predator may bite down hard to kill or injure, then let go, move around and attack the crippled prey from a safer angle. You won't hook the first bite unless you have a trailing (tandem-stinger) hook, or the fly is tied low water style with the hook point further back than normal.
The fish will take again if you don't pull it away, and since we all react with a reflex action, often jerking it a bit, it's nice to know some movement is acceptable.
Bigger sized crayfish and large water beetles provoke these takes. The tandem hooks are my solution to the problem as far as fish imitations are concerned.
A fine low water dressing style for big predatory beetles was developed by Bob Sheedy and described in his excellent books Bob Sheedy's Lake Fly Fishing Strategies, and Bob Sheedy's Top 50 Stillwater Fly Patterns.


BLACK IPN (Idiot Proof Nymph)
Also called Black Fritz  Woolly Bugger
Hook: 4  wide gape
Tail: Black marabou with pearl flashabou each side
Body: Black/Pearl Fritz
Head: 4mm Gold bead


Injured Flat Body Shad
HOOK:  Long shank from tandem 2 - 4s, front point clipped off, extended 4x with a keel hook shape added near the eye, hook point up
TAIL:  soft badger fur
BODY:  white chenille, crushed flat in vertical profile
RIB:  green sparkle glitter glue along exposed body and hook
HEAD:  Formed from the green sparkle glue and pearl bead eyes on burn-melted-ended mono

Another large but streamlined fishy pattern from Canty used for large Mid-West and Alaskan trout from the tube.


Coming soon ....


Black Chenille

Sparkler Tube,


Marabou Tandem Muddler

Pheasant Tail Crayfish

Black & Yellow Marabou Holmfridur

Lazer Light Lures








A Minkie is the same as a Zonker except that thin strips of mink are used instead of rabbit.
The mink is a finer fur with more action in the water and can therefore be tied in smaller sizes than rabbit fur strip Zonkers.
Mink fur is very soft and pulsates with life.

This and the Appetiser are good roach and rudd fry imitations.

California Leech
HOOK: 3XL, No. 2-10
TAIL: marabou with a few strands of Krystal Flash
UNDERBODY: Krystal Flash
BODY: Mohair, sparse, combed out, brown, black, olive, wine
ORIGINATOR: Bill Schiess

If you are inclined to pass over this pattern for any reason I suggest you tie or buy some before doing so. It will avoid a moment several years from now when someone else wipes you out fishing the same water as you, and you find afterwards they were using a California Leech, and then you wonder how many big trout you missed out on !

Bill Schiess, a Henry's Lake guide with immense experience,  described it as the pattern he would use if limited to only one fly.

I had an interesting experience the first time I used this fly, landing 6 trout averaging 2 1/4 lbs in about 30 minutes, as which stage my first California Leech was almost completely shredded but still catching. This included a "double" of 2.5 and 2.75 lbs on dropper and tail fly.  I consider California Leeches essential since then!

Badger Matuka
HOOK: 3x long shank,  tandem 8's & 10s
THREAD: Black or olive
THROAT: Marabou, red
RIB: Silver oval tied down over wing hackles
WING: Two Badger saddle hackles
TAIL: Wing Saddle hackle tips
BODY: Silver flat
The matuka style is a modified streamer intended to prevent streaming hackles from twisting around and being fouled by the hook bend. There is reduced movement, but the tangling was cured. The minnow stripe is well represented.

 6 lure hook 4xl,
UNDERBODY: hot melt glue, or lead with wool over with belly bulge 1/3 from eye
BODY: pearlescent Mylar tubing tinsel
THROAT:  red or yellow
WING: Rabbit fur zonker strip beaver fur strip back/wing 1 1/4" long hair
When the matuka was invented, streamer anglers were delighted. But the tangle proof design of a matuka also reduce movement due to the hackles being tethered for half their length. Dan Byford introduced the use of more mobile soft rabbit fur strips, tied matuka style, and so the  Zonker was born!

HOOK: Long shank 8 - 10 Kamasan B175
TAIL: Black marabou
UNDERTAIL: silver flashabou
BODY: Silver diamond tinsel chenille
RIB: Silver wire
HACKLE: Cream Grizzle/Cree palmered
EYES: 4mm Bog chain

Dave Downie  


Giant Grizzly Shrimp (a crayfish fly)
HOOK: 00, 2, 4
THREAD: black
TAIL: grey squirrel tail
UNDERBODY: enough lead to get it down near the bottom
BODY:  bulky badger fur
palmered grizzle saddle hackle (variant brown saddle hackle)
BACK/SHELL: grey squirrel tail (variant red squirrel)
rim materials at an angle at head, finish, and apply cement.
Del Canty

Joe Butler Variation: use two forked grizzle hackle tips as claw imitations.
With this fly Joe Butler caught a 27lb 3oz brown trout at Flaming Gorge which was an 8lb line class world record for the following 20 years.

Olive Matuka
HOOK: 3X long
THROAT: Marabou, red
RIB: Gold wire
WING: Saddle hackle
TAIL: Saddle hackle
BODY: Olive dubbing

Small (#10-14) matukas  imitate perch fry. The Olive Matuka works if big trout are hunting trout or minnows. A black and silver matuka with red marabou throat hackle is a good roach or rudd imitation.

Purple Showgirl Trolling Fly
HOOK: 3XL to 4XL, size 4 to 10
THREAD: 6/0 Black
TAIL:- Black marabou the length of the hook shank
BODY: Light purple
pearlescent chenille
WING: Black marabou

ORIGINATOR: Bill Schiess

There are many lures, and "damselfly imitatations" that have a wing and tail of marabou. The mobility and action of this material is incomparable, and makes excellent trolling flies for use while moving between fishing spots. Purple Showgirl is a tried and tested pattern with a huge track record of successful catches on Henry's lake in the Mid-West US.

Black Crystal Bugger

This fly is not unlike the Humungus

Dapped Natural Fly: double or triple Daddy Long Legs, Grasshopper or Mayfly
The live dapped insect has a track record of bringing up larger than average trout, superior to conventional traditional wet fly when imitative flies are being taken.
This is not to say that a sunk line fly fishing can't equal or beat the dap for size of trout caught. But it is noticeable that the dap in front of a drifted boat brings up larger fish than flies fished right beside it off the dibbled surface line.

Gold Humungus  OR “SHUGGIE”
HOOK:  Long shank 8 - 10 Kamasan B175
TAIL:  Black marabou
UNDERTAIL:  gold flashabou
BODY:  gold diamond tinsel chenille
RIB:  gold wire
HACKLE:  light cree palmered
EYES:  gold 4mm Bog chain

Dave Downie

Canadian Brown Mohair Leech

HOOK: 2 - `4 3x - 4x long
TAIL: Marabou or soft rabbit the length of the shank
BODY: Canadian Brown Mohair Yarn tied thin with fibres well picked out, pull the upstanding fibres back out of the way while winding, as in a doubled hackle
RIB: Fine gold wire
HACKLE: None, but a stained water version has a couple of turns of brown hackle
ORIGINATOR: Bill Schiess

THE CB Leech has an amber rusty brown look, but there is no brown in it. The mohair is a spectrumized mix, of the type well known to tiers of traditional Irish lake flies. If the yarn can not be got, it's easily made up from seals fur, of red, yellow, blue, and a little black

Fluorescent Orange Woolly Worm
HOOK:  Long shank 0 - 4
TAIL:   fluorescent orange wool tag
BODY:  fluorescent orange chopped wool dubbing
RIB:  gold oval
HACKLE:  grizzle palmered reverse wound
ORIGINATOR: Traditional pattern with a long UK-Irish history as the Soldier Palmer, translated to the Woolly Worm in US.
Del Canty created the fluorescent body variant for low light conditions. 
With the fluo orange woolly worm Del caught his 23lb brown at night on a sinking line.
The bulky body may require careful and repeated striking as big fish can get a good grip on it.

This fly has all it takes for good night fishing: high visibility, bulky silhouette, surface wake, or if underwater a pressure wave signature.

Woolly Worm style has since evolved into the Woolly Bugger or Humungus family of flies by the addition of a marabou tail for added internal movement and life. However the palmer or woolly worm style is currently having a resurgence of popularity in the Orkney Islands lochs of Scotland as an effective large trout fly.

Grizzly No-body Muddler (Sculpin-Crayfish)
HOOK:  Long shank extended 4x, made from tandem 2 - 4s, front point clipped off so there is a flexible hinge to prevent loss during play from a rigid hook twisting out
TAIL:  badger fur
BODY:  none, badger wing on rear tandem hook
RIB:  none
WING: Badger hair tied (front hook) to make grizzly effect
HACKLE:  Deer hair spun and clipped as shown, then the underside is clipped flat with hook pointing upwards in weedless position

This is an example of the streamlined patterns with a large appearance, but low weight (for casting) that Canty ended up using after many years fishing for and catching exceptionally large trout from his float tubes.

Canty was there long before the others in material selection. He noted that the badger fur has better fluorescence in low light conditions that other similar coloured natural alternatives. We now have synthetic materials with lots of fluorescence and luminescence which can be used.

Platte River Special (original)
HOOK:  Long shank  2, 4, 6, 8
TAIL:  none
BODY:  none
RIB:  none, variant: gold
WING: Two brown chinese (not genetic) saddle hackles tied splayed, with two yellow chinese saddle hackles tied outside
HACKLE: Brown tied bulky dry fly style
HEAD: Red silk

The Platte River Special is an effective streamer for fishing for large predatory brown trout and rainbows in flowing water. It represents a small brown trout.
The original is given above. It has a bulky hackle which undoubtedly could be detected by feel as it pushed through the water, and will create a disturbance around it in which the flowing hackles behind it wriggle.
The new version has a furnace hackle on the outside of the yellow to create a horizontal dark line, such as many prey fish like minnows have.
The hackles are no longer splayed, which looks neat but probably reduces lively movement. A throat of red now represents gills, and a gold body has been added.
The new version imitates minnows, and still looks like a small brown trout. A  variant has cheeks of golden pheasant breast feathers and jungle cock eyes. This gives it a fishy looking bulky shoulder .
The new version is realistic in good illumination, but at low light periods the more impressionistic original with it's bulky hackle might feel better to a predator  trout hunting it in low light.
I include below a picture of a recent version.

Platte River Special
(from smallstreamreflections.blogspot.com)
HOOK:  Long shank  2, 4, 6, 8
TAIL:  none
BODY: gold under polythene
RIB:  gold oval
WING: Two yellow chinese saddle hackles, with two furnace chinese saddle hackles tied outside
THROAT: A little red fibre or red Krystal Flash
CHEEKS (optional):  golden pheasant breast feather, jungle cock over
HACKLE: Furnace over yellow tied swept back
HEAD: Red silk



Copyright for this article is Norman Greene's - reproduction only with permission of the author.