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Adventures in Fly Tying... January 2009


The Diawl Bach

Fly and Text by Joe Cornwall
Photography by Jim Stuard and Joe Cornwall

Video Production by Jim Stuard



It might be a bit on the odd side to be reading about a traditional Welsh fly pattern on a web site with a strong focus on Midwestern U.S. warm water sport.  I'm pretty confident when I say you probably won't find this fly in too many Ohio fly boxes.  To the best of my recollection, I first read about this fly in this excellent Global Fly Fisher article.  My interest in adapting British stillwater tactics to warm water lakes began to take shape, and for several weeks I could be found drifting in my canoe, fishing a 15' leaders with a team of wet flies.  A copy of Paul Marriner's superb tutorial Stillwater Fly Fishing: Tools & Tactics shone a bright light on additional advanced subtleties of the technique and supercharged my belief that these trout tactics and patterns would work wonderfully on difficult reservoir bluegill.  They do!  An added benefit is that many of the fly patterns designed for British waters, where midges get much larger than on our own U.S. trout waters, work superbly on our warm waters where the insects are similar in size.  The stillborn midge in the photo to the left is a healthy size 14 and was photographed on Cowen Lake where there are times when the surface is cluttered with the abandoned husks of these emerged insects!

The Diawl Bach is a very close cousin of the centuries-old trout pattern, the Peacock and Brown.  Differing primarily in having a beard hackle instead of a full wrap, the "Little Devil" is also a close relative of the traditional Southeastern U.S. trout pattern, the Red Ass.  I've fished all these variations and more, and the simple version shown here has been my most consistent producer.  For tailwater trout I like this fly ribbed with pearl crystal flash, tied in size 18.  For bluegill, especially big water bluegill, I like to start with size 12 and work down in size until I start getting takes.  I use various hook designs to sink the fly, opting for a heavier wire wet fly hook when I need to go deep rather than adding a bead or weight.  Fishing this on 6lb test fluorocarbon tippet will allow it will settle to 6 or 8-feet deep on a slow drift with the right leader design.  It can be deadly on pre and post spawn suspending bluegill.  Later in the year when the big 'gills move into 15 to 20-feet of water I'll switch to a full sinking line and slightly shorter leader.

The Diawl Bach has also shown itself to be an amazing pattern when prospecting for scattered trout.  I like this in smaller sizes, typically 18 or 16.  Often I'll drop a very small soft hackle off the bend.  When fished down-and-across with a traditional wet fly swing this is simply a killer set-up.  The sparse and streamlined Little Devil takes the game right to the bottom layer and provokes solid takes.  Try if for smallmouth during the post-spawn, too!


Hook Mustad 3906B wet fly hook or similar, size 12 to 18
Thread Red 90-denier 8/0, build a nice round head for a spot of color

Body Green or bronze peacock herl, tied full

Rib Copper wire, crystal flash and tinsel can all be used

Hackle Sparse brown hen or partridge tied as a beard

Tail Sparse brown hen or partridge

Windows Media Video  QuickTime Video 



Start by mounting the hook in the vise and wrapping a smooth, solid thread base.  I like to use red thread, but fluorescent red or orange can also be a very useful variation. 

Tie in a rolled clump of hen hackle for a tail.  The tail should be about as long at the gape of the hook is wide and is tied sparse. 

The ribbing can be many different things.  In the video I'm using small copper wire.  Try fluorescent chartreuse or orange wire and tie this on a heavy-wire size 14 hook for your next steelhead outing.  Or use fluorescent red thread twisted in with the peacock herls as shown in the photograph at the introduction.  Also try using pearl, copper or red crystal flash, especially when you're tying this fly in sizes 16 and 18 for trout.

Tie in several peacock herls.  I like to break off the final inch of peacock herls as they tend to be most fragile there.  Also, experiment with different peacock herls for different effects.  Leaving several peacock eye feathers in a vase on a windowsill turn them a beautiful bronze color, offering a nice complement to the bright, buggy green of fresh herl.  I like the body fat, with lot's of inherent motion and flash from this wonderful natural material.

Twist the herls around a thread or wire, or just around themselves if no center core is to be used.  Stop the body one to one-and-one-half hook eye diameters away from the hook eye to ensure enough room for the beard hackle and a bright, round head.

Wrap the ribbing material towards you, and opposite the direction in which you wound the herl.  This will reinforce the herl at each point where the ribbing crosses the peacock, making the fly a lot tougher.

Tie on a sparse beard hackle.  The hackle should just about reach the point of the hook.  Trim away the excess material.

I like to wrap a nice, bullet-shaped head with the read, colorful thread.  A coat or two of Sally Hansen's Hard As Nails finishes the tie.

It's a fast, easy tie and is amazingly effective on a wide variety of species.

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