Feather Body Soft Hackle
By Peter Frailey
Previous Flies
Fly Tying Terms

This fly is an adaptation of my most frequently-used early season fly, the Conehead Combo. Two years ago, as local river levels and flows diminished in late spring, I found that a profile thinner and a fly lighter than the Conehead Combo was needed. By removing the conehead and replacing the woolly bugger marabou with blood marabou for a thinner body, I ended up with a large soft-hackle fly that has served me well during the "cross over" season of June and July when the stocked rainbows in my home waters begin to sulk and the smallies become energetic.

You will find this to be a simple fly to tie. Advanced tying techniques are not needed and the only two ingredients are readily available.

Fishing this pattern is also simple. Basically any subsurface approach works. But my favorite technique is to place a small strike indicator six feet up from the fly. I then dead drift the fly like a nymph, through water perhaps 2-4' in depth. (My best luck has been with a slightly weighted version tied in black marabou and dark dun dyed mallard.)

At the end of the dead drift I swing the fly like a wet fly, sometimes initiating a couple of short strips here and there. Also, a random mend, either upstream or downstream, will often prompt a strike.

I find I catch most of my trout on the dead drift and most of my bass on the swing. In either case, I seek out the fastest moving water. In wide rivers with multiple currents, look for the bubble-line. As water warms in spring, good fish will be there. And in fast bubbly water there is the added advantage that you will be less noticeable to the fish, plus the fly can swing without the indicator creating an obvious wake.

Materials list: Feather Body Soft Hackle

    Hook: Any wet fly or streamer hook with a shank length of about 1".

    Thread: Danville 3/0 or 6/0, matching the color of the marabou feather.

    Weight (Optional): 5 -15 wraps of .010" lead wire, applied in the middle of the shank.

    Integral tail and body: One marabou blood feather.

    Collar: One mallard body feather.

Method: Feather Body Soft Hackle

    Step 1

    1. Choose a hook with a shank length of approximately 1". Shown here, top to bottom: Size 10 TMC 300 (6XL), size 6 TMC 5263 (3XL), and size 4 Mustad 9671 (2XL).

    Step 2

    2. Prepare one marabou and one mallard feather: (1) Prep the marabou blood feather by stroking the barbs toward the tip. Pull off any barbs from the bottom of the feather stem that do not extend to the tip. A stem stripped clean of barbs at the base of the feather will create a cleaner tie-off after wrapping the body. Usually if I create a "wand" of marabou that is 3X the length of the shank, it will be about the right length; (2) Prep the mallard feather by holding the tip with one hand and stoking the barbs away from the tip with the other hand. Tear off the bottom barbs until you have about " of barbs remaining along both sides of the stem. The barbs at the tip of the feather can be trimmed with scissors so only "stubble" remains along the thin stem of the tip (as shown).

    Step 3

    3. Prepare a thread base over the hook shank. In this example the hook is a size 4 Mustad 9671 and the thread is tan Danville 3/0.

    Step 4

    4. Tie in the marabou feather so that the feather tip creates a tail. I tie the tail so it is equal in length to the hook shank (as shown), or shorter. Black is my favorite color, but tan is more photogenic.

    Step 5

    5. Between the fingers and thumb of your right hand, twist the feather stem clockwise to create a "rope" of marabou.

    Step 6

    6. Wrap the marabou rope forward and over the shank like chenille on a woolly bugger. For a tight body, you will need to put an additional clockwise twist into the rope after each subsequent wrap around the shank. If done correctly, after the final wrap, there should only be stem left. (The marabou rope used here was obviously a bit long). Tie the butt of the stem down and snip off the excess.

    Step 7

    7. Tie in the mallard feather by the tip, with the concave side of the feather facing up. In this example I chose to tie-in with the tip aimed toward the rear of the fly.

    Step 8

    8. Pull the butt of the mallard feather back over the tip.

    Step 9

    9. Wrap the thread back and forth over the folded area.

    Step 10

    10. With the right hand, hold the stem vertically, and with the left hand stroke and fold the hackle barbs back, toward the rear of the hook. Now, wrap the mallard feather around the hook until a soft hackle collar has been created. Two or three wraps are about right.

    Step 11

    11. After the hackle wraps have been completed, make one final wrap using the bare stem. This will make the tie-down easier and cleaner.

    Step 12

    12. Take a few snug wraps of thread around the bare stem and snip off the excess stem. Create a head with the tying thread.

    Step 13

    13. Use a couple of whip knots or half-hitches to complete the fly. I like to add a little shine to the head by dabbing it with thinned nail polish. ~ Peter Failey

About Peter Frailey:

After spending his childhood as an avid warmwater fisherman, he was coaxed back into the sport by his older son, who wanted to attend a local United Fly Tyers meeting. Now, fly-fishing and fly-tying are year-round activities. During the three cold seasons he fishes for trout in the streams and rivers of Eastern and Central Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire, with occasional trips into Vermont and Maine. But he still enjoys lazy days as a warmwater fly-fisher, float-tubing during the summer months on local farm ponds near his home in Eastern Massachusetts, where he lives with his wife and three children. For other interesting flies and stories visit Peter's website: www.fishingwithflies.com

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