By Bruce Schneck
Late August and through mid Sept. usually finds the White Fly hatch showing on the Yellow Breeches Creek. We have already looked at the White Fly last August but we will consider another fly that ties in with a trip to the Cumberland Valley at the same time. When looking for the White Fly we will be fishing from late dusk through the night. Daytime fishing just does not involve the White Fly unless you are using the nymph. These streams, most of which are spring fed offer good temperatures for active trout all day long. Working out of Carlisle for a base we are offered lots of waters, many which are famous to consider. Big Spring Creek, Green Spring Creek, Letort Spring Run, Mountain Creek, and of course the Yellow Breeches all are waiting to both welcome and frustrate us. Fishing any of these waters we might as well use terrestrials, many of which were invented in this area. Famous fishermen, fly-tiers and writers such as Ed Shenk, Vince Marinaro, Ed Koch, even Charlie Wetzel came down from the Penns quite often and of course the Bard of the Letort Charles Fox. All of these guys plus many others were involved with the evolution of fishing terrestrials for trout. One of the first such flies they developed, mainly following Vince Marinaro was the Jassid. This rather simple looking fly proved to be the undoing of many super sophisticated trout. Matching the abundant leaf hoppers as well as small beetles the Jassid was a great match for a common food source. Using a nail or spike from a jungle cock neck for the back of the fly had many advantages. First it offered a fine silloute matching these bugs plus the white spot on the Jungle Cock nail served as a strike indicator. Vince mainly used light wire hooks in size 18-20 and 22 for these flies. As other fishermen made them popular sizes 24 and 26 appeared in many fly boxes. The first Jassid Vince used had an orange silk body with ginger hackle and of course a jungle cock nail. The hackle matched the legs of these insects.
Reading books such as the Modern Dry Fly Code and Ring of the Rise by Marinaro and Rising Trout by Charles Fox helped wet the appetite for fly fishing on many anglers.
About the time these flies were becoming popular (late 50s through mid-60s) importing Jungle cock feathers became illegal. Big problem, of course the main element of the Jassid now became very difficult to obtain. Marinaro offered a substitute in his book In the Ring of the Rise suggesting a golden pheasant neck feather, the small tippet feather near the top of the neck or the short broad feathers at the base below the orange cape tippets. They usually were metallic green but sometimes red or buff colored. All are stiff and broad requiring no lacquer to hold their shape. But a drop of white lacquer on top of the feather certainly aided visibility.
Charlie Fox offered that his favorite pattern had a peacock herl body and mixed black and ginger hackle with two dark feathers from a cock pheasant neck for the wing. Layered on top of each other and lacquered the pheasant feathers held up well.
These flies could be fished tight against weeds and brush or in open flat water, both with fine results.
Most fly catalogs offer Jassids in size 18 through 22. They almost always have black thread and body and of course the jungle cock nail for the wing. A bit of lacquer on the wing makes it last much longer. Fortunately large commercial flocks now make it much easier and slightly less pricy to obtain jungle cock necks or even loose packed nails. Years back I was lucky enough to contact a tier of full dress salmon flies who used a lot of jungle cock eyes in medium to large sizes and he had no use for the really small nails. Of course we were able to work out a mutually satisfactory solution to his problem. I was able to obtain a huge supply of tiny nails, some of which I still have. Perhaps others can be lucky enough to something similar.
The basic Jassid pattern calls for light wire hooks in sizes 18 to 22 and black tying thread. Very dark dun or black hackle go well with the jungle cock nail.
A few other versions handed down from these early anglers had different combinations of thread and hackle and all incorporated the jungle cock. Some of these versions were black thread with black hackle, pale green thread with honey hackle, gray thread with either badger or grizzly hackle. Charlie Foxes favorite with a peacock body and ginger hackle and cock pheasant feathers for the wing. A newer version has chartreuse thread with grizzly hackle. Whatever combination you go with it is usually a good idea to put a bit of lacquer over the nail to make it a bit stronger.
Head down to some of these famous Cumberland Valley Water and use the long ago designed Jassid. It will almost seem like you should be able to see some of these fabled anglers fishing near you.
While I am talking of using the Jassids in these famous Limestone waters do not for one second think they are not top producers statewide. One other thing to keep in mind is that seldom will you see Jassids smaller than a size 22 for sale the 24s and 26s certainly have their days also.