The original Usual dry fly was created by Fran Betters of Wilmington, New York, who specialized in fishing the fast water of the West Branch of the Au Sable. To do so, he needed flies that floated well, and his first famous creation, the Haystack, used a single clump of deer hair as both the wings and legs of a fly. Building upon that concept, he created the Usual, which substituted rabbit’s foot for the deer hair to create a more elegant pattern, and one which could also be fished as an emerger. Although Betters’s original Usual was tied as a generalist pattern, meant to imitate a host of mayflies, it can be tied in various colors to match any naturals.
Here’s a great sulphur version of the Usual by author and blogger Matt Grobert, which uses wood-duck fibers for the tail, rather than rabbit fur. The finished product is therefore somewhat sleeker and a closer imitation of a real sulphur. In this video from Tightline Productions, you’ll see how Matt prepares the rabbit’s foot to ensure that only the right kind of fur ends up in the wing. This is an incredibly simple and useful pattern, no matter where you fish for trout.
Hook: Standard dry-fly hook, size 16.
Thread: Plae yellow, 6/0.
Wing: Snowshoe-rabbit’s foot.
Tails: 4 or 5 Wood-duck fibers.
Body/thorax: Pale yellow rabbit-fur dubbing.
Head: Tying thread.
Note: Here on the Orvis Fly Fishing blog, we spell sulfur with an “f,” although both spellings are acceptable.