The Truth About Duns
duns are perhaps the most romanticised of all insect
emergences related to the art of trout fishing. For
centuries anglers have marveled at their beauty and
the sometimes-frantic feeding activity they induce from
otherwise wary brown trout. While we as anglers have
strived for perfection in all facets of the sport the
art of tying flies to suit has lagged well behind in
this avenue, at least in this country. But this is changing
and changing rapidly. The rest of the country is finally
realising that parachute tied imitations of the mayfly
are the solution.
I cannot recall how many
times I have traveled to other fly shops over the years
only to find that very few of them carried parachute
tied dun imitations, and of the ones that did there
were hardly any in the correct sizes. They were seen
as a bit of an offshoot, an irrelevant tangent brought
about by some tiers attempt to reinvent the wheel. But
parachute ties are not only easy to tie but are the
most effective way of targeting fish taking the newly
A fly tied with a parachute
hackle has a major advantage over other patterns in
that they ALWAYS land the correct way. While this doesn't
sound like too big a deal think about when you last
used a fly with divided wings like a Royal Wulff. How
often when fishing flies like the wulff or others with
traditional wings like the Greenwell's Glory, do the
patterns fall over rendering the presentation ineffective?
The answer for those of you who don't know is most of
While these flies may look
pretty, they fail to present correctly making them suitable
for use behind a glass cabinet rather than to a 'selectively'
rising fish. Just the mere fact that a parachute dun
sits correctly every time, guarantees the angler at
least 100% more effective fishing time on the principal
that it is landing the right way at least twice as much.
In actuality the percentage rate would be much higher
So what some may ask? Well
a fly that rides in 'natural' way only part of the time
must surely be seen as useless. I am not saying that
the Royal Wulff is not a great fly. It is! In the right
time and place. In fast, heavy water and as an indicator
under which a large beadhead is fished, it is without
equal. But when fishing to trout rising in a hatch of
mayflies it falls way short of the mark. In fact a fly
riding incorrectly on its side over a selectively rising
fish can actually put it down altogether.
Next time you are on the
water towards evening take a look at the duns drifting
in the bubble lines. If you cannot see too well find
one in a slow backwater, wade out and observe. Despite
popular belief these insects sit low on the water, abdomen
leaving quite an imprint in the meniscus. Fish get a
very get look at the size, shape and colour of the natural.
Parachute duns allow the fly angler to mimic this very
well. Because of their parachute hackle these flies
sit in an identical manner, body in the surface film
like the natural. If you have the size and approximate
colour shading correct a take is almost assured (remember
colour is the least important part of the equation).
Also many divided wing
patterns have a heavy hackle that cause the fly to sit
high off the water, more closely resembling a mayfly
spinner than a dun. There is no body profile to target.
The tips of the hackle and tail keep the body of the
fly above the surface. This is not how a mayfly dun
appears to a trout.
Let's look at the major
trigger when fish are on duns. For those of you who
have never donned a face mask and had a look up during
a hatch it is quite simple. The first thing the trout
sees when the dun approaches are the imprint of the
body in the surface. While from this distance the rest
of the underside of the surface is a mirror reflecting
the stream bottom, the abdomen and legs pushing into
the surface tension can clearly be seen. This is the
first indication that food is on the way. As discussed
previously this is well mimicked by the parachute tie
and low riding body.
Secondly, and equally as
important is the view that confirms to the fish that
this is indeed a dun drifting down occurs as the fly
enters the actual field of vision or window above the
trout. Assuming that you have the size right, the large
ridiculously oversized looking wing and low riding body
give the correct shape signals. The wing of the dun
is probably the main trigger in getting a fish feeding
on duns to rise for a closer examination. While divided
winged flies do suggest this they are incorrect and
a poor imitation at best (please excuse the pun). Mayflies
drift with their wings in a vertical position above
them. While they will pump them to help dry them out
for flight, most of the time the wings sit above at
rest. The parachute dun also imitates this about as
well as an inanimate object like a fly can.
So the trout has first
sees the imprint of the insect in the meniscus before
it comes into its window. This is the first cue that
an insect is on its way. The fish may even start the
movement up to take it at this early point. As the insect
gets closer it comes into the fishes window of vision
and it is here that the take is sold or lost. The fish
can now see much greater detail of the size, shape and
even though not as important, the colour. Even a correctly
sitting wulff will work far less frequently than a parachute
dun. The bulky hackle and incorrect wing position are
very obvious at this point. However a parachute dun
drifting along has everything going for it. As long
as you pick the correct size and get a good drift a
take is almost assured. The upright wing and low riding
body that always sits in the correct is the most effective
While perhaps not as formal
as it sounds this is what it all comes down to. The
silhouette of body and wing is right, the size is pretty
much right and the colour must be reasonably close.
While perhaps not the colour so much as the tone i.e.
light-dark. Achieving this result is something not easily
done with a traditionally hackled-divided winged fly.
Parachute flies have a
few other advantages. They are simple to tie. Once you
get over the initial paranoia of tying a hackle in a
horizontal fashion it soon becomes second nature. The
trick with tying them is a very simple one and it is
this. Get someone to show you how straight at up! Walk
into your local flyshop and ask them to tie one up for
you and explain it. Pay them for the fly if you have
to, but watch how it is done. You will soon see it is
very easy a technique to learn. Also parachute flies
are durable. The wing is tied in first in and has no
fiddly bits; hence it is impossible to pull out. The
main problem comes from over zealous use of the forceps
to remove it from the fish. Use barbless hooks and a
gentle but sure movement with the fingers will quickly
remove the fly undamaged from the fish. Parachute flies
when finished off properly are as strong as any hackled
fly out there and I have yet to have one of mine fall
apart of its own volition.
We have been using these
flies as guides for the past eight years now and have
never looked back. While others lament not being able
to consistently catch fish during the dun hatch our
clients (and us!) continue to take these so selective
fish. There are many other styles of tying dun patterns.
There are no hackles, comparaduns, thorax duns, each
with their own particular strong points and weaknesses.
But it is the humble paradun that wins for ease of tying,
durability and the ability to catch fish rising to duns
in just about any location the world over.
So tie a few up or buy
some today and find out what the rest of the country's
fly fishers are just discovering. The instructions are
simple. Take three duns nightly. Just add water. I guarantee
that you will not regret the decision.