Monday, June 2, 2014

UC Partridge & Peacock Soft-Hackle

  The Brown Hackle Peacock, descended from an ancient line, was the first soft-hackle fly I tied & fished. The simple pattern was perfect for a novice tier, & proved an instant hit with trout in the small creeks I fished as a kid in the 1960’s. That was the fly that provided the direction of my approach to designing & tying flies, & I’ve been tying & fishing variants of the herl-bodied, soft-hackle fly ever since – the pattern’s usefulness undiminished.

There are dozens of riffs on the basic peacock herl body design (everybody ties a slightly different version), every kind & color of soft hackle, variations of thread & ribbing, some with tinsel tags, some with tails. I used to carry a lot of variants, but in attempts to move toward an ideal (visualized more than practiced I admit) of zen simplicity, I attempt to refine & narrow down.

In the early 1970’s I started tying a version using a brown-phase ruffed grouse shoulder covert as the hackle, & thought the mottled grouse hackle an improvement over the original brown hen hackle. The variant shown here is one of my staples for meeting the mixed hatches of the Upper Columbia, late spring through early summer when there are daily hatches of sedges & mayflies, & a major portion of the adults are a #16 – spotted sedge, march browns… lots of stuff mixed in the slick. And a #14 UC Partridge & Peacock, with its broad, enticingly ambiguous identity, serves to simulate a lot. Though I use spotted sedge emerging pupa patterns that look, to me, much closer to the naturals in appearance, the simple UC P&P seems to turn the trick as well as any of the more imitative patterns during spotted sedge hatches.

As tying material for trout flies, partridge & peacock herl possess time-proven mojo. As an all-purpose nymph, I rate the Partridge & Peacock right up there with the Hare’s Ear, Pheasant Tail Nymph & Leisenring’s Black Gnat.    

UC Partridge & Peacock

Hook: #14 Daiichi 1150 (I tie these in #8-#18, though #14-#15 seems to cover the broadest spectrum of summer insects on my home water.)

Thread: Rust-brown UNI 8/0

Rib: Copper wire

Body: Peacock herl, twisted with the tying thread – not too fat, 2, or 3 fine herls for a #14

Hackle: Brown-phase ruffed grouse shoulder covert or brown partridge, one turn – & finish.

Flyfish NE Washington with Steven Bird:


  1. I must say that I am a huge believer in keeping things as simple as possible at the vise and on the water. This pattern is a "Showcase' example of what I like about tying and fishing.

  2. Thanks for the kind words, Mel. We are in philosophical accord.

    The Partridge & Peacock is a prime example of simplicity gained. The result is always positive. A fractal pattern.

  3. I have long been a believer in Peacock herl. One of the first flies I learned to tie in the early 80s was the Zug Bug. The addition of the soft hackle just makes it even deadlier.
    By the way, the critter that donated the hackle is a Ruffed Grouse. However, if retrieved by a dog with a hard mouth, they can become roughed grouse.