Following a mention of his writings on dapping in last week’s Sheelin report, Ronnie Chism was in touch to offer the full article on dapping for you reading pleasure…


Dapping to most anglers is just practiced at mayfly time or in August when the daddy long legs and the grasshoppers hatch but there is a lot more to dapping than meets the eye.

Let’s start with the set up we need to have a comfortable days dapping; if the rod isn’t right your beat before you start. The rod has to be light, easy to handle and around 14 ft. long with a standard trout fly reel. Your wrist and arm you will soon let you know if you have the wrong rod. Dapping Naturals is as old as time so there is no real secret to it but there are a few small points that will help anyone to improve. To collect the flies you will need a minnow net to lift them of the surface or go to the shore to where the fly is being blown onto. If it’s a wet day the fly will be sitting on the stones or the tree stumps close to the water’s edge. On the other hand if it’s a warm breezy day the fly will collect high on the trees at the back of the leaves and the tree trunks, so try to pick the big fresh ones not the dark black ones and then put them into your dapping box as shown in the photo.

Dapping box
Dapping box

Firstly, you don’t need floss because in a squally wind the fly will blow all over the place and it is harder to control. You are better to just use 5/6 lb nylon attached to 20 or 30lb braid as this is finer and lighter when compared to nylon but if you have to use floss, a meter is plenty. Furthermore the best wind for dapping is a steady breeze as it allows for greater control of the fly. You can also vibrate the top of the rod gently by moving the rod hand to mimic a struggling fly.

Next thing we need to look at is hooks. Now the best hook I found over the years is Kamasan B983 size 10 and you should tie the hook upside down onto the nylon so to make the two mayflies sit on the shank and not slide down on to the bend of the hook into a lump. The best place to put the hook is at the brown spot at the thorax of the fly, by holding the fly’s wings between your finger and thumb and pushing the hook through the brown part then gently push the fly up the shank. Repeat the process with the other fly make sure the two flies are facing the same way and sitting upright and across the shank with their feet sitting on the water, not lying to the side or flat. If you use too big of a hook it takes a lot more work to keep the flies on  the surface not in it, a heavy hook will drown the flies a lot quicker and the fish feels the larger  hook and will consequently spit the flies out. If you are new to dapping putting the flies on can be tricky at the start but with a bit of practice you will soon get used to it. Also if it’s a wet day keep an old towel in your box so as to dry your hands before putting the flies on as sometimes the wings of the flies will stick to your fingers and pull off.

Dapping with the Daddy Long Legs is much the same as the mayfly but you have to handle the daddies a lot more gently  because you can pull the wings and legs off very easily. The best time to collect the daddies is first thing in the morning especially if there is heavy dew as you can find them down in the clumps of rushes and long grass where they won’t move very much until the sun warms them up and then you will need a small children’s beach net to catch them.

In addition you will need some thing to keep the daddies in and the best thing I’ve found is a plastic sweet jar with the top wide enough so you can put your hand in. Take the lid off and get an old piece of rubber wide enough to cover the top, an old car tube is perfect cut the tube open and place the lid onto the rubber and mark roughly about two inches wider than the top. Fix it over the opening of the jar with a cable tie or tape then take a sharp knife and cut a cross shape in the rubber that covers the top opening. The rubber will fold around your wrist and stay in shape when you reach in to take a fly out so you don’t have any lid to open and the flies won’t escape. Finally put a couple of air holes in the jar and bobs your uncle. See photo of the jar.

Put the daddies on the hook the same as the mayfly; at the thick part where the legs join the body. Two flies is plenty but you can put on more if you wish though a lot of fish will slap at them and try to drown them. And a lot of fish will be missed. Keep a good eye on the flies when this happens for a lot of the time after the rise the flies will still be there don’t move them for some times the fish will come back and take them with more confidence. It takes the trout a while to come onto the daddies. When they first appear you need a good wind blowing sufficient numbers of the land from the same quarter for several days before the trout get accustomed to them and they will then take them freely.

Dapping the cricket and the locust is much the same and they are handier got than grasshoppers in some parts of the country and work equally as well. They are very good even when the mayfly is out and better still when sedges are about. If the breeze is not too strong and you have the right dapping rod you can work the cricket with a little movement from the rod top and with a bit of help from the breeze you can make the cricket skitter across the water like sedge, the trout make no mistake when they come for it.

In 2009 I was fishing on the lake for a few days where I had a couple of trout hard fished for from an east wind with a harsh light on the dap. On the last day the fly was hatching and blowing down from bog bay and I could see the trout taking the fly down wind in front of me but in a splashy type of rise way out over the deeps. I drifted up and down through these trout with the dap for two hours and could not move a trout. As the rise form was not the rise of fish confidently taking mayfly I put on the dries and thought it would be better to target single fish. Several trout showed up in front of the boat and I had no problem seeing what direction they were going. I covered them well in front and tried to put it on their noses but it was a waste of time. I could not get an offer so I pulled the boat onto the shore to try to figure out what was going on.

The flies were sitting thick on the water and the more I watched I noticed that they weren’t that interested in the fly on the top as not even one mayfly was touched. After watching till I was fed up I saw a sedge scurry across the surface, he didn’t get ten yards until the water opened and the sedge was gone so onto my rod went the cricket. I started the drift again and I hadn’t gone very far with the cricket tracking the water just like the sedge, when a big head and shoulders appeared and down went the rod to the top of the water. I waited a few seconds, lifted the rod then everything went solid and after a good fight I netted the 3/5lb trout with a hook in roof of the  mouth. I thought I had cracked it! I spooned him right away expecting him to be full of sedges but instead he was full of mayfly nymphs, most of them with the wings just opened. The fish on that particular day wanted the fly half in half out of the surface because of the splashy rise form. Before the rise finished I had four trout on the cricket for almost 12lbs. All fish returned bar one to fight another day, if I hadn’t had the crickets I don’t think I would have got a fish.  Who knows?

A big klinkhammer might have worked but that’s for another day so don’t always think that when you see a rise they are taking files of the top. Timing the strike when dapping is the fun part, the most importing thing about timing the strike is do not take your eyes of the fly. The takes come in a leisurely fashion if the fly is presented correctly and nine times out of ten a fish that comes with a splashy rise will be small trout. The one that comes even in a big wave with a sip like a trout taking a spent in a flat calm is the boy you want, though if your not watching the dap this take can go unnoticed and next thing you know the best fish of the day has come and gone. These big fish don’t make too many mistakes but with the dap they do.

Apart from spent gnat fishing there is nothing more satisfying than at mayfly time when drifting down a shore dapping you see a fish tacking a fly of the top, a pull on the oar brings you in line with him and the dap is sitting perfect the heart picks up a beat in anticipation. It seems like a long time but it is merely seconds. For that moment in time the world stops until you raise the rod. If you have done everything right then all you need to do is drop the rod as soon as you see the rise to the top of the water, let it sit a second or two then lift the rod back up. If at the initial take the fish feels any resistance he will spit the fly out. If the wind moves the fly as it sometimes does, just as a fish is about to take get the flies down onto the water as quick as you can even if it means letting the line fall onto the water. Almost all of the times he will come up and take the dap if you can get it back onto the water quickly and if the hook is tied as above then the trout will be hooked in the top of the mouth.

The result of good dapping…

Dapping with the artificial is a different ball game. You can dap any kind of fly you like provided there is enough hackles on it to keep it afloat as it skips over the waves. If you take wet fly fishing for example mostly the best fly on the cast is your top dropper for attracting fish so you try to keep it bobbing on the water at the end the cast for as long as you can. With my light dapping rod you can work your dapping fly should it be a size 12 bumble or a large sedge hog all day long as you are not restricted by different types of flies. When fishing wet flies from a boat drifting down a shore you are casting your flies down in front of you and retrieving them back more or less in a straight line but with the dap you can sweep the fly from side to side covering half the length of the boat and you are showing the fly over a far wider area and covering far more water with less effort.

Now comes the hard part, the takes come in a couple of different ways and as I said before do not take your eyes of the fly. Sometimes when the fly is tracking across the waves the fish will follow the fly until it reaches the end of its journey. When the fly stops momentarily and just before it starts to sweep back this is where the trout will take it. You would nearly think that the trout knew the fly was going to stop and you have to treat this take as you would a dry fly take and let the fish turn down. The other scenario is when you’re skirting the fly over the waves and the trout head/tails on your fly you have to give him time to turn down, just drop the rod to the water and lift it straight up again. If on the other hand the fish makes a splashy rise strike as you would when fishing wet fly.

The great thing about the dapping technique is if you want to fish the dry fly on a day with a nice breeze should it be a wolf at mayfly time or a small sedge just let the wind take fly out in front of the boat then you can lift it and set it at three different angles in front of you as you would with dry fly. You don’t need to let the fly too far out in front of the boat, just over a rods length is plenty. I’ve often caught trout beside the boat in a light breeze, and you should just lift into the fish the same way as you do for the dry fly. Sometimes when dapping at mayfly time the trout might be slow at coming to the dap, a trick I do sometimes is to put a wolf or large sedge hog on and skate it across the water and this will bring the them up. You seem to catch a better class of fish at this method and I think it has something to do with no fly line or cast lying on the water so there’s nothing to spook the fish, well it works for me.

This is how I go about my dapping and I find it good fun and a change for the better as there is so much more you can do and experiment with. It took me a long time to get the right dapping rod and I ended up cutting rods to get the right action and weight and now I have it. The rod I use is a 14ft four piece and weighs 6 oz. It’s like a wand in your hand whereby you can feel a fish of a pound on it to being able to handle a 5 or 6lb plus. So there you have it, give it a go and you will not be disappointed! It will open up a whole new avenue in fishing for anyone who wants to experiment with different ways to present flies, be them natural or other wise. When fishing in rivers or lakes dapping is the only way to do it.

P.S If anybody uses a spinning reel on a dapping rod, well I wouldn’t trust them with my granny.

If you would like further information on the technique or the equipment I use then do not hesitate to contact me via email: [email protected]


All Rights Reserved

No part of this can be copied or altered by order of R Chism