Friday, August 25, 2023




Protect your mental health from overexposure to online media.  Take a break.  Experience the real, portable, zen-simple & without hype. 

SOFT~HACKLE JOURNAL, delivered to your mailbox, quarterly.

Don't miss out on SHJ Volume 3 Fall, & our special feature on October Caddis, "the most important 'big fish' insect of the West", with dressings for six killing October Caddis patterns, wet & dry.  Also, Dave Hughes with two killing spiders; Lance Hidy on Pete Hidy's Honey Dun Mayfly; stories from Greg DeYoung, Mark Hagopian, Steven Bird, & a lot more.

SUBSCRIBE TO SHJ:  $90 a year, 4 archivable volumes, issued quarterly.  

Pay with Venmo:  @SoftHackleJournal (Indicate your mailing address.)  

Or send cash, money order or check, payable to Soft-Hackle Journal  

5152 Northport-Waneta Rd., Colville, WA, 99114

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Soft~Hackle Journal ~ Connect To The Real

Presentation is everything.  We are dedicated to presenting the best in North American flyfishing --  useful, informational articles, art & literature -- from the heart of our game.  Simple.  


Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Subscribe to Soft~Hackle Journal Quarterly


                                                         Connect to the real.

Soft~Hackle Journal presents a unique, eclectic mix of useful articles, workhorse fly dressings, art & literature, straight from the living tradition of our game, in your mailbox, four volumes per year. 

Yearly subscription: $90, 4 volumes pp. Single volume: $25 pp. 

Send check, cash, or money order to:

Soft-Hackle Journal, 5152 Northport-Waneta Rd., Colville, WA, 99114





Sunday, May 15, 2022

Fly Fishing Media ~ Print Soft~Hackle Journal


The medium is the message. Or, more certainly, a major part of it. Anybody who owns a book shelf lined with books on fly fishing subjects knows this to be true.

There is a satisfying, timeless quality expressed through the tactile, printed book or angling periodical. An authenticity that cannot be duplicated online, & a simplicity of operation that can’t be duplicated digitally. You can take hard copy with you anywhere, no power source required. You open the cover & turn the pages. Nothing simpler. Maybe I’m just a Luddite, but everything I’ve ever done online I had to learn, always with an expenditure of time seemingly disproportionate to some small entertainment. Also, unless one is reading by candlelight, a book page will not ruin your eyes as a PC screen surely will.

And you get to keep hard copy & refer back to it, any time you want. You can lend it out, give it as a gift, or pass it around, as you please. If your PC crashes the hard copy will be unaffected.   

So what is the advantage of reading online? Cheaper than hard copy? Well, I think not. Considering the cost of digital equipment, monthly carrier fees & subscriptions, & if time be money, considering the extra time at the screen ruining your eyes while trying to figure out what buttons to push. Not to mention that seemingly ‘free’ online media like YouTube or Facebook are making their money examining our likes & dislikes & selling us to advertisers, some of them darker syndicates garnering as much about our lives as they can. Do you receive a constant barrage of spam & scammers on your cell-phone & PC? Sure you do. We all do. And much of that is a result of our online media consumption. We’re not getting anything for free. That free media we’re consuming is often the attractive front for what is actually a mining operation.   

Also, more subtly, speaking for myself here, I find a hectic, frenetic quality to online media – as opposed to the relaxation & satisfaction one gets from reading hard copy – a diaphanous, fuzzy quality to digital info, very little of it abiding firm in the brain cabinet. Admittedly, that might just be me. I realize there is a whole generation that lives a major portion of their lives viewing online media, so immersed in the frenetic Cloud that they don’t notice it, or simply don’t experience it the same as I.

Often, in our rush to get onboard with the latest & greatest thing, discarding the “old”, we throw out the baby with the bath water. Something important gets lost. Fortunately, after the novelty of something new wears off, humans eventually find its utilitarian balance. So, now I’m perceiving a trend: Many of us are searching for the proverbial lost baby. Including those who’ve grown up online, & my digital generation flat-brimmed sons inform me that is true. Certainly not an overriding trend (yet), but a discernable trend away from time & info stealing “screen time”.

This is not to say there isn’t good fly fishing media online. For example, casting videos are a lot more helpful than casting instruction given in print. And, to be fair, there are online publications offering good content. Sparse Grey Matter & Swing The Fly are a couple that come to mind. There are also good & useful forums, Flymph Forum & Spey Pages come to mind. And many have written to tell me they enjoy Soft~Hackle Journal. Yet be that as it may be, I don’t think print media will be going away any time soon.

The timeline of the world is continuous & connected as one. The notion of “old” or “outdated” is mostly bullshit foisted on us by those having something to gain by perpetrating such a lie, salient only to perishable foodstuffs.  The increasing popularity of bamboo fly rods waggles in the face of that silly notion. Not to mention the millions of us pining for a simpler time, or actually creating simpler, more self-reliant lives.

In my capacity as a guide & writer, I’ve been canvassing my clients & readers for some years now, in an effort to discern their reading habits. Results are nearly unanimous: All say they prefer quality print over digital. Favorite magazine content is well-written literary stories; useful fly tying & how-to articles; & art. I was initially surprised to learn readers prefer art over photography.  But then, photos are so prevalent in media that it takes a truly exceptional photo to approach the soul & emotion expressed in fine artwork.  

There’s usually a reason for most things: Regular SHJ readers have probably noticed I’ve not posted here for quite awhile. Forgive me. All of my writing time this past year has gone toward completion of a book, Trout Spey & The Art Of The Swing, due to be released in June. That doesn’t mean I’ve dropped Soft~Hackle Journal. To the contrary. But truth is, the blog site has degraded & the host, also under attack from info miners, seems to have some difficulty in keeping the site secure. A vector[s] took over the comment section of this blog, stole my password & somehow took over as administrator & made it so I could not sign in to comments, & the comment section filled with foreign (dark web bots?), & then an entity came up in the comments claiming to be a security business that would effectively remove the  other vectors for a price! The comment section of the SHJ blog actually held hostage! I had to remove the comment section altogether as a result. I won the war but lost a piece of the blog.

Lets get real. Lest we devolve further toward a dystopia resembling a Blade Runner landscape.  

For my part, I’ve decided to take the Soft~Hackle Journal to a (scam proof) print quarterly, embodying those favorite reader elements mentioned above: Fine art; useful fly tying & how-to articles; literary stories that push the boundaries of the genre.  Zen simple. The same neoclassic values as the SHJ blog, yet no longer a one-man show. We’re in the process of assembling a stellar crew of staff writers, some old, well-loved & respected voices, as well as some fresh voices whose time has come. All hard-core fishing kids at the top of the game. If any ads they will be confined to the back page, & only those we feel offering goods or services benefitting our readers would be considered. Print SHJ will be deeply rooted in the authentic tradition (The Archive Of What Worked) of our game. If you like classic & neoclassic flies & gear, you’ll like print SHJ.     

Print Soft~Hackle Journal will not be the floppy, stapled, ad rag too many are, it will be square-backed & worthy of archiving on a book shelf. Dimensions will be the more compact, reader-friendly 9” x 7” dimensions popular in the early last century (still popular in Scandinavia), yet satisfyingly fat with content. 

Putting ducks in a row, planning to release the first issue, Spring, in late winter 2023. We are open to submissions now. Payment based on word length & quality of the piece. We are particularly interested in fine art & creative memoir or fiction that stretches the genre. Also poetry if it is very good. If you are a new writer looking to break into print, we would love to see something from you. Submissions should be sent as Word doc, 12pt, Times New Roman font, 1-inch page margins. Photos should be at least 1 MB for reproduction.

If you would like to submit or comment on any of this, email submissions & correspondence to: Steven Bird,     


Wednesday, January 5, 2022

The Black & White Of It



"Have you also learned that secret from the river, that there is no such thing as time? That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere, and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past, or the shadow of the future."   ~Herman Hesse







 Haven't posted anything here since June, & I came back to find that clandestine international drug & weapons (& who knows what else) dealers & dark money laundering syndicates from foreign countries have been leaving secret messages to each other in the comment columns under the blog posts. Brilliant way to hide shit, really. And though these 'comments' are written in languages I can't understand, I suspect they are totally off-subject. I need to clean house. If anybody comes across any of these suspicious comments below older posts, please let me know.



Haven't been posting because all of my writing time has been taken up putting together Trout Spey & The Art Of The Swing, which we hope will be in print by March, barring more covid supply chain slow-downs. First release will be 100 hardcover, signed, limited editions. If you are a collector of fine angling books you may want to get on the list for one of these, the first book ever on the subject of trout spey; including a fly catalogue of over 200 color photos of swung-flies with dressings. If you'd like to get on the list for the book, let me know:





                                                               brown streaked river

                                                            leafless supplicant alders

                                                              rain darkens the stones

"I have never seen a river that I could not love. Moving water has a fascinating vitality. It has power and grace and associations. It has a thousand colors and a thousand shapes, yet it follows laws so definite that the tiniest streamlet is an exact replica of a giant river."   ~Roderick Haig Brown

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

A Thought


When something is true it is true across all systems.


If you understand that when a forest is thought to have no value until it is cut down, or that a prairie has no value until it is turned under, or that a river has no value until it is girdled with dams, then you’ve begun to understand the root of our ecological crisis.


The idea that some lives matter less is the root cause of all that is wrong with the world.


Go to the stream or sea. Fish. While you are there, be thinking. Consider the immeasurable value of all things. Be. Thinking a system for which there is yet no name.


Sunday, May 16, 2021

American Grannom (Brachycentrus, Mother’s Day Caddis, Black Sedge)


Grannom sedges are prolific in running water nearly everywhere in trout country. On many waters the Mother’s Day Caddis hatch is the first big hatch of the season that gets trout keyed to selective.

Grannom are a cased caddis, the case square in cross-section. Trout eat the cased larvae when they can get them, & these are important as imitation on some streams, but the emerging pupae are, by far, the most important stage of this insect. During emergence, trout consume the pupae almost exclusively.

On my home water, true to their colloquial name, grannom season usually begins during the week of Mother’s Day, continuing until about the second week of June when they diminish, overtaken by the slightly larger spotted sedge that dominate the summer hatches. 

Grannom adults are generally #16, with dark-brown to black bodies & light brownish-gray wings with faint mottling. Pupae are a size larger than adults, the abdomen color ranging from pale olive, through various shades of olive to bright green, & pinkish-brown to dark brown through the thorax area & wing holsters.

 Grannom are uniform in size & when trout are keyed on them it is important that the imitation be exactly the right size. A soft-hackle spider provides a good profile of the emerging pupae. As color varies within the same population, a perfect color match isn’t important, though, so that my imitation stands out (without being too intrusive) among the bazillion naturals it’s competing against for the trout’s attention, I like to add some brightness through the abdomen portion of the fly – a bright green or reflective material.

As the season progresses & emergence slows down, trout will turn to eating more adult sedges, including drowned egg-layers. So it’s a good idea to carry more than one fly pattern for grannom.

A swung presentation works well with grannom. Activate the pupa with short 3-inch pulls or by pumping the rod as the fly swings under tension. If presenting a drowned adult pattern, swing it dead-drift. If there are visibly feeding trout, I position 45 degrees upstream of the target & concentrate on that portion of the swing between 90 degrees (straight out) & 45 degrees, that portion of the swing wherein the fly is pretty much dead-drifting. If nothing is showing on top I’ll fish two pupa with a sink-tip or on a long fluorocarbon leader.

Grannom sedges emerge midday through early evening, with egg-laying flights simultaneous. Here are a few of my current favorites for meeting them:  

Hook: #14 ~ Thread: brown ~ Hackle: partridge ~ Rib: 2 strands of olive midge flash, twisted & wound as a rib ~ Body: olive rabbit with thorax of red-brown antron

Hook: #14 ~ Thread: brown ~ Hackle: brahma hen or brown partridge ~ Rib: fine silver wire ~ Body: 4 strands of olive or pearl midge flash, twisted, & thorax of hares mask ~ Shroud: small pinch of Hareline Shrimp Pink UV Dub ~ Top with 2 gadwall flank fibers before winding the hackle

Drowned Egg-Layer ~ Hook: #16 ~ Thread: black ~ Hackle: partridge ~ Egg Sack: highlander green UNI yarn ~ Body: 3 strands of black midge flash, twisted, & thorax of dark brown dubbing

Partridge & Peacock ~ #16 (if tying on short-shank, caddis-style hooks, use a #14 hook) ~ egg sacks on this one are optional, the traditional Partridge & Peacock is reliable when trout are taking adult grannoms