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Wet Flies / Soft Hackle

Soft Hackle and Wet Flies

Soft hackle flies don’t need advanced techniques to be effective, and many patterns can be used as both a dry fly and a wet fly, making them great for beginners. Their versatility also means that proficient anglers can fish them in a variety of different and imitative ways.

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Showing 1–32 of 38 results

Soft Hackle / Wet Flies: the difference

The terms ‘wet flies’ and ‘soft hackle flies’ are sometimes used as if they are the same thing. The dividing line is sometimes blurred, but it is possible to be definitive. All soft hackle flies can be used as wet flies, but not all wet flies use soft (or indeed, any) hackle. It’s easier to appreciate once you understand the tying methods involved.

What is Soft Hackle?

Hackle (body feathers from birds) is often used in fly tying: the feather’s shaft is wound around a fly so the barbs stick out. Sometimes these are trimmed short. If left long, they’re very flexible (hence ‘soft hackle’), and create the illusion of legs or wings by moving underwater or by being easily waterlogged and lying low in the surface film.

Soft hackle flies can be fished on or under the surface. Because they look like an insect moving slowly (an ascending pupa) or weakly (an emerging, trapped or dying adult), they lend themselves to gentle retrieves. If fished as an ascending pupa, the hackle wraps around the body and complements the shape. If fished as an emerger then it can imitate either the pupa casing or new and not yet dry wings. If fished as an adult that is either spent or accidentally on the surface then it can represent legs and/or wings.

Wet Flies

In wet fly patterns, the materials are generally stiffer, so they move more water and lend themselves to more active retrieves under the surface. Many patterns are less representative and designed to catch attention with their movement: a great example is the Woolly Worm streamer pattern. There are also insect wet flies that are not soft hackle, and these imitate adults that are either egg laying or have fallen in the water.

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