Fly of the Month - Tips and Hints

This issue’s tidbit is a how-to article.  It is often difficult to find small grouse or partridge soft hackle feathers for small patterns, and one’s supply soon runs out.  In addition, small soft hackle feathers are a challenge to wind and secure with the right look.  Recently, I was looking through my notebook of patterns and tips I’ve been compiling for some thirty years (yes, I’m one of those people), and found an old article on how to use larger hackles for smaller flies.  I pass it on for your consideration.



1.  Secure the tying thread with wraps mid-hook and wind toward the eye, stopping about where the back of the head of the fly will be formed.  Let the bobbin hang there.



2.  Select a soft hackle that is too large for the fly.  Stroke the splines out so that the tips are even.  Holding the tips in your fingertips, cut a section of splines at the feather shank so that the splines are noticeably longer than the soft hackle you want on the fly.  Holding the splines on the top of the hook, tips forward, position the splines so that when tied down and folded back, the splines will be the length desired for the fly.  Loosely wrap the splines with two turns of thread and gently tighten the thread. The idea is to “spin” the splines a little around the hook, much like spinning a deer hair body.  Before tightening, the splines usually can be dispersed a bit around the hook shaft.  Don’t worry too much at this point; the splines can be dispersed a bit later in the process. 



3.  Wind the thread back toward the hook bend, lashing down the remains of the splines to act as an underbody (trimming butt ends off if needed).  Continue winding the tying thread back to the turn of the hook, tie in a ribbing wire if desired, and dub in a body as usual, up to the tie-down turns of the hackle splines.  Then work the thread to the front (eye) side of the splines and let the bobbin hang down out of the way.



4.  Wetting the finger tips slightly, flare out the splines and push them back, radiating them back and around the hook.  Pull them back tight and compressed slightly against the body.  That should leave exposed, in front of the pulled back splines, bare hook shaft on which to form the fly head behind the eye.  Build a head with thread wraps; the wraps at the back of the head, against the splines at the tie-down point, will help push the splines radiated out and back, in normal soft hackle position. Keep adding thread wraps moving over the spline tie-down point and toward the back of the hook, until you are satisfied with the backward sweep of the splines.  And before wrapping the splines down too tight, you should be able to move them radially around the hook shaft (like ropes on a May Pole) to get the radial dispersion desired. 



5.  Finish and cement the head, and you’re good to go!