It started a couple of years ago when I tied up what I thought a diving caddis might look like. It was patterned loosely after some caddis ties i had seen in a fly shop on the famed West Branch of the Penobscot River. I tried it on my favorite landlock salmon stream one spring, and I hooked several fish in short order from one sweet little run. Hmmm. I might be onto something here.
So, I decide this winter that i'm going to tie up some traditional wet flies, including a refined diving caddis (this, after taking some time finally to look carefully at my seldom-opened copy of Forgotten Flies and marveling at the variety and perfection of all the patterns displayed therein. All the plates from Bergman's 'Trout' -- the first fly fishing book i ever read -- come-to-life in modern, eye-popping digital photography. And as usually happens when confronted by seriously good art (in any form) I say to myself, I'm going to do me some of that.
Meanwhile, i keep hearing people talk about soft hackles, and they show me the flies, or describe for me the fly, or I see them posted somewhere and I say to myself, that ain't no soft hackle.
THIS is a soft hackle,
a good old Partridge and Orange, a'la Skues, and Nemes (pronounced, by the way, as he explained it to me, NEM-esh), who I had the privilege of meeting years ago at an FFF event. Sylvester tied on an old HMH (aka API) Spartan Nomad - the little vise built on a 5/16" dia. stand rod. The flies you see here were also tied on a little Spartan Nomad. Call me.
And Hughes. As in Dave Hughes, author of 'Wet Flies'. Dave did all the work for me (and you) in researching and explaining the topic. Or perhaps, fairly, part of the topic. The lineage of wet flies, beginning with the Grand Dame herself, and evolving up through other great tyers and anglers such as Leisenring and Rosborough, culminates, according to Dave in four styles of wet flies - the Soft Hackle (capital S, capital H; see above);
the Wingless Wet Fly, or 'Flymph';
the Fuzzy Nymph;
and, the Winged Wet Fly,
in this case, my newest iteration of the diving caddis. I'm going for low, swept back wings (would prefer them to ride even lower along the back, like real caddis fly wings, but my skill level isn't yet where it needs to be, evidently, to make this happen. In time…) This is unlike nearly all of the classic wets depicted in Forgotten Flies, on which the wings are nice and perky, angling up and back. And, my hackling is much longer than one would use on a classic pattern, but that's what I'm going for here - an overly-suggestive leggy look. And like Dave Hughes suggests, especially for the wingless wet, the hackle here isn't all bunched up at the head, but rather, tied in where a real thorax would begin and wound forward to the eye. I choose this long hackling partly because i can only imagine what a diving caddis might really look like as it swims (?), but more because I just like the spey-ishness of the look. Maybe, after all, the big fish are going to cue in on those nice long legs and wings flopping around in the current.
Just for hoots, here is a fly I tied up as a test, purposely not putting a full body on the fly since i was only interested in practicing my winging technique. It ended up looking like a low-water salmon/steelhead fly, so it is now my low water wet.
Why not, right?
We'll get into the taxonomy thing next time.
Get a grip.