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The Clyde Style

Written by Alan Goodwin

thumb"The trout within yon wimpling burn, glides swift- a silver dart. And safe beneath the shady thorn, defies the anglers art....Robert Burns

 The River Clyde tumbles westward from above Elvanfoot skirting the market towns of Lanark and Hamilton before emptying into the Firth of Clyde at Greenock. The Clyde in past times was more famous for its shipbuilding; here the great Cunard Queens were built, Elizabeth and Mary.

Clyde built meant quality. Sadly with the demise of its heavy engineering the Clyde shipyards are fading into obscurity But it is not of shipbuilding we talk here; it is the fly fishing, the men, tactics and most important of all its flies. The Clyde Style.

The flies above show the typical Clyde Style. Hooks are light wired, body length no more than half the shank, hackle of hen or upland game bird - 2 to 3 turns only. Wings are tied upright and at a "jaunty wee angle". Lightness of construction is the keyword and hooking properties are good.

These steel men of Lanark haunted the upper reaches of the river. Trout were hard to catch; no C and R here, this was fishing for the pot. Only undersized fish were returned and then only till they were big enough to be caught again. As fishing pressure increased they soon realised that only a lighter dressed fly would give them any guarantee of success and so The Clyde Style evolved. Using locally procured fur and feathers, they fashioned these wets often "sans vice". Thankfully, fishing trends have changed and people are becoming more aware of the need to conserve fish stocks - if not through out and out C and R, at least in bag limits. The old flies are gradually being replaced by today's modern patterns, but a hard core of knowing fly fishers still adhere to the old timers. 2006Oct0111596923001

Tackle involves a longish soft action rod coupled with a single action reel and floating line, although a sink tip is useful for deeper water. Travelling light is paramount in this style of fishing. To keep weight down to a minimum I find myself carrying braided leaders in varying densities, a useful addition, thus saving the need to carry spare spools and line My trusty Brady bag, a few spools of nylon, flies, sandwiches, a flask of coffee and a few bits and bobs complete the essentials.

A three fly set-up is normal, mounted on a 10ft tippet with 6” blood knotted droppers. Surprisingly, this is relatively tangle free if one can change from the modern idiom of fast and slick and adopt a more open loop style of casting. The old timers used up to 6 flies at a time and tangles were not a problem unless strong winds were present. Flies set up this way, are called a "cast" or a "team" and are fished on a short line down and across, searching out likely trout holding spots. A lot of water can be covered in a day's fishing hence keeping weight to a minimum is desirable. After all, you "have" to leave room for a few trout for breakfast.

All in all a most interesting way to fish and trout can be steadily taken in this style given the right conditions. Blending in with your background is the key. Approach cautiously and flick your flies on marginal water first, before wading, as trout can lie in surprisingly thin water. Lengthen your cast and fish across and down, mending as conditions require. Move down a pace or two between casts, always with the emphasis on stealth and no clumsy wading or you will scare every trout in the stream; shuffle rather than step. Allow flies to swing below, lift the rod tip slowly and recast. Always anticipate a trout even at this late stage; having shown interest and followed the flies around, one may still snatch as you prepare to recast. Many are lost at this point due to the difficulty of hooking directly below and downstream. Most takes come as the flies begin to quicken up as they swing across and down. Try this technique in spring/early summer in fast to medium flows.

Tight Lines

Alan Goodwin lives in Erskine Renfrewshire, married with two children and two grandchildren. A long time devoted traditional fly fisher for brown trout. So much so, he has devoted some time to his website "The Highlander Way", to introduce new and old to the somewhat forgotten art of the "traditional flee". Alan also specializes in tying Clyde style flies and there are a couple of pages on his site about this unique form of fly fishing.

Alan can be found at


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