Fly Tyer Corner at Aquatic Imitations

Welcome to the “Fly Tyer’s Corner”. Each month we will be posting a different fly pattern with detailed instructions on the materials and the tying techniques used to create a fly.

We hope you enjoy this segment of our website as much as we have in creating it.

For years I have struggled trying to tie soft hackle wet flies and having them turn out correctly, due to the hackle I used having fibers that were too long for the size hook I was using. Unfortunately, game birds such as Partridge, Grouse and Chucker don’t have many feathers small enough to use as a soft hackle collar on sizes 16’s, 18’s and 20’s. Today’s hen hackle has some beautiful mottled patterns, but once again, finding a size 14 is an issue, let alone the smaller sizes. Several years ago I was reading one of the many fly tying books I have accumulated over the years and was astonished when I turned the page and there before my eyes was a section called tying with the “compensated hackle technique”. After reading through the section several times, I wanted to smack myself on the forehead and say “Why didn’t I think of that”. I immediately sat down at my fly tying bench and followed the instructions to a tee using a size 12 hackle on a size 18 hook. I wanted to tie a size 18 Blue Winged Olive soft hackle and by using this technique, it turned out perfectly!!! Needless to say, I’ve been using this technique since then and have no trouble tying soft hackle wet flies, using whatever hackle I want, down to a size 20. Now we would like to pass this technique along to you.


The “Soft Hackled Light Cahill” using the compensated hackle technique.

Materials List:

Hook: Dai-Riki #060, Mustad 3906B Tiemco 3769 – 1 XL Wet Fly/Nymph hook – Size 12 or 14
Thread: Ultra Thread 70 – Woodduck Brown
Dubbing Wax: BT’s “Tacky” (Best I’ve found over the years)
Tail & Soft Hackle collar: Mallard flank dyed Wood Duck Brown
Abdomen: Creamy Yellow Opossum Dubbing (Awesome Possum – Wapsi)
Thorax: Creamy Yellow Opossum Dubbing (Awesome Possum – Wapsi)

We would like to thank Mr. Rick Bunn for the exceptional photographs he took depicting each step of creating this pattern.


Step 1. Insert your hook into your vise after pinching down the barb (optional) and starting right behind the eye, wrap one layer of thread back to the bend of the hook. Pull about 8 to 10 fibers off the side of your dyed Wood Duck Brown, Mallard Breast feather and insuring the fiber tips are somewhat even, tie them down on top of the hook shank for your tail. (the length of the tail should be equal to the length of your hook shank)

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Step 2. Wax your thread and apply a thin layer of your Awesome Possum dubbing, dub it tightly and wind your thread and dubbing forward, creating the abdomen of your fly, to just in front of the point of your hook.

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Step 3. This step requires a little judgment on your part. Take the Mallard Breast Feather you are going to use as your soft hackle collar and stroke the fibers straight out from the stem. Depending upon how long the fibers are will dictate how far back or how far forward you will have to tie in the tip of your hackle collar feather to finish your fly with the correct fiber length. When finished, the hackle collar fibers should extend just past the bend of your hook.

Stroke the hackle fibers down from the tip of your hackle feather and tie in the tip of the feather with the concave side of the feather facing to the back of your hook. I normally accomplish this using 2 figure 8 turns of thread to secure the hackle feather tip. Trim off the tip of your secured hackle feather.

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Step 4. Using your hackle pliers, take two full wraps of your hackle feather, one in front of the other, and tie off and secure the hackle stem. Trim off the excess hackle stem. Using your thumb and finger, push all the wrapped hackle fibers forward over the eye of your hook, trying to keep them uniformly spaced around the hook. (top, bottom and both sides) Wind your thread over top of your hackle fiber bunch up to just behind the eye of the hook. Now wrap your thread back to where your abdomen stopped.

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Step 5. Wax your thread and apply a heavier coating of your Awesome possum dubbing to create the thorax portion of your fly. Wind your dubbed thread forward to a point of one hook eye length behind the actual eye of the hook. Note: Dubbed thorax should be 1⁄2 again as heavy as the abdomen portion of your fly.

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Step 6. Using a small diameter straw (coffee stirring straw or mixed drink straw) or the open end of a half hitch tool, push your bundle of hackle back towards the back of the hook, once again trying to keep the hackle evenly distributed around all sides of the hook. Take three turns of thread around the pushed back hackle bundle. Note where the tips of your hackle collar end. If they are too short, refer back to step 3 and tie in your hackle collar feather a little more forward on your next fly. If they are too long, refer back to step 3 and tie in your hackle collar feather a little farther back on your next fly. It doesn’t take much practice until your good judgment on sizing with have your flies turning out perfectly every time.

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Step 7. Wax your thread and apply a very light coating of your Awesome possum dubbing to your thread and wind to form the head of your fly, Wind up to the back of the eye of your hook and either whip finish or half hitch finish the head on your fly.

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I started fishing this pattern the first week of June, through all of July and into August. It has produced outstanding results with Brown, Rainbow and Brook trout as well as several nice sized Small Mouth bass.