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Trout Bums at Large is a monthly column appearing in the Yakima Herald-Republic and the Seattle Times. The column is written by Randal Sumner and Mark Littleton. We will be keeping an archive of these articles on this page.

Soft Hackles
by Mark Littleton
02/01/2001

I tie my own flies. Store bought flies look great, almost too perfect. I think most of them are designed to sell flies, not to catch fish. They are too heavily dressed. Most commercial flies are tied overseas and the people who tie them have never seen a trout. I think the less is more theory applies to flies. My flies tend to be very sparse and rarely do they look "perfect" to humans. I am constantly inventing "new" patterns. Almost all of my new patterns are just a variation on some existing pattern using different materials or by adding or subtracting parts of existing patterns.

When I go fishing I usually take along a nymph net made of some screen door material attached to two handles. You hold this down vertically on the bottom of the river while you kick around some rocks upstream. When you pull the net up you will find a sample of the type of bugs that live in the river. In a rich river like the Yakima, there will be a lot of bugs. Those small black, brown and green slimy things are what the fish are eating, and what you are trying to imitate. You don't have to tie those perfect flies like you see at the fly shop; almost anyone can tie something that looks like the nymphs in the net. If it is messy and the right size and color, and you put it in front of a fish, the fish will probably try to eat it.

One type of fly I have become a believer in, is the soft hackle. I think that you can make almost any nymph better by adding a soft hackle to it. Soft hackle flies are an ancient invention and modern flyfishermen don't often use them. My experience with them has been very satisfactory. I use them a lot. You wont find many soft hackled flies available for sale, so you pretty much have to tie your own. I think the undulating movement of the soft hackle makes the fly look alive to the fish. A soft hackle is tied with soft webby feathers, not the stiff feathers used for dry flies. You can use any of a wide variety of feathers for soft hackles. The most common soft hackle feather is the partridge. If you can find the right size of feather for the fly you are tying, it is hard to go wrong with partridge. These feathers tend to be variegated and range from gray to brown (good bug colors).

This month we have had some unbelievably good days fishing deep with stonefly nymphs and a smaller dropper. We didn't catch lots of fish, but the ones we caught were big. Nymph fishing with stoneflies and smaller bead heads should continue to be good until the Skawala's, March Browns and Blue Winged Olives start hatching later in March and April.



More Trout Bum Articles:
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11/17/2014: Red Fish Redux by R.Sumner
08/01/2014: Retirement by R.Sumner
07/02/2013: Custom by Randal Sumner
05/01/2013: Subaru Magic by Randal Sumner
01/19/2012: Ding Ho by RandalSumner
04/06/2011: A Cautionary Tale by Randal Sumner
01/26/2010: Redfish Round-up by Randal Sumner
11/24/2009: Kentucky Don and English Bob by Randal Sumner
08/25/2009: A word about Bears by R.Sumner
06/30/2009: Polar bear hugging by Randal Sumner
01/27/2009: Christmas letters by Randal Sumner
11/25/2008: Trip to Eden by Randal Sumner
08/07/2008: Mime Time by R. Sumner
06/02/2008: fuel vs fishing by R. Sumner
05/01/2008: Long sleeve Hawiian shirt by R.Sumner
02/07/2008: The Empire by R. Sumner
11/29/2007: Troutbum self-help by R. Sumner
09/04/2007: The Perfect Client by Randal Sumner
07/02/2007: High Anxiety by R.Sumner
03/29/2007: Grasshopper by Randal Sumner
01/25/2007: Chinese food by R. Sumner
11/30/2006: Old Whitey by R.Sumner
09/28/2006: Chief Holland USN retired by R. Sumner
07/10/2006: BBQ by R.Sumner
05/30/2006: Cashmere by R. sumner
03/30/2006: Sterling Choices by Randal Sumner
01/26/2006: Tying with Pablo by Randal Sumner
12/01/2005: Brrr by Mark Littleton
11/24/2005: Thanksgiving 2005 by randal Sumner
09/01/2005: Anchors Away by Mark Littleton
07/01/2005: Some kinda fun by Randal Sumner
05/01/2005: The Base Lake by Randal Sumner
04/01/2005: Humble Pie by Mark Littleton
03/01/2005: Dance monkey dance by randal Sumner
01/01/2005: Where are the Instructions? by Randal Sumner
12/01/2004: Das Boat by Mark Littleton
11/01/2004: What me Worry? by Mark Littlton
10/01/2004: Priorities by Mark Littlton
09/01/2004: Falling In by Mark Littleton
08/01/2004: Ice Fishing by Randal Sumner
07/01/2004: Honey, I flooded the basement by Randal Sumner
07/01/2004: Elvis Lives by Randal Sumner
06/01/2004: Coyote by Randal Sumner
05/01/2004: Redfish and Capt. Dan by Mark Littleton
04/01/2004: Vested Interest by Randal Sumner
03/01/2004: Are you a Troutbum? by Mark Littleton
12/01/2003: Christmas presents by Mark Littleton
11/01/2003: Oklahoma by Randal Sumner
10/01/2003: Steel heading JuJu by Randal Sumner
09/01/2003: Motor Home by Randal Sumner
08/01/2003: Life is Funny by Mark Littlton
07/01/2003: Deschutes by Mark Littleton
06/01/2003: Class of 2002 by Randal Sumner
05/01/2003: BOAT FISHING by Mark Littlton
04/01/2003: ALASKA, LAND OF THE MIDNIGHTBLUE TARP by Randal Sumner
03/01/2003: MARCH BROWNS by Mark Littleton
02/01/2003: DEEP IN THE HEART OF IDAHO by Randal Sumner
01/01/2003: TOP TEN by Mark Littleton
12/01/2002: SAN MIGUEL by Randal Sumner
11/01/2002: DISNEYLAND by Randal Sumner
10/01/2002: CAMPING by Mark Littleton
09/01/2002: MMMM MAYFLIES by Mark Littleton
08/01/2002: CARNEGIE HALL by Randal Sumner
07/01/2002: CRAWFISH PIE by Randal Sumner
06/01/2002: Sons and Pals by Mark Littleton
03/01/2002: Visitation by Randal Sumner
02/01/2002: Ouch by Mark Littleton
01/01/2002: Death by Randal Sumner
11/01/2001: Leakers by Randal Sumner
09/01/2001: Poser by Randal Sumner
08/01/2001: Snake River Diary by Mark Littleton
08/01/2001: It's Hard by Mark Littleton
07/01/2001: Etiqutte by Randal Sumner
06/01/2001: June by Mark Littleton
05/01/2001: Road Trip to Paradise by Randal Sumner
04/01/2001: What Are They Doing Up There? by Mark Littleton
03/01/2001: Gear by Randal Sumner
01/25/2001: Motivation by Randal Sumner
12/28/2000: Winter Fishing by Mark Littleton
11/30/2000: Old Blackie by Randal Sumner