So what does a fly look like, more or less? I guess we can probably agree that it might black and scruffy and has some wings and legs sticking out somewhere. Why even that silly question about what flies look like? I guess it is because fishing “flies” can quite legitimately mimic molluscs, crustaceans, worms, fish and more. To the extent that anything we cast with a fly rod becomes a “fly” pretty much by default, we have to accept that many flies are not flies at all!

If we narrow things down and eliminate anything that is not an insect we still end up with a bunch of things that don´t really look like “flies” terribly much, or at least not the kind of fly that immediately jumps into my imagination. And so, I´m afraid to say, some of the most important insect groups as far as fishermen are concerned don´t even make the final cut: mayflies, sedges, dragonflies, damselflies, stoneflies, midges and beetles. The things that look to me like “flies” are the things you find in at the bottom of that old drawer in the shed that you have not even looked into since you last were looking for some old pair of pliers. Or the things that buzz around annoying everyone and that seem to change their minds about what direction to fly every half second or so. These are the flies that are everywhere.

Funnily enough, flies in the sense that I imagine them are also formally recognised as an order of insects and given the name “true flies”, the Diptera. There are more than 100,000 species and they are characterised by having a single pair of wings and a pair of stabilising organs called halteres which they use for balancing while flying. In a group this size you are always going to have exceptions to the general rule and there are a small minority of species that have no wings at all.

On my river the fish will occasionally take a fly off the surface. For the most part they feed on the bottom and a nymph is usually the way to go. As it happens, “my” river fish are barbel but the same is true of trout much of the time. The “rises” on my river tend to be sporadic and do not seem to be in response to any particular hatch, although on rare enough occasions a fish or a small pod of fish will position itself close to overhanging trees and rise regularly to tiny bugs trapped in the surface film.

I am no expert fly tier but have refined a little pattern that I have quite a lot of faith in which I use when the fish look like they may take a dry but there is no obvious hatch underway. It is pretty scruffy pattern but when I have a few of them scattered in a compartment of my fly box it really does look to me like a dipteran mass grave!

I can´t claim any great measure of originality. It is a sort of suspender buzzer but the slender suspended body is replaced by an inelegant beaten up fly that has seen better days. It is easy to tie and you only need some dubbing and some of the thin white foam that is often used in packaging of things like phones.

I offer it up just in case you might be interested in whipping up a few for yourself. I have had barbel on this pattern and trout take it very readily. The only limitation is that it may not be easy to see in the water as its buoyant “wing” suspends it in the surface film. It lies pretty low in the water. The fish take this thing very readily. I have found that, even with the trout, I often need to use fine forceps to remove the barbless hooks. They don´t seem to play with it. They just eat it!

The fly is simplicity itself. It has some foam tied onto a jig hook and a dubbed body. I prefer the body sparse and go for black dubbing because many flies are black.