Pulling flies is verbiage from across the pond. They use that term whenever they are fishing stillwaters and presenting the flies in a cast and retrieve style. I like the term pulling better than cast and retrieve or stripping for the reasons that it describes the action and presentation accurately. I want to get into the flies I think are necessary for this presentation, even though I think the line is vastly more important. The line is changed based on where and how the fish are eating where the flies will typically be the constant in your equation you’re trying to get to equal fish. So let me get into the flies I have to have in my box for pulling
Slim Damsel/Big Jim Damsel
This is one of my top performing fly in lakes. I love this fly with an orange bead or with a blue bead and blue flash. This pattern is adapted from English and Australian patterns that are tied in a very similar style. The thin body with buggy hackle allows it to sink well but still look life-like in the water. The long tail and short hook also increase hookups and commitments to eats. It’s a simple pattern that can have different accents or color combos that you can adapt to your water. Places that have lots of small fry, pink works well, you can use ice dub for the body, you can add a collar or a hackle to the fly if you want a bigger profile. I mostly tie this fly in olive and black and change up the beads.
Straggle String Bugger
This is one of the simpler flies you can tie for stillwater fishing. It is a two material fly if you don’t include the hook and the bead. The tail and body come in loads of colors and between the two of them you have dozens of combinations you can choose from. Two of these flies on your line in either different sizes or weights can allow you to cover a ton of water with limited lines. That makes these flies great when you’re just starting out, for when you have only a few lines in your quiver. Black and olive are my go to colors but I keep purple, white, claret and brown in the rotation as well.
Straggle Hackle Bugger
Simple is the name of the game. This is another two material fly that catches fish. They offer a different presentation than the straggle string buggers because of the short shank hook and the “fluffier” body material. I use a material from Upavon called straggle hackle that comes in lots of color blends to match the look you’re going for. If you know me you probably know that the olive and blue color is what I’m partial to. The Brits are experts on stillwaters and they fish a lot of blue and olive flies so I do too and it hasn’t disappointed me yet.
I tie this style of fly differently than most UK and EU guys. The main difference is the thorax of the fly is tied with blob fritz instead of a hackle. This fly has caught me so many fish when nothing else will. The yellow/white combo and the chartreuse/black combo are my favorites but maybe the fish in your area really key into red/brown or purple/pink. I used to tie the pattern with all fritz material for the body but it never swam quite right. I do half the body with ice dub then just the “shoulders” with fritz. This fly is my “blank saver” and works especially well with stockers.
This is typically the go to fly for most new stillwater fly anglers. It throws them off with the long tail but trust me it works. The long tail adds a ton of movement to this fly and because it is marabou it collapses so well when a fish sucks it in. I rarely get a short strike and when I do I just speed up the retrieve and that typically solves my problem. Most guys tie it in black with either gold or silver flash high-lights, but I’ve seen it in olive and brown as well. Fish these in duos to learn the sink rate of them and then use that to understand how all your lines fish. This fly is a good benchmark.
The five flies above are always in my box with lots of others as well. I wouldn’t go to a lake without these in my box. If I was just getting into stillwater or competitive stillwater fishing I would have these in my box because when the fish want flies pulled you need to have some to meet the need.
As always leave a comment down below or reach out through the contact page if you have anything to add or a question you want answered. If you don’t want to tie these flies and you want me to do that for you you can reach me through this site.