On My Vise: There’s just something about a soft hackle..

What is it about soft hackle patterns that makes them such great fish catchers?

“the close enough”

The other night I was sitting at my vise trying to figure out what to tie, and once again I found myself migrating over to soft hackles.

I love them. I Love to tie them and I love to fish them.

For me, when tying this type of fly a “close enough” It doesn’t matter what kind or what type of materials; or that it’s an exact replica of what insect it’s trying to imitate. Just that it has movement and The characteristics of a generic food source for trout.

These are tied to imitate; as I call, a “close enough “rendition of something that’s ‘swimming for its life’, or is at the end of it’s life.

soft hackles; they catch fish.

This pattern here is nothing specific but it works.

Some may say “well what is it?”

“In the water what it represents is what?”

Close view.
Close up

“But what’s it supposed to be?”

-One of the many insects caught in the current that have drown?

-An emerging insect that is swimming up to the surface?

The truth is I don’t know and we may never know. It’s all about trial and error, seeing what works and what doesn’t. And if it doesn’t? Well.. then you were just taught a lesson on what doesn’t work.

“Smash and Grab”

Sometimes when I’m on the river, I’ll grab a mayfly out of the air.. smash it in my hand and inspect it. Not so much that is destroyed, but enough that it’s crippled.

Then I flip through that soft hackle fly box and find what I consider to be “close enough “

And this here is what I call one of those “close enough “soft hackles.

Gold tinsel adds a little flash.
Gold tinsel adds a little flash.

I could give you a recipe here to tie this, which I will; but in reality it’s whatever you think looks like something where you fish.

What I like to tell beginner tyers, and also the participants in our project healing waters group is to just Have fun. Have fun tying soft hackled flies, because you will have fun fishing them, and when that fish grabs onto that fly at the end of your swing.. you’ll know..because they don’t take soft hackles with an easy bite.

Oversized partridge feathers are always a great choice

Hook: Wet/Nymph hook or a Light Nymph Hook (if you will be fishing it higher in the water column or with dry fly floatant to fish in the film)

Dubbing: a mixture of squirrel from the body and rabbit mix from the mask in your colors of choice

Ribbing: wide gold tinsel

Hackle: an oversize partridge feather on the lighter side usually found closer to the neck.

Soft Hackle Tutorials

How to wrap a soft hackle

Too much hackle, not enough hook -Part 1

Too much hackle, not enough hook -Part 2

The Kept: A book review 

This book takes place in upstate New York in the snow belt but has all the dangers of a family living in the western plains.

When the wife returns to her family’s remote homestead in far upstate New York in a snowstorm to find four of her five children and her husband shot dead and left where they fell. She finds her 5th child hiding In a closet and the mystery goes from there.

I’m not always one for mysteries since they tend to go down the same redundant path, but my love of westerns drew me to this one and I wasn’t disappointed. 

PHWFF July 27, 2016-Isonychias


July 27, 2016 6pm-8pm PHWFF New City New York

We had a full house at tonight’s meeting! Some members returned after a hiatus, others returned after a trip to Alaska and we even had a few new tyers!

On the lesson today was the Isonychia Soft Hackle fly pattern and a bead head version. img_5193

We will be taking a trip in a month or so to the Catskills and its one of the flies we will be fishing with.

Some of the techniques we went over today were wrapping a soft hackle and tying in tailing. Anyone who missed this group please feel free to take a look at the tutorials and contact me with any questions.

On My Vise: The Beadhead Lafontaine Deep Sparkle Pupa

The LaFontaine Deep Sparkle Pupa is such a great pattern that it doesn’t really need too much change. Like te old saying goes “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” but doesn’t mean you can just add a bead head 😂 .. And a little ice dub under that “bubble”.. . I’m surely not the first one to do this and I wont be the last but is really is an effective pattern!

Lafontaine Deep Sparkle Pupae
LaFontaine Deep Sparkle Pupae

The caddis pupae is an excellent pattern to fish when caddis are hatching; since the ones that you see in the air and on the waters surface are only a small number of the ones which are consumed.

Caddis will be emerging left and right and the majority of those are taken by trout before they ever reach the surface! The caddis make their scramble to the waters surface to emerge, then even drift back down only to be lifted back up again; and the trout are ready to feed.

This fly is best fished deep in the water and then lifted on the swing towards the end. The majority of the trout that I have caught on this fly have been on the lift, but I will also use it as an anchor fly with a soft hackle tied above it on a tippet ring.

I started tying it in tan and green then I began adding a little more orange and moving away from the tan because that shade of orange/tan has fished good for me all the way through the fall with the October caddis hatching.

This guy couldn’t help himself! He was fooled!

But Let’s also not forget the green shade of the bead head LaFontaine Caddis..

Got one. Just not what I intended to catch!

Which tends to catch me more Caddis… Than it does trout 😂

“The Lafontaine Beadhead Caddis”

Thread: Orange 6/0

Hook: Caddis/Scud (here I used a size 12 but use what’s relevant for your area)

Bead: Tungsten bead to match hook

Dubbing: Mix of natural rabbit with orange sow scud dubbing

Bubble: Light tan Antron tied in at the tail and wrapped over before hackling

Hackle: oversized partridge feather

And Dont worry about stray antron fibers coming out the back of this fly to the point that they’re almost a tail, I tend to find that the more beat up it gets from the trout the better it fishes.

Other LaFontaine Patterns:

Lafontaine Cased Caddis


On My Vise: Isonychia Soft Hackle

The Isonychia soft hackle is an excellent pattern to fish during an Iso hatch, and for me it’s a pattern that I will swing, even through rising fish.For those of you in our New City group, This was one of the patterns that we discussed and tied during our meeting on July 26, 2016.

Isonychia Soft Hackle
Isonychia Soft Hackle

Isonychia soft hackle

Hook: standard wet fly hook

Thread: black

Tailing and hackle: Whiting’s Hebert Miner Wet Fly Hackle in Wild type Brown.

Dubbing: A mix of red and brown SLF squirrel dubbing as well as guard hairs taken off of a squirrel skin.

Stripe: doubled over white thread or one strand of thicker thread or embroidery floss

Ribbing: Gold Wire


If you are looking for a substitute for the wild type brown, please see the post here.

Tie in Tailing

Load your bobbin, Secure your hook in the vise and start your thread. Run the thread down the hook shank to the base and Tie in your tailing

(If you are following along from our PHWFF group in New City, or just Need a little extra help; click the highlighted links to certain techniques and it will open in a new window)

Tying in thread stripeie in your white thread at the base of the tail

With the tailing in place, tie in your white thread at the base of the shank.

Tie in wire and stripe material

Tie in your gold wire at the base of the shank as well, to the side of the white thread.

Mixing the dubbing:

Next up is dubbing and SLF squirrel has got to be my favorite. What I do for this pattern is I take a mixture of red and dark brown SLF and I mix them together. I then snip a patch of guard hairs off of a full squirrel skin and mix them in.

This will give you a good reddish-brown mix but be sure to adjust this based on the Isonychias in your area because colors always vary.

Dubbing the body:

The dubbing noodle

Using your dubbing, create a dubbing noodle.

Dub forward

Start dubbing your hook shank, stopping about 1/4 of the way behind the eye, ensuring that you leave enough room to tie in and wrap the hackle.

Once you have dubbed the body it’s now time to create the visible stripe that goes along an Isonychias natural nymph body and rib it with wire . You will do this by Bringing the white thread forward, then using your finger nail it to hold it down as you tie it in with a wrap.

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Creating the hackle collar

Now its time to select, prepare and tie in your hackle.

Once your hackle is wrapped, you can whip finish and your fly is complete!

A few turns and your done!

That’s it! I hope this pattern brings you luck! I like to fish this one on an upstream cast and then a lift at the end of your swing.

If they are taking them on top as well, feel free to add some dry fly floatant to these and fish them right in the film. It has caught many trout for me that way.

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