Fran Betters, of Wilmington, New York, came up with the Ausable Wulff way back in 1964 to fish the boulder strewn, tumbling rivers and streams of the Adirondacks including the famed west branch of the Ausable River. It’s meant to imitate a range of insect species and float well in fast, tumbly pocket water.
I’m going to tie one here on a size 14 Dai-Riki #300 dry fly hook, which has just a little more length than their standard 305 dry fly hook. Start by mashing the barb and getting the hook firmly secured in your tying vise.
Either bright orange or red thread can be used on the pattern, here, I’m going with UTC 70 in fluorescent orange. Start your thread on the hook shank in front of the point and take a few wraps rearward before snipping or breaking off the tag.
White-tipped wood chuck guard hairs are used to form the tail of the fly. Snip a small clump free from the hide and strip out the finer under-fur. Give the guard hairs a good stacking to align the tips and open your stacker to grab the tips with your left hand so you just pass them to your right without flipping them around. Measure to form a tail a little more than a hook shank in length. Transfer that measurement back to the tie-in point. With a pinch wrap, secure the wood chuck to the top of the hook shank, followed by thread wraps rearward to just above the barb. You can then wind your thread forward to where your thread starts and lift the butts up to snip them off close. Continue taking wraps forward to about the 2/3rds point on the hook shank where the wing will be located.
Snip an ample clump of white kip tail, I personally prefer the hair down by the base of the tail. While holding the tips, strip out the shorter, finer hairs from the butts. Place the clump, tips first, into your stacker and give it a real good stacking. This time, open your stacker so you can grab the tips with your right hand, this will allow you to transfer them to your left without flipping them around. Once more, strip out any short hairs from the butts. Do your best to keep the tips aligned throughout the process. Measure to form a wing a hook shank in length, and, with a pinch wrap, attach the clump to the top of the hook shank at the tie-in point. Firmly brace the clump to keep it from rolling around to the far side of the hook. Take several nice, tight wraps to make sure it's secure. Without letting go of the butt ends, lift them up and snip them off at an angle. Then advance your thread forward to the base of the wing. With your left hand, pull the wing up and back to expose the hook shank and take wraps to form a small thread dam that pushes the wing up to vertical. Push back with your thumb and wiggle it back and forth until you’ve formed equal amounts of hair on both sides of the hook. This is kind of a bizarre little trick but one that works exceptionally well for me.
Get hold of the near wing and make 2 diagonal wraps to separate it. Then take 2 more wraps on the opposite diagonal. Follow these with a complete wrap around the hook to save your work. Make sure your thread is located right at the base of the wings and make 2 or 3 figure eight wraps to really organize and stabilize them. With the wings finished, start making thread wraps rearward to cover up the butts and create a tapered underbody. If one wing is heavier than the other, you can reach in with your tying scissors and snip off a few hairs down by the wing base to even them up. Once the hackle goes on, no one will know the difference.
Australian Possum is used for the body of the fly but the exact color Fran chose seems to be the source of some debate. To me, anything that looks like ground cinnamon is close enough. Create a tapered dubbing noodle on your tying thread, I prefer my Wulffs on the plump side but the choice is up to you. Take wraps with the dubbing noodle to form a rough tapered body on the fly. Do leave some open space behind the wing for hackle tie-in.
Both brown and grizzly hackles are used and contribute greatly to the fly’s look and floatability. Yes, two hackles can be a pain, but it’s absolutely worth it in the end. I long ago gave up guessing when it comes to hackle size and now use a hackle gauge religiously. First get hold of the grizzly hackle so the dull or back side of the feather is facing you. Pull down the fibers all the way up to where the webbing stops. Set the feather aside and do the exact same with the brown feather. Then, lay the brown feather on top of the grizzly right at the point where you’ve pulled down on both feathers. With the feathers properly aligned, strip away some of the webby fibers from both sides of both stems. Snip the butts of both feathers off, leaving about 1/8th of an inch of bare stem for tie-in. Without letting go of the feathers, lay the stems against the near side of the hook so their butts reach not quite to the hook eye. Take thread wraps first behind the wing and then in front to absolutely secure the stems. End with your tying thread about an eye length space behind the eye.
First get hold of the brown hackle and begin making adjacent wraps forward. You can usually sneak in 2 or 3 behind the wing and then another 3 or so in front. Make sure you stop well short of the hook eye. Secure the hackle with 2 turns of tying thread and then reach in with your tying scissors and carefully snip the excess off close.
Get hold of the grizzly hackle and take 2 or 3 turns behind the wing followed by another 2 or 3 in front. Once again, don’t crowd the eye. Bind the hackle with 2 turns of tying thread and snip off the excess. If you have any wayward fibers or ones that may block the eye, now’s a good time to get rid of them.
Do a 4 or 5 turn whip finish right in that little space behind the eye, and after firmly seating the thread, snip or cut it off close. Here again you can do a little trim to make sure there are no hackle fibers obscuring the eye.
A drop of head cement, while not required, will extend the life of the fly. You can tell just by looking at them that Ausable Wulffs are made for the rough stuff. For both practical and sentimental reasons, a size 14 or 16 Ausable Wulff is my favorite attractor pattern of all time. I’m never without them.