IG190303-175933A pattern for fishing the shallow margins and weedbeds, often best fished along a quiet bank in early evening. The corixa or lesser water boatman is typically 6-12 mm in size, so patterns are typically tied on a size 12-14 hook. As they don’t have gills corixa make repeated journeys to the surface for oxygen that is then held on the underside of their body, appearing like a tiny air bubble. Not surprising, therefore, that they live in relatively shallow water.  The body on this pattern is tied with Madeira metallic thread, which gives it a rather nice transparency, simulating the air bubble that these insects use to breath underwater. Alfred Courtney-Williams [1] gives an early pattern for corixa, attributing it to T.J. Hanna. That ‘Water Bug’ pattern is decidedly a more complex pattern than we might routinely use today, involving stripped hackle stems, Plymouth Rock hackle and speckled hen wing feathers.

Hook: Hayabusa 761 #12
Rib: Silver wire
Wing case and legs: Pheasant tail
Body: Madeira metallic Col. 300
Thread: Danville 6/0 black
Dr Bell’s Blagdon Corixa

However, this particular pattern has its roots in a pattern attributed to Dr Howard Bell of Blagdon by John Veniard [2] who cites an article in the Fishing Gazette of April 1958 where this and several other of Bell’s flies are described by Col. Esmond Drury. Dr Bell’s pattern uses a body of white or cream floss ribbed with brown tying thread and a wing case of woodcock wing fibres using a white or cream throat hackle to imitate the legs. Given Dr Bell’s reputation for developing a meticulous, scientific approach to the study of his catch, regularly examining the trout he caught for evidence of what they had been eating, it is not surprising that he came up with this simple and rather close imitation of corixa.

  1. Alfred Courtney-Williams, A dictionary of trout flies and of flies for sea-trout and grayling (London: A&C Black, 5th ed, 1973)
  2. John Veniard, Reservoir and Lake Flies (London: A&C Black, 1970)

Dr Bell’s Grenadier

IG190219-213120Dr Howard Alexander Bell (1888-1974) of Wrington, Somerset, is generally regarded as one of the pioneers of reservoir fly-fishing in the UK and someone who left an indelible mark on the development of modern stillwater trout fishing.  He fished Blagdon Lake in Somerset regularly for over 40 years, at the same time studying its aquatic invertebrate life closely and tying flies to imitate. While reservoir trout fishing began around the 1870s, initially mainly bait fishing, early fly fishing on reservoirs tended to use attractor patterns or salmon flies. Conrad Voss Bark, in his History of fly fishing [1], says of Dr Bell:

Dr Bell of Blagdon had the greatest formative influence of any man on the development of reservoir fishing in the first half of this century.

Adrian Freer’s excellent website recording the life and legacy of this pioneer of modern reservoir fly fishing [2] reveals that he was a private man who looked to his time spent fishing on Blagdon Lake for its quiet and solitude. However, he developed a meticulous, scientific approach to the study of his catch, regularly examining the trout he caught for evidence of what they had been eating. As a result, he realised that, by imitating insects that the trout of his beloved Blagdon expected to see and eat, and by presenting them in a manner that mimicked their progression through the water he had developed a significantly better approach to catching trout.

Dr Bell’s Blagdon Buzzer

He was responsible for the design of several fly patterns that were significant innovations at the time, representing the advent of modern imitative reservoir flies. Amongst them The Grenadier, the Blagdon Buzzer nymph and the Amber nymph. His buzzer pattern is the forefather of countless modern buzzer imitations that fill the rows of the reservoir angler’s fly box. Ironically, when it comes to The Grenadier it is less clear what he was seeking to imitate, not helped by Bell’s lack of published material. In Nymph Fishing – A history of the art and practice [3], Terry Lawton writes of Dr Bell:

He hated and never sought publicity and was reputed never to have written anything about fly fishing although notes for an unpublished article, dated 1941, were published in The Buzzer in 2003.

Tom Stewart [4] mentions an earlier article in The Fishing Gazette of 1958 by Colonel Esmond Drury that seems to have brought Dr Bell’s patterns to a wider audience and gave the particulars of the Grenadier as using hot orange seals fur or floss of a similar colour for the body.

Hook: Tiemco 3769 #10-14
Rib: Gold wire
Body: Seal’s fur, dyed orange
Hackle: Ginger cock
Thread: Danville 6/0 brown

Today, it is more common to tie The Grenadier with a palmered body hackle and short tail.

Grenadier Special
Hook: Tiemco TMC 3769 #10-14
Tail: Globrite #7
Rib: Gold wire
Body: Seal’s fur, dyed orange
Hackle: Ginger cock, palmered
Thread: Danville 6/0 brown

Adrian Freer’s website, link below, is an excellent and long overdue recording of the life and legacy of this pioneer of modern reservoir fly fishing.

  1. Conrad Voss Bark A history of fly fishing (Ludlow: Merlin Unwin Books, 1992)
  2. Adrian Freer ‘Dr Bell of Wrington’ (Accessed February 23, 2019)
  3. Terry Lawton Nymph fishing – a history of the art and practice (Shrewsbury: Swan Hill Press, 2005)
  4. Tom Stewart, 200 popular flies and how to tie them(London: A&C Black, 1979)

Corixa Cruncher

Corixa Cruncher
Hook: Tiemco 3769 #10-14
Tail: Brown rooster hackle fibres
Back: Hen pheasant
Rib: Silver wire
Body: Madeira metallic Col. 300
Hackle: Brown rooster
Thread: Uni 8/0 white, switched for brown for head


corixaSince I first discovered Madeira metallic threads, this pearl thread has become a staple for corixa patterns. This is a more suggestive pattern than other corixa patterns, but it is quick to tie in a range of sizes. Imitating the Corixa Punctata or lesser water boatman, these wonderful insects breath oxygen by trapping it beneath their wing cases – the pearl colour of the Madeira thread suggests this trapped bubble of air perfectly in this pattern. Technically, Corixa don’t have tails, but the tail here accentuates the overall shape of the insect which tapers markedly towards its rear.

Tarcher style nymph

Tarcher style nymph

Hook: Daiichi 1870 #14
Tail: Pheasant tail dyed black
Rib: Chartreuse ultrawire, brassie
Body: Pheasant tail dyed black
Wing case: Pheasant tail dyed black
Thorax: Peacock here dyed black
Legs: Pheasant tail dyed black
Thread: Danville 6/0 black

ig190128-174845-editI first came across this pattern in John Gierach’s book Good Flies in which he recounts its invention by Ken Iwamasa and first published in his 1988 book Iwamasa Flies.

The original was designed as a copy of mayfly nymphs which would arch their abdomens when dislodged from the bottom. Today, there are many variants on the pattern tied because it looks so life like (to the angler at least, who knows what the trout thinks). Tied in a 2X heavy Daiichi 1870, it’s an effective pattern near weed beds on reservoirs, the inverted hook reducing snagging.