What are cormorant flies & how to fish them.

What are cormorant flies?

The cormorant is a small black fly that has become very popular with Stillwater fly fishers in the UK. It’s a very simple pattern, consisting of a usually skinny body, a small wing of black marabou, and sometimes some cheeks or a bit of flash for added attraction.

What are cormorants supposed to resemble?

Cormorants don’t imitate any specific aquatic invertebrates, but they also look a little bit like a lot of them, which probably explains why they can work so well.

A cormorant fly could fool a trout into thinking it was a nymph, a buzzer, a fish fry or even a snail. Whatever the trout think they are, cormorants definitely work and at some fisheries, they’re among the top flies in the catch returns book almost every day.

How should I fish cormorant flies?

Cormorants are versatile flies and can be fished in a variety of ways. It can be fished almost static on a floating line to resemble a buzzer or similar aquatic insect; it can be retrieved with a slow figure of eight to allow it to resemble a nymph or fry, or it can be fished on an intermediate or sinking line and pulled back at speed.

Cormorants are usually fished in teams of two or three, often alongside brightly coloured attractor patterns such as blobs and boobies

When fishing cormorants alongside other flies, the cormorants usually go on the droppers with either a blob or booby on the point. Competition fly fishers reckon that the trout are attracted to the colour and water disturbance caused by pulling the blob or booby through the water but often turn and take the cormorants instead. 

Who developed the cormorant?

This trout fly is said to have been named and discovered by Graham Pearson, who was acting as a boatman in an England Youth fly fishing international competition – but it was originally tied by an unnamed England junior fly fisher.

Are there many cormorant variants?

Yes, there are so many variants of this fly that it’s difficult to know what the original looked like. I believe the original was simply a thin body of peacock hurl with a small wing of black marabou perhaps up to 50% longer than the body.

Modern cormorants now often have a holographic rib, a goose biot cheek or some kind of fluorescent dubbing or thread to act as a hot spot or trigger point for fish.

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