Trout Tips Fishing Fly tying

How to fish a soft hackle

I became a soft-hackle devotee about five years ago after a visit to Blue Ribbon Flies in West Yellowstone, Mont., on a fly-buying binge for a trip to the Firehole River. The shop’s proprietor–and fly fishing legend–Craig Mathews convinced me to give soft hackles a shot that blustery fall day, and I’ve been a believer in soft hackles ever since.

Above, RIO Product’s Simon Gawesworth demonstrates some great soft-hackle fishing methods that, over the years, have proven absolutely deadly on my local rivers here in eastern Idaho.

I think what appeals to me most about soft-hackle fishing, particularly in the summer and fall, is the actual take. Trout will hit dry flies on the drift, but they’ll absolutely nail a soft-hackle on the swing. Often, because these small flies (just soft-hackle versions of local favorites like Blue-winged Olives and Pale Morning Duns) ride just under the surface, the take is every bit as dramatic as a dry-fly attack.

Simon covers the basics in the short video above, including how to set up a deadly two-fly rig, how and where to cast (hint: soft-hackle fly fishing might be the most forgiving fly-fishing discipline when it comes to the cast–consider starting a new angler out using this method) and what tackle you might need.

As runoff starts to subside here in the West in the coming weeks, it’ll be time to pull out the soft-hackle box, and you’ll be better prepared to enjoy the craft after you take this quick lesson from one of the sport’s best.