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Partridge and Orange

Soft hackle flies have emerged from relative obscurity with the increased popularity of “swinging”–referring, of course, to the down-and-across drifting technique, not the lifestyle that goes by that name. The wavy, enticing movement of the long soft hackle as the fly works across the current, can produce vicious strikes from large fish.

Soft hackle flies were called “spiders” by English anglers, because of the leggy hackle. “Spider” has a different meaning for American anglers, who envision a fly with oversize hackle that causes it to “skate.” Soft hackles are distinct from traditional “wet flies” both in form and function.

Soft hackle flies are quite simple to tie, and the patterns call for common, inexpensive materials. Simple and cheap–now there’s a pleasant combination.


Hook Tiemco 3769, Mustad 3906, #10-16
Thread Orange 6/0 pre-waxed
Body Orange floss
Thorax Hare's Ear
Hackle Brown hackle


  1. Cover the hook with a layer of thread, but only back to a point just above the hook point.
  2. At that point, tie in a 2 inch tag of floss so that the tag sticks out to the rear. Now tie in the floss to be used in forming the abdomen.
  3. Return the thread to the front of the fly and tie in a partridge hackle after stripping off the fuzz. It should be tied in by the quill with the shiny side of the feather facing forward.
  4. Wrap the body floss forward, forming a nice tapered body. Tie it off at the front 1/3 point on the shank.
  5. Pull the floss tag forward as a shell back and tie it off at the same 1/3 point.
  6. Dub a small thorax with the hare’s ear dubbing. Be sure that the hackle is positioned in front of the thorax.
  7. Grab the hackle with hackle pliers and wrap one or (at most) two turns. The shiny side of the hackle should be facing forward, so that the barbules gently sweep backward.
  8. Whip finish...and

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Copyright 1998 by Granite Bay Flycasters unless otherwise noted.