Friday Fly Day - Soft Hackles

Steve with a choosy brown which finally succumbed to a wee soft hackle trailing a beadhead.

I had a client last season who seemed horrified at my suggestion to throw a wee soft hackled wet to a very choosy fish. The mere suggestion conjured up images of lazily swinging a fly around downstream in the current - a last ditch effort. This is not what he was in New Zealand for. After assurances this was not what we were about to do (yet would have, if needed) , we plopped the fly in above the fish, watched him lift, turn and with a tightening of the line, we were on!

Now swinging a team of soft hackles through likely pockets or across wide, slow pools can be a very deadly technique on NZ waters, and you can be lazy at your peril! The slightest stop or most subtle pull on the line can offer you the briefest of moments to connect with the fish. And if you haven't swung at the right speed through the right lie, you wont hit.

This is very controlled, attention demanding fishing. And very well worth it. However it is not on the swing where I feel soft hackles come into their own in my repertoire. Fished upstream to sighted fish, or in conjunction with blind nymph tactics, soft hackles prove a very versatile, tactical pattern to keep on hand.

I tie mine sparse in usually dull colours: black, brown, olives etc and mostly unweighted. When fish are feeding on emergers they can prove deadly, drifted naturally an inch or three sub surface, or pulled across the current when the fish arent locked in to a specific feed lane.

Tied on a dropper behind your favourite beadhead this sparse, inconspicuous pattern sports the suggestion of life to fool even the most perceptive of fish. So don't feel soft hackles are the lazy way out. Keeping a selection on hand will often save the day when fish are being fickle on the Mataura, in the backcountry, and I'm sure most rivers near you.