What to use, what to use, what to use? We ask ourselves this nearly every time we fish. Ask this question at the tackle shop and they will have an answer for you and oft it is the latest and greatest bait, lure, or fly pattern. Yep, if we’re to believe them and even our fellow fishers who get swept up in this line of thought, to catch fish, we need the latest and greatest terminal in tackle.
In the world of fly tying there is little or no glory in tying the many thousands patterns created before us. To be recognized we need to create something new, so we’re constantly playing with new materials, hook styles, techniques, etc. in order to create a better “fish trap.” If you want to sell, it needs to be “new.” Even I fall prey to this line of thinking as I tweak most of the fly patterns to suit my personal needs.
In truth, when it comes to catching, I’m not sure that “new and better” really is any better than “tried and true,” some days, yes, other days definitely no. Case in point I’ve been have good success with a pattern that has been around since shortly after the Civil War, that’s right the fly was created sometime in the 1860’s, maybe earlier. That’s 150 years of fish catching for the Partridge and Orange, often called the Orange Soft Hackle
I have a fondness for soft hackle patterns in general. These simple patterns were originally a silk tread body, with a couple wraps of partridge hackle. There are many variants of this simple theme, dubbed bodies, ribbed body, tailed, other hackles, and hackles tied upright or tied swept back (my preference).
While I’ve used dubbed bodies, rayon floss wrapped to build a slightly tapered body followed by two or three wraps of partridge tied swept back is my top choice these days. I tie soft hackles on a standard dry fly hooks sizes 10 to 18, but a heavy wire hook works just as well. Body colors I’ve found effective include orange, yellow, red, blue, and olive. The simplicity of this fish catching fly appeals to me. In part because you can fill a fly box quickly and with little expense, which equates to less time tying, more time fishing.
How well do they work? Well, if you’ve followed my blogs and conditions reports, you know that the last two weeks I’ve fished Joe Wright (grayling), Dixon (bluegills and pumpkinseed), and Hohnholz #3 (browns and cutthroats) where this simple pattern (size 12) has accounted for the majority of my fish. At Hohnholz I was catching two fish to my partner’s one, until I gave him a few Partridge and Orange flies. Then his catch rate then equaled mine.
The point is, in our pursuit of something different, the most different pattern on the water may be one that has been long forgotten by many. Tie a few soft hackles and give them a try. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.