The Usual-Designed by Fran Betters
Hook: Daiichi 1170 or 1190 #12-#16
Thread: MFC 8/0 or UTC 70 Color to Compliment Body
Tail: Snow Rabbit Feet Fur, Color to Match Naturals
Body: Snow Rabbit Feet Fur, Color to Match Naturals
Wing: Snow Rabbit Feet Fur, Color to Match Naturals
Most dry fly patterns feature a stiff sturdy hackle to help support the fly on the waterís surface. Patterns such as the Adams and the Humpy are common residents in most fly boxes. Traditional dry flies such as the Adams require expensive, sometimes hard to find, high quality hackle and are proportionally demanding. If the hackle is not the right size or quality the fly will not float properly resulting in refusals from selective trout. There are also situations where a fly such as an Adams may not be the wisest choice due to how it sits on the water. Slow moving creeks, pools, glides and lakes are locations where trout often ruthlessly critique your fly. A parachute and thorax style pattern use their hackle in such a way that it still maintains buoyancy but also provides the low riding footprint trout inspecting below want to see. But like the Adams, parachute and thorax patterns still demand quality hackle and proportional discipline. Simple no hackle flies offer arguably the most realistic profile. Breaking away from traditional hackled flies offers picky trout an alternative look that they often take without hesitation. When prospecting for trout in calm, slow moving or still water no hackle dries are tough to beat.
The late Fran Betters knew the value of no hackle patterns, as they proved deadly on his local waters in the Adirondack region of New York. Franís no hackle approach with his Haystack was unique in a region dominated by traditional Catskill dries. Like the Haystack, the Usual was another time tested Fran Betters design, a pattern that has become popular across North America and has even been seen on European shores. Using only one material, Snowshoe Rabbit fur the Usual is simple to tie and buoyant.
Franís alternate approach inspired others to develop their own no hackle designs. Al Caucci and Bob Nastasi, authors of Hatches and Hatches II, developed their Comparadun from the Haystack. The Sparkle Dun, a version of the Comparadun featuring a Sparkle Yarn tail also traces its roots to the Haystack. Doug Swisher and Mike Lawson applied the no hackle philosophy to the No Hackle Dun. An apparently simple pattern featuring a split hackle tail, dubbed body and mallard quill wings. Its Spartan lines are deceiving as it is one of the most difficult flies to master due to the mallard quill wings and their exacting placement necessary to balance the fly.
Although uncomplicated, no hackle designs such as the Usual have a few items to consider so they float properly. As no hackle designs have typically only three components, tail, body and wing each has a roll in supporting the fly. All materials are selected for their buoyancy as they combine to float the fly. Hydrophobic dubbings that shed or repel water are a must. Natural furs such as muskrat, seals fur, and snowshoe rabbit feet fur are popular choices. Animals such as these must have a natural ability to repel water and avoid having their fur matt in inclement conditions. Polypropylene based and Antron dubbing are good synthetic choices. Water repellent wing material also helps float the pattern as well as providing a source of lateral balance. C.D.C., mallard quills, deer, elk and snowshoe rabbit fur are excellent choices.
Most no hackle patterns utilize splayed hackle or micro fibbet tails as outriggers to support the fly. There are a variety of techniques to splay and divide tail fibres. Some patterns, such as the No Hackle Dun use a small dubbing ball. Tail fibres are tied in forward of the dubbing ball and secured along the sides of the hook down to the dubbing ball. Thread pressure against the dubbing balls splits and separates the tail fibres into two distinct sections. While not necessarily anatomically correct the tail represents function over imitation.
Tying thread can also be used to split and splay tails. Many tiers prefer thread over dubbing as they feel the end result is more natural. The easiest method is a simple fan tail. Tie in the tail fibres to the bend of the hook. Take the tying thread and place a single horizontal wrap under the tail. Pull the bobbin and thread forward in a horizontal motion to raise and flare the tail. Fan tails can also be formed against a thread ball. A technique I use for both dries and nymphs. Place your thumbnail at the hook bend. Form a small thread ball by winding the thread against your thumbnail. Your thumbnail acts as a wall dropping the thread wraps on top of each other. Secure the tail fibres in at the mid point of the shank and secure them back against the thread ball. As the thread pressure hits the ball the tail fibres fan horizontally.
Tying thread can also be manipulated between two or three tail clumps or fibres, a technique first shown to me by California tyers Dave McCants and Phil Fisher. Manually divide the tail fibres into two equal clumps on each side of the hook. Spin the bobbin so the thread twists into a tight strand. Bring the tying thread between the split tails on a 45 degree angle and pull forward. Place 1-2 wraps around the shank. Bring the tying thread under the base of the tail and pull forward. The tail fibres lock smartly in a spread position.
A loop of tying thread loop can also be used to splay tail fibres. Begin by tying in the tail. Take a 4-6 inch length of tying thread and loop it around the hook bend. Using your fingers divide the tail into two equal sections. Grasp both ends of the thread loop and pull it forward between the tail fibres to divide them. Using 2-3 wraps tie down the tag ends of the thread loop at the base of the tail. Pull on the tag ends to further divide and splay the tail. Add additional securing wraps locking the thread loop in place and trim the tag ends. The thread loop method can also be used to create three fibre tails by straddling the loop on either side of a center tail fibre. Three fibre tails match the actual tail count of many mayfly species but are not a pattern necessity to dupe trout. Dual outrigger tails work well while offering stability. An empty dubbing loop secured down the sides of the shank prior to tying in the tail can also be used split and splay fibres in the same manner as the thread loop.
No hackle patterns such as the Usual offer a realistic silhouette to the most discerning fish. They are simple designs incorporating inexpensive easy to obtain materials. The concepts also work for other pattern styles such as caddis. Make a point of experimenting with no hackle dries. Who knows, it may become your usual approach to tying dries.
1) Starting just back from the hook eye, cover the front 2/3rds of the hook with tying thread. Return the tying thread so it hangs one third of the shank length back from the hook eye.
2) Tie in the wing one third of the shank length back from the hook eye. Stagger cut the wing butts trailing back over the shank in three steps to form a natural taper back to the bend of the hook. Cover the butts with tying thread. Place a number of thread wraps directly in front of the wing to stand it upright. The finished wing should be the same length as the hook shank.
3) Trim a length of fur about one third of the mass used for the wing from the sole of the rabbitís foot. Remove the short under fur and hand stack the remaining hair so the tips are relatively even. Tie in the prepared tail material just behind the wing forming a shank length tail and secure it back to the bend of the hook. Adjust the thread tension as you near the rear of the hook to ensure the tail does not flare.
4) Trim a small section of fur from the foot or use the under fur that was removed when preparing the wing and tail sections depending upon the color scheme you are trying to achieve, hand blend the fur into a uniform dubbing mix. Using firm thumb and finger pressure twist the dubbing mix around the tying thread. Keep the dubbing noodle slender. Wind the dubbing noodle forward to the hook eye forming a neat slender tapered body. Place a 2-3 dubbing wraps directly in front of the wing to further stand and reinforce it. Remove any excess dubbing before forming the head at the hook eye.
5) Build a neat tapered head whip finish and apply head cement. Trim any errant dubbing fibres. Fan the finished wing so it occupies the top half of the hook.