The Neglected Soft Hackle

Earlier this year, we published a blog post titled Classic Flies are Classic for a Reason. The gist of that post was that the patterns that have stood the test of time have done so for a reason and given such should likely have a place in your fly box. Soft hackle flies are one of those classics. I have met many fly fishermen for which they are an absolute staple, employed on the stream as often as a pheasant tail nymph or parachute adams. But, I've met many more that don't fish them at all or only rarely do so, considering them sort of an oddity.

Sparkle Soft Hackle Fly
The Sparkle Soft Hackle Fly.

The truth is, however, that soft hackles are one of the most effective styles of flies ever created, and one that should have a home in virtually every angler's arsenal. Soft hackle fly patterns date back over half a millennia. Think about that. What are the chances that a pattern that has persisted for over 500 years doesn't deserve some significant real estate in your fly box?

In their simplest form, soft hackle flies are little more than thread or herl wrapped around the hook shank with a sparsely palmered hackle at the front. There are more elaborate versions that extend this basic design concept, but even the most feature-packed soft hackle flies are relatively feature-less.

2015 Dates for The Fly Fishing Show Announced

Though it seems like this year's Fly Fishing Show tour just finished up, the folks at The Fly Fishing Show have already gotten their ducks in line and put together next year's show calendar. This year's shows were said to be the most successful in the show's history, with record attendance and a great deal of positive feedback from show goers on the excellent floor displays, guest presentations, the IF4 film tour and more.

The Fly Fishing Show
Show goers inspect the Patagonia booth at this year's Fly Fishing Show in Somerset, NJ.

Locations for the 2015 shows are unchanged from this year and the schedule also remains roughly the same, with the one exception being that the Denver show will be held a week later this year to avoid conflicts with New Years Eve/Day.

Here are the dates for the 2015 Fly Fishing Shows:


Huck Finn

I cut me a good straight sapling, ‘bout half-ag'in tall as Pap.

Decided to go with the Predator - graphite, 7’10” 6wt. It’s sturdy in the backbone and fast enough for big flies and a good strong hookset. Slotted on a mid-arbor Battenkill III, the perfect compliment. Good drag and quick retrieve.

Found some old string behind Widow Douglas' place.

Spooled up a 7wt bass taper, overlining the Predator a step. Heavy front end punches the breeze and carries wind resistant bass bugs well while the stiffer coating doesn’t go noodley in warm waters. Added a six-foot 1X knotless tapered monofilament leader, stout enough to turn over the big stuff.

Taking the Plunge

The areas below waterfalls, both big and small, can be great places to seek out big trout. This should come as no surprise. Typically referred to as plunge pools, the water that sweeps over falls and into these pools continuously delivers all manner of food to fish waiting below. In areas where the plunging water is pinched or otherwise funneled by the structure of the stream, falls not only deliver food that has swept down from above but also produces a concentrated, high density stream of that food. The turbulent nature of water on the surface of a plunge pool serves to obscure and conceal everything below, providing excellent cover from predators. And despite the turbulent, often violent currents at the surface of these pools, the deep, sometime boulder-filled recesses below offer respite from strong currents.

Plunge Pool
Plunge pools, even small ones like this, can be hot spots on mountain freestone streams as they concentrate the typically sparse food supply in a safe and accessible location.

Don't Pass Them By

Bigger trout push smaller trout out of prime lies. That's the way it goes. So, the fact that these pools offer up a bounty all of a trout's most important needs: cover, food and protection from currents, makes them prime lies. This, in turn, means that they will commonly hold some of the best trout in the stream. Still, I've seen many a fisherman pass them by or ply them only momentarily, put off by the chaotic nature of the water's flow or unwilling to strap on 14 pieces of split shot in order to get their fly down to the fish hiding below.

Review: Sage METHOD Fly Rod

There are distinct advantages offered by fast action rods that don't come in slower packages. They allow for easy and authoritative line pickup, have the ability to toss heavy lines and tips, are much more adept at casting in the wind, allow the caster to throw tighter loops, generally help increase aim and accuracy and -- of course -- pack more power than their slower bretheren, allowing for longer and quicker casts. Despite all of these advantages, I've made no secret of the fact that I'm not generally a fast-action rod fan.

Sage METHOD Fly Rod
The Sage METHOD at work on the flats. (photo: Chad Shmukler)

I've criticized rod makers for taking the fast-action trend too far and many a fly fisherman for buying into the idea that fast action rods are the best rod for virtually any job. Though the advantages of fast-action rods are numerous, those advantages have always been accompanied by tradeoffs, tradeoffs which have come in the form of decreased responsiveness or feel, poor performance in close and increased difficulty of casting. All of these tradeoffs, for the most part, are symptoms of the same characteristic of fast-action rods: their stiffness and tendency towards tip-flex.