How many times have you been asked to consider the question ‘What is your favourite fly?’ An impossible one to answer because it depends on so many factors. My favourite fly is the one that best matches the fish’s food type at the specific time; obviously the one that will catch the fish. That’s a cheating answer though I suppose. However, there is another way to look at the posed question. ‘Which fly would you least want to be without?’
Consider your answer. Can it imitate a range of food-types? Does it give the illusion of life? Will it take a nymphing fish? Could it be used as a dry fly? Is it quick and easy to tie? If there is one fly that matches all of these demands, then it must surely be the spider (soft-hackle). Fish it wet, at depth, in the top few inches or even greased and in the surface film: it is a highly versatile pattern. However, what makes this fly so significant is that it can be tied using the minimum of materials with the minimum of fuss. You can develop it as much as you like with dubbed bodies and ribs, but the foundations of tying the fly remain the same. An effective, all-round fishing fly tied with just silk and a hackle feather. It’s easy to see why these patterns have stood the test of time and now carry so much history.
So here’s a basic sequence to tying a neat, soft-hackled fly. Foundations upon which a great many pattern can be tied:
Hook: Grip 12003 #12
Thread: Pearsall’s Silk, waxed
1. Catch in the Silk just behind the eye of the hook
2. Strip the soft, downy fibres from the stem of the hackle feather and catch in the hackle feather with its front facing downwards
3. Wind the thread down the shank, carefully trapping the original silk tag and the stem of the feather
4. Now wind the silk backup the body in even turns to form a rib. You can dub this thread first if you wish.
5. Keeping the silk behind the hackle, wind two turns of hackle. Folding the fibres backwards as you wind will help keep all the fibres sweeping backwards over the fly. When you have the required hackle, bring the thread through the hackle at a steep angle (450) to behind the eye. Make one turn of silk over the hackle stem to secure it.
6. Whip finish and varnish
So, whether tied in its simplest form or with a more detailed approach, simple tying can be the foundation of elegant, adaptable and very effective flies.
Dave keeps a regular update of his fishing and tying on his blog: http://davewiltshireflytying.blogspot.com/