Soft Hackle Wet Flies

I just finished tying a custom order for one dozen Orange Fish Hawk soft hackle wet flies. This pattern is an old one, it is listed in Ray Bergman’s first book, Just Fishing (1932). Here’s a photo of a single fly:

Orange Fish Hawk -soft hackle wet fly, the hook is a No. 12 standard wet fly hook.

Orange Fish Hawk -soft hackle wet fly, the hook is a No. 12 standard wet fly hook. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

When my brother Larry and I were in junior and senior high school, the guy who owned Joe’s Pizza Shop (now Park Pizza – fifty years later, different owner, same recipe, still good pizza), on Memorial Avenue behind Bowman Field in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, was a fly fisherman. At that time Joe told us one of his favorite flies was an orange soft hackle pattern. Either he didn’t know the name, or created it himself, told us, and we forgot the name. His fly was basically an Orange Fish Hawk but with a grizzly hackle. We tied that pattern and fished it on Lycoming Creek as we grew old enough to then drive off to more distant angling locations. We always called it “The Joe Pizza Fly.”

When placing a Soft Hackle Selection for sale on last year, I included the Orange Fish Hawk. It’s a great pattern, good fishing fly, kind of similar to the old Partridge and Orange, but a bit more glitzy. Here’s a photo of the packaged order, ready to mail:

One dozen Orange Fish Hawk soft-hackle wet flies.

One dozen size #12 Orange Fish Hawk soft-hackle wet flies.

This carded fly selection includes a separate signature card, and is inserted into a 3″ x 5″ zip-loc bag. It’s nice because with a thin sheet of styrofoam padding, this fits nicely into a First Class Letter envelope. $24 including shipping. Here is the tying recipe:

Orange Fish Hawk

Thread: Danville Flymaster white 6/0 for body, black 6/0 for head

Tag: Flat gold tinsel

Ribbing: Flat gold tinsel

Body: Orange floss, Danville No. 7

Hackle: Badger hen hackle, two wraps.

I wind the tag and ribbing all at once, as I learned to do in the Carrie Stevens Hilyard book, when making streamers; easily done if the pattern has no tail. Winding the tag and ribbing in one operation saves time, and I have found it is also applicable on wet flies. You’ll note the tightness of the rear of the floss body; that is because I use a single strand of floss tied in as a keeper, utilizing salmon fly tier Warren Duncan’s tag and body technique. I pull the keeper forward over the body and wrap it in underneath the third turn of floss. The butt end of this is then trimmed as the floss is wound forward.

While I’m at it, here are a few more soft-hackle wet flies:

Black Midge

Black Midge – Size #12 – pattern from Trout by Ray Bergman. Note the ribbing, my personal addition to improve the pattern durability. It’s a single strand of twisted black floss. This helps to reinforce the floss body, which on this pattern, has no tag or tinsel ribbing to back it up. It also tightens the body and gives a segmented appearance. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

Black Midge

Hook: Standard wet fly hook, #8 to #18.

Thread: Danville Flymaster black 6/0

Body: Black floss

Ribbing: One strand of black floss, twisted

Hackle: Black

Anything black is always on the trout’s diet. An easy fly to tie, effective in a wet fly swing, or even rigged as a nymph with an indicator rig.

Brown Hackle

Brown Hackle – #10 – another standard soft-hackle pattern. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

Brown Hackle

Hook: Standard wet fly hook, sizes #8 to #18

Thread: Danville Flymaster black 6/0

Ribbing: Fine gold wire, counterwound

Body: Peacock herl

Hackle: Brown

Gray Hackle Peacock

Gray Hackle Peacock – Size #10. This one is on the “short list” of soft-hackle patterns. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

Gray Hackle Peacock

Hook: Standard wet fly hook, size #8 to #18

Thread: Danville Flymaster black 6/0

Tag: Flat gold tinsel

Ribbing: Flat or fine oval gold tinsel

Body: Peacock herl

Hackle: Grizzly

Some years ago, I made this pattern in a #22 and named it the Griffith’s Gnat Nymph. I always fished that fly under a Griffith’s Gnat dry when I used it…it works, folks.

Gray Hackle Yellow

Gray Hackle Yellow – size #10. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

Gray Hackle Yellow

Hook: Standard wet fly hook, size #8 to #16

Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 white for body; black for head

Tag: Flat gold tinsel

Ribbing: Flat gold tinsel

Body: Yellow floss – you can see the “keeper” on this sample, a single strand of yellow floss pulled along the entire length of the top of the body. It’s held in place by the ribbing. I sometimes use the keeper technique this way. Warren Duncan did this as well, over the entire body, on his hairwing salmon flies.

Sanctuary - size #10 - soft hackle wet fly.

Sanctuary – size #10 – soft hackle wet fly. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.


Hook: Standard wet fly hook, size #8 to #16

Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 Black

Tag: Flat gold tinsel

Ribbing: Flat gold tinsel

Body: Natural hare’s ear dubbing, dark gray

Hackle: Brown

These patterns are all in Ray Bergman’s Trout, except for the Orange Fish Hawk.

To place an order for these proven “trout-getters” in single patterns or as a selection with two of each pattern in size #10 and #12, visit:

22 comments on “Soft Hackle Wet Flies

  1. Kelly L says:

    Don, I am a huge fan of soft hackle flies. Thanks for putting these up on your blog. Beautiful flies. They all look wonderful. You can’t go wrong with these patterns, in your fly box!

  2. Don Mear says:

    Don, as always, your flies are stunning, and I’m especially fond of the soft hackles.

    • Don Bastian says:

      Thank you Don, for your comment and compliment! Glad you like the flies! I thought the soft-hackle selection would be a nice change from my more recent postings…thanks again!

  3. Mark W says:

    Big soft hackle fan too! Very nicely tied. The “keeper” technique is a new one to me, thanks for sharing it.

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Mark;
      Thanks for your comment! Glad I could help you out with Warren’s keeper technique. There was a posting a while back where I did a photo sequence of that on a streamer body. I initially learned that from Rob Solo in the 1990’s at a salmon fly class, then then demonstrated it on my first wet fly DVD. Just started using it on bodies a few years ago. Thanks again for your comment!

  4. joel stansbury says:

    Don, great piece. I always carry a selection of these when fishing. Often the fish are keying in on emergers, and the soft hackle usually fills the bill. I even use them for bluegills!

  5. Don Bastian says:

    Hi Joel;
    You are right! You can’t beat that squirming action of the hackle for insect legs! Nothin’ wrong with catching bluegills on flies! :mrgreen: Thanks for your comment!

  6. Bert says:

    The OFH used to be my secret weapon. Thanks a lot, Don. 😉

  7. Bill says:

    I really like these, DB. Soft hackle wets are fun to fish and very productive as well. I tie and fish the Orange Fish Hawk often myself, sometimes adding an underbody of flat silver tinsel that produces a nice glow through the floss when the fly gets wet.

    • Don Bastian says:

      Thanks for your comment Bill! Glad you liked the post – it seemed like the right thing to do when I had the dozen of them tied up…your idea of the tinsel under body is a good one, I’ve heard of that before. Thanks again!

  8. Jeff Ryan says:

    HI, Don. We’ve recently corresponded and when I received this email, I had to sit down and give the Orange Fish Hawk a try. These are all great soft hackles and I can’t wait to use them this spring. I ran into trouble, though, with winding the tag and ribbing at once on the Orange Fish Hawk. Would you send me a private message so I can return a photo to you for your analysis of what I’m doing wrong? Thanks, Jeff

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Jeff;
      Thanks for your comment and question…glad that I could help you with the tighter wraps suggestion. Hope you catch lots of fish on the Orange Fish Hawk! It’s a good fly! One of my friends, his one uncle – an old timer- used to leave the three wet flies on his leader from year to year. He used to just check the leader, sharpen the hooks, and go fishing. One of his patterns was an Orange Fish Hawk. I can’t recall the other two…thanks again for your interest & comment!

  9. Bob Dietz says:

    I’ve never actually counted the number of times Bergman referenced the OFH in Trout and Just Fishing, but I believe it’s more than any other fly. It had to be one of his favorites.

    I’m under the impression that he tied it with cock hackle, since his description of the wet version is “Plate shows dry fly. Slant hackles back for wet fly.” He then goes on to talk about how hard good badger hackle is, and to expect to buy a premium price for it.

    This whole post looks very much like my box of most used flies. They sure as heck work.

  10. Rex says:

    From a fishing perspective, what are your favorite sizes? I seem to tie on size 14’s the most, but maybe I should go larger.
    I love visiting your site and seeing what you’re working on. Keep up the great work.

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Rex;
      Thanks for your comment! I generally fish #8’s and #10’s, a few #12’s, and on occasion, even a big ol’ #6. Kinda depends on water conditions, and what may be hatching. Usually the soft-hackles work even in a non-hatch situation. Glad you enjoy the site, thank you for your compliment! I appreciate it very much!

  11. Armando says:

    Beautiful patterns of flies and great experience for me to keep learning more and more thanks to your great work Don, congratulations and move on.

    • Don Bastian says:

      Thanks again Armando!
      I’m glad you like this soft-hackle collection. It may grow a little as my tying time permits. Thanks for your compliment! Glad there is something here you can learn from. Cheers!

  12. Mike Cipriani says:

    I used a Orange Fish Hawk back in the 60’s, love the old classic flies. Your ties are impressive.

  13. Mike says:

    I am in the process of creating a soft hackle silk body fly box. I found an excellent source of silk floss at a sewing materials store. The brand is Glitterman.
    Here it cost $5. for a 200 yard spool.
    The patterns you present here are now added to my collection and will be tested on the trout as soon as the late snow melts after our bad winter. Thanks for promoting soft hackle wet flys, they deserve a spot in our boxes and are excellent fish catchers! I have been tying for over 45 years, self taught. Your flys are very well made … Good job!

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