[img2="left"]http://www.theflyfishingforum.com/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=201&stc=1&d=1142452539[/img2]New Ways with Soft Hackles
by Davy Wotton
The values of fishing soft hackles have of course been well documented and those of you that have some interest may well have read some of the works of the past written by such names as Pitt, Cotton,Cheatham, and of course their way of thought so far as SH flies are concerned. Of course that which was written in the past has a very great relevance to what takes place to day, or at least some of it does. From one extreme to the other the so called Blob, in my opinion has no relevance what so ever to the merits of fly fishing in the true sense of the word.
Fly fishing has its roots in so far as fishing a fly that in some way resembles a natural food source and fishing it in such a way as the fish believes that to be true and takes it. In that respect you do not fish a Blob like a soft hackle, although l will accept that a fish may well take a blob fished in the same manner, No such word as never in fishing.
Take further for example the Sawyer PT nymph or a regular hares ear. Then by comparison to the more life like nymphal type patterns that Olly Edwards ties. Now accept that you have a wide margin in so far as the fly is concerned to catch fish with.
That factor also applies in so far as how you can fish with a given style, of fly. Would you consider to fish with a say a Lunns Particular on a typical nymph rig fished at depth to be a worthwhile way to catch fish. You cannot say that the fish would never see a spinner moving along the river bed, why not, water turbulence, wind and wave may well cause the natural to be at that position. I guess what l am aiming to tell you is that, do not assume that a dry fly has to be fished as a dry fly. And that a greased up Appetizer would not work on the surface, for at some time they will, l can guarantee you that.
The relevance of this train of thought is related to fishing with soft hackles. Are you a stereotype fly fisher. Is your way only one that relates to a across and downstream means of presentation. If it is there will be a great many fish you will not catch that you may well have done by being more versatile in your approach, using the same flies.
Soft hackles hold a very special intrinsic value so far as l am concerned. They contain many of the crucial elements that a artificial fly requires to deceive a fish, one that has lead me to spend a great deal of time fishing with and coming to a far greater understanding of the worth of soft hackled flies. In all aspects of technique from surface to great depth and from up to downstream positions. In consequence the nature of the fly itself required further attention to detail. As my choice for a fly fished in the up stream and dead drift style would differ depending on the prevailing conditions at that time. Both, climatic and what the fish were doing at that time, based on available food sources and feeding behavior.
The essence of a soft hackle is movement, coupled with materials used having some relationship to a color orientation, and in some cases profile of a natural bug. A typical Partridge and Hares ear for example is one of the absolute best to take fish when the caddis fly is evident. How do you know a fish will see 6 legs, 3 tails etc you do not and never will. But you will learn that certain fly patterns are far more effective at a given time than others, therefore it would be obvious to assume that there is something in that fly that the fish does see and more to the point sufficient to make that fish take it !
There is of course a great value to being able to reproduce the traditional flies of the past and fish with them. To day we have a myriad of materials out there to use, many of those can now be incorporated into a soft hackle fly. OK, you may have a purist kind of thought to using material available to day. Well some of the materials originally used are no longer legal or unobtainable. And you cannot replicate many of those older fly patterns, so introduce some new ones !!!!
OK. Where do we go from here. Stock fish are not the same as wild natural stream born, but they will of course if they survive the early stages of release become more aware of the fly fisher, what he doing to try and catch them, and become more in tune with the natural environment that they find themselves in. The priority is to be able to find and eat food and survive. And that is where you come into the picture, you are going to try and catch them by a act of deception, which is what fly fishing is, a act of deception, end of story.
Fishing with soft hackles if without a doubt one of the most effective way to catch fish.
Soft hackles may be constructed in many ways, and l look at it in the respect of the position l want that to fish, and how l am going to fish it. Typically flies that l use for high surface fishing differ from those l wish to fish at depth. Those l wish to fish at depth will have differences such as hook size, the addition of weight and materials used. This gives me many more options. I can of course fish with flies that remain in a surface fished scenario or l can fish flies at depth or incorporate both at the same time and cover a wider band of fishable water at the same time. Further to that soft hackles may be used very effectively in conjunction with nymphs, pupa, dry flies and the more traditional wet flies as we will see from some of the techniques that l use.
Article courtesy of Davy Wotton at 15.Main-Davy Wotton fly fishing schools fly fishing float and wade trips White River