Thursday, April 4, 2013

Tying a Simple but Snazzy Soft Hackle

I really like to swing wet flies, streamers and soft hackles for trout and landlocked salmon.  And I also like to add a little bling to them.  This soft hackle is a case in point: its a knock-off of that old stand-by, the gold-ribbed hare's ear, which I always had great success with.  The colors of this fly are very similar...just with that added flash of the olive brown Ice Dubbing.

Materials list:
Tail - a few ring-neck pheasant tail barbs
Rib - small oval gold tinsel
Thread - Gray Gordon Griffiths 14/0
Underbody - Brown Uni-Yarn
Body - Olive Brown Ice Dubbing
Hackle - Hungarian Partridge
Hook - Your favorite wet fly/nymph hook


A good place to start is by putting your hook in the vise and getting the thread started on down the shank.

Tie in 3 or 4 or 5 barbs from Mr. Ringneck's tail feather.

Bind it down, running thread up towards head, clip off excess, and run back down to the butt.

Tie in the oval gold tinsel ribbing.

Bind it down same as the tail.

At this point I like to wrap the shank with something like Uni-wool.  Dunno if it makes the fly sink quicker when it gets soaked or not.  I just like the way it makes for a fuller body.  Guess you could use anything you wanted to accomplish that, if you felt that "fuller body" urge, too.

Dubbing time.  First, I roll a "noodle" of the Ice Dubbing on my thigh.  Denim jeans seem to create just the right resistance to make a nice noodle.

Now make yourself about a three inch dubbing loop (horrible pic, sorry).

Insert the noodle into the loop.

Give 'er a spin.  I use a crochet hook thingy I boosted from my mother's sewing kit about 35 years ago to spin the loop.

Wrap the shank with your Ice Dub rope.

I forgot to take a pic of it, but now would also be a very good time to wrap the tinsel ribbing up the shank.  Five turns looks nice.

Time to hackle the beast.  Pluck an appropriately sized Hungarian partridge feather, and prepare thusly:

Tie in thusly (I'm on a thusly kick, apparently):

Wrap thusly (lol):

Tie off, uh, er, thusly:

Wrap the head and go fishing.

I hooked my largest landlocked salmon to date on this fly a couple years ago at Upper Dam in Maine.  And a year or so ago, fishing the Mettawee in NY, there was a nice fish rising in a long, glassy glide.  I drifted dries over it for about 15 minutes; never put it down, but never brought it up, either.   Decided to change tactics.  Waded carefully out of the river and went upstream of the fish (which was still sporadically rising).  Tied on this soft hackle in, I believe, a size 10, and got back in the river.  You knew this was coming...on the first swing past the fish, it took, and I landed a nice 15" brown trout.   Also have great luck with it on tiny little streams for brook trout.

Try it.  You'll like it.


  1. Great fly & great step by step, Gary!

  2. Thanks, Howie. Hope to see you in just over 3 weeks!

  3. great step by step and sweet looking fly

  4. Good sequence on that fly Gary. Well done!

    1. Thanks, Bryant, I consider that high praise coming from you!!

  5. I still have the soft hackle you 'gifted' me with the day I caught my first trout in the Mettawee. I have been tying similar ever since, but can't wait to tie and try a "snazzy" one.

    1. It'll do you proud, Laurene! Take it for a swim!

  6. Gary, great looking fly. Question for you in regards to wet fly fishing. Do you wade close to the bank, cast to the middle of the river downstream, and swing the fly back to the bank? I would love to learn what technique you find most effective when fishing wet flies.

    Frequent reader, first time commenter, and novice angler,

    -Alex P.

    1. Thanks for the good words, Alex. For the most part I do wade close to the bank, making quartering casts downstream and letting the fly swim back to the bank. The speed of the fly as it swims back will be governed by the current but also how directly across the stream you cast. Typically, you don't want to "swim" too fast. So if directly downstream from you is 12 o'clock, you want to be casting to 1 or 2 o'clock at most. 3 oclock would be directly across the river...not so good. Hope this helps a bit.