View Full Version : Soft Hackles

01-23-2008, 12:03 PM
From time to time I come across an article on how great soft hackle flies are. I would be interested in success, failures, or just thoughts on using soft hackle flies on GSMNP streams.

Rog 1
01-23-2008, 12:13 PM
I used to listen to my Grandfather talk about fishing in the mountains when no one used dry flies.....he said the standard was two wet flies fished in tandem.....even in his later days it never bothered him when he couldn't keep a dry fly floating....he would just revert back to his old style of fishing....some of the best days of my early fishing came with several local wet flies.....probably the best that I "stumbled" upon was a lead wing coachman.....

01-23-2008, 12:29 PM
Fredex, You will find several people on this forum who use a lot of soft hackles. I truly enjoy that style of fishing. It has truly increased my enjoyment of the sport. Soft haclkes are a treat to tie and even more fun to fish. I use them in the park and on tailwaters. A yallerhammer style soft hackle in the mountains can save the day.

01-23-2008, 01:01 PM
Next time you come across rise forms, and can't get them to hit any dry fly, match a softie to the size bugs you see or as close as you can come. Then swing the softie in front of the risers. Short strips slowly, then speed up.

You'll be very happy.

Gerry Romer
01-23-2008, 01:42 PM
Some of my best and hardest hookups in the mountains have come on the infamous Smoky Mountain Blackbird Softhackle. And on the South Holston and Watauga it would have to be the Rockhold Sulfur Emerger (another softhackle). Thank you Hugh Hartsell !!

Gerry Romer

01-25-2008, 10:43 AM
Since anything yellow tends to work in the Smoky Mts think about using a small (sz 14 and smaller) soft hackle tied with Pearsalls silk for a yellow body, partridge hackle (1-11/2 turn) and a little red head. Fish across and down... and hang on.

Many is the time that guys will be fishing dries and zero out... and I will fish the soft hackle and take fish, after fish, after........

Try it... you'll like it.


01-25-2008, 11:31 AM
I use a variation on this, use a fairly large BH Prince or something similar and tie on a Partridge and Yellow unweighted on to the Prince at the hook bend. Swing it and you are effectively fishing both the upper layer of water (emerge) and the lower columns with the BH.

01-25-2008, 03:27 PM
This discussion has me thinking. I've thought that being stealthy was an absolute requirement for catching more fish. If so, why is that when we swing soft hackles, nymphs and streamers across or downstream we should be spooking fish at the same time. Do we? I've noticed that it seems that when fish are in groups down deep in pools they don't seem as skittish as when they are on their own shallower water. Is that my imagination?


01-25-2008, 05:24 PM
In my opinion, you can get away with downstream presentation due to the fact that the fish usually only see the fly first. In other words you don't line em' as easy as you would with an upstream presentation. As for drag, it is really not a problem if you throw slack continously in the drift. When the fly starts to drag and lift you get strikes a lot. This happens a lot when theres a caddis drift. This takes place a lot in the morning. This is the old wet style fishing and if you read Hidy, Leisenring, Brooks etc you will see that it was and is very effective. In fact certain times on tailwaters, it is the only way to catch fish.

01-25-2008, 07:42 PM
ok, I am a superb internet searcher but I cannot find enough about the style of presentation you guys are speaking of. Please, if you would, describe it in a little more detail and explain why you would only present this way with a soft ahckle! ;-)

01-25-2008, 08:19 PM
I could never do the subject of Fly presentation techniques proper justice, so here are a few of my observations (to be amended and added to by others). There appears to be three major ways to present a fly: Upstream (or dead-drift), across the current (typically quartering either up or down stream) and down stream.

Typically you would cast upstream with dries or nymphs that you want to run deep down into pools. This would require you strip line in quickly to keep pace with the fly drifting toward you. However, you could also cast across the current or down stream to achieve other results, as well. For the most part wet flies get cast across and allowed to swing through the current and rise or drop in the water column which would mimic the emergence of an aquatic insect.

There are many ways to do it and lots of modifications to mending. Here is a pretty good article on the subject of swinging wet flies: http://www.midcurrent.com/articles/techniques/likakis_beyondtheswing.aspx

01-25-2008, 08:47 PM

01-25-2008, 08:58 PM
Couldn't have said it better myself Pete! A couple of good references would be books by Joe Brooks, specifically "Nymph Fishing For Larger Trout" also The Masters of The Nymph by Migel and Wright. Jim Leisenring, Pete Hidy wrote the book wet flies, although it is basically Leisenring's observations compiled by Pete Hidy.

Do some searches online with the key words. downstream nymphing. Down and across nymphing. Wet fly swing, and if you type in Leisenring and lift you will most certainly get a lot of hits in google. Hope this helps. oh and by the way. Soft hackles can be fished upstream but the ones which are sparsely tied in the North Country Spider fashion, as used in North Yorkshire and the borderlands in England are mostly fished down and across as emergers.

01-26-2008, 07:38 AM
This thread has peaked my interest. Would one of you gifted anglers provide me with a brief description of soft hackle flies and how to tie them? The message board is keeping me sane until spring.
Thanks to all.

01-26-2008, 12:49 PM
LRO sells 'em. Look here for a Partridge & Yellow which is one of the most common. http://littleriveroutfitters.com/store/product.php?productid=17437&cat=988&page=1


01-26-2008, 12:53 PM
Sorry, Pedipop. You asked how to tie 'em. In the simplest version, you merely cover the hook shank with silk thread, and wrap a turn or so of partridge or other soft hackle feather at the head.

You can add a fur thorax behind the hackle, which sometimes help flare the hackles out in quicker water.

They're really very easy flies to tie.


01-26-2008, 02:11 PM
Thanks much Steve. I'll order a few and try to tie a few and then try a few from midstream ASAP when spring arrives. (Early I hope!)

Flying Trout
01-27-2008, 05:58 PM
The Winter 2008 issue of "Flyfishing & Tying Journal" has an article named "Presentation Stategies for Soft-Hackled Nymphs" by Allen Mcgee. It has illustrations and some other helpful hints. I personally enjoy fishing this way in certain situations.