Sunday, October 6, 2013

Soft Hackles and Long Legs

Every year I try to host a couple trips for my local fly fishing club. Usually the trips are to delayed harvest streams. The goal is to get people more familiar with how to fish for trout. The day usually comes down to nymphing. Soft hackles have always been a personal favorite. They just seem to work. It could be confidence in fishing them or they could just be the perfect fly. I tried tying a few before the trip.
I didn't like how long the hackle was on each of the flies. No matter how hard I tried to make a sparse looking fly I felt it had too much hackle and the fibers reached too far beyond the fly.
I trimmed them a little but I really don't like doing that. I feel it can give a really artificial look to the fly. Not like the whole thing isn't artificial enough. When we got to the river. The fish were in there usual places. I looked in my fly box trying to decide what to throw first. A voice in the back of my mind kept nagging me. "You just tied those soft hackles last night use those." I figured the best time to try those would be first thing. Then if they didn't work I could move on to other patterns. On my second cast I saw the indicator twitch. I set the hook but missed the fish. I have spent the whole summer chasing small brook trout that hit your fly like starving bluegill. My nymphing techniques were really rusty. After missing a few other strikes I had a fish on.
It was your typical stocked brookie. Bland and beat up but gives a nice tug. The key to most of this water is the drift. For some reason on certain days these fish do not want a dead drift. They want the fly almost dragging behind the indicator. They'll either hit the fly on the drag or hit it on the swing at the end of the drift.
The weather was unseasonably warm. It was in the mid 80's and you could have almost left the waders at home. It's always interesting to see how the fish learn to survive. When they're first dumped in they clump together and stand out like a sore thumb. You can always tell where fish are stocked because there will be about a 100 fish stacked up in a run. It takes about a week or more for the fish to spread out and start acting like an animal that has predators. Many fish were frolicking in the sun just waiting for a heron or eagle to snatch them up. Some fish were figuring it out early. I found this fish in a plunge pool. It had more color than your average stocked brown. It was also lacking the chunkiness of a pellet fed fish. I wonder if it is wild.
There was one section where if you got your drift just right you could catch fish after fish. I tried to show others but nymphing is something that takes a lot of practice. Your setup can make a huge difference. If one person is using just a foot or two longer leader that can be the difference between catching fish or nothing. I found the easiest way to get someone to learn the drift was to just let them use my rod with my setup.
My soft hackles were the fly of the day. The fish seemed to like the long spindly legs. I tried other flies that were similar with smaller legs or none at all. The fish wanted the long legs.


  1. Kevin, those soft hackles looked tasty! I was also surprised in the difference between the two brookies you pictured, although I don't think I'd complain much. Nice post and thanks!

  2. Thanks Howard, The second fish is a brown.

    1. Just seeing if you're on your toes buddy! Thanks for the flies by the way. They arrived safe and sound and will be swimming with the fishes soon.

  3. Soft Hackles are just deadly flies to use most of the time. I fish them for Trout, Bluegill, Bass, etc. Anyway, don't know that your hackle length is to long at all. Obviously, the trout liked them and that is all that matters. Thanks for sharing, Kevin!

  4. Kevin
    I am so impressed with this pattern. What size were you using with the indicator and did you use the same size on the drift. I am assuming you are dead drifting without an indicator. I have found as you did that the trout sometimes will take the fly quicker on the drift as opposed to using the indicator. The legs gives it the attractor edge. Great post!!

  5. Kevin
    What about a swap for some of these fantastic looking flies?? Thanks Bill