Monday, July 15, 2019

Soft~Hackle Journal July 2019

William 'Bill' Shuck
                      Bill Shuck ~ In Loving Memory

     There is a sad, empty space in our game today with the recent passing of a great man, angler & fly tier, Bill Shuck.

I met Bill at the Flymph Forum where he was a highly respected & honored member. We became friends & correspondents, Bill assuming the role of a kind & insightful mentor. He was a brilliant man with an inquiring mind & we discussed many of our shared interests, including politics, architecture, literature, life, & of course angling & fly tying. Serious health issues toward the end of his life kept Bill from being able to do much physical activity, however that didn't stop his active mind. An English & Literature teacher, Bill was a man of letters, so in the last days of his life spent his time corresponding with & entertaining his many compatriots.

During the span of time I knew him, Bill sent me quite a few photos of his flies & also writings, some of which are now published in this month's issue as a memorial to him & his work. An acolyte of Jim Leisenring & Pete Hidy, fishing the same water as Leisenring, Bill Shuck was considered by many, including myself, as one of the American masters of the flymph style. You will note the influence of Leisenring & Hidy reflected in Bill's style. I joked with him that he did Leisenring better than Leisenring &, ever humble, of course he denied it. Bill was a supportive reader & contributor to SHJ, & this edition is dedicated solely to his memory. He will be missed immensely.

Just Emerged PMD ~ Bill Shuck
                                                                             Bill's Flies

Looking at Bill’s flies we see something at once familiar, ‘classic’, one might say, while at the same time we see they are fresh, reflecting an evolved re-shuffling of classic elements resonant to the core of our flyfishing brains. We might ask ourselves: “Gee, why didn’t I think of that?”

There are some who might define Bill Shuck as a ‘neoclassicist’, & I would agree that is fair, in the most positive sense, yet mainly to describe the appearance of his flies. As a soft-hackler, I see Bill Shuck’s level of craft as a bar to aspire to. As an angler/guide fortunate to spend a lot of time peering into water, as well as a variety of other folk’s fly boxes, Bill’s flies reveal to me that his time on the water was well-spent – I see regional influences, function & form coalesced to graceful syncopation. These are not fanciful, but informed designs, well done. Bill had an angler's eye for a killing bait. Plain & simple, these are soft-hackle flies meant to be fished. The flies of Bill Shuck are what effective soft-hackle wetflies look like.

March Brown ~ Bill Shuck

Grey Tenkara Kibari ~ Bill Shuck

Allsumer Spider ~ Bill Shuck

Easter March Brown Splymph ~ Bill Shuck

Cow Dung ~` Bill Shuck

   Bill Shuck on Leisenring's 
             Cow Dung

"Looking through various listings of patterns tabulated by fly fishing writers over the years, “Cow Dung” appears frequently, appearing in the literature at least as far back as 1836 in Alfred Ronald’s “Fly Fishers Entomology”. The insect it is intended to mimic is a true fly (order Diptera), which have a single pair of wings that originate behind the legs and lie flat and crossed when the insect is at rest. Despite this, all the images I have seen of dressings show the same profile as that traditionally used for winged mayflies, with only the concession of having the wing slanted back at a severe angle.

Also, various dressings call for body color ranging from lemon to green, with materials varying from worsted (crewel) wool to peacock herl. This seeming discrepancy can be explained by the fact that while the male dung fly common in Britain is a yellowish orange, the female is a dull olive. There are also differences about the material to be used for the wing, with at least one specifying dark mallard wing slips. I attribute this to the fact that the wings of the dung fly are a color best mimicked by slips from the secondary wing feathers of the landrail, a bird that is today universally protected. (Until the starling was declared endangered in Britain and placed on the protected list, Veniard used to sell starling wings dyed brown as a credible sub for the landrail; even those are in short supply these days.)

I have relied pretty much on Jim Leisenring’s version of the pattern as put forth in “The Art of Tying the Wet Fly” :

Cow Dung

Hook: #12, #13 (I used a Mustad 94840, Size #12)

Thread: Orange silk

Hackle: Ginger similar to body color

Body: Yellow crewel wool, seal fur, or mohair mixed with a little brown fur to … give the whole a dirty orange tinge (I used a blend of 85% yellow wool, 10% medium orange seal, and 5% medium brown Aussie possum)

Wings: Landrail (slips) slightly longer than body sloping back close over body with glossy side out (I used Veniard dyed brown starling as sub)

Saddle Tip Done Buzz ~ Bill Shuck

Literal Blue Dun ~ Bill Shuck

 Bill Shuck ~ Baby Sunfly

"An English clergyman, Rev. Edward Powell, fished streams in the Shropshire region in the Welsh borderlands of England on a regular basis during the 1920’s – 1950’s. He is credited by author Christopher Knowles in his book (Orange Otter, Medlar Press, Ellesmere, England 2006) and others with developing as many as 26 fly patterns that were especially killing on these waters. He named one of these the “Baby Sunfly” since it was a smaller, slightly modified version of a D. Lewis pattern called “Sunfly”. It was strictly a generic pattern, as Powell was convinced that fish mostly just wanted black and brown flies. The original dry fly pattern was (more or less) as follows:   

Hook: Sizes 12 – 18
Thread: Brown or black
Tail: Black or coch-y-bondhu cock hackle barbs
Body: Dubbed rabbit face, from triangle of nose & eyes, very dark, tied full
Rib: Brown thread, 3 turns
Hackle: Black or coch-y-bondhu cock hackle, as many turns as possible

It is interesting to note that the fur used for the body of the fly was the quite dark underfur found on the face of the English rabbit, not the better-known-to-fly-tiers English hare -- a different critter. It is necessary to trim away the grey/tan outer portion of the fur to get at the dark, bluish black underfur.

Answering the challenge of a fellow member on the Flymph Forum site, I’ve attempted to tie this pattern as a soft hackle wet fly. I’ve tied it on a vintage Herter’s 423 TDE hook, Size #14 using Pearsall’s Gossamer #17 brown thread. The tails whisks were taken from an iridescent black feather found at the back of a coch-y-bondhu hen saddle and the collar is a combination of that same black feather and a black and “red” feather from further up the saddle. Since I do not have an English rabbit mask, the body is a blend is a blend of hare’s poll and black wool spun in #17 Gossamer on a Clark block."

Allgrouse ~ Bill Shuck
Comparadun ~ Bill Shuck

Sculpin Muddler ~ Bill Shuck

May We ~ Bill Shuck

Deleatidium ~ Bill Shuck

Leisenring Pale Watery Dun ~ Bill Shuck

Songbird Sulfur ~ Bill Shuck

White Fly Spider ~ Bill Shuck

So long Bill. It’s been good to know you. You gave a lot. Your great work & humanity will not be forgotten. We stand on your shoulders now, & aspire to someday stand with you in that perfect stream ~         

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Soft~Hackle Journal June 2019

Salmon Mountain ~ Sheila Cano

     Where I live & fish, June is a month of striking juxtapositions & portent. A month of transitions. While daytime temperatures may approach the high nineties, we still see snow on the surrounding mountains. The fitful spritzes of early Spring low-water hatches & ant falls give way to the high-water spate & bounteous hatches of mid-June – Spotted Sedge, March Brown, PMD, Olive Stonefly, among others.

The Sheila Cano collage covering this month’s issue of SHJ is also an interesting juxtaposition that might be interpreted as portentous, so I include it for your consideration. Interpret it as you will. Sheila Cano is a friend & member of a writer’s group I belong to, she is a visual artist, writer, art educator and program staff member at Shadbolt Centre for the Arts in Burnaby, BC.  She attended Simon Fraser University, and graduated from Emily Carr College of Art (now ECUAD) in 1979. Sheila has done free-lance media production and illustrations for government and non-profit organizations, and her short story writing has been published by Cat Oars and Sage Press. Her art work includes drawing, painting, photography and collage/mixed media. Sheila is a back country camper who enjoys hiking, camping and fishing in beautiful BC. Her work is available for sale & anybody interested in the original or a print of Salmon Mountain, contact me at


                 Muff The Cast?

     We are all guilty of having troubled the water. We’ve all done this: Staying low, not letting our shadow touch the water, careful not to rattle the stones underfoot, we slink into position for the cast, let it go – and our fly falls two feet short of where we meant to put it – bummer – so what do we do?

The trout are edgy. On heavily fished water, having seen a fanciful assortment of imitation insects and, probably a good many of them hook-stung, they are hyper-wary, their lateral lines functioning as bare-wired bullshit meters so sensitive they can detect even the most innocuous ghost of a presence, and that sure to put them down.

What we do in this often-repeated situation could make the difference between a successful hook-up and a dry run – and make a real difference in our overall success.

Guiding for river trout, the most common mistake I see anglers make in this seemingly innocuous situation is: without thinking, immediately pulling the line off the water and replacing the cast. Maybe even replacing it several times until it seems right to the caster.

Here’s the problem with that:  

The first time the line hit the water, any fish in the vicinity were alerted. They may not have been spooked enough to quit feeding, but a potential danger was noted. The line being pulled (or ripped) from the water registers a second alert, this time possibly causing a fish to pause in seeking food and maybe move away. The replaced cast, a third disturbance, may blow the deal altogether. Too much funny stuff going on and trout hunker down with mouths closed, or bolt.

Let’s go back to the initial cast fallen two feet short of the desired target. Now, even though short of where we want it, that fly may have fallen into a trout’s feeding lane. Just because it didn’t fall where we chose, doesn’t mean there’s not a fish there. Best thing I’ve found to do is: Inhale. Suck up the muffed cast and resist the urge to pick up the line and replace it. Exhale. We fish out the cast until line, leader and fly have drifted well out of the sweet zone.

And here’s something that’s likely to happen: We hook a fish on what we thought was a muffed cast. Happens all the time.

Fish live in constant danger and are ever attuned to it. If an irritating disturbance isn’t too intrusive or repetitive, they will momentarily get over it, and fishing the cast out gives them time to do that. The second disturbance, the line being pulled from the water, is eliminated, as the line and fly have been allowed to drift well away from the fish’s window before lifted.

Here, we pause. Ours is a natural-paced (slower than the operating speed of the average Californian) and thoughtful game. Even though we muffed the first cast, that deep slot looks good and odds are there’s a nice fish holding there. Have a drink of water, maybe eat an apple. Now is a good time to observe for a moment, in no hurry to replace the cast. Resting the spot between casts increases the chance of getting a grab. 

The above should be regarded as a rule-of-thumb. In most circumstances it’s a good idea to fish out the muffed cast. Of course the level of stealth a given piece of water requires will vary according to environmental factors including: water clarity, depth, surface turbulence and light conditions, among other factors that might contribute to mask the presentation. Consider these and fish accordingly. But remember, in any case: fish like a patient heron, not an over-caffeinated flamingo.   

Watercolor & Ink ~ Jan Cottrell

                                              American Masters

     Wanting to bring more fly tiers into the mix at SHJ, I thought to begin an ‘American Masters’ series, starting this month with some designs from a fine Colorado tyer, Eric Biggerstaff.  Most of us who are students of the wingless wetfly style are familiar with the Welsh, Scottish, & English Yorkshire spiders & wetflies that are foundational to our tradition. The earliest European fly fishers into the New England & Mid-Atlantic States were, for the most part, from Britain, & they brought the traditional flies with them to the New World, where they found streams & insects not unlike those they’d left, but many different, as well as different trout. With time, in the creative crucible of the American wilderness, the earliest designs morphed in response to American conditions, fish, insects, & also the application of native tying materials, & new patterns arose, some of them entirely indigenous. Eventually, the British school grew a distinctly American branch – this exemplified, I think, in the designs of James Leisenring & Pete Hidy – continuing to grow in our time with quite a few talented, creative, contemporary American designer/anglers like Eric, who graciously shares some of his work & design insights with us.           

                                               Eric Biggerstaff

    “My personal journey into fly tying started a few years ago when my wife and oldest son took up fly fishing. I had purchased them an introductory class from our local fly shop and before long my son was big into tying so he began to needle me about taking it up. I had done some fly fishing in my younger days as a Boy Scout but had dropped it as I was more interested in technical rock climbing and photography, it wasn’t until a few years ago my love for the sport and the art of fly tying took hold.

I was immediately attracted to fly tying as it is an artistic endeavor. For more than 30 years I have been a serious large format fine art photographer and printer working mainly in the West Coast landscape tradition of Ansel Adams. My involvement in photography was an outgrowth of my love for the great American wildernesses, so when I was reintroduced to fly fishing it became yet another way for me to experience beautiful, wild places.

My introduction to soft hackle tying really began in a class taught by Eric Way of Gunpowder Tackle here in Colorado. I spent a weekend with Eric learning to tie traditional English spider and wet fly patterns, and during the course I became enamored by the elegant beauty these patterns possess. The fly dressings resonated with me for the same reason Japanese photography and art do, the work is distilled down to the bare minimum in terms of materials and composition which in turn creates a strong, visually elegant work of art.

When I am working at my tying desk, I try to bring lessons learned from photography into my fly tying. I am mindful of the importance size, shape and color are too any fly pattern. Along with those I play with composition, balance, proportion and contrast.

Composition is simply deciding on the overall dressing; what size, shape, materials, color(s) and design will be used and why. Which materials and how much of each will determine the overall profile of the fly. I normally lay materials out on my desk prior to starting a new pattern to give me an idea what the materials look like together.

Balance and proportion are concerned with the amount of material used and where on the hook that material is placed (in photography balance relates to where the primary subject is placed in the image and how it relates to background subjects while proportion would be what is and is not included in the image). This again impacts the profile of the fly and how it moves in the water.

Contrast is more about tonal relationships, both in photography and fly tying. Think of artistic contrast as the range of tones between the lightest and darkest. In black and white photography, contrast is used by the artist to direct the viewer’s eye towards those area’s most important in the image.  In fly tying I use contrast to help the fish see my fly against the confusing and tangled background of the stream bed.

I like to play with tones, darker (negative) materials are offset by lighter (positive) materials. One tone plays off another. Colors of course change as the fly sinks into the water, the deeper it sinks, the more the colors change. The color red moves towards grey within a few feet of the surface while blue doesn’t begin to change until around ten feet in depth, so using colors that change at different rates can create contrast on the fly.

Another way to create contrast is using materials with different textures next to each other. An example would be to create a body using moose mane and a thorax using ice dub, different textures set next to one another. Flash, wire and tinsel are all ways to help increase the contrast, these along with the body and hackle materials impact how quickly a fish may see and key in on a fly floating along in the stream or lake.

Studies indicate contrast is used by predatory fish to define a prey item. Scientist have learned most ocean based fish only see in black and white (and shades of grey) while fresh water fish see in colors thus a fish relies on contrast as much as color (or movement) to help it determine what to check out as food. When I am playing with a dressing I want to try out on my local water, I focus as much attention to the contrast I build into the dressing as I do for the color and movement.

One of the great things about tying soft hackle patterns is having freedom to be very creative. Most are not imitative designs (perhaps the English spider dressings are closest), they tend to fall in the impressionistic area of fly design. Because of this the tier is free to use her/his imagination. My tying theory is simply based on lessons learned in other disciplines that seem to help me when I am at the desk creating. Hopefully, you may take an idea or two then apply them to your own efforts. They are just tools in the tool box to be used as needed.”


Black Spider ~ Eric Biggerstaff

Simple Black Spider
Hook: Partridge K2BY (or any favorite hook for spiders) #12-#18
Thread: Pearsall Black Silk
Body: Black Silk
Rib: UTC Gold Wire – Small
Hackle: Black Francolin Flank

French Connection ~ Eric Biggerstaff

French Connection
Hook: Daiichi 1760 #10-#14
Thread: UTC 70 Brown
Tail: French Partridge Cinnamon Colored Tail Feather
Rib #1: UTC Amber Wire - Small
Rib #2: Uni Copper Mylar Tinsel (This is set on top of the body with the wire counter wrapped)
Body: Fox Squirrel
First Hackle: Cinnamon Colored Feather from Under Tail
Second Hackle: Blue and White Flank Feather
(if you cannot find a French Partridge, Chukar is a substitute)

Root Beer Float ~ Eric Biggerstaff

Root Beer Float 
Hook: Partridge K2BY #12 - #16 (any grub style hook)
Thread: UTC 70 Rusty Brown
Body: Root Beer Crystal Flash
Rib: Brown UTC Wire - Small
Hackle: English Red Grouse Neck

Blue & White ~ Eric Biggerstaff

Blue and White
Hook: Partridge K2BY #12-#16 (any grub style hook)
Thread: Pearsall's Brown Silk
Body: Thread
Rib: Amber / Copper UTC Wire - Small
Thorax: Peacock Herl
1st Hackle: Asian Kingfisher
2nd Hackle: Bob White Quail

                                                   The Reel News

Life after warming. 

Questioning stereotypes. 

Will going backwards improve our lives?

Bob Margulis speying a trout at the Columbia/Kootenay confluence.

         A Simple Dubbing Cruik

      Some years ago I ran up against the need for a dubbing loop spinner. Unlike Leisenring, I was unable to master rolling fur body chenilles on the thigh of my pants. A dubbing block seemed overkill (though results are very nice), & the fairly costly dubbing loop twister machines available for sale seemed overly engineered contraptions. So, necessity being the mother of invention & true simplicity always a goal, I came up with the gadget pictured on the left, which I’ve found indispensable for twisting dubbing & composite loops. Easy to make: cut a 5 ½ inch section of clothes hanger wire; file the ends smooth; bend a crook into one end using needle-nose pliers. Leave an opening in the crook so the thread will pass through. Using a round file or rolled square of sandpaper, smooth the inside of the crook (the pliers may leave a burr). Done. Simply hook onto the loop & twirl counterclockwise between your thumb & fingers.

                                                           At the Vise

Woodcutter ~ hook: #4 - #8; thread: rust-brown UNI 8/0; tail: GPT; rib: gold or copper wire; body: olive hares mask mixed with a bit of Hareline UV Shrimp Pink Dub, & golden yellow antron as a color spot behind the hackle collar; palmer: brown saddle or shlappen; hackle collar: rust-brown or natural pheasant rump

Carpenter Ant ~ hook: #8; body: black UNI 3/0 -- build to shape with the tying thread & cover with cement; hackle: black or dark brown hen

Damselfly Nymph ~ hook: #8 - #12 TMC 200R; thread: olive UNI 8/0; tail: olive grizzly chickabou taken from the base of the hackle; rib: chartreuse wire; body: olive rabbit -- tie in a few strands of olive crystal flash at the thorax & fasten with the ribbing wire; hackle collar: olive grizzly hen; head: olive rabbit 

Pheasant Craw ~ hook: bass-worm style -- wrap the hook shank with lead or copper wire for weighting; thread: olive or brown UNI 6/0; claws: 2 clumps of rubber leg material; body: pheasant rump & body feathers -- wind as tight collars, one in front of the last until hook is covered -- start with longer rump hackle behind the claws & work to shorter hackle toward the hook eye to provide some taper -- mix in some blue flash

Salmonfly Nymph ~ hook: #4 - #6 TMC 200R; thread: black UNI 6/0; tails: 2 dark brown turkey or goose biots; abdomen: large black D lace; thorax: black dubbing; rear hackle collar: black hen spade placed at the rear of the thorax; front collar: black hen spade

Redband on Salmonfly Nymph


Special thanks & a tip ‘o the glass to Sheila Cano, Eric Biggerstaff, Jan Cottrell & those of you who have generously donated to keep this publication going. Ever at the fore of effective marketing, we’ve elected to run SHJ in the way of an honor vegetable stand. Whatever you drop into the can is immensely appreciated.   

Also, a big ‘ol wet & loving smooch on the lips to those who have written to comment that their game has actually improved with the fly patterns & info garnered from SHJ. That is our goal, & that makes this project most satisfying & worthwhile.      ~Steve   

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Soft~Hackle Journal May 2019


    A bit late getting the issue out this month. Sometimes the rest of life gets in the way of writing. And we have to live so we’ll have things to write about.

Been traveling, making the yearly move from winter quarters back up to fish camp. We take our time, stopping to visit family & friends along the way.  Takes two days just to load the truck prior to leaving. And no matter how tidy we try to make the load, we always end up looking like the Beverly Hillbillies going up the freeway.

One year we had a fifty-pound sack of potatoes riding on the back of the load, & the sack had a hole in it so was leaking spuds, & every once in a while I’d glance in the rearview mirror & see one fall out & bounce along the highway into traffic.

We discourage tailgaters.

Good to be back home on the river. May is kind of a slow month here, most of the larger trout up the creeks spawning. Walked down this evening. There are some bugs: grannoms, March browns, craneflies, & a lot of carpenter ants. I’m out of the ants & need to tie some. 

There were a few trout up & feeding on the grannom sedges, & I did manage to Spey up a couple on a #14 Partridge & Peacock softie, not jowsers, but good pullers just the same, & they made me glad. 

                                                   The Reel News

Is Michelle Obama a Man?

Whitman pointing at the sky.

We already know this.

Greening the arctic.

                                                     At the Vise

I really do need to tie some carpenter ant imitations. Warm days in May are bringing them out & they are falling everywhere, & a lot of them end up falling on the river where trout are on to them. Will do it tomorrow. Recent efforts have been more along the lines of larger spiders for Trout Spey & softies to fish over sedges & mayflies. For me, these are more satisfying to tie than ants, which require a lot of thread winding to form the body shape, the way I tie them. 

Native Girl ~ hook: #6 ~ thread: rust-brown UNI 8/0 ~ tail: GPT ~ rib: copper wire ~ body: copper tinsel ~ thorax/shroud: Hareline Shrimp Pink UV Dub & bit of pink dubbing behind the wing ~ wing: ruffed grouse tail in compound loop ~ collar: brahma hen ~ cheeks: JC

Sunrise ~ hook: #12-#14 ~ thread: tan UNI 8/0 ~ hackle: woodcock shoulder covert ~ body: sunrise yellow size 'A' rod wrapping thread & thorax of brown wool mixed with a bit of Hares mask

Green Drake Flymph ~ hook: #8 ~ thread: olive UNI 8/0 ~ hackle: golden olive grizzly ~ tail: gadwall whisks dyed with yellow marker ~ rib: yellow floss, doubled & twisted ~ body: dark olive hares mask with a bit of Hareline Shrimp Pink Dub mixed in, thorax dubbed on the floss rib, a bit of light olive dubbing behind the hackle collar

Watercolor~Ink by Doris Loiseau

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Soft~Hackle Journal April 2019

                                                   A Toy Story

     Peeking into the dumpster sometimes pays off. Throwing out the trash I spotted a plastic grocery bag full of discarded children’s toys among the coffee grinds & crap.

The bag revealed a collection of plastic farm animals – a few cows, a couple sheep, a pig, & a handful of horses. I doubt if these would be very big sellers now-days. The plastic animals were old, a type popular when I was a kid, though, being made of plastic, they exhibited an ironic immortality.

Also in the bag was a newer kind of toy, an eclectic assortment of colorful plastic blocks, cogs, & other items meant to be assembled into fanciful machines. Examining the parts, I noticed the molded plastic pins that hold the parts together were too thin & weak to hold up to the abuse a crafting child might dish out – & a lot of these were broken – a flaw in the design that may have resulted in the toy being thrown away.

Fingering through the farm animals I came across the porcelain horse. A type predating the plastic models.

The sorrel porcelain horse had been lovingly painted by a child’s hand. A young girl crazy about horses, I guessed. Perhaps, now, she’s my age & with no grandchildren interested in horses or farm animals or concocting silly toy machines. Perhaps her grandchildren are grown.

Maybe the little girl’s dream of owning a real horse eventually came true.

The horse’s rear legs were now broken off at the knees. The break looked fresh, possibly the result of the bag being tossed against the steel dumpster. I found the legs in the bag.

An overweight preteen wearing a black T-shirt advertising ‘Megadeath’ passed, side-eyeing me warily. He slammed his skateboard onto the pavement & jumped on it, sending the squadron of nervous gulls keeping watch on the dumpster wheeling & squalling up like a burst of confetti to the contrailed sky.     

I brought the bag home & sorted the plastic farm animals into the recycle bin, keeping the porcelain horse & plastic machine parts.

There is a visible scar on the horse’s rear legs where I glued them back on. Yet, the porcelain horse abides.

Sure, it’s silly, I suppose, but it was something to do. I thought to craft a sculpture, of sorts, to place in the small garden area where we like to sit when the weather is nice, & I thought the dumpster find might provide the makings for it.

Assembled, my version of the machine emerges as the multi-hued nightmare construct of a crazy person. It is deceptively cute, evoking a twisty delight at first glance. Yet, the machine’s confrontational posture cannot be ignored, that producing a strange uneasiness in the viewer. We don’t know what it will do. We’re not sure it can be trusted.

The porcelain horse is another story. It is somehow familiar, like an old friend not seen in a long time. We know what it will do. We know that all the toy horse needs to animate it is a child’s hand guided by an untethered imagination.

The Horse & The Machine now face off by the bushes at the edge of the garden. The work is done. Not sure the affect on others, I will leave any meaning – tired metaphor, evocative reflection – up to the individual viewer. They are for your consideration & open to interpretation.           

       Catching Tacos & 
          Staying Fishy

     Fish taco season is coming to an end for me, as we will shortly migrate North until November. The larger pre-spawn males are showing up in the local surf & I’m presently engaged trying to capture & eat as many of them as I can before leaving for the inland Northwest. The models posed in the photo are 3-pound class barred surfperch I lucked upon up the coast near Hearst Castle. They are sporty as well as delicious. Here’s our recipe for fish tacos:

Fillet your perch, cutting away the rib section (bones). One fillet will make a taco. Roll in flour, then egg, then Penko seasoned with salt, pepper & a dash of garlic salt. Fry quickly in hot oil until browned.

Fold corn tortillas & fry in hot oil until soft or crisp, as preferred.

Place a fillet in each taco shell, squeeze on a few drops of lemon, & garnish with grated cheddar cheese, shredded cabbage (not lettuce), chopped onion & cilantro, then top with fresh salsa or (my favorite) siracha mayonnaise.

I'm convinced that eating fish tacos will keep you healthy & make you fishy.

      The Reel News     



Voluntary beat-down:   

More voluntary (yet informing & self-affirming) beat-down:

A thing I’ve suspected for some time now:


Calibaetis gathering in the cabin window.

Lost March Brown on the tying bench.
                                                At the Tying Bench

      I’m fairly certain everybody is chomping at the bit looking forward to the upcoming season – & I’m no exception. Mixing it up at the bench, tying some streamers & wetflies to swing in the early season, along with some wee BWO’s. Other than those early season flies, I’m (as always) randomly projecting with a mix of softies, some patterns of my own design, & some classics. Here’s what’s coming off the vise (in no particular order):

BWO ~ #18 Daiichi 1150 ~ thread: olive Pearsall's ~ hackle: partridge ~ rib: fine wire ~ body: waxed tying silk  

PMD Emerger ~ #14 Mustad 3366 ~ thread: camel UNI 8/0 ~ hackle: brahma hen ~ tailing: 3 wood duck flank whisps ~ rib: fine silver wire ~ body: pheasant tail swords twisted with tag of the tying thread ~ thorax: peacock herl
Hackle Sculpin ~ #6 TMC 200R ~ thread: olive or brown UNI 8/0 ~ front hackle collar: olive guinea ~ tailing: olive marabou topped with olive guinea ~ rib: copper wire ~ body: dark olive blended hares mask mixed with a pinch of Hareline Shrimp Pink UV Dub ~ palmer: brown shlappen or saddle hackle
Orange Coachman ~ #8 TMC 200R ~ thread: orange UNI 8/0 ~ front hackle: red/brown hen ~ tail: GPT ~ body: peacock herl ~ girdle: orange tinsel ~ rear hackle (wing) white hen
Olive Sedge ~ #14 Daiichi 1480 ~ thread: camel UNI 8/0 ~ hackle: partridge ~ rib: fine silver wire ~ body: olive rabbit mixed with a bit of olive antron ~ thorax: hares mask
Copper/Partridge ~ #14 Daiichi 1480 ~ thread: camel UNI 8/0 ~ hackle: partridge ~ rib: fine silver wire ~ body: copper tinsel ~ thorax: hares mask

Partridge & Orange

       Support Soft~Hackle Journal

     SHJ publishes monthly as a free online journal. Though there are a few sponsors posted in the RH column, they are not paid advertisements but manufacturers offering products that I have tested & use, & consider a true value to SHJ readers. Soft~Hackle Journal receives an average of 200 readers a day &, many of you, I know, are intelligent, discerning readers who appreciate SHJ’s simple format devoted to entertaining writing, photos, art, reliable field-tested information & effective fly patterns. If you see the Soft~Hackle Journal as a worthwhile online publication & would like to help us improve & continue, please consider making a contribution in the form of a donation of any amount. Doing so will not only elevate your status as a supporter of the arts, but will also make you eligible for a drawing at the end of the year, in which the lovely & talented Doris will put your name in the hat. Those drawn will receive prizes, including a 2-day guided trip on the upper Columbia, as well as any loot contributed by manufacturer-sponsors over the course of the year – & to that I’ll add a few fly selections.

If you care to donate, please make check payable to: Doris Loiseau (NOT Steven Bird, I'm not allowed to handle money) & send to: 5152 Northport-Waneta Rd., Colville, WA, 99114 (If you donate before May 1st 2019, send to: 425 Bonita St.#7, Morro Bay, CA, 93442

Thank you for reading SHJ.    ~Steve