NOTE: This entry is carried over from my old blog. It has been published before, but its one of the entries that I felt deserved to be brought over and shared on Dharma of the Drift.
The soft hackle is a great example of how a simple fly can be made with an infinite number of variations. It's also a fly that you can ask 5 people to tie it, and see 5 different methods of tying what is essentially the same fly. Here's how I tie the Partridge & Olive, one of the quintessential soft hackle wet flies...
Partridge & Olive
Materials: Hook: Tiemco 3769, Size 10. Any standard length, or short, straight-shanked nymph hook will work, in any size. Thread: 8/0 Uni-thread, black Body: Olive Uni-floss Rib: Silver Ultra Wire, X-Small Dubbing: SLF Squirrel Hackle: Partridge
1. Place hook in vise. Start thread about 1.5 eye lengths behind eye. Advance thread to bend and tie in ribbing wire extending out over the back of the hook.
2. Advance thread to thread tie-in point. Tie in floss, trim tag.
3. Maintaining tension on the floss, wind onto the hook, advancing floss to the bend (where the wire is tied in). Keep the body as flat and smooth as possible, and not overlapping. Basically, you want as thin of a body as possible without having bare spots.
4. While keeping tension on the floss with your left hand, grab the ribbing wire with your right and start to wind it forward, locking the floss in place with your first wrap, which should be made tight. Though you've wrapped both the floss and the wire in the normal direction (away from you, on top of the shank), you'll still be creating a counter-wrap, because the floss was wrapped toward the bend and the rib was wrapped toward the eye.
5. Trim tag ends of both floss and wire, as close to the body as is possible.
6. Prepare a tiny amount of dubbing, and twist tightly onto the thread.
7. Dub a tiny ball of the squirrel dubbing near the head of the fly, about 1 eye length back.
8. Select a speckled partridge feather, from the front of one of the wings.
9. Prepare the feather by stripping away fibers and stroking the rest (save for the tip) back against the grain as shown.
10. Tie in feather by the tip, curvature down, at the front of the hook, just a bit behind the eye.
11. Wind the hackle 1-2 turns tie off and trim feather.
12. Whip finish. Cement if desired.
Fish this fly, really, any way you like. Drift it, weight it, grease it, swing it, strip it...there isnt a wrong way to present a soft hackle, though most agree that some combination of drifting and tight-line swinging will entice the most fish. These elegant, impressionistic flies can imitate everything from emerging mayflies to caddis pupae, to terrestrials.