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Bloodworm - fly fishing oddity

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Bearing a passing resemblance to Medusa as a redhead - this Bloodworm pattern catches fish Bearing a passing resemblance to Medusa as a redhead - this Bloodworm pattern catches fish

Sometimes you just have to ring the changes when fly fishing and try something outside your comfort zone. Self-proclaimed traditionalist Stephen Cheetham goes out on a limb and lets Mrs C trial a pattern new to them.

I am very much a traditional fisherman, preferring to stick to dry flies and nymphs; however on some occasions, more out of desperation not having caught anything, I will revert to chucking out a lure or two. Most lures do not represent anything in particular but can suggest anything at all.

On one occasion I was chatting away to my friend and fellow instructor Roger Beck who had just caught a nice rainbow and I happened to look at what he was using. “What the heck is that?” I exclaimed. “Blood worm” was the reply. Well! I have fished with worms when I was a nipper, I have fished with blood worm imitations that I have tied myself, but never have I seen or tied the concoction Roger was using. It seemed to be a mass of red rubber bands sticking out from a blood red body.  Upon further investigation I found that that the materials required I already had at home in my fly tying room. So rather sneakily, when my wife was not looking I tied up a few of these patterns, rather large on size 10 or 12 hooks and popped them into my lure fly box ready for my next outing to a stillwater.

I always like a wee bit of entomology and to study the life cycle of the insects that we fly fishermen try to imitate. Now for your lesson. The midge is always with us and flies about 365 days a year, it does not have a season like the Mayfly. The female midge lays the eggs on the water’s surface which then sink down onto the bed of the lake or river. The eggs are not relevant to the angler; you need a microscope to view them. Eventually the eggs hatch out into red larvae which are classed as blood worms. Are you with me so far? These blood worms are relatively small, a lot smaller than Roger’s fly. After a period of time these blood worms pupate into what we anglers call buzzers which then struggle up to the water’s surface and hatch out into a midge and the life cycle begins again.

Now on my next outing I was accompanied by my wife Christine who fortunately for me is an avid angler so completely understands me and my daydreams.  Christine has an adventurous streak and is always willing to try something new. “Right! What’s in the box, what shall I use?” is usually the first question. “How about this?”  I answered with a smile on my face and a blood worm in my palm. Well! A gurning champion would have been proud of the face she pulled. “What the heck is that? That will not catch”  “Go on give it a go” I prompted.

So out the blood worm goes, not very far, nice and steady, slowly retrieved and BANG, first fish on. Second cast no fish, third cast BANG and another one.
And so it progressed for the next hour or so until with a grin she asked me for a replacement as hers had lost all its legs and was almost down to a bare shank.

Now what is it about fish? Are they stupid? In nature it would be very rare to get a cluster of blood worms which when spread out are nearly as big as a man’s hand. Could it be the colour? Could it be the long straggly bits that wave about? Could it be a combination of both? One straggly bit looks like a blood worm but 6 or 8 clustered together? Whatever it is the blood worm rules OK as far as my wife is concerned; it has gone into her favourites list alongside a Shipman’s buzzer. But that’s another story.

Stephen Cheetham - GAIC Trout, GAIC Fly Dressing

Stephen Cheetham is a qualified member of the Game Anglers Instructors Association (GAIC) and member of the Angling Development Board (ADB). He has fished for trout all his life and runs various fly fishing courses for the Salmon andTrout Association and is also a demonstrator and a course tutor at Otley Prince Henry's Grammar School in Fly Dressing. Stephen, a published author to various magazines, is heavily involved in a monthly fly fishing column in The Yorkshire Post newspaper. Stephen is a firm believer that: "Fishing should be fun".

See Stephen Cheetham's Instructors page for further information.

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