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Fishing Soft-Hackles: Simple, Effective Ties

2009 June 11
Partridge & Yellow

Partridge & Yellow

Soft-hackles are probably among the least-known and under-appreciated wet flies in the fly angling arsenal. I was turned-on to their power and simplicity by my regular fishing companion, Bryon Anderson, when I noticed that he was outfishing me once again. I asked what he was catching all the trout on, and when he told me it was a soft-hackle, I started tying them up in droves — only to discover that they are also a fast, easy tie. Just the other night I was tearing them up on the Boardman with a soft-hackle swung behind a dry fly, though the fish consistantly were taking the soft-hackle and ignoring the dry entirely.

As I see it, the virtues of the soft-hackle are three-fold. First, there is the fact that it is an easy tie. It uses few materials, the materials are inexpensive, it can be tied on a rotary vice very quickly, and looks buggy almost from the first twist. Second, there is the fact that the fly is easy to fish. You can fish it upstream, tumbling in the current, or you can fish it downstream, as a swung wet fly — either way you will catch fish. There is really nothing to it. Third, the fly imitates a wide range of natural possibilities. It might be a caddis pupa. It might be a damsel-fly nymph. It might be a drowned mayfly. And it works as a good general search pattern altough it tends to get searching strikes from smaller trout.

A Partridge & Yellow makes an excellent choice when fishing a sulphur hatch — easily taken by trout as a drowned mayfly, among other things. And the Partridge & Green has a nice, general buggy look that makes it a favorite searching pattern that use when nothing else seems to make immediate sense.

It is tempting to want to dress-up such a simple tie. John Gierarch in his Good Flies: Favorite Trout Patterns and How They Got That Way writes that “back when tiers like Gary LaFontaine, Larry Solomon, and Eric Leiser first started to get more realistic with caddis pupa patterns, I got a little envious and tried to dress this thing up with short duck-quill wing pads underneath and long strips of bronze mallard trailing well past the hook bend as antennae. It looked good, but after a few seasons I convinced myself that neither of those things made a difference and went back to the sort of simple, traditional soft hackle that’s been catching trout for the past five hundred years or so” (p. 127).

Partridge & Yellow

Hook:       Tiemco 3769, size 10 to 16 (or similar)
Thread:    Pearsall’s Gossamer silk, primrose yellow (or silk floss)
Hackle:     Grey partridge (Indian hen neck on smaller flies)
Body:        Working silk (over lead, if desired)
Thorax:     Hare’s Mask Fur

Partridge & Orange

Hook:       Tiemco 3769, size 10 to 16 (or similar)
Thread:    Pearsall’s Gossamer silk, orange (or silk floss)
Hackle:     Brown partridge (Indian hen neck on smaller flies)
Body:        Working silk (over lead, if desired)
Thorax:     Hare’s Mask Fur

Partridge & Green

Hook:       Tiemco 3769, size 10 to 16 (or similar)
Thread:    Pearsall’s Gossamer silk, green (or silk floss)
Hackle:     Grey partridge (Indian hen neck on smaller flies)
Body:        Working silk (over lead, if desired)
Thorax:     Hare’s Mask Fur

2 Responses
  1. Joseph Meyer permalink
    June 11, 2009

    The TMC 200r remains a curious choice of hooks for a soft hackle. The gape is too narrow (unless off-set by the tyer) and the wire is too fine, wouldn’t a wet fly hook work a little better?

    Joseph

  2. June 12, 2009

    You’re quite right — a TMC 3769 is a better choice, and the one I use… when I was collecting my materials to make the list, I grabbed the wrong box. I’ll fix that. Thanks!

Comments are closed.