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No Rises, No Problem! Try a Royal Wulff

Judy Van Put - Columnist
Posted 5/24/21

The third full week in May was warm and summery in comparison with the beginning of the month - suddenly the frosts of just a week back seem like a distant memory.

On Monday morning the …

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No Rises, No Problem! Try a Royal Wulff


The third full week in May was warm and summery in comparison with the beginning of the month - suddenly the frosts of just a week back seem like a distant memory.

On Monday morning the Beaverkill at Cooks Falls registered 264 cubic feet per second; this is below the average flow for this date of 660 cfs over the past 106 years of record-keeping.

Warmer weather has caused water temperatures to range from a low of 52 degrees to a high of about 67 degrees Fahrenheit this past week.

With area rivers and streams below the average flow, wading was easy, water temperatures were favorable, and we had productive fishing, although we needed to be a bit creative as rising trout were few and far between on the days we were out.

In keeping a journal over the years, it's been interesting to note that although May and June are our favorite fishing months due to their great hatches, there is always a period in May where the fishing is “off.”

With a whole spate of flies to offer that should be hatching and on the water, from tiny Blue-Winged Olives and various Caddis flies to large March Brown mayflies, there comes a time when you venture out expecting to see lots of rising fish - only to find that the river is quiet, rises are sporadic, and you have to work to catch one.

This “off” period coincides with blooming trees -- yellow pollen from the pines, white “fuzz” from the poplar (quaking aspen), and brown seedcoats from the hemlocks and spruces. It's as if these particles of nature landing on the water have confused the fish, causing them to have temporarily lost their desire to rise to flies.

We found that fishing in the afternoons were still more productive than in the evening; perhaps the trout had gorged themselves during the day. We noticed a short-term hatch of dark caddis that lasted about 10 minutes but didn't seem to inspire any rises.

We each raised a trout on an Elk Hair Caddis; after a long dry period Ed tied on a Royal Wulff. The Royal Wulff was created by Lee Wulff in the 1930s. Similar in color to the Royal Coachman, the Royal Wulff is known as an attractor fly; it doesn't imitate a natural insect but its bright colors (white wings, sparkly green body with shiny red floss) will draw fish to the surface and will often produce trout when nothing else seems to work, as it did a few times on this occasion.

We use a Royal Wulff in sizes #14 or #12 on fishing trips when the trout seem inactive, concentrating at the heads of pools and fast water that has some depth to it; this fly will bring fish up to the surface. One of the best features of the pattern is its floatability and visibility - you can cast it in fast water, see it immediately and be able to follow it along in the current.

In his book “Lee Wulff On Flies,” Lee explains that he wanted a “buggier-looking, heavier-bodied fly” and he desired a better tail material that would offer more flotation to keep the fly afloat in fast water than the fibers of feathers that were generally used. The Royal Wulff has white bucktail or calf tail wings, a brown bucktail tail, dark brown hackles and a body of red silk floss tied between two segments of wound peacock herl.

Lee stated that his use of bucktail in the 1930s was the first use of animal hair on dry flies. Using bucktail on his fly, he changed the beautiful old Royal Coachman pattern that was difficult to float into a more buoyant fly that has become extremely popular. When there are no rises, no problem, try a Royal Wulff!

Judy Van Put is a long-time member of the NYS Outdoor Writers Association, and is the recipient of the New York State Council of Trout Unlimited's Professional Communications Award.


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