Dapping fly - 'Furnace'
Dapping fly - 'Furnace'

Dapping fly – ‘Furnace’

For those of you that may never have tried this fly fishing technique, I thought we might best start with the formal Dictionary Definition:In angling, letting the bait or lure bob lightly and repetitively down onto the water surface in the manner of certain behaviour patterns of gracile flying insects such as craneflies, mayflies, caddisflies and others.

Whilst this is an accurate description, it does very little to convey the sheer fun that can be had using this little used technique.

As John Humphrys (of Today Programme and Mastermind fame) wrote in an article for Trout and Salmon following a stay at The Altnaharra:
“The origins of dapping are interesting. In the old days, the boatman or gillie dapped with a hookless fly to tease the fish up. When he caused one to rise, the guests in the boat would cover it with conventional flies.

Later, it was the province of ladies who could not cast a fly all day. To sit at ease in the boat wafting your dapping rod was a lovely way to spend the day. At last the men, being slow on the uptake, gradually realised that the women were catching more fish than they were so they, too, took up the gentle art and abandoned their fly rods.

Dapping allows you to fish a fly as you have always wished you could fish your top dropper and I soon got the hang of it, taking pride in making the big fly sweep back and  forth, trickling it with the wind, furrowing the water, pausing, lifting lightly off and dancing down again.”

So, what are the basics?
Starting at the business end with the fly, here we’re talking big and bushy – some say the bigger the better – and ideally something that imitates a daddy-long-legs.  Onwards to the leader, this rises vertically from the fly, so the breaking strain of the two or three feet of monofilament needed is not really an issue as the fish shouldn’t see it – I usually use about 8lb line.  Above this is about 6-10 feet of dapping floss, which is needed to catch the wind to take the fly away from the boat and to hold the leader vertically from the water.

From there on its simple – 10lb monofilament leading to any type of reel (fixed spool or centre pin) and a telescopic dapping rod of between 14-18 feet.

For sure you need a breeze – but then there aren’t many still days in The Highlands.  Anybody will get the hang of it in 10 minutes which from then on, in some, will lead to a lifetime addiction and days and weeks of fun.  You will see every nibble, swirl, tail-flap, lunge or leap-right-out-of-the-water that the fish make at your fly – albeit if you can catch one in every two or three of the numerous takes you will generally get, you will have had a good day.

Most of the more addicted guests tend to bring their own equipment but for beginners, don’t worry, you can hire everything you need from The Altnaharra and an expert local ghillie can be arranged to steer the boat and lead you to the fish.

I caught my first ever salmon dapping on Loch Hope and on the same holiday my then 10 year old brother caught a seven and a half pound sea trout – upon landing which he exclaimed ‘WICKED!’ – apparently the highest level of proclamation a 10 year old can ever bestow!

Try it – I will challenge you not to get as hooked as the sea trout, brownies or salmon you will inevitably catch!

Duncan Mason
Owner, Altnaharra Hotel