Soft hackle proves itself worthy in river | SierraSun.com
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Soft hackle proves itself worthy in river

Bruce Ajari

A few hours out on your local trout stream can do wonders for one’s psyche. This past weekend, after working on the yard, a little time on the water was very welcome.

While working on the yard, I noticed a good number of carpenter ants and midges flying in the air. I took this to be a sign from above that I should be on the water. After convincing my other half of this, I grabbed my fishing rod and gear and proceeded to a neighbor’s house to fish.

Upon arriving at a local stream, we noticed that there were no ants flying in the area so ant patterns would probably not work. However, with a little more warm weather, the fish would certainly begin seeing these in the water on windy days.

As I have written before, ants are apparently among the favorite foods of fish. They will feed on them ravenously during this springtime emergence of large winged ants.

Unfortunately, the timing was not right this day, but the fishing was still very good because of another old time favorite fly, the soft-hackle. Soft hackles are among the oldest flies in the arsenal.

They have become flies that have gained much notoriety recently due to books such as Sylvester Neme’s “The Soft Hackled Fly” and “The Soft Hackled Fly Addict.” These books explore the reasons that these flies are so successful.

Several years ago, the winning fly in the famous One-Fly contest in Wyoming on the Snake River was one of the very same patterns that I used successfully this particular day.

Not only was this soft-hackled pattern a success during the One-Fly contest, it set a record that is still intact to this day.

What makes these simple flies so successful? The reason is probably in the materials. A simple body and a soft-hackle, typically some form of partridge feather or something similar.

The hackle itself gives the fly a lifelike appearance while it swims in the water.

Soft hackles are also very easy for most fishermen to fish, in that the most common method is to cast down and across the stream and let the fly swing. Most takes occur when the fly reaches the end of the swing and begins to rise.

I have also fished these flies quartering them upstream and across and letting them drift down and then swing.

Fish have taken them in just about any location on this method, but the end of the swing is still where the vast majority of strikes occur.

It has been my experience that when there is no significant hatch occurring – but the fish are sporadically feeding on the surface – a soft-hackle is just the ticket. For some reason, this fly represents emerging insects extremely well.

The soft-hackle could look like a caddis. The hackle may look like an encased bubble or legs and antennae streaming back. It could also look like an emerging mayfly shedding its nymphal shuck. For whatever reason, this fly works when many others do not.

The other beauty of this fly is that you do not have to fish it actively. You can just let it hang in the current and catch fish just as I did this particular afternoon.

Upon arriving at the stream, I was getting ready to fish and noticed that the rod that I was going to fish with had a type two uniform sinking line on it that I had been using on a lake.

Rather than change, I decided to try a streamer first. After having little success with the streamer, I decided to switch to the soft-hackle because I could use the downstream swing technique with this gear.

It worked, and I could relax doing it because I could just wait for the fish to strike. I caught several fish just letting the flies, I fished two in tandem, hang in the current. Talk about a relaxing time. Just cast let the fly swing.

Change positions by stepping up or down the stream and casting again.

You can cover quite a bit of ground in this fashion and really fish a run easily. When the fish hits the fly, it is generally a tight-line strike that the angler can react to and generally get a positive hook-up.

Try a soft-hackle fly if you find yourself in the mood to unwind on the trout stream. It can be an extremely worthwhile experience.

Fishing report

Boca – (35,908 ac. ft.) Boca has been fishing fair to good. Most anglers fishing from shore near the inlet are having some success. The area near the dam is also fishing well. Most anglers use nightcrawlers or Powerbait. Boaters are having some success. Most were using a combination of flashers and a nightcrawler or minnow imitating lure. Kokanee fishing has been good. Flyfishermen near the inlet are having fair to good action using a variety of nymphs, streamers, and emergers.

Donner – (Boat Ramp is closed for repairs, scheduled through June 15th) Fishing has been fair to good. Most anglers fishing for rainbows on the west end and near the launch ramp have had some success. Nightcrawlers and Powerbait seem to be the main bait. Trollers using minnow imitating lures have had fair to good success.

Lake Tahoe – (Elevation 6228.16) Fishing has been good for mackinaw. Most fish typically are in the five to seven pound range. A guide is highly recommended if you are fishing for mackinaw for the first time. Toplining and shore fishing is slow overall. Remember tributaries to Tahoe are closed to all fishing until July 1 and closes again on September 30. No fishing is also allowed within 300 ft. of these tributaries.

Martis Lake – (Martis is restricted to artificial lures with barbless hooks. Zero fish may bagged or possessed) Fishing is fair. Most use nymphs such as the Hares Ear, Pheasant Tail, Damselfly imitations or the A.P. Streamers that imitate small fish, and woolly buggers are also good choices. For surface activity, patterns such as the Quiqley Cripple, Martis Midge, Parachute Adams, and Griffith’s Gnat are good choices.

Little Truckee River – Fishing has been fair. Fishing has been fair to good near the inlet area of the Little Truckee into Boca Reservoir.

Flyfishermen fishing this stretch between Stampede and Boca concentrate on nymphs and streamers, but there has been some fair dry fly action at times.

Prosser – (18,375 ac. ft.) Fishing has been fishing fair. Fishing here is mostly with nightcrawlers or Powerbait it. Flyfishermen near the inlets have taken a few fish mostly on nymphs and streamers.

Stampede – (213,516 ac. ft.) Stampede is fair to good. Most shore anglers are taking fish, some very nice. Most use the typical baits, nightcrawlers or Powerbait. Topliners have fair to good success for kokanee salmon. Most used a flasher of some sort and a kokanee bug or wedding ring with a piece of white corn.

Truckee River – The release was raised last Tuesday to 693 cubic feet per second from the dam at Tahoe City. With the warmer daytime temperatures and corresponding snowmelt this translates into over 1370 cubic feet per second in the Truckee area. Fishing has been fair when the water conditions permit. This is very dependent on the weather and the amount of snowmelt. Try nymphs and streamers near the edges and near obstructions.

Other Waters – Davis and Frenchman lakes fished fair to good this past week. It appears dependent on the weather. Reports indicate that fishing has been mostly good and that there have been good numbers of people fishing these two lakes.


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