Partridge and Orange Soft Hackle

Ok, I admit it. I love fishing dry flies. For me, the strike is the big thrill in fly fishing. It’s better than landing or releasing a fish. The harder the strike, the greater the thrill. But if fish are being fussy, or I am not having luck during a hatch, I almost always open my box looking for a soft hackle. I am a soft hackle junkie.

Partridge and Orange Soft Hackle

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The Partridge and Orange is the one I tie on most often. It works any time of the day. Even during mayfly hatches and spinner falls, caddis hatches and caddis egg laying times. It just works. That is why it is still the most popular soft hackle after hundreds of years of use.  T.E. Pritt, in his 1895 book, “Yorkshire Trout Flies” called it an “excellent killer”. Very high praise indeed. But he didn’t invent the fly. It was an old standard even then. Sylvester Nemes, in his books on soft hackled flies, attributed the earliest reference to the fly in “A Treatise of Fishing with an Angle” by Dame Juliana Berners in 1496. Over 500 years!

Tying Notes:

This is the recipe for the basic fly. In my next post, I will cover a few of the hundreds of variations and options you can choose to vary your fly. But even with just the basic fly you must choose which hook to use, what material for the body and what color partridge for the hackle. Choosing the hook is more for the fisherman than the fish. Wet fly, dry fly, nymph, all will work. The heavier the hook, the easier it will be to sink the fly if you are trying to get it sub-surface. If you are casting to rising fish, you might prefer a dry fly hook to keep it on the surface.

As indicated in the recipe, I use Pearsall’s Silk for my bodies. You will see below why that is my choice. Finally, you need to pick the feather for the hackle. Both light and dark partridge are used. If you are matching a specific hatch one color might be preferred.  There is no wrong answer. Both work very well. Why not tie a few of each. You are only talking about a couple minutes and maybe 15 cents for your costs. Tie a dozen and blow a dollar or two.

Why Soft Hackle Flies work so well:

The pictures below show why I love Pearsall’s Silk. On the left is a picture of a Partridge and orange soft hackle right off the vice. On the right, the same fly has been dipped into a glass of water. You can click on the images to see a larger picture.  The simple act of wetting the fly makes a dramatic difference in the look of the fly. As fly tiers we often forget this change. We fuss over tiny details and exact length of fibers, forgetting that once the fly is wet, what the fish sees is something much different. Also remember the effects of drifting on the surface or the actions of your retrieve. Everything we do will affect the way that fish see our imitation.  It will be very different from our creation while it sits in our vise or fly box.

Partridge and orange soft hackle fly

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Partridge and orange soft hackle after wetting.

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Look at how much more lifelike the wet fly appears. The silk is nearly translucent.

How many bugs have this dark amber body color? Millions and millions every hatch and spinner fall. This fly simply looks like food.

That is why the fly will continue to work, and why fly guys still tie and cast it after 500 years. What an endure legacy this fly hold.

Next time I will look at some of the many options in tying this wonderful pattern.

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