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Impressed by the Deer Hair Emerger

Impressed by the Deer Hair Emerger on rivers

A wild trout on the Deer Hair Emerger, one of 16 caught on the same fly.
A wild trout on the Deer Hair Emerger, one of 16 caught on the same fly.

I have to admit that I’ve never used Bob Wyatt’s Deer Hair Emerger that much in the past. I suppose I’ve always been a sucker for CdC patterns, tiny parachutes, hackled traditionals even, and the DHE has always been a fly that I could never keep afloat for very long: the deer hair would drop out, and it would sink, so I never got completely ‘sold’ on it. To be fair, I probably always felt it was too bulky for the rivers I fished.
However, if you listen to Allan Liddle long enough (and I listen to him for hour after hour) he kind of convinces you that the DHE is all you need. So much so that, during a conversation during lockdown, I asked him to give readers (and me) the low-down on exactly how he ties it, and why. Thinking that should shut him up for a while, I subsequently worked on his article for the June(Lockdown Special) issue and, having read through it, convinced myself that I should give the DHE another try… and another tie.

I sat at the bench, tied up a couple according to Allan’s specific instructions, and then waited for lockdown to ease. This weekend, I had my chance.

The river was low and a few fish were dimpling on the slow bend. The fish here are small, but are quite picky about their food. So, I went through a few patterns, some in an attempt to imitate, others to goad into a reaction  – a Sedge occasionally works, or a Double Badger. I tried a duo set-up. That sometimes gets them. Nope. I then I saw it in the box. “OK, Bob and Allan, here’s your chance", I thought. And, as I tied on the DHE, I immediately became more confident, never having studied in detail exactly what this pattern is about before. In the heat of battle, there were three things about this fly that struck me as making it dangerous to trout; it’s submerged abdomen, and the complete absence of any supporting hackle, parachute fibres or CdC paraphernalia. Plus, the added extra of the highly visible, cocked-like-a-coarse-fisher's-float wing.

First cast, above a dimpling trout, the fly came round on dead smooth water and was taken instantly. Good start. Impressed, I then tried the fly on some even slower water which crept round the back of the pool. Another fish came up and took, no messing. I then worked round into increasingly faster water and everything I covered took it. 16 fish later, from runs, creases, tails, inflows, glides and riffles, this one fly kept floating and kept taking fish, including the best of the day, a three-quarter pounder from under the bridge. It was easier to dry and preen (I used amadou) than a CdC fly, and given a little Gink on the wing, off it would float again.

I went home, already enthused about using the DHE on lochs and reservoirs, and, of course, on this tiny picky river.

One indicator of how I enjoyed using this fly was when I hooked it high up into an overhanging oak tree. It took a full ten minutes of pulling, tip-toeing, then a fly-retrieve gadget failure, then finally a poke with the rod-tip to free the fly. My relief said it all.

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