Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Flies of 2013: Hutch's Pennell

The Black Pennell is one of THE best known traditional wet flies. I have used it for years when stillwater fishing for brown trout and rainbows, and it is still one of my first choice flies for wild brown trout in lakes and lochs. I had heard of one or two Black Pennell variations, but to be fair there isn't much you can do improve its simple design and effectiveness. It was again whilst researching patterns for my Shetland trip that Hutch's Pennell came to my attention. I had never heard of it until then but now feel slightly embarrassed at that admission because it does seem reasonably well known. As with my previous two posts about the Kate McLaren Muddler (KMM) and Black Diawl Bach (BDB), it was while out early season fishing on Ullswater when my quickly filling up Shetland wet fly box served up the Hutch's Pennell in answer to the Buzzers that were hatching in good numbers. As I wrote in the first of these posts, it just stood out from the myriad of other patterns in my box and couldn't be ignored; that's how I choose my wet flies, or to put it better - I let them choose themselves...

... Hutch's Pennell is another fly that looks good in the box - you know it should pull you a fish or two just looking at it! However, once wet this fly is transformed into something far better looking: the white hackle collapses around and envelopes the body of peacock herl, which always looks better when wet; the silver rib shines through just enough to suggest segmentation and translucency; the tails contrast with and complement the rest of the fly, providing a trigger as well as suggesting a shuck... like the BDB, all this fly's component parts blend together perfectly to create an outstanding artificial that can be fished with confidence in clear or peaty water.

Hutch's Pennell
Hutch's Pennell
Hutch's Pennell has its origins in Orkney apparently and is the creation on an angler named Ian Hutcheon. I suppose it is an eclectic mix of the materials and features that make up some of our most successful wet flies. You can see in it Black Pennell, Black & Peacock Spider, Diawl Bach, Loch Ordie and even a slight Bumble or Dabbler appearance as the hackle cloaks the body. It is, therefore, no surprise that it should be successful, but credit to Mr Hutcheon for blending the best features of all those flies so successfully. For my money it is the white and black head hackles that give this fly that little bit of special something. The white hackle in particular makes it stand out.

I fished Hutch's Pennell throughout 2013 on the middle dropper behind a KMM and above a BDB on the point; or on the top dropper above two BDB's. On Ullswater the Hutch's Pennell came a very close second to the BDB in the success stakes, but on other lakes and lochs I would say that Hutch's Pennell just had the edge and was a real revelation for me. I no longer count fish, or keep a diary, so there is no exact science involved, but I would say this was my top performing stillwater fly in 2013. You should never judge a fly after just one season's use (though with the tried and tested materials in this pattern it will always be successful), but on 2013's performance I can only say it was outstanding!

I have to admit to buying my Hutch's Pennels from Caithness Quailty Flies due to time constraints and if you don't tie your own, or have the time to tie your own, I would recommend you do too.