Autumn On The EB

Autumn On The EB

Sunday, July 19, 2015

What Is A Soft Hackle Fly

I tied up a zillion of them through the Winter and fished, lost and destroyed many over the last four months.
From size 8, which just seem to work well on the EB, down to size 18 or so on the Swift. I'm tying more now for the Fall (I hate to say that) season only two months away. I don't mind because of all the sunken fly patterns that I tie this is the one that makes me feel good when I take it from the vise. It's a beautiful trout fly.

First things first - the soft hackle fly is a STYLE of tying that goes back over 400 years to the British Isles. It was saved from oblivion by Sylvester Nemes and his great book "The Soft Hackle Fly". It is the style of tying that counts. Just because you tie in grouse, partridge, hen, starling, whatever into a fly doesn't make it a SOFT HACKLE FLY. It's a fly with soft hackles which doesn't do what the original patterns were meant to do: imitate an emerging nymph on it's way to emergence. I guess that you could tie a wooley bugger with grouse hackles but it's still a wooley bugger and not a soft hackle fly.

This is a slim fly just as many emerging nymphs are slim. Originally tied with silk for the SLIM body you can now get away with floss or nylon or 70 denier tying thread. A simple, sparse thorax and then two turns of hackle of your choice does it. DON'T OVER BUILD THIS FLY!! Fat, bushy soft hackles don't really work on trout that have been in the stream for awhile.

The Partridge and Orange that's pictured has produced more Fall/Winter trout than any other pattern for me. Replace the orange with olive thread and you will do well through the Spring and Summer.

Get a copy of Nemes's book. Look at the fly photos and start dreaming!!

P.S. Forget Striper fishing until next year.




BobT said...

I am a soft hackle addict when appropriate. They seem to work everywhere and especially well on pressured water(the highly pressured trout of the South Platte and the Blue are suckers for these). I don't think trout see them all that much yet they imitate multiple stages of emergence and can be fished throughout the water column-I've started incorporating some dry fly hackle into a few of them to aid in fishing them dry or as emerging flies. This month's Fly Rod and Reel magazine has an article by Galen Mercer and shows off a half dozen exceptionally well tied softies-they are extremely sparse. Tying sparsely is an art that can take awhile to master-have you ever noticed how well beat up chewed up flies seem to get better the more fish they take. I fished some new water to me on the Deerfield recently at dusk and then again in the early morning...small softies #14-16 were deadly in the morning session and the larger flies (including winged wet flies-very old school) seem to really be on getting towards dark and after I couldnt see any more.

Josh said...

Great write up, thanks! My most-often fished fly on a double rig, almost always puts fish in the net.

I need to start tying my own now. I like the slimmer body on yours.

fischmeister57 said...

I've had pretty good luck with small soft hackles (e.g. #20) on the Swift, treated with dry fly powder and fished more or less like dry flies.

My only problem is finding partridge that's short enough for the very small soft hackles. You have to work with the extreme tips of the partridge feather and even then sometimes the fibers are too long .... Any suggestions?


Terry said...

SOFT HACKLES!!! My only contribution is let it hang below you looooongerrr than you think! I can't tell you the amount of times I've admired the birds and the trees while this fly dances back in forth below me and them BAM! My favorite fly pattern.

Millers River Flyfisher said...

Fischmeister57 (Herm)

This is a problem. I buy partridge by the skin. Lots of feathers from 12 to 16 But they don't grow partridge with feathers in a lot of smaller sizes. Here's the remedy:

Strip some of those giant fibers from the stem, position them on top of the hook with enough tip fibers extending beyond the eye of the hook, and then roll them gently around the hook shank. Bend them back a bit when you tie them off. Try for the same profile as a wrapped hackle. With practice......
That's how I do it for the Swift.



Tying aparesly

fischmeister57 said...

Ken, I never thought of that but I will give it a try.