Monday, July 15, 2019

Soft~Hackle Journal July 2019

William 'Bill' Shuck
                      Bill Shuck ~ In Loving Memory

     There is a sad, empty space in our game today with the recent passing of a great man, angler & fly tier, Bill Shuck.

I met Bill at the Flymph Forum where he was a highly respected & honored member. We became friends & correspondents, Bill assuming the role of a kind & insightful mentor. He was a brilliant man with an inquiring mind & we discussed many of our shared interests, including politics, architecture, literature, life, & of course angling & fly tying. Serious health issues toward the end of his life kept Bill from being able to do much physical activity, however that didn't stop his active mind. An English & Literature teacher, Bill was a man of letters, so in the last days of his life spent his time corresponding with & entertaining his many compatriots.

During the span of time I knew him, Bill sent me quite a few photos of his flies & also writings, some of which are now published in this month's issue as a memorial to him & his work. An acolyte of Jim Leisenring & Pete Hidy, fishing the same water as Leisenring, Bill Shuck was considered by many, including myself, as one of the American masters of the flymph style. You will note the influence of Leisenring & Hidy reflected in Bill's style. I joked with him that he did Leisenring better than Leisenring &, ever humble, of course he denied it. Bill was a supportive reader & contributor to SHJ, & this edition is dedicated solely to his memory. He will be missed immensely.

Just Emerged PMD ~ Bill Shuck
                                                                             Bill's Flies

Looking at Bill’s flies we see something at once familiar, ‘classic’, one might say, while at the same time we see they are fresh, reflecting an evolved re-shuffling of classic elements resonant to the core of our flyfishing brains. We might ask ourselves: “Gee, why didn’t I think of that?”

There are some who might define Bill Shuck as a ‘neoclassicist’, & I would agree that is fair, in the most positive sense, yet mainly to describe the appearance of his flies. As a soft-hackler, I see Bill Shuck’s level of craft as a bar to aspire to. As an angler/guide fortunate to spend a lot of time peering into water, as well as a variety of other folk’s fly boxes, Bill’s flies reveal to me that his time on the water was well-spent – I see regional influences, function & form coalesced to graceful syncopation. These are not fanciful, but informed designs, well done. Bill had an angler's eye for a killing bait. Plain & simple, these are soft-hackle flies meant to be fished. The flies of Bill Shuck are what effective soft-hackle wetflies look like.

March Brown ~ Bill Shuck

Grey Tenkara Kibari ~ Bill Shuck

Allsumer Spider ~ Bill Shuck

Easter March Brown Splymph ~ Bill Shuck

Cow Dung ~` Bill Shuck

   Bill Shuck on Leisenring's 
             Cow Dung

"Looking through various listings of patterns tabulated by fly fishing writers over the years, “Cow Dung” appears frequently, appearing in the literature at least as far back as 1836 in Alfred Ronald’s “Fly Fishers Entomology”. The insect it is intended to mimic is a true fly (order Diptera), which have a single pair of wings that originate behind the legs and lie flat and crossed when the insect is at rest. Despite this, all the images I have seen of dressings show the same profile as that traditionally used for winged mayflies, with only the concession of having the wing slanted back at a severe angle.

Also, various dressings call for body color ranging from lemon to green, with materials varying from worsted (crewel) wool to peacock herl. This seeming discrepancy can be explained by the fact that while the male dung fly common in Britain is a yellowish orange, the female is a dull olive. There are also differences about the material to be used for the wing, with at least one specifying dark mallard wing slips. I attribute this to the fact that the wings of the dung fly are a color best mimicked by slips from the secondary wing feathers of the landrail, a bird that is today universally protected. (Until the starling was declared endangered in Britain and placed on the protected list, Veniard used to sell starling wings dyed brown as a credible sub for the landrail; even those are in short supply these days.)

I have relied pretty much on Jim Leisenring’s version of the pattern as put forth in “The Art of Tying the Wet Fly” :

Cow Dung

Hook: #12, #13 (I used a Mustad 94840, Size #12)

Thread: Orange silk

Hackle: Ginger similar to body color

Body: Yellow crewel wool, seal fur, or mohair mixed with a little brown fur to … give the whole a dirty orange tinge (I used a blend of 85% yellow wool, 10% medium orange seal, and 5% medium brown Aussie possum)

Wings: Landrail (slips) slightly longer than body sloping back close over body with glossy side out (I used Veniard dyed brown starling as sub)

Saddle Tip Done Buzz ~ Bill Shuck

Literal Blue Dun ~ Bill Shuck

 Bill Shuck ~ Baby Sunfly

"An English clergyman, Rev. Edward Powell, fished streams in the Shropshire region in the Welsh borderlands of England on a regular basis during the 1920’s – 1950’s. He is credited by author Christopher Knowles in his book (Orange Otter, Medlar Press, Ellesmere, England 2006) and others with developing as many as 26 fly patterns that were especially killing on these waters. He named one of these the “Baby Sunfly” since it was a smaller, slightly modified version of a D. Lewis pattern called “Sunfly”. It was strictly a generic pattern, as Powell was convinced that fish mostly just wanted black and brown flies. The original dry fly pattern was (more or less) as follows:   

Hook: Sizes 12 – 18
Thread: Brown or black
Tail: Black or coch-y-bondhu cock hackle barbs
Body: Dubbed rabbit face, from triangle of nose & eyes, very dark, tied full
Rib: Brown thread, 3 turns
Hackle: Black or coch-y-bondhu cock hackle, as many turns as possible

It is interesting to note that the fur used for the body of the fly was the quite dark underfur found on the face of the English rabbit, not the better-known-to-fly-tiers English hare -- a different critter. It is necessary to trim away the grey/tan outer portion of the fur to get at the dark, bluish black underfur.

Answering the challenge of a fellow member on the Flymph Forum site, I’ve attempted to tie this pattern as a soft hackle wet fly. I’ve tied it on a vintage Herter’s 423 TDE hook, Size #14 using Pearsall’s Gossamer #17 brown thread. The tails whisks were taken from an iridescent black feather found at the back of a coch-y-bondhu hen saddle and the collar is a combination of that same black feather and a black and “red” feather from further up the saddle. Since I do not have an English rabbit mask, the body is a blend is a blend of hare’s poll and black wool spun in #17 Gossamer on a Clark block."

Allgrouse ~ Bill Shuck
Comparadun ~ Bill Shuck

Sculpin Muddler ~ Bill Shuck

May We ~ Bill Shuck

Deleatidium ~ Bill Shuck

Leisenring Pale Watery Dun ~ Bill Shuck

Songbird Sulfur ~ Bill Shuck

White Fly Spider ~ Bill Shuck

So long Bill. It’s been good to know you. You gave a lot. Your great work & humanity will not be forgotten. We stand on your shoulders now, & aspire to someday stand with you in that perfect stream ~