The Soldier Palmer: a pattern known to most anglers and one that deserves a place in your palmered hackle wet fly box as much as any wet fly pattern does. The Soldier Palmer is an ancient hackled wet fly pattern and I believe it was mentioned in The Complete Angler (Izaak Walton) in 1653 and was a well known pattern to the author by that time. It is thought that prior to this date, the name Soldier Palmer may have been given to an already existing palmered pattern. The name coming from the colour of the English army’s newly issued uniform in 1645 from which they commonly became known as Redcoats.
Prior to 1653 date the history of the pattern gets a bit murky and the language and terminology of the time adds to this confusion. For example, I understand that when an author of the period talked about tying or fishing a ‘red palmer’ pattern, the author was talking about the hackle only being coloured red and not the overall colour of the whole palmered hackle wet fly. Also, when talking about red as a colour the ‘red’ of the day may have been more a red-brown, what we today may describe as red-game. So, if the idea is correct about the fly’s name being in reference to the issue of the new army uniforms in 1645, then we could be looking at a pre-existing palmered wet fly, which originally had a red-brown body, but which later evolved through time into a palmered wet fly with a red (as we would define red as a colour today) body around 1645.
Ancient or not, it is a palmered wet fly that will still catch plenty of fish today. The standard dressing calls for a red wool tail. I’m not really a fan of wool or floss tailed patterns, preferring instead more movement in the tail of the fly, so I opted to employ some soft red cockerel fibres instead. The body is scarlet SFL with a palmered ginger cockerel hackle, a gold wire rib and a collar hackle of red-game hen to complete the fly.