I call this pattern the Swiss Army Sulphur because it’s a single fly that can do many different things. It kind of looks like an emerger, somewhat like a dun, a bit like a spinner and a whole lot like a cripple. At times during the sulphur hatch, trout seem to ignore even natural duns but are all too happy to scarf down anything stuck in the surface film. It’s times like these the Swiss Army Sulphur really shines.
For a hook, a Dai-Riki #300 in size 14 is a good all around choice. After mashing the barb, get the hook firmly secured in the jaws of your tying vise.
For thread, UTC 70 Denier works very well, here, I’m using a color called Wood Duck. Start your thread on the hook shank leaving a bit of space behind the eye and take a few wraps rearward before snipping or breaking off the tag.
Fibers from a wood duck flank feather are used to form the tail of the fly. Pull down a dozen or so fibers until they’re perpendicular to the stem and their tips are aligned. Strip them free and position them in the fingertips of your right hand. Measure to form a tail about a hook shank in length and transfer that measurement rearward to the start of the hook bend. Take thread wraps to secure the fibers to the top of the hook all the way back to the bend. You can then lift the excess butt ends of the wood duck up and snip them off close.
A single sulphur yellow turkey biot is used to form the abdomen of the fly. After stripping one free from the stem, orient it so the side with the little notch and the translucent edge faces up and forward toward the hook eye. Lay the tip of the biot against the near side of the hook and take thread wraps to secure it. Continue taking wraps all the way up to the initial tie-in point.
Begin taking touching turns with the biot starting right at the base of the tail. Make sure it stays oriented with that translucent edge pointing forward. When wrapped correctly, you should see a fuzzy, little edge stick up which will give the abdomen a segmented look. When you reach your tying thread, use it to firmly secure the butt end of the biot to the hook shank. Once it’s bound down really well, snip the excess off close with your tying scissors.
Although you can use a multitude of synthetic fibers for the wings, I like the characteristics of Sparkle Organza. Here, I’m using a light yellow color. Strip a dozen or so fibers free from one edge of the sheet and get them collected into a bundle. Place the midpoint of the bundle on top of the hook and take a few cross wraps with your tying thread to get the fibers oriented perpendicular to the shank, as if you were tying a spinner. A couple of figure 8 wraps will help to keep the fibers evenly collected on both sides of the fly. End with your tying thread positioned in front of the wings.
Yellow rabbit fur dubbing is used for the thorax of the fly. With the split thread dubbing technique I’m going to use, it’s a good idea to pull a small clump free from the packet and set it aside within easy reach, prior to splitting the thread. It’s also a good idea to open your dubbing wax beforehand, here, Loon High Tack Swax.
Pull your bobbin down to expose 2-3” of tying thread then give it a counterclockwise twist which will uncord and flatten the thread. Use your bodkin to further flatten and spread out the thread fibers. This will make it easy to split the thread down the middle and insert the index finger of your left hand between the two strands. Use your tying wax to give just the back strand of the thread a light coating. Then, pick up the clump of dubbing you set aside. Pinch out a small amount and place it between the split strands of thread so it sticks to the back one with the wax. Repeat this procedure 2 or 3 times. If you can kind of keep the rabbit fur oriented perpendicular to the thread, so much the better.
Remove your index finger from between the strands to close the split and trap the fur. Give your bobbin a hearty, clockwise spin which will cord up the thread and spin the rabbit fur into a nice, shaggy dubbing noodle. Start taking wraps with the noodle between the wings . . . one or two wraps behind them and then finish with wraps in front to pin the wings back at about a 45 degree angle to the hook shank. Continue taking wraps with the dubbing noodle all the way up to behind the hook eye, coaxing the rabbit fur rearward as you go.
At this point, it’s very important to give your tying thread an equally hearty counterclockwise spin to uncord it. Otherwise, you’ll likely end up with a knotted mess when you go to whip finish. Once you feel your thread is sufficiently uncorded, do a 4 or 5 turn whip finish and snip or cut your tying thread free.
Starting with the near wing, pull it rearward and snip it off in line with the back edge of the hook bend. You can then do the same for the wing on the opposite side.
The ultra-shaggy rabbit fur thorax isn’t going to win this fly any beauty pageants but with a thorough application of a powdered fly treatment like Frog’s Fanny, it will keep the fly floating in the surface film for many a drift.
Here in New Jersey, it’s often right at dark when the sulphur hatch really gets rolling. Rather than running through a host of imitations, maybe give the Swiss Army Sulphur a shot to cover all your bases with just one fly. I do carry two different versions of this pattern, a larger, lighter yellow one like I just tied in a size 14 to imitate invarias and a slightly darker, more orange-y one in a 16 to closely resemble the dorotheas.
This is a new pattern for me this year, so far its greatly exceeded my expectations.