Soft-hackle Stone Fly

Soft-hackle Stone Fly
Super Soft-hackle Stones breathe in the water, advertising "big food" to foraging trout.

Supersize hackles for spring and summer stones

Many believe it's the archer, not the arrow, that matters most in successful fly fishing. But there are times when certain fly patterns in the quiver make a marked difference in my fishing success. Soft-hackles are just such flies.

Soft-hackle flies have a long history across the pond, dating back several centuries. On his home turf, author and fly tier Sylvester Nemes helped spark a resurgence in their popularity with his 1975 book The Soft-Hackled Fly (Second Edition: The Soft-Hackled Fly and Tiny Soft Hackles: A Trout Fisherman's Guide, Stackpole Books, 2006).

In the ensuing years, soft-hackle patterns have become effective producers on both small streams and big rivers; dead-drifted in the water surface film as smaller caddis and mayfly shuck-shedders; and swung subsurface to mimic the bottom-to-top climb of emerging insects.

Few tiers and fishers, however, have applied the soft-hackle concept to patterns such as stoneflies or larger caddis. Some of the original Irish nymphs I've studied have much longer hackles than contemporary patterns. They are also decent imitations of large terrestrials that accidentally fall into the water and drown, such as crickets, cicadas, and hoppers. The extra-long hackle gives movement and life to these imitations, which makes them more effective.


Continued after gallery...


Fly Tying The Super Soft-Hackle Stone

(black) HOOK: #6-10 Tiemco 200.
THREAD: Black Ultra Thread.
TAILS: Natural Canada goose biot.
RIB: Flat monofilament dyed amber with Rit dye.
THORAX: Black Ice Dub.
BODY: Black Ice Dub.
HACKLE: Black India hen back (or schlappen).
NOTE: For Golden Stones, substitute golden-yellow biots, dubbing, rib, and hackle.

Super Soft-hackle Stone Step 1 of 6

Start the thread just behind the hook eye and wrap to the bend and back. On either side of the hook, tie a piece of tungsten wire, which gives the fly added weight and an oval shape similar to a natural stonefly.

Super Soft-hackle Stone Step 2 of 6

Run the thread back to the hook bend. Snip and loosely dub over the wire butts. Tie in the tails off the side of the body, not the back.

Super Soft-hackle Stone Step 3 of 6

Tie in one length of Thin Skin long enough for both the abdomen and thorax casings, followed by V-Rib or flat dyed mono for the rib.

Super Soft-hackle Stone Step 4 of 6

Dub the body two-thirds of the way up the hook shank. Fold the Thin Skin flat over the dubbing. Tie it in at the abdomen/thorax junction, and rib with four or five wraps.

Super Soft-hackle Stone Step 5 of 6

Dub the thorax thicker than the body of the fly. When you fold back the Thin Skin, dub over the fold for a clean junction between the body and the thorax. Pick some of the thorax dubbing out to the sides.

Super Soft-hackle Stone Step 6 of 6

Tie in the hackle of your choosing, and use two or three wraps. Whip-finish. Don't tie the hackle back along the hook. If it sticks straight out, you get more movement from the fly.

In the Round

Charlie Brooks tied his Montana Stonedeveloped on the Yellowstone River"in the round" to maintain an even silhouette in its tumbling journey along the bottom of a river. I found over the years that the round tie, with 360 degrees of fairly long hackle, looks more alive to the trout.

Some years ago, I started using stonefly patterns with longer soft hackles. They worked exceptionally well, especially in pocketwater.

As stonefly nymphs spend most of their lives in pocketwater and hard riffles, soft-hackles with a lot of movement often trigger strikes. These flies are also more likely to be noticed in fast water because they advertise "big food."

Long soft hackles can be added to any stonefly or large caddis pattern. In my experience, you almost can't make the hackle too long. I tie my Super Soft-hackle flies so that the hackle is at least as long as the body, or longer. When I can't find hen back hackles long enough, I use schlappen in appropriate colors and shades. Whether the hackle is partridge, hen back, or schlappen, it doesn't seem to matter to the trout.

When and Where

The Super Soft-hackle Stone is my secret weapon during a stonefly hatch, whether I'm guiding or fishing solo.

In Colorado and Wyoming, rivers often run too high and dirty for fishing a stonefly dry during runoff. However, the heavy water pushes trout to the edges of streams, where they are susceptible to nymphs. I fish the Super Soft-hackle Stone along the margins of a stream or river during spring runoff, as the water falls and just begins to clear.

I tie the Super Soft-hackle Stone with two biot tails, and use loosely dubbed Ice Dub for a buggy look. Dye the flat mono for one minute in brown Rit dye and hot water. Round mono also works fine.

As for hackle size, I was fishing in Ireland with a friend and he commented that, "you Yanks don't use long enough hackle on your wet flies." I think he's probably right. We often go for esthetics in our patterns, sometimes sacrificing effectiveness. Go a little longer than you think you should, and you'll be there.

Eric Pettine is a contract tier for Umpqua Feather Merchants, and has been fly fishing for more than 60 years. He guides for St. Peter's Fly Shop in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

 Getting Started In Fly Fishing

Getting Started In Fly Fishing

Getting Started In Fly Fishing

Breaking the Surface

Breaking the Surface

Attack of the Bass continues as Breaking the Surface attacks bass with fly and lure 12:30pm ET Sunday, April 17th.

Bahamas - Bonefish

Bahamas - Bonefish

Conway casts for his personal best bonefish while fishing the Grand Bahama islands.

Fly Fishing for Taimen in Mongolia

Fly Fishing for Taimen in Mongolia

Finding giant Mongolia taimen and a state of enlightenment.

Trending Articles

American River California United States

American River California

MIchael Wier - March 23, 2017

American River California

The fly fishing communities in the U.S. and Belize are mourning after twin slayings that occurred on what appeared to be a routine guide trip on Sunday, June 23, 2019 in a shallow lagoon near San Pedro, Brazil. Industry

Fly Fishing Community Stunned by Twin Slayings on Belize Saltwater Flat

Fly Fisherman Online Staff - June 27, 2019

The fly fishing communities in the U.S. and Belize are mourning after twin slayings that...

As you explore your home water, keep in mind what they are eating to select the best carp flies! Flies

The 15 Best Carp Flies

Jay Zimmerman - September 27, 2016

As you explore your home water, keep in mind what they are eating to select the best carp...

Drift boats help you search through miles of river quickly and effectively. Here's the top models on the market today. Gear

Top Drift Boats of 2019

John Fedorka - April 02, 2019

Drift boats help you search through miles of river quickly and effectively. Here's the top...

See More Trending Articles

More Flies

Tying flies on tubes is easy and deadly! Flies

Tying Flies On Tubes

Rick Kustich - July 24, 2015

Tying flies on tubes is easy and deadly!

Dan Sturn breaks down his five favorite wet-fly methods. Flies

5 Proven Wet-Fly Methods for Steelhead

Dana Sturn - December 07, 2017

Dan Sturn breaks down his five favorite wet-fly methods.



The access points are already busy at 7 a.m. as guides and their clients prepare to fish in time Flies

Flies and Strategies for Big Tailwater Browns

Blane Chocklett - September 18, 2017

The access points are already busy at 7 a.m. as guides and their clients prepare to fish in...

Fly fishers need to exhibit 'situational awareness' and fish nymphs designed to trigger a strike when trout are keyed on a particular food item. Flies

Using Nymphs to Trigger Strikes

George Daniel - June 18, 2018

Fly fishers need to exhibit 'situational awareness' and fish nymphs designed to trigger a...

See More Flies

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.