The deadly dozen - SM Flies

 "Go-to" flies for every yellowfish hunter"


There are many many flies on the market and once you start tying your own flies you will find yourself dreaming up new patterns almost daily.

So whilst we still dream of inventing that next "x-fly" here are the most successful flies yet for yellowfish (in my opinion of course).


Please note that I have left out dry flies as well as soft hackle flies as those would be discussed in detail later.

The following flies are the only ones you will ever need on the Vaal. They have proven themselves over and over again. So whether you are a complete newbie or an experienced vaal nympher, next time you are in the shop make sure you get these flies as I think it is the only flies any fishermen will ever need on the Vaal.

Top & Point flies

Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear
On many occasions when the fishing was just not on the GRHE saved the day for me. I find this fly very effective especially at tough venues such as Eastco. Strangely enough I have also caught my personal best Large Mouth on this trusted fly.
There are many variation on this fly with my favourite being a normal grey pattern with purple flashback.



The Orange Hotpsot PTN
This is by far the fly that has taken the most fish on the Vaal River. Simple to tie (Pheasant Tail Nymph with Orange Hotspot) but very effective.
The debate on why orange is so effective is still ongoing with views ranging from that the orange hotspot might be seen as an egg, to the way orange is perceived under water and thus the orange hotspot acts as an attractor.  What ever the reason might be any person new to flyfishing on the Vaal should tie this fly on as their very first choice.



Flashback Nymph
Same as the Hotspot, the Flashback Nymph (FB Nymph) is one of the most prolific fish takers on the Vaal. A very simple design with the added benefit of some flashabou on top of the wingcase acting as an attractor.
My favourite variation is a #16 black FB Nymph tied by using silver rib and a silver bead.




Black Tungsten bead nymphs
(For lack of a better name)
Lately this has been one of my most effective flies at the Vaal.
It is a very simple fly consisting of a 2mm - 2.5 mm orange tungsten bead, black crystal hare dubbing and wood duck or black pheasant tail fibre tail.
The fly is very effective when nymphing fast flowing water and rapids as the tungsten bead gets the fly into the right place and the orange doing its usual trick in attracting fish.

I particular like the cdc version as tied by Darryl Lampert - it must be one of the easiest flies to tie but yet very effective. The combination of an orange bead and cdc feathers seems irresistible. Due to the amazing properties of cdc you might struggle at first to get this fly down but a quick soaking should get your fly down quickly. Make sure to change this fly often when you are catching fish as the cdc seems to wear out quite quickly.







Control Flies

Control flies gets your flies down into the feeding zone. Most newcomers to yellowfish use dropshot on their rigs to get the flies down as flies tied using tungsten beads or leadwraps can be quite hard to come by when visiting your local tackle dealer.

All control flies should have the following in common:
A thin profile -
to make it sink faster - Bulky flies have more resistance and thus have a slower sink rate.
Suitable built-in weight - I prefer using between a 3mm and 4mm tungsten bead when tying control flies. Alternatively a  few wraps of lead wire will also give you the desired effect.

Green Machine
I've been using this fly for many seasons. It is a very simple fly tied slim with a chartreuse and green crystal flash mixture body, peacock herl thorax and a 4mm tungsten bead. I never really named this fly untill I saw a similar one in a flyfishing magazine that Murray Pedder (Murray's version) named the green machine. Very apt considering its effectiveness.

The beadless czech version is tied on the same principle but with lead wraps extending halfway down the hook shank. The thorax is a mixture of seal and squirrel dubbing to give it a buggy look.




Hot Spot Czech Nymph
So what is a Czech nymph you may ask?

Czech nymph is quite a simple fly regarding its construction. Its characteristic sign is a rounded (bent) gammarus hook (i.e. scud, caddis, that is weighted with lead wire. The body is created from natural or synthetic dubbing. Another typical feature of a Czech nymph is the back, made from latex foil or a material with similar characteristics. For ribbing of the fly monofilament or coloured wire is used. A real Czech nymph is always tied as a very thin one, to sink very quickly towards the bottom.
Typically Czech nymphs have a shellback to assist in cutting depth detracting surface area and to boost their natural appearance as well as a flashy under rib. It's important to realize that Europeans fish heavily for grayling in rivers where caddis are the prevalent food item. Similarly yellowfish do not mind heavy flows and are attracted to bits of flash and colour in the feeding zone.

I prefer tying my Czech nymphs with squirrel dubbing for a buggy look and incorporate the tried and trusted orange hotspot. Lead wire or a 3.5mm - 4.5mm tungsten bead is used as these flies are normally quite heavy.
Colours that works well are ginger, chartreuse, brown and mustard.




Click here for step by step tying instructions

Humpy's Favourite
The Humpy's favourite, tied by my friend Rory, has been a "mass producer" of Yellowfish for me for almost 5 season. Simple, yet very effective and above all very easy to tie. Here is the story from Rory:

This is an adaptation of an old "Green Grub" pattern that was first tied about 10 years ago. The Antron yarn creates a really dense, smooth abdomen on the fly which allows for a quicker descent than normal dubbed abdomens. This fly is primarily used as a control fly to get other flies down to the required depth in fast flowing water. The weight required on the fly can be adjusted to personal preference, by either using brass beads as opposed to tungsten, or using less lead wraps, to no lead wraps. I will generally tie the fly in 3 different weights: light, medium and then "Kursk" weights. The colour of the Antron Yarn can be changed, as well as the colour of the thorax.


Click here for the step by step tying instructions

Mustard Caddis
The mustard caddis is probably the most preferred control fly on the Vaal river and has accounted for many many fish. Looking at the pictures below of the Hydropsychidae it is quite clear to see why this fly is so effective.
Each flytier has his own secret mix of dubbing blends to create the perfect mustard caddis. The one below was tied by Mark de Jager using Wapsi Awesome possum dubbing in golden stone colour. Personally I prefer the Dave Whitlock SLF products in olive mixed with gold and yellow.

mustard caddis


Click here for step by step tying instructions


Top & Point Flies continued


Green Brassie/Rock worm
Probably the most predominant food source in the Vaal during summer is the Caddis Hydropsychidae larvae. Most people refer to them as just simply green rock worms.




You will most probably find these critters under every rock you turn over as well as clinging to every piece of driftwood floating past.  And of course no trip to the Vaal is complete without finding one of these things impaled on your hook when inspecting your flies.

I tie these flies using chartreuse ultra wire or green v-rib with a peacock herl thorax. As an alternative these flies can also be tied substituting the green and chartreuse with yellow or mustard v-rib, jelly cord or ultra wire.

However it might be, the green brassie, greenie, green rockworm, whatever you want to call it should be one of your first choice flies when fishing spring to summer. Next to the PTN Orange Hot Spot this fly has probably accounted for the most fish in the caddis fly variety.



Red Brassie
The brassie is a strange fly to comprehend. Although the brassie does not represent anything in particular, it actually represents so many things, on the Vaal they are taken by fish probably as caddis, mayflies, and maybe even midges.
Whatever the reason might be most yellowfish fly fishers will probably not even venture to the Vaal without a couple of brassies in their box.
Being the easiest fly to tie you can make up a lot of variations in a very short time such as using black wire to imitate black fly larvae.

I prefer my brassies in red and hot pink with a peacock herl thorax and saltwater flashabou flashback.  One can also use a red or orange bead or even tie in a orange colour to act as an attractor in dirty water.

Some fly fishers have lately started using tungsten beads and cdc collars on brassies and fishing them as control flies.




Copper John
As opposed to the brassie that is usually fished higher in the water column suggesting an emerger, the Copper John is mainly used as a pointfy in many different colours such as red, black, chartreuse and mustard.
The Copper John is a deadly attractor pattern and if tied correctly it has many suggestive characteristics with the added benefit of a bit of weight to get the fly into the feeding zone.
A top fly that should be in every flybox.



Click here for step by step tying instructions

Disco Midge
aka Vastrap muggie
The most common midge or muggie that pesters us here in our area are non-biting midges of the family Chironomidae. There are over 5,000 species occurring all over the world and the disco midge supposedly imitates a large range of these midges. To make it easier, those small red wriggly worms you find in stagnant water are Chironomid larvae!

These can also be very succesfully imitated by using a san juan fly.

The fly takes it's name from the "Disco Era" of the 1970's with the flashy body of Flashabou, Mylar Tinsel, or Krystalflash.
The use of Flashabou or Krystal Flash for the body is it's trademark. Colors used are Olive, Pearl, Pink, Red, and Green. You can change the colors in a more subtle manner by using Pearl Flashabou and changing the thread colors. The Thorax is generally Peacock Herl, although some patterns will use Superfine dubbing or just thread for the smaller sizes (20-26). A fine ribbing wire is also optional and is used to highlight segmentation as well as some additional weight. A coating of SuperGlue over the body will extend the life of the Flashabou and will also enhance the translucent appearance.

A number of variations have been derived from this pattern. If you add a CDC feather behind the eye, before applying the Peacock Thorax, you get a CDC Midge Emerger. These can be quite effective in color patterns of Pink/Copper, Lime Green/Gold, Pale Olive/Gold, Black/Gold, Red/Gold and Pearl/Copper


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