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 http://www.myflies.com/ 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.

Sanctuary

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: http://www.myflies.com/Soft-Hackle-Selection-P611.aspx

Traditional Soft Hackle Selection

 

Soft Hackle Wet Fly Selection

One of the tasks I had when I returned home I returned home from my trip was to fill an order from MyFlies.com for my Traditional Soft Hackle Wet Fly Selection. It’s nice to have that online fly selling site to depend on for a steady supply of orders. Earlier this summer I made up new packaging for this set, along with the same packing for my Traditional Wet Fly Selection and the Married Wing Selection. Above is a photo of the Soft Hackle Wet Fly Selection and the new packaging for the set. Below is a macro photo of half the patterns:

Black Midge, Gray Hackle Yellow, and Gray Hackle Peacock, sizes are #10 and #12.

Below is the other side of the set:

The selection and more information can be viewed at: http://www.myflies.com/Soft-Hackle-Selection-P611.aspx

I have personal success fishing several of these patterns as far back as when I was in high school. The 19th century anglers referred to these patterns as “hackles.” Most of the contributing writers to Mary Orvis Marbury’s Favorite Flies and Their Histories count the hackles among their standard fishing flies.