Our Man In Canada
November 22nd, 1999

CDC/Soft Hackle Hybrids, Part 2

Chris Marshall

By Chris Marshall

A Traditional Soft-Hackled Wet

Waterhen Bloa

This is my favourite soft-hackle. It was used to imitate early season up-wing flies on Yorkshire rivers. In Canada and the USA it is an excellent pattern for olive-bodied, grey-winged ephemerellas, such as subvaria and related flies in the northeast. The following recipe is taken from Pritt's, North Country Flies:

Body: Yellow silk, dubbed sparsely with the fur of the water-rat.

Hackle Hackled feather from the inside of a waterhen's wing (undercovert).

Modern tyers should use mole in place of water-rat, and a 6/0 tying thread can be substituted for pure silk, although silk is preferable. Tying instructions for the traditional pattern are incorporated in the instructions for the CDC version.
The word "bloa" is a north country word used to refer to the grey-blue-black colour found in clouds, bruises, and in the feathers of a variety of wild birds. Eventually it came to be used as a name for the feathers of this colour and, eventually to the flies themselves (both naturals and artificials), as in "Poult Bloa", "Snipe Bloa", and "Little Olive Bloa".

The CDC Soft-hackle Combination

These are simply traditional soft-hackled patterns with a CDC wing added prior to winding in the hackle. However, bodies can be made with synthetic thread and dubbing (SLF is excellent) instead of silk. Any soft hackle feather can be used, particularly breast feathers, undercoverts, some flank and back feathers of wild birds. The feathers of domestic fowl, though, have barbules which are generally too fine to give the characterisic effect provided by the thicker barbules of wild birds. Similarly, rather than rigidly copying the traditional patterns, colours can be chosen to match whatever naturals the tyer desires.


The following recipe is for a fly intended more as a floater than a sinker. When dry, it will float relatively high in the water when wet it will sink slowly. Copnsequently, the CDC is a dense oiler puff and the hook is a curved-shank, lightweight emerger hook. For a fly intended primarily as a sinker - that is, one which will sink quickly when wet and float inly in the film when dry, the CDC wing should be much sparser and the hook heavier wire.

Hook:  Curved shank emerger hook, such as Partridge GRS7MMB.

Thread:  Yellow silk.

Body:  Yellow silk, dubbed over lightly with mole's fur.

Wing:  Dense CDC oiler feather, natural gray.

Hackle:  Waterhen (coot) underdovert. No more than two turns.

The colour of the body can be varied between yellow and grey by increasing or decreasing the density of the dubbing. However, the best combination, especially for the Hendrickson and similar flies is a fine veiling allowing the yellow silk to show through.

Tying Instructions:

1. Anchor the silk thread on the shank just forward of the point of the hook. Wind it forward towards the eye, leaving sufficient space for the wing and hackle. Gradually build up a slimly tapered body with the thread. As silk is much thicker than regular synthetic tying thread, this does not take long. Finish the process with the thread at the rear end of the body.

2. Lightly coat a short length of thread with sticky wax. Take a very light pinch of fur from a moleskin and spread it vary sparsely on the waxcoated thread. Wind forward to the eye. You should be able to see the yellow of the silk through the covering of mole's fur. If not, unwind the dubbed thread, and repeat the mole's fur dubbing more sparingly until you get it right.

3. Take a single CDC 'puff' feather and anchor it to the top of the hook shank, so that the tips just reach the end of the body. You can make the wing longer if you wish to suggest a trailing nymphal shuck.

4. Anchor a waterhen undercovert by the thick end of the stem so that the dark, shiny side faces the eye. Make one and a half winds and tie off.

5. Make a head out of thread, whip finish, and apply a drop of lacquer. Note that, because silk is so thick, you'll only need a few turns to do this. ~ Chris Marshall

Fall Issue
We thank the Canadian Fly Fisher for re-print permission!

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