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At the Vice

Growing up,  one of the major events of the spring in our house was the opening of trout season. At some point during my university days I pretty much gave up the ritual of chasing trout, but in the early 90s, along with my friend East Texas Red, I embraced fly fishing with serious enthusiasm. Over the years we fished all over the place, including down in Pennsylvania, as well as the mountain west – Alberta and BC, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and Yellowstone. Many of our adventures in the west were with our friend Ken, who took us to many fantastic places over the course of a number of trips. On my own, I’ve also made a number of trips to the Upper Penninsula of Michigan.

In more recent years, I haven’t been nearly so obsessive about the whole thing. It’s been more difficult for me to travel west, and locally I’ve been getting out just a few times each season. Last year I did manage to get in a few delightful days fishing the Driftless area of Wisconsin. Lovely little streams there and plenty of trout too.

At the beginning of May, East Texas Red and I are planning to meet down in Pennsylvania for a few days chasing trout in the mountains in the North-Central part of the state. He lives in Ottawa these days and for each of us it’s about a 6 hour drive to get down there.

My selection of trout flies needs to be bolstered for this trip, so today I sat down at the vice and tied a bunch of flies.

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Down-wing Usual

When the Hendricksons emerge in early season, my go-to flies are Usuals and soft-hackles. I tie the Usuals in both up-wing and down-wing styles, with a trailing shuck made from a carpet fibre material to replicate the emerging Hendrickson nymph becoming a dun, or adult fly. These flies sit in the surface film and they are trout ice cream.

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Up-wing Usual

The first Usuals I fished with came from Fran Betters‘ shop down on the West Branch of the Ausable River in NY. I went down there after reading about this famous stream in Ray Bergman’s epic book, Trout. Betters’ Usuals were more impressionistic flies than the ones I tie. The shuck and the wing were both made from the crinkly fur on snowshoe hare feet. His wings were longish, tied up-wing and forward, and he used red-orange thread.

I’ve tightened up the pattern some, but still leave the flies somewhat impressionistic. I tie them with body colours to match a few different mayflies, but they are also an excellent pattern for opportunistic trout.

There was a time I was pretty fast when it came to tying flies. These days I’m not nearly so fast, and that has a lot to do with simply not doing it so much. Today I tied up some Usuals,  and a few soft-hackles for Hendricksons, some bigger soft-hackles and a couple hair-wing dun flies in case March Brown mayflies have started when we’re down there. Next time I sit down at the vice I’ll tie more of the same selection and some blue-wing olives in a couple different sizes. Between these and what I currently have in my boxes, I should have what I need to the trip and some other outings closer to home.

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