Archive for July, 2011

Cheater Soft Hackles

July 28, 2011

Cheater Soft Hackles.

We all I am sure have at some point tied and fished soft hackle patterns; there are those of us who embrace these simple and mobile flies to the same degree as Sylvester Nemes who proclaims addiction to these amazingly effective and relatively simple patterns.ref:  (“The Soft Hackle Fly Addict”).

Having fallen in love with these patterns though I can’t be the only one who has ventured forth and purchased a packet of grouse or partridge hackles only to find that the feathers are all too large to tie the flies in the classical style. Even if you buy a skin there are going to be a lot of feathers that you can’t use on trout sized patterns. It looks lovely and simple, perhaps stripping one side of the hackle and tying it in point first to create a highly mobile emerger wet fly. But what about all those over sized feathers?

I fish predominantly small streams with good insect populations the vast majority of which are tiny, a size 14 would be a veritable “whopper” and that leaves me with a lot of hackles that are simply too large to tie in the normal manner.

Well having played about with a lot of different experiments, most of which failed dismally it has to be said, I have found a way of using oversized hackle to manufacture very nice and more than acceptable wet fly or soft hackle patterns without wasting. Now I am free to tie patterns of almost any size, for stream or stillwater use and no longer am frustrated with the wastage that occurred previously. In fact it opens up a whole new world of tying flies because you can utilize all manner of feathers which you thought previously were unsuitable.

Here is how you do it:

  • First pull the fibres at right angles to the stem so as to align the tips of the fibres as much as possible.
  • Then cut or tear the fibres off the stalk and hold them on top of the hook shank, points forwards over the eye.
  • You now need to measure them so that you get the degree of “overhang” that you require, this will determine the “size” of the hackle in the finished fly.
  • Swap hands and tie down the hackles leaving the points hanging over the front of the hook, they will be fashioned into a wet fly or soft hackle collar later on.
  • Cut off any excess and add a tail (optional) and a body of whatever material you wish to use, silk, floss, dubbing.
  • Once the thread is back at the eye of the hook you now pull the fibres down and around the hook before bending them backwards over the body and form a neat head of thread in front of them. The fibres should now look to all intents and purposes as though you had wound them around the hook.
  • Form a neat whip finish and you fly is complete.

Below are graphics of the process from my soon to be launched eBook “Essential Fly Tying Techniques” this book provides graphic and on page video clips of all the key techniques required to tie myriad flies.  This is but an excerpt and example of a little bit what is contained within the book.  There are over 100 pages, over 80 graphics, 35 video clips of key techniques and entire flies , basic entomology and fly identification and lots of great tricks which will help you tie flies like the one shown here. The video clip below is an indication of what you can expect from the eBook but is not in the exactly the same format. If you would like to pre-order a copy of the book please drop me a line on the following link. Pre-order enquiry Essential Fly Tying Techniques

Click on the images to see them at full size for greater clarity if you wish.


The possibilities are endless, here are a few different versions of cheater soft hackles just to show some options.

Olive Cheater Soft Hackle with tails

Orange Cheater soft hackle

Silver Cheater with golden pheasant

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Fishing Partners

July 12, 2011

They always say that it is easier to find a good wife than a good business partner, I am not sure the same doesn’t apply to a fishing partner for that matter. There is something about having a fishing buddy whose approach is similar to one’s own that makes it “work” compared to fishing alone or with others.

On a river the pace is probably the most important, I rather like to stick on a feeding fish until I either spook the living daylights out of the thing or catch it. That can mean fly changes, leader changes, waiting things out, repositioning and generally fiddling about for quite some time. Partners who deal well with that appreciate the same courtesy when they are “on” fish but it takes a certain outlook to achieve.

The rabbits, the ones who want to run upstream, slamming down a fly in likely looking holding water as they flit past don’t take well to this kind of perseverance, they grow impatient and when they start to leapfrog you or indeed cast over your shoulder then you know that perhaps their outlook isn’t quite the same as yours..

Not only that but things change as time passes, I rarely finish a beat these days whereas we used to fish a lot more water in a day, perhaps the fishing is tougher or perhaps we are just getting old and slow. I like to think that we are becoming more patient and resourceful but of course that is a biased view, I am not going to admit to anyone, never mind myself, that I could have slowed down.

One perhaps requires different attributes in a good boat partner but the same considerations hold sway, you need someone of similar ilk. It isn’t so much about who can row the best or even whether they are likely to club you about the head with a wayward cast now and then. It is more about having the confidence that they are fishing as well as you are.

For example when I fish with my regular boat partner we always start off with different lines, and stay that way unless one of us starts to club the fish. Doing this you get to cover more water at different depths and are then more likely to find the fish, or at least that is the theory.

I recently went fishing on my own on a good sized lake where we have had considerable success most of the time despite the fact that we might have frequently had to work hard to find the fish to start with. Rowing out in the boat alone was a rather strange experience, not unlike the early days of being divorced. One can revel in the space, the comfort and the fact that you can put stuff anywhere you darned well please but after a while you sort of start to miss the company.

Without a partner you can’t check the depths as well and can only fish one line at a time so you run a greater risk of passing over a pod of fish without knowing. In boat fishing two heads and indeed two lines in the water, are better than one.

The second day I fished with a new boat partner, now I am not in anyway suggesting that this person was at all inadequate in the piscatorial arts, just that as a new quantity I never quite put the same amount of faith in his fishing as I might with my regular partner’s fishing. I was never quite sure if he was covering the water the same way as we would normally or that if he was casting shorter than I was whether he was really fishing at a different depth despite the variation of lines.

You see to my mind when boat fishing , and particularly during the phase of trying to find some fish the onset of doubt is always just outside the metaphorical door. The onset of doubt is the kiss of death to boat fishing. If you aren’t careful at some point doubt creeps in and you find yourself either helplessly going through the motions with little or no expectation of result or you start to switch lines, flies and locations in some mad and hopeless frenzy. It reminds me of my youth, out surfing alone on a perfect break, you are fine so long as you don’t start to think of sharks, once you do you have a maximum of ten more minutes in the water. The mind has tremendous power and if you start to think that you might not catch fish you probably won’t.

So if you have a good fishing partner look after them, they are really gold dust when you get right down to it, they may simply make the trip more enjoyable but if they are really good, they will probably improve your catch rate too.