Yobs with Blobs

Love them or loathe them, Kieran McCann says that Blob flies are here to stay

It was a typical mid-winter cold and wet Saturday afternoon at Millbrook Lakes, back in 2006. It was also my first FlyLife Forum Weekend and I wanted to make the most of it. From memory, that weekend Pink Magoos were doing the job nicely on some decent rainbows and browns. I probably could have stuck with that pattern, but I was curious to try something different while the fish were on. It was a great opportunity to test some other flies to see if they were effective or were doomed to make their way to the donations box! I opened my fly box and came across a fly I’d bought at Farlows in Pall Mall, London a year before. It was a vibrant orange pattern, with a dyed Arctic fox tail and wing, and a bright orange fritz body, probably tied on a size 8 heavy gauge hook. Looking like something that might have fallen out of Dame Edna’s underwear drawer, the fly was a winner. It hooked into rainbow after rainbow and after about an hour it was so chewed to bits the tail was non-existent and the wing was long gone. I persevered, successfully, with these remains, but eventually the fly disappeared in the jaws of a fish which one wag described as ‘more of a turkey than a rainbow’. I’m not sure you’d call this fly a Blob per se; perhaps it was the colour and the movement that worked. Either way, the fish were hooked and so was I. That fly took me back to London and my pilgrimage to Farlows. Walking in the door, I felt I was more likely to have someone take my inside leg measurement for a bespoke tweed outfit than I was to encounter someone selling fly fishing gear. Eventually I found my way to their fly section and what struck me were the intensely coloured flies (no tweed here!) sitting alongside the more traditional patterns on display. I grabbed the usual favourites, a few beautifully tied extended body mayflies and a selection of the more outrageous patterns, thinking of them more as souvenirs than anything else. Sitting at the vice on the evening of that first Millbrook adventure, I tried to replicate the essence of the Dame Edna fly that had done so well earlier. Using the limited materials I had with me, I tied a short stumpy tail of trimmed orange marabou, a body of Veniard orange fritz, and some red bead chain eyes. I didn’t include the tail or wing, as the absence of these hadn’t impacted the effectiveness of the fly that afternoon. While not exactly a copy of what I was using earlier, it was the best I could come up with. My appetite was whetted. I’d heard of Blobs, Boobies, Dancers and various other UK competition flies, but I don’t think I had an actual Blob in any of my fly boxes at that time. This was my first introduction to the Blobby world and I wanted to know and to tie more, which is where Hannah Montana dress-up packs come in… HANNAH AND HER SISTERS Let me explain. My young daughter, like most of her friends at the time, was a fan of the Disney show Hannah Montana. One of her Hannah Montana dress-up packs included a red anodised bead-chain bracelet, which had, prior to the Millbrook weekend, somehow managed to find its way into my tying kit and onto the first of what became known as the Hannah Montana Blob. I tied a few of these and gave them out to some of the other guys who were fishing that weekend. The following day’s test on the Millbrook lakes showed the Hannah Montana Blob to be equally as effective as the Dame Edna. In short, it was a little wrecking ball. Post Millbrook, I was off to the Melbourne tackle shops in search of more of that vibrant orange fritz, but back then, it didn’t seem as though anyone Down Under was stocking those intense colours. I turned to the pages of the UK fly tying magazines, and there I found something that looked pretty similar. A week or so later I had a few packs of brightly coloured materials. How bright? To test this, I took a pack of the orange fritz to (the now long gone) Turville’s in Franklin Street, hung the pack up in the middle of their array and not only did it stand out from everything else, it virtually popped. I kept experimenting. The sunburst orange Blob worked; would the same fly tied in sunburst yellow fritz be as effective? A baker’s dozen of each and three months later I was back at Millbrook ready to find out. The orange was pretty much successful from the outset, in particular with the rainbows. Browns would take it, but probably 80% of takes were from rainbows. Later that afternoon I tied on the sunburst yellow version. I didn’t expect much of a reaction — I was really just looking to try out this new pattern and colour. This time the takes were a bit different, perhaps not as fierce, more a tightening of the line as a fish turned away with the fly in its mouth. What became evident (and has become more apparent over time) was that the browns seemed to be less timid around the yellow, and the ratio of browns was greater than that of rainbows. TO BLOB OR NOT TO BLOB? The notion of Yobs with Blobs — that Blobs are somehow only for the low- brow fly fisher — has been around since the early 2000s, when debate among the more traditional UK fly fishing fraternity raged over whether or not to ban Blobs because they were too successful. The discussion and the controversy centred on the genesis of these brightly coloured Frankenflies and what, if anything, they are intended to imitate. Various theories, designed to pacify the fur-and-feather mob, suggested they bore a likeness to daphnia clusters. Debate continues and the Blob still struggles for broader acceptance. In the UK, the traditionalists have relegated them to the ranks of ‘stockie bashers’ in the put-and-take fisheries and concrete bowls, where the trout don’t know any better! However, it cannot be denied that, as ugly and unacceptable as they may be, Blobs are a versatile fly in still waters and at times have been proven a game changer on the vast open lakes in the Snowy Mountains when prospecting for wild trout feeding at depth. Blobs are not necessarily my first fly of choice. In fact most of the time when I approach a lake, I don’t even have the line spooled, as I will normally first choose a line to suit the depth that I want to fish, and then reach for my fly boxes. For still water, my fly boxes are divided into two distinct categories — brightly coloured flies on one side and the more natural coloured on the other. I’m quite happy to swap between either side, to work out what might appeal to an unseen fish, and throughout the session probably rotate about half a dozen or more patterns that I have confidence in fishing, until I find a combination that works. So to Blob or not to Blob? Would I use them all the time? No. On occasion they’re just too colourful, which seems to put fish off; other times there’s no way you would cast that thing to a selective fish. Then again, I’ve seen fussy fish avoid the most beautifully tied imitations and go over and pick up a Blob, so who knows? Probably more than anything, if you have confidence in what you are fishing, how you are fishing, and are enjoying it, I reckon that you are more likely to hook up — even if it’s with a Blob.

Current FlyLife Subscribers can login to read the full article.
To access this article, back issues & more Subscribe to FlyLife today.