hedging my bets
Inspiration for this soft hackle wet fly came from an unlikely source; the garden beech hedge! The sun was shining through the hedge which was by now, a very pleasing mixture of very dark browns, lighter toffee browns and sun dappled ginger hues. ‘Those beautiful colours would make a lovely soft hackle pattern’ I thought. And, here is the result.
This soft hackle wet fly is probably most suggestive of a hatching midge or one making its way through the upper layers of the water column. Fiery brown can be an excellent colour to incorporate into a surface fly dressing on its day, whether that is a dry fly, palmer hackled wet fly or soft hackle wet fly pattern. With this soft hackle, I added a sparse thorax of fiery brown SLF dubbing and then brushed it backwards over the body of the fly; just plain black tying thread. This gave a visually pleasing effect and once wet, should give a fair impression of translucency, itself an important quality in a wet fly. I used a soft mottled brown hen hackle in the dressing and you could always use a brown partridge hackle instead if you prefer.
I envisaged fishing the Beech Hedge Soft Hackle as a surface or near surface fly, either casting to rising trout or into an area containing rising fish. It may also prove to be a useful searching pattern too. I would think that it should be effective on both stillwater and running water. Ultimately of course, it is the trout that decide on how effective any pattern is. How many times do we create a fly pattern thinking it will be, should be effective, only for the trout to completely ignore it whenever we tie it onto our leader?
I have noted too, that some patterns which were once effective seem to gradually lose their appeal to the trout over time. Why that happens, I really couldn’t say; perhaps it is down to changes in the availability of the natural flies the trout see and feed upon? Then there are those patterns which time seems to have had no effect upon, their effectiveness and appeal to the trout remaining as great as ever. One of these patterns particularly for me at any rate, is the Black Spider. I am sure you too, have your own patterns that this applies to. Tight lines everybody.
7 thoughts on “Beech Hedge Soft Hackle”
You were absolutely right – that color combination did make a beautiful soft hackle! I really like the way you brushed the dubbing back and that should flutter nicely on the swing. I’m a big fan of SLF dubbing. I frequently reach for my SLF Prism, Bug Dub, and Standard dubbing dispensers or packets. Did you use Prism on this fly? Also, what hackle did you use?
Thank you for your kind comments – they are very much appreciated. There was just something about the colour combinations that the sunlight shining through the hedge created that made me think – ‘wow, isn’t that fantastic!’. I think the dubbing I used was the Davy Wotton Standard Dubbing SLF in Fiery Brown – I don’t think it was the Prism dubbing.
I too like the SLF dubbing very much. In fact I love dubbing full stop and I need to restrain myself when I enter the dubbing section in the fly tying department – I could end up buying the whole section!
The hackle was just cheap mottled brown hen saddle I purchased from Lakeland Fly Tying a while back (https://lathkill.com/capes-hackles/hen-saddles/lathkill-indian-hen-saddles.html#2). I hope that helps Darrelln09. Thanks again and tight lines!
When I first started tying, I ordered a 12-compartment dispenser of both SLF Prism Dubbing and SLF Bug Dub (and also a dispenser of Nature’s Spirit Beaver Dubbing which I use for my dry flies). I had no idea what I was getting at the time but that was a stroke of luck. I have refilled several of the compartments more than once. I use the SLF Bug Dub for almost all my nymphs. The blend of Hare’s Ear and Antron is perfect for nymphs. I think SLF Prism Dubbing in the color Chocolate Brown might be close to what you have used on your soft hackle, although that is a little coarser than SLF Standard. Thanks for the link. Those saddles look amazing for the price.
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Loving your blog that I have only come across recently. I’m resurrecting my fly tying right now and had previously always tied basic and simple traditional trout patterns . I too have a fondness for spider patterns and while I can’t produce flies of the quality here ( lack of ability, deteriorating eye sight ) the patterns on your blog are influencing my tying. Regarding flies falling out of fashion over time , I believe that a lot of this is exactly that – a fashion issue. I am fascinated by the link between success with a fly and the confidence the angler feels when fishing it. If we stop using a pattern then we can’t catch trout on it! That said new materials also see patterns evolve I would think. As a boy I would go fishing with perhaps half a dozen flies if I was lucky generally consisting of just a few patterns – couple of spiders, couple of butchers and maybe a pennel. These were what consistently worked because it was what I fished. I recently read an old book about an angler who was on a quest to find the definitive pattern for his hill Loch fishing. Over years he tried and tested many patterns and even resorted to fishing only one fly for entire seasons . His catch records showed no discernible difference in catch rates when he stuck to one pattern apparently! Now I am not advocating that as an approach- it would certainly make fly tying rather dull but it perhaps illustrates the point about having faith in a pattern and giving it the opportunity to catch fish. Reassuringly the fisherman /author went on to identify a definite spider style fly as the best all rounder – a sort of bushy palmered black spider – that supports the significance of spider patterns generally I think. Keep up the great blog and tight lines!
Thank you for taking the time to add your kind comments; I really appreciate that! When I initially began putting the blog together I really wanted it to be of help to those starting out, while at the same time highlighting the beauty of these simple little flies. I also love the history surrounding these simple hackled flies.
Given their effectiveness on the water and the relatively small amount of materials required when tying them, they make ideal patterns for those beginning to tie their own flies. I found when first tying these simple flies that they provide you with plenty of transferable flytying skills; they make you focus on placing the materials correctly on the shank, using different colour combinations, working with a variety of materials and the overall proportions of the finished fly. They also taught me how to create a small, neat head when finishing the fly and about the benefits of applying sparse dubbings to the thread body of the fly so that the colour of the thread may show through it. And as I progressed and became more self-critical, I was soon to realise that because of their overall sparse and simplistic appearance, that any flaws in my tying would be immediately obvious; a bulky and uneven body here, an untidy whip finish there or perhaps creating a miss-timed and overly large head on the fly. But stick with it and you get there.
I agree absolutely that confidence in a fly pattern is crucial and that if a pattern sits in your flybox that it won’t catch anything! For me, that pattern is a Black Spider and it is rarely off my cast. But then again, is that the reason it appears to me to be as successful as it is throughout my season? I’ve lost count of the times that I have tried a new pattern and taken it off again after it hasn’t produced any fish after say, thirty minutes of perseverance and yet stuck with the Black Spider for a fishless hour or so. Having confidence in my fly also helped me to tie better flies too. At the vice I may have produced a fly that had a slightly bulky head or too dense a hackle and thought ‘it shouldn’t matter too much…’ but then found when I got on the water and fished it and it didn’t produce any interest from the trout, that it was taken off the cast fairly quickly as the fly’s perceived flaws came to mind. Perhaps it did matter; more to me than the trout though; and yes confidence is everything in a pattern!
Thanks again for taking time to comment and tight lines!
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Thanks for posting this pattern, it has got me thinking over here in Ireland. Like you, I love tying and fishing spiders and they are the mainstay of my river angling for trout. Only after reading this post did it strike me that I don’t have any Fiery Brown spiders in my already overflowing boxes. This is all the more remarkable as the Fiery Brown is one of my favorite lough flies, tied on size 10 or 12 hooks and sporting mallard wings etc. I now need to get busy at the vice and make up a few of your pattern and a couple of variants to try out on my local rivers. I have huge faith in a simple spider dressed with a hare’s lug body, fine gold wire rib and a partridge hackle dyed brown olive, but for days when something just a tad brighter is required your Beech Hedge looks like a winner. Thanks for the inspiration and tight lines.
Thank you for your comments ClaretBumbler – they are much appreciated. Fiery brown as you say, can be a very good colour on the loughs, lochs, lakes and reservoirs on its day. I would imagine that it should do well on the rivers too.
Please do tie any of the patterns you like off the blog and see how they work for you. Adding your own interpretations and creating variants of patterns, is for me at least, one of the real benefits of tying your own flies and it is such a valuable resource to have as a fly angler.
That spider pattern that you mention sounds like a really nice fly to have in your box; I may just tie a few myself and give them a go on the river! Tight lines!
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