Fly Tying: Soft Hackle

Soft Hackle flies are designed to be as clean and as effective as possible. While they don’t imitate any specific insect, the soft hackle is an effective pattern for anglers of all skill levels. Dead drift it to imitate a dead spider floating down the river or let it swing out at the end of a drift to give this simple fly movement that will entice fish to strike almost every time.  In our January Fly Tying Supply Drop, we go over how to tie this deadly pattern. 

Materials

  • Dry fly / Emerger Hook Size 8-18
  • Thread same color as body
  • Dubbing to create air bubble
  • Hungarian Partridge / Pheasant Patch

To get started, place your hook in the jaws of your vise just past the barb giving you plenty of work space to start your wraps. Soft hackle flies can vary greatly in size which will allow for a variety of hook sizes. While there are no wrong combinations here, Dry Fly or Emerger Hooks in size 8 to 18 work well. 

Soft Hackle Step 1



Soft Hackle Step 2

From there start your thread wraps by holding the tread to the hook and wrapping over it. Once the thread is secure trim off the tag end. 



Continue wrapping thread down the shank of the hook to the curve of the shank. Continue going back and fourth across the shank to build up a thread body.

Soft Hackle Step 3



Soft Hackle Step 4

For the next step, we are going to add dubbing to create a “bubble”. This bubble will help the hackle fibers retain their shape in the water. With dubbing a small pinch goes a LONG way so go easy here. 

Soft Hackle Step 5



Soft Hackle Step 6

Once we have the dubbing ball, we will start tying in the hackle. Select a single feather from your patch of hackle. Optional: the bottom of most hackle feathers will have a soft plumy section of feathers. These fibers get in the way of your hackle wraps. Its suggested to pluck or cut these fibers off. Once you have those fibers removed, tie in the tip section of the fibers in such a way that they curve towards the shank of the hook. Be sure to trim the tip of the feather off once its securely fashioned to the hook.



The next part can be tricky. Take your time and be patient and you’ll get fantastic results. With your hackle pliers, Grab the butt section of the feather and begin rotating the feather around the hook. As a tip, use your other hand to preen the fibers  back as you rotate the hackle. This will help in keeping the fiber from being trapped under your wraps. Soft hackles are a rather sparse fly so only 2 or 3 wraps should do the trick here. Secure the wraps with your thread and trim off the excess part of the hackle. 

Soft Hackle Step 7



Soft Hackle Step 8

All that’s left is to either half hitch knot or whip finish the fly. Once you have your finishing knot tied, as a finishing touch feel free to secure the knots with a touch of super glue or head cement. This will ensure the longevity of the fly allowing you to catch multiple fish on the same fly. The Soft Hackle is a staple fly that has its place in every fly box. With this card and the materials provided, you will have plenty of soft hackles to add to your box, while leaving you with plenty of materials to spare for your fly tying collection.