Thursday, January 31, 2019

Soft~Hackle Journal February 2019

        Winter's Vise 

     Hope ya’ll are wintering better than the old Ford here. You who live in the northern tier may be suffering snow & cold, but in the lush coastal regions of the Pacific Northwest it is rain, rain, & more rain. Jeff Cottrell sent us this photo from the Olympic Peninsula, taken in the vicinity of the Quinalt River. Incidentally, an area with not only the most precipitation, but also one of the highest suicide rates in America. A paradise for writers, steelheaders (in good years), & fly tyers. The great Syd Glasso comes immediately to mind. But whoever you are & wherever you live in trout country, if you are a fly tyer February is a fly tying month &, chances are, a lot of you are at the vise stocking up for the coming season. For that reason, I’m devoting this month to highlighting what I’ve been tying lately.

#8 Mustad 3366 ~ black hen hackle ~ black rooster hackle barbs & asian
 jay tailing ~ fine silver wire rib ~ silver tinsel body ~ black saddle palmer ~
pinch of asian jay as a sparse half-wing (blue guinea substitutes)

     Irish Flies For Winter

      I love the Irish style wetflies for Winter fishing. The style lends itself perfectly to creating wee lures meant for swinging. The Irish tie this style for lake, stream, trout, seatrout & salmon fishing.

#6 TMC 200R ~ rust-brown UNI 8/0 thread ~ ringnech pheasant church
window hackle ~ copper tinsel tag ~ golden pheasant tippet tailing ~
copper wire rib ~ dark olive hares mask body ~ rust-brown grizzly pakmer ~
jungle cock cheeks
     As stream flies the traditional Irish flies are generally tied on standard wetfly hooks, however, for swinging, I sometimes like a bit of iron hanging back in the tail area for dealing with noncommittal tail-grabbers. I usually tie these on #6-#10 TMC 200R or salmon/steelhead style hooks, but also standard wetfly in those sizes. These make great lures to fill the gap between large streamers & wee flies. 

#8 TMC 200R ~ brown UNI 8/0 thread ~ pheasant church window hackle ~
green tinsel tag ~ copper wire rib ~ sulfur dubbing body ~ rust-brown grizzly
palmer ~ brown pheasant rump rear hackle collar

     The basic design frame of the Irish wetflies is thus: One to three collar hackles (many patterns use pheasant church window as the front hackle collar); sometimes a clump wing; a body of tinsel or dubbing; palmer hackle over the body; sometimes without tailing, though most often tailed, & often with more than one tailing material. Jungle cock or biots are often added as cheeks. Forgive me for not including the dressings for these. For anybody interested in tying the Irish flies, I'd suggest the Frankie McPhilips videos available on youtube. And if you'd like the dressing for any featured here, let me know in the comment box below & I'll be glad to write it out. 

#6 TMC 200R ~ yellow UNI 8/0 thread ~ ginger front collar ~ copper tinsel tag ~ yellow marabou/pheasant tail swords tailing ~ gold tinsel body ~ yellow shlappen palmer ~ brown pheasant rump rear hackle collar ~ bronze mallard wing 
# 8 TMC 200R ~ rust-brown UNI 8/0 ~ red guinea front hackle collar ~ copper tinsel tag ~ red guinea hackle fibers/golden pheasant tippet tailing ~ copper wire rib ~ golden orange dubbing ~ orange saddle palmer ~ golden pheasant tippet half-wing ~ orange hen rear hackle collar
#4 TMC 200R ~ olive UNI 8/0 ~ olive grizzly front hackle collar ~ copper tinsel tag ~ peacock herl/olive marabou tailing ~ silver wire rib ~ green tinsel body ~ brown saddle palmer ~ olive guinea rear hackle collar 
#6 TMC 200R ~ wine UNI 8/0 ~ black hen front collar ~ orange tinsel tag ~ peacock herl/red saddle tailing ~ silver wire rib ~ orange tinsel body ~ red saddle palmer ~ golden pheasant tippet half-wing ~ red guinea rear hackle collar 
#8 TMC 200R ~ wine UNI 8/0 ~ pheasant church window hackle collar ~ copper tinsel tag ~ silver wire rib ~ peacock herl body ~ brown saddle palmer
#8 TMC 200R ~ yellow UNI 8/0 thread ~ golden plover front hackle collar ~ gold tinsel tag ~ turkey tail swords tailing ~ gold french oval rib ~ hares mask body with squirrel thorax ~ brown partridge rear hackle collar

        Partridge & Yellow

     Drifting the river, we encounter back-eddies that, in summer, accumulate organic slicks composed, mostly, of the oil & debris of decayed & decaying insects from past nights hatches. Mixed with that dusty miasma are a number of still-living & edible wee insects. There are usually some trouts cruising the back-eddy slicks, tipping & sipping. The other guides, with their bobbers & beadheads, generally avoid these fish because they know they are difficult & won't eat that gear. We call these fish "scum suckers," & I love them. I carry a 10', 5wt rigged with a DT & 15' leader tipped with a single Partridge & Yellow, especially for scum suckers. Thread bodies fish cleaner in the scum, as dubbing tends to gather it.

I can't think of anything more zen simple than this fly, nor as difficult to tie. It is buck naked & there's no hiding in the details. I think the trick with this, or any fly, is to get it 'right' without resorting to primness. When tying, making bait, I don't think about a rigid metric of correctness while I work. I've seen it. I'm visualizing perfect-circle grabs under lowering skies, on those summer scummed seam-lines. Trying to put that mojo into the fly in my vise. Constantly washing my hands while handling the yellow silk, it still colors with my doings.

                                             The Reel News

Strange visitor?

Is Donald Trump really a self-made man?

World’s largest gathering of humans.

California sea rise.


      In the book, Art of the Wet Fly, Leisenring & Hidy introduce the concept of ‘translucence’ as a desirable quality in an artificial fly. This is meant as the fly having a look of semi-transparency, this usually accomplished with a contrasting silk providing an undertone to sparsely dubbed bodies twisted on the silk. This ambiguous quality works very well in designs meant to simulate fairly drab colored stream-born insects like caddis & mayflies.

      But what of ‘contrast’ alone, without veiling dubbing? Not all insects exhibit translucency. Many present a hard outline, exhibiting a more plastique quality in which contrast may be stark & immediately apparent as a triggering/keying characteristic. A good example of contrast is the color banding we see on some stream-born bugs, & more often on terrestrials often found around trout streams – wasps, sweat bees, false bees & deer flies come immediately to mind – & these are often found in trout stomachs during the warmer months. Those deer flies orbiting our heads while we try to fish, waiting for a lapse in our attention, may actually be good bait.

       Might be a good searching pattern for fishing the water in high summer, when water-born insect hatches have diminished.

Deer Fly/Sweat Bee

I tyed a couple versions of this, using UNI spooled yarn for one, & 'C' rod wrapping thread for a smaller version.

Hook: #10-#14
Thread: Rust-brown or olive UNI 8/0
Hackle: English grouse
Body: Yarn or thread wound together to create alternating bands
Head: Peacock herl


  1. wow , i'm in love with the irish flies ! so much that i don't care if the catch any fish . JK! i will watch the recommended you tube when i get to a wi fi (free) hotspot . unfortunately we have wireless internet up here in the hills and we use up our data quickly . i'm sure that many others are in the same boat as us , getting screwed . so .. i'm requesting some recipes for those lovely flies . or directions to somewhere here in space where i can read them w/o data burning video .
    thanks !! ,

  2. Jim, good to know you're reading SHJ. Know what you mean about using up data. We live in the hills as well. For best info on the Irish flies without burning data, google: photos of Irish wet flies & Pinterest will come up with lots of photos & links to fly dressings. (Unless you are wearing a flouncy apron & actually cooking these things, you will find a 'dressing' much more useful than a "recipe").

  3. thanks steve , of course i'm still reading your excellent blog ! i'll follow your advice , which i already have to some extent . i guess being irish myself (american irish ) is part of the appeal .
    thanks , jim

    1. Jim, it's in our blood. (We might be cousins). The Irish style flies really do work well, particularly swung, where I fish. Where do you fish?

    2. the genesee river is home . w. ny . i fish the salmon , the catt and anywhere else i happen to be where there's water !

    3. i'm really interested in flies # 1,2,4,6,8,and 9. i love to swing flies and use my #3 wt 2 hand rod for a lot of my summer fishing .

    4. James, working, but later this evening I'll edit the post to include the dressings. Stay tuned.

  4. thank you thank you thank you ! have a great week !

  5. Another article for the Reel News:

  6. Thanks Bert, I'll check this out. I'm afraid to read it. Have to get up the nerve.

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