Soft Hackle Wet Fly

Also called a Hackle Fly, North Country Fly, Stewart Spider, or Yorkshire Spider, these flies were first mentioned in Dame Juliana Berners’ 1496 Treatise of Fishing with an Angle

If you haven’t heard of soft hackle wets, then you’re not only missing some fun tying, but you’re also missing lots of strikes

I like to fish dries on the top and nymphs on or near the bottom, so the ’emerging’ fly, one that is transforming from a nymph into a dry, can be fished in the area between the two. This means emergers can be used to fish in the space between the top and the bottom. That covers about 99% of the area where fish feed.

I focus on the partridge wets, one of my favorite patterns, because it catches fish and it is easy to tie. Less is more with this type of emerger These flies are usually sparsely dressed. Experience proves that the thinly dressed fly is often the most effective.

Partiridge feather fly ty

The Hook

The soft-hackle wet fly is usually tied on wet fly hooks (any shape, model, and size you like) because it is usually most effective fished just under the surface. You may, however, tie it on lighter-wire dry-fly hooks to fish it in the surface film, perhaps as a drowned nymph that didn’t quite make it. A general rule for determining which hook to use is this: If you want the fly to imitate a caddis, tie it on a regular or short-shank hook without a tail; if you want it to imitate a mayfly, tie it on a regular or long-shank hook and add a tail.

How to fish a Soft Hackle wet fly

Probably the most common way to fish a soft-hackle wet fly is to cast it across and slightly downstream, letting it sink and then swing in the current, rising with the tightening line much as a natural rises to the surface before hatching. It’s on this rise that fish usually strike. Another method is to cast the fly upstream on a short cast and then let it dead-drift back to you just under the surface. On lakes and ponds a soft hackle fly cast in front of a cruising trout and then twitched slightly can be absolutely deadly.

Tying The Fly

Hook: Daiichi 1150, 1550, Mustad 8100BR, Tiemco 3769, or any hook that you prefer, sizes 10-18
Thread: 6/0 Olive or size A flat nylon
Body: Olive thread or size A flat nylon
Ribbing: Gold wire, optional
Thorax: Hare’s Ear or gray squirrel blend
Hackle: Hungarian Partridge
Head: Hare’s Ear or gray squirrel blend

Step 1

Wrap thread from just behind head to slightly around the bend of the hook and then back over the shank to a point approximately 1/4 shank length back from the eye. If ribbing is used, tie it in at the bend of the hook and then wind thread forward, trimming the excess at the point where you wind on your thorax.

Step 2

Dub onto thread a small amount of fur and wind over shank to form a thorax.

Step 3

Strip downy fibers from stem and tie in partridge feather (concave side down) on top of hook shank and trim excess. Length of hackle may vary from long to short (your choice) but I prefer the tips on most flies to extend slightly beyond the bend of the hook.

If you want a “fluffier,” softer-hackled fly, strip the feather stem so that some of the downier barbs remain and are tied in with the first turn of the feather. Also, do not discard the aftershaft feather this is an exceptionally useful feather for tying smaller soft-hackle flies such as the Aftershaft Soft-Hackle Wet Fly

Step 4

Wind partridge feather around hook (one turn or at most, two–the fly is best dressed sparsely.) Trim excess and form neat thread head.

Step 5

This step may be omitted but it’s how I prefer to tie many of my soft-hackle flies, with a small amount of dubbing tightly wrapped just in front of the hackle to form a small head. Makes the fly look “buggier,” I think.