Northeast Iowa Trip 2015 – Soft Hackle Discovery

Took a long time to get to writing this, but better late than never. First things first, here is the video…

Definitely did not catch as many fish as in years past, but learned a lot from the group I was fishing with. I primarily used three different flies prior to this trip – Higas SOS(usually with a tungsten bead head), Griffiths Gnat, and the trusty Wooly Bugger in the color black.

In Southeast Wisconsin and Northest Iowa the Higas SOS fly always produces for me, but for some reason I had the hardest time getting anything on it this year. My first first and my last fish were caught on that fly, but otherwise I had to figure something else out. Others in the group were using soft hackle flies which is something I’ve never tied or fished with, but proved to be very useful this trip.

Tied extremely sparse, and simple to tie, soft hackle flies now have a space in my fly box. If fished right, they should float in the middle of the water column or bump right along the bottom just like a drowned bug would, tossing around in the current. After catching a number of fish on this pattern, I found myself in a situation that really proved to me that this fly is the real deal. I was fishing it, as told by others in the group, to fish upstream and let it go in the current downstream towards the trout. While doing this technique I got my line tangled around the tip of my rod some how, and while getting it untangled a trout took my soft hackle fly and hooked himself(can be seen at mark 6:18 in the video). This accidental fish is what made me a believer and got me interested in the book, Wet Flies, by Dave Hughes. Very interesting book, that gives you insight into why this pattern works and how to tie these type of flies.

Another fly that worked well for me is the CDC BWO. My go to dry fly has been the Griffiths Gnat, but like the Higas SOS, it wasn’t producing at all this trip. I was noticing very tiny mayflies, emerging from the water during the 2 cold raining days. They may or may not have been Blue Wing Olives, but this new fly I was introduced to looked enough like these bugs to catch a number of fish. Again, fairly simple fly to tie, but it is pretty small(I think we were using size 18 hooks for this pattern). Like the soft hackle flies, these now have a place in my fly box.

The Woolly Bugger was the only fly that I use often that worked for me this trip. During my last trip to Fennimore, our Guide Jim Romberg taught me how to really use this fly to it’s full potential. I believe I went into detail about this in my last post, but if you strip this fly upstream in a riffle it can be absolutely deadly. As Jim explained to me, you are trying to trigger a reaction strike from the trout since you are retrieving the fly upstream. The fish will be facing you, so as the bait goes past them it will hopefully trigger a strike which is has done over and over for me. If you watch in the video, you can see that you can rip the fly just about as fast as you want back towards you. You are not going to strip that fly in faster than a trout can swim, and once I realized that I started catching more fish using this technique.

So, like I said earlier, not my most productive trip, but definitely learned a boat load and hope to use these flies out on my next trips.

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