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The foam and rubber diet

By Charles Jardine

During the summer of 2013 Charles Jardine found an American-style dry fly lured a memorable wild trout


How to tie the Fat Mattress


  • 1

    1

    Attach a strip of foam (5mm wide) at the eye and saddle hackle by the stem at the bend.

  • 2

    2

    Dub 3/4 of the shank with the deer-hair blend.

  • 3

    3

    Palmer the body with the hackle.

  • 4

    4

    Cut a ‘tear drop’ shape of foam (6mm at the widest) and tie in here.

  • 5

    5

    Attach the fluro sight wool/floss and rubber legs in the thoracic area – arrowed.

  • 6

    6

    Double the foam back to make a head and thorax cover, and whip finish at this point.



A few angling moments are so seared into the mind that you know with the certainty of night spilling into day that as your last cast approaches you will still be able to recall the very instant, as though it had just happened. Fresh, immediate, and assaulting the senses. Such a moment is the vision of the feral form that eased its way through the corridor of chaotic, frantic currents of the Big Laxa recently to engulf my fly with simple savagery. This angling moment will last me all my days.

The brown trout weighed in excess of 7lb and encapsulated the wild river and country that gave it its birthright. The fight? Blimey, it was epic; ask Alex and Gummi Bjornsund. For the moment, let’s just say this saga might be recounted in Valhalla one day ...

That aside, this month’s fly is something of the unexpected and proof that in fly fishing, any fishing, never take things at face value, nor believe implicitly other people's findings or assessments. Things change.     
I have always wanted to fish Iceland. Son, Alex’s exploits in the country last year only poured more fuel on the fire, Ollie Edwards’ and Stuart Crofts’ articles hardly helped dampen the need or desire to fish there. The opportunity arose to take a group out with Alex and that was that … I was obsessed.

Like everyone, prior to the trip (even ignoring the advice from Pete McCleod and others) I filled fly boxes with Bibios, little Midge things, dark CdCs, hideously irksomely small Black G&H Sedges (I refuse to call them ‘Goddard Caddis’ … they started life as a G&H Sedge, and that is that) and all manner of little dark critters. But nature really does have a different agenda to our perceptions and plans, doesn’t she?

Like us, a very cold winter (and, gosh, if we had it cold ... can you just imagine what Iceland was like? Best not to ...) had given way to an elongated cold spring leading to snow still being along the jagged volcanic  escarpments, something that the local populace had not seen in a generation. The result? An utter paucity of surface fly and rising fish. Maddening.

The most extraordinary thing about Laxa trout – and trout in general – is their utter willingness to rise and take surface food forms. This is odd and contrary: especially given the bewildering amount of food washing around the various water columns and in their immediate vicinity. Especially on this Icelandic river, where chironomids not only proliferate, but actually re-define the word ‘prodigious’. So why rise at something as preposterous as this pattern, or the equally mad Grudden Hopper? No idea. Glad that they did, though.

In tying this pattern – and, actually, it is an adaption of a Barry and Cathy Beck design from the USA – I became aware of how little we use the combined charms of foam and rubber. It could be our repressive angling upbringing, but Brits don’t really like to admit that we use such concoctions in polite company. There are the odd lurches into S&M fly-tying ... but they are few. Ollie Edwards has his moments, and there is the odd beetle design, but that’s it.

Then there are the trout. Why fall for something so weird? Why in heaven’s name, forsake delicate frilly hackles, delineated delicate wings and deft, soft dubbing in favour of foam and rubber; the dark side? Perhaps that is it; the bit of ‘rough’ to the usual ‘smooth’. Maybe it is simply best not to dwell on the whys and wherefores. As the axiom urges, ‘just do it’.  

And we did, amid that windswept semi-lunar landscape set against the piping whimbrels and tumbling golden plovers.

There really wasn’t much science attached to the actual fishing of the fly – dead-drift and utterly free of drag, was the only real requirement – but it did outline the specific need to understand river structure and hydraulics. It is worth underlining this vital aspect of river fishing lore: whilst perhaps an over-simplistic and gross generalisation, if it looks ‘fishy’ fish it. Simple. Oddly, some folk seem to ignore this.

There are hidden treasures beneath a river’s surface. If a ruffled surface suddenly becomes almost oily looking, the chances are that there will be a sub-surface rock or obstruction. To an American fisher, these are termed ‘structure’. Fish around (and especially to the back, the downstream side) of such places; the same with obvious rocks in the stream where a similar situation exists both physically by the water or piscatorially, by you. Place your fly anywhere that looks different: maybe a shade or two darker, a break in the current here or there ... but look first, assess, then fish there. That is the joy of surface patterns like the Fat Mattress, they do allow you to go and explore all surface options. I will also, when permitted, often fish this pattern in tandem with a much smaller dry fly (an 18, 20 or even smaller) trailing on a slender tippet strand of no more than 6in or so tied in at the hook-eye or bend. Two bites of the proverbial cherry, and it is also superbly effective if you tie in a dropper. Fish the buoyant fly on the top dropper and have a micro-nymph – a Brassie, Prince or similar on a 16 or seven smaller – suspended beneath.

That brings me to the vision of that great elongated feral jaw engulfing the fly ... lock, stock and floating barrel. Boom!

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