I love soft hackled flies for their elegant simplicity. Floss, dubbing, peacock herl, perhaps a little wire for shine and durability and of course a sparse wrap or two of Hungarian partridge, hen or starling to breathe life into the fly. There’s not much to most soft hackles, including this month’s fly the Red Ass but they are both fun to fish and often really effective. I typically fish soft hackles on a tight line swing, much like we do for steelhead. You cast cross current or slightly downstream, let the river create tension the fly line and follow the fly into the rod bank with the rod tip, all the while anticipating that quick jolt as a trout grabs and turns on your fly. Soft hackles are awesome in a variety of fishing situations. When trout snouts dot the water’s surface and the fish are taking something you cannot see or repeatedly refusing every attempt on your part to fool them with a dry fly, quietly swing a soft hackle through the feeding lanes can work wonders. Can’t track your dry fly because it’s too small or the crepescular darkness impedes your vision? Swing a soft hackle and wait to feel the fish take. Soft hackles excel at imitating a plethora of emerging insects. With their lack of crisp lines and disheveled appearance, they capture the buggy explosion of legs and wings and translucence that a hatching bug embodies. You can even fish them as a dropper off a dry fly or on a slow hand twist retrieve across the surface of a stillwater where trout are eating chironomid pupae just beneath the surface.
Soft Hackles are a true Swiss army knife of fly patterns and the Red Ass is one of my favorites. I typically tie mine in sizes 12-16 and occasionally down to an 18. You can you use thread, floss, holographic tinsel or any number of materials for the red butt, but I like using wire mostly for durability. Whatever you choose to use, I think that little splash of color or hot spot is a big part of why this pattern works so well. Tie up a few Red Asses to try this fall season on your favorite creek or river. I’ve found in bigger sizes they even work well for sea run cutthroat.
Red Ass Soft Hackle
Hook: #12 Daiichi 1530
Thread: Red 70 Denier Ultra Thread
Rib: Small Red Wire
Body: Peacock Ice Dub
Hackle: Natural Partridge
The Confluence Beer Pairing: I’ve found hazy IPA’s to be hit and miss from one to the next, but once in awhile I have one that’s well balanced captures all the the qualities that make a hazy a delicious summer refreshment. A customer was kind enough to pop in with a 6-pack of Kulshan’s Into the Haze a few weeks back. It’s a lively fruit forward beer with hints of orange, mango, pineapple and peach while still maintaining a hoppy bitterness. Good stuff! Thanks Serge!
Why not enjoy a few Into the Hazes as you settle down at the bench to whip up a few Red Ass Soft Hackles? Tying season is fast upon us!