Judy Van Put

Favorable water conditions continue thanks to persistent rainfall and storms.

Despite the return to summer/hot weather last week, there were only two days when the water temp reached 70 degrees. On Sunday evening, the Beaverkill River in Cox Falls was at a comfortable 66 degrees Fahrenheit and was flowing at a rate of 462 cubic feet per second, well above the average flow of 112 cubic feet over 110 years of record keeping. The maximum flow recorded on September 10 was 2,000 cubic feet per second in 2011; The lowest amount of flow recorded on this date was in the drought year of 1964 when only 29 cubic feet of water flowed through the gauging station.

After a busy weekend, it was great to be back in the cool waters of Beaverkill, fishing with my friend Martha Mason on the upper river. It was a warm evening, probably about 78 degrees when we got dressed. There were a few small flies in the air but not many on the surface of the water. Measuring the Water Temperature Once we entered the river as an old habit, we were pleased to see the thermometer reading 66 degrees Fahrenheit.

We noticed some spikes here and there, certainly not a large opening, but enough to provide a target from time to time. Martha chose to fish downstream in the current; I took the pool area downstream. Martha had only been fishing for a few minutes when she caught a fish – a rainbow trout, early in the night. I asked her what happened to her, and she replied: “The usual.” I did make some action, catching a brown trout on an Adams fish. Martha then tied the beauty with a slightly larger regular fly, and when the fish was reeled in, it filled the net – a chunky, wild rainbow trout at least 16 inches long. The Adams family produced two more fish, one of which was a huge wild brown about 12 inches long, with beautifully dark spots. It was interesting to note that Martha’s fish was a rainbow, caught while rifle fishing upstream, while mine was a brown from the pool below. As the years go by, more and more rainbows are being caught in the Beaverkill River – formerly known as a brown trout stream.

The usual is a very effective fly, although it is not attractive – it looks like a piece of fluff! It was created by Fran Betters (1931-2009) who ran his own fly shop for 47 years at West Branch Au Sable in Wilmington, New York. Fran’s most popular creations are Haystack, Ausable Wulff, and Usual.

In keeping with his habit of using inexpensive materials to tie “buggy” flies that float well in the fast waters of the Au Sable, the Usual was created in the 1950s. As the story goes, after a busy day of tying dozens of flies, Peters was searching through his tying materials for something different. As luck would have it, he came across a rabbit’s foot—or rather, the large hind foot of a snowshoe hare that he had saved for just such an occasion.

The fur between the footpads was unusual – it was soft and somewhat translucent with a strange texture when attached to a hook. The new fly was tied using only hook, line and snowshoe hare fur – no tangling, relying on the wings and tail for buoyancy.

The first person to try the fly was Fran Peters’ fishing buddy, Bill Phillips, an experienced angler, who found it very successful for catching Adirondack trout.

Peters originally named the fly “Phillips Usual” but it eventually became known as “The Usual”.

This is the “usual” pattern created by Fran Peters, as written in an article by Rusty Dunn for Southern Wisconsin Trout Unlimited:

the usual

Hook: Dry Fly, No. 14 – No. 22

Topic: Hot Orange, 6/0 or 8/0

Wings: Large bunches of hair from the pads of a snowshoe rabbit’s feet

Tail: A small handful of hair from the pad of a snow bunny’s foot

Body: The bottom of the rabbit’s foot pad is tied with string. Use a combination of gray next to the leather and tan that has very fine guard bristles mixed in to make it float better.

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