Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Flyfishing & Writing ~ Scott Sadil

Evocative literature is a natural match for evocative fly patterns. Many of this journal's readers enjoy both, so I thought it might be a good idea to celebrate the first anniversary of SHJ with a nod toward some creative friends who produce both -- some of the folks Soft~Hackle Journal has been drawing inspiration from lately.

The first guy I tapped is Scott Sadil. Scott is a teacher, adventurer, wordsmith & soft-hackle brother who, it became apparent shortly into our initial conversation, harbors the observational skill of a heron. A skill we appreciate. The dude is a rare combination: a fine creative writer and a thoughtful fly designer & natural angler. Scott’s fly patterns hint at the intuitive/associative process we see embodied in the designs of those who spend a lot of time on the water pursuing the fishes & thinking about stuff, & his writing reflects that process at work.

I asked Scott for an excerpt salient to our game, and he gives us this from Fly Tales: Lessons in Fly Fishing Like the Real Guys

So much has been made of late for the efficacy of the wet fly swing by soft hackle aficianados like Sylvester Nemes and Dave Hughes that I’m surprised how infrequently I see other anglers employing this timeless and elegant technique.  This is, I confess, my favorite way to explore broken, seamy, or riffled water.  The mix of currents means your fly swims at different speeds, sometimes swinging, sometimes adrift on a slack line.  Practiced wet fly advocates fiddle with the angle of their casts, the timing of mends, the choice of dressing and hooks, all of which affect the depth and speed of the swing, the manner in which the fly is presented through the likeliest holding water. This is subtle to a point practically beyond words.  The wet fly swing invites the shrewd manipulations of rod, line, and fly that mark the presentationist’s game.  He feels his way through a run, recognizing through rod and line—and a kind of muscle memory—those unmistakable lies that can hold trout, a tactile familiarity that grows more pronounced each time a trout grabs the swinging fly.”  

Intrigued at the flies in the photos, I asked Scott about the pattern. 

Waking Muddlers tied by Scott Sadil

It is a true waking pattern, not meant to ride on or even in the surface membrane, but to ride or ‘bounce’ up against it from below. This, to my mind, is one of the often overlooked aspects of the soft-hackled fly: like so many things fish feed on, it rises to the underside of the surface membrane and gets trapped there by the strength of the surface tension. Fish, I believe, are much more willing to take things held below the membrane than they are to stick their noses into air, a move that essentially asks them to penetrate a new universe. The Waking Muddlers are sometimes grabbed without evidence of the fish eating, so subtle is the inhalation by the slowly risen fish. Just as often, of course, the take is visible, or, if the fly is inspected without a take, you will see evidence of the fish, which dials up angler attention in a way nothing else in steelheading can.”    ~Scott Sadil

More from Scott Sadil at his regular column in California Fly Fisher magazine, & here: http://scottsadil.com/titles.htm  


  1. Nice site, great content. Congrats on one year of SHJ!

  2. Thanks for reading & commenting, Lester. Hang with us, lots of good stuff lined up.

  3. As I saw the two fly patterns I was drawn way back to the late 70's and my first introduction to steelhead fly fishing using "skating patterns" as tied by Mark Noble (of the Greased Line Fly Shop) and Bill McMillan. They referred to these as "reduced water patterns" and would often tie these with materials that took up less than half of the hook shank. First pattern reminds me of their Green Butt Skunk version, which because of its scantily clad coverage on the shank (think CYA) I dubbed this fly the Naked Green Butt Skunk. Now if you can get that fly to skitter sub surface and let the current do all kinds of crazy things with it that we never actually see you have an example of a fly that is "twerking" long before Miley Cyrus was breathing, let alone gyrating. Makes me muse what the steelhead reaction was to my reduced water flies at their local watering hole: A steelhead swims into an eddy, ventrals up to the bar and says to the bartender: "Say have you see one of those new twerking reduced water flies?"

  4. Steelhead bellies up to the bar, sez, "Hey gimme a Gyrating Miley."

    oow. Sorry, Barry.