Tuesday, May 24

Meeting people is easy, and the Usual bullshit (that's a fly tying pun, eh).

PAFF epic spotburn in full effect! Eat it!
You can probably figure out from the banner, I broke the 15 minute barrier. Shit, I not only broke it, but I crushed it in what one could consider to be (anti)heroic proportions. Bitches, I drove my ass 157 miles beyond home to the State College area to partake in the PAFlyFish.com Jamboree and potentially ride out the coming Rapture in a nest of damned heathen fly fishers.

Stupid flies done stupid cheap. The
Usual tutorial after the jump.
These guys have been doing this for many years now, and I finally got around to getting out there. It was dicey in the end, with my natural hatred of human interaction, twin three year olds crushing my wife's sanity, and fear of pariahship (you might be surprised to know, but I'm a bit of a thorn in the side of many) kept me away.

But, a quick switch up on work oncall rotation and a generous offer from one of the fellow forumites, and I was enroute. So, what's the verdict?

A fanfuckintastic time, really. I didn't get a chance to really take in the splendour of the local fishing (conditions sucked), leaving me with the inflated opinion that I don't have to drive to have awesome fishing, but the time with the 70+ people who came in as far as Florida made it worth the time, effort, and inflated fuel prices.
Navigate my shit home, Pigeon. 

Hell, I'll do it again.

What followed a three hour drive was a 72 hour bender, which included some fishing, alot of bullshitting, the burying of a few hatchets, the bemusement of the look when people meet the person behind the bitching, and as my faciliatator, guide, and cabin mate said, ample smoked meat products. Putting the faces to the names is more important than you think, and its also pretty astounding that such a widely diverse group of hilljacks, jackholes, old men, good ole boys, the token hipster (you know who you are) and associated misfits can get along so damned well. Where as the fishing was meh, who's gonna argue with a live blues jam from the only man who fishes in a three piece suit while the grill is pumping and the flask is passed?

I guess fishing culminated in the sulphur spinnerfall on the Little J for most of us, but despite the fact that Spring being the popular destination on Sunday's end, I wanted to catch a brook trout before I left. Also, you can take the boy out of the valley, but you can't break my fear of travel, and the big streams were 30+ minutes from the campground, except for the little brookie stream within walking distance of the camp ground.

I went to SCPA to fish for
carp and crappie.
Fuck, yeah.
You don't need to guess where I went. And yes, I caught my brook trout, and in the tiny little pond the stream ran into, what I believe would be classified as a shitload of crappie.

Anyways, as I'm despertly trying to get more trouts to eat my fly amongst the horde of ravenous panfish, a couple of little kids walked up to the pond to fish. They were pretty excited by the crappies I was otherwise not excited about, so as I packed up to begin the long ride home so I could be home in time to put my own boys to sleep. And I thought about it for a  moment, and I remembered something long ago from when I was about 10 on my local stream not catching dick while some fly fishing guy was nailing them.

Happy kids prove I'm not a
complete dick.
I cut the black fur ant off my line, dug the other two I had in my box out, and gave it to them. I told them to tie it under their bobber, lob it into the corner, and then have a ball when 'gills and crappie would hammer it nonstop. Someone did that for me a long, long time ago, and I never forgot that kindness. I had that stupid ant a stupid long time, and would love to know where it got to, and I know that I've always strived to maybe inspire some other kid the same way. You should do the same shit, y'know? Plant a seed, and maybe someday someone will be nice like that to some sprout off your family tree.

A special sulphur box. The Usual is center
bottom, compartively speaking, notice just
how many of these things I've tied, eh? 
But, enough about that bullshit. Let's talk about something useful, eh? Sulphur time is upon us (except for tonight where evidently the little bastards got a tornado warning and stayed in, versus my dumb ass waiting in the rain for them to show up), and I figure its time for a Fly of the Randomly Determined Time Frame, and this time its the Fran Betters' Usual.

The Usual is deceptively simple, and highly versatile. With alittle tweaking you can emulate just about any bug out there, and like the flies that I feel are best, its just about as generic and buggy as a artifical fly needs to be to make fish want to eat it. As I've been told, its an outgrowth of the Haystack fly, originally tied with deer hair (and the clear inspiration for the Comparadun). The apocyphal story I've been told for the fly's name comes from the fact that it was a local favourite in Betters' home waters of the Ausable.

Bam! One rabbit foot, and you're in.
I love this stupid fly because it checks all my boxes. Its cheap, its easy, its quick, and its fuckin effective. That combined with an awesome inherent floatability, ability to inhale Gink (I don't care that people say to not Gink it, they're wrong), and just take punishment til you would think it would be ruined, I'm still using some from well over a year ago, and once picked one from the grunge of a rock where it laid submerged for several days and battered by current. try that with your frilly little Catskills numbers.

So, being that it was designed as a sulphur mayfly imitation, its just about perfect for this time of year. First up, assemble your shit. Its a one material fly, and that material is snow shoe rabbit foot. You will need a good wax and that's about it. Fran used orange thread, and you can tell I did too. Again, experiment if you want. The thread will show through the underbody, so its a good way to tint the fly and give it a natural look. I like using grey thread to make an Adams-looking Usual, or black thread for caddis variations.

Tail and wing.
Waxed loop.
Honestly, its pretty straight forward here. Clip some fur from the toe area of the rabbit foot, and just grip the tips in your fingers. Pull out the loose stuff and drop it into a pile on the table, then tie it in and make a tail. The wing is the same concept, from the toe area of the foot, picked out and tied upright.

Its important to note there's no stacking of hair, just take out the short ones and throw 'em in a pile, You could throw them out, but a skinflint cheap thrifty efficient and clever fellow such as myself would never waste that. C'mon, those rabbit feet are pricey, I think I paid $6 for two at an Orvis shop, I'm not made of money here.

Fran wanted you to wax and touch dub the thread, but that's too much work. Instead, create a dubbing loop and wax it. Next, you'll use that little pile of scrap hair up. If you blend it together, you'll find you've got all the makings of a awesomely floaty dubbing. You may find that a little clipping of hair from the back of the foot, the heel area, is all it takes to really bring that pile to life. I blend it by just dropping the stuff into my hand and picking it a part and rolling it up and breaking it apart.

Spin it up, then wrap it to the head, tie down. That's it. The Usual.
Dubbed loop.
Spun loop.

While on the Sulphur subject, I had awesome success on an old wet fly last year. When I show up on a good evening, I will usually tie a Usual to the line to play indicator, and then will procede to fish a dropper under it. I like wet flies, and this is a good time to make one of my favourites really work into its own.

The dropper in question? A little known soft hackle wet called the Yellow Pennell.

Its not that its a particularly secret fly, its that most people never seem to move beyond the most well known of the series, because like the Usual, its an idea to be morphed to effect the use you want.
Wrapped loop, tied off. Fish it!
Pennell, bitches.
The fly series in question has come to be known as the Pennell Series, devised by H. Cholmondeley Pennell and published in his 1870 work, The Modern Practical Angler. Mr. Pennell suggested the use of different bodies of smooth silk rather than the rough dubbed bodies of fur, and suggested that with simple changes in colour of hackle and body that any number of variations of a fly could be devised. The most common colour you will see now is black hen hackle and black floss body, and I've had a pretty good time with this fly dead drifted and into the swing during little black caddis season, but its the lesser known Yellow Pennell that really did it for me last year.

Basically, you'll create a body of floss or tying silk, ribbed with silver oval tinsel. A tag of silver tinsel is placed under a tail of golden pheasant tippet, and the hackle is provided by soft hen, grouse, or partridge. My preferred variation included a small ball of orange dubbing for a thorax behind the hackle, but this wasn't a part of the original pattern.

Remember that floss will take on the hue of the thread underbody. Classically tied floss bodied flies should be done on white thread, and then switched to black thread for the building of a head, but one could use floss' translucent qualities to their advantage. By wrapping the yellow floss around an orange thread, or olive thread, the overall tone of the fly will be changed when wet giving it an even more realistic, living appeal.

Pennell flies can be made in many ways,  including green, claret, orange and yellow bodies with corresponding and complimenting hackle colour choices. I've seen variations which have done away with the floss body and replaced it with wool, seal, or rabbit dubbing. Like the Usual, its effective, (mostly) simple, and highly versatile being a series or pattern rather than an exact recipe.

We called it "the tackle tree." It made us laugh.


  1. I like the bottom banner there.

  2. You know not a single damn damned heathens shirt made an appearance. Variance. It giveth and it taketh away.

  3. Not true, Jay wore his hoodie variant. The rest of us were afraid of being in "another little club" as per Mrs Jdaddy.

  4. Thanks very much for your large information .And knowledge full description . I think it is Sus a topic that many kinds of people face many problems. thanks for this.
    meeting people,